Anatomy of the Diet
In this group we have protein foods including beef, fish, poultry, lamb, and venison. This food group includes both muscle and organ meat. Muscle meat is the flesh located between the skin and bones of an animal. Organ meat includes the internal organs of the prey animal. Proportionately, you should feed more muscle meat than organ meat, and meat for most dogs and cats can have a high fat content. Frequent inclusion of a small portion of raw heart is good, especially for cats. According to many experts, whether or not a wild carnivore eats the organs and stomach contents of a prey animal depends on personal preference and pack status. Even though organ meat is rich in nutrients, too much can upset nutritional balance and cause a loose stool. Feed it in smaller amounts than the muscle meat.
You may also add whole raw eggs to the meat portion of your pet’s meal a few times each week. Do not feed raw salmon unless it has tested free of salmon poisoning. Although some pet parents successfully feed raw pork, many animals find it difficult to digest. Feeding muscle meat in chunk form is best, but unfortunately this allows pets to shake off, or eat around, other important diet ingredients. By feeding muscle meat in ground or minced form, such as the deep frozen meals we offer, you will be able to thoroughly mix the other ingredients into the meal. Always feed meat that is fit for human consumption.
Raw meat, fish, and eggs provide the following species-appropriate array of nutrients—all in a form with high bioavailability:- amino acids and protein; enzymes; antioxidants; vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12; biotin; choline; folic acid; inositol; iodine; pantothenic acid; PABA; fatty acids; calcium; phosphorus; magnesium; iron; potassium; chromium; copper; manganese; selenium; sodium; sulfur; vanadium; zinc and coenzyme Q10.
Keep in mind: meat is high in phosphorus and low in calcium. The main function of phosphorus is in forming bones and teeth.
Our fur kids have relied on eating raw meaty bones as a superior source of nutrients for millions of years. Consider how much of a prey animal’s body consists of raw bone - a lot. If you have a pet that hunts for itself, it’s been consuming raw bones on its own, lucky pet! The most important thing to remember about this group is to always feed it raw. Cooking bone changes its molecular structure, making it splinter and difficult to digest. Cooked bone is highly dangerous; please do not ever feed it. On the other hand, raw edible bones offer wonderful nutrition in a form that is very natural and usable for your fur kids.
Not only do they offer a great nutrient profile, but raw meaty bones also supply good upper body and intestinal exercise. And, along with a proper body pH encouraged by eating raw food, they help keep teeth clean. Thousands of people all over the world, including many nutritionally oriented veterinarians, have found improved health for their fur kids by including raw, edible, meaty bones in their pets’ diets. Wild dogs and cats have always consumed raw bone, with great benefit. Raw meat and bones should constitute the majority of the feline or canine diet. Raw bones are different from bonemeal, which is a cooked and processed product, often high in lead content; it cannot match the nutrients found in raw, edible, meaty bones. Edible bone is bone that your fur kids can totally consume. Large raw-beef knuckle bones, for example, do offer some nutritional value and are great fun for pets, but are not totally consumed; therefore, not as many nutrients are derived from them.
Raw poultry bones with a bit of meat on them are a great source of species-appropriate nutrition. Have you picked yourself up off the floor? Yes, poultry bones - but remember, raw. Raw poultry bones, such as chicken and turkey, are munched and crunched up quite easily. Remember the species of animal you are feeding; its entire digestive system is designed to eat raw meat and bones, including bird bones. If you have an outside cat that eats what it catches, it has been enjoying raw bones. Although all parts of the bird may be fed, raw chicken necks are good to begin with for small dogs and cats. For larger dogs, raw chicken necks or backs, turkey- or duck necks, will do nicely. Raw necks are full of good edible cartilage. You may have noticed that cartilage supplements for joint and bone problems now fill the shelves at veterinarian's offices, pet stores, and health food stores. Raw poultry necks are a less expensive and more natural form of these vital nutrients (and are a lot more fun for your pet!).
Once you are accustomed to feeding raw necks, you may want to feed a variety of raw bones that includes backs, wings, legs, and other poultry parts. Chicken backs often come with organ meat attached, so you probably won’t need to add other organ meat when feeding them. Large dogs may even enjoy an occasional meal consisting only of a whole chicken; small dogs and cats may like a smaller whole game bird. Excluding raw meaty bones from your pet’s diet would be a terrible mistake. Its diet would be extremely unbalanced and unhealthy without raw bone. For one thing, your pet would develop a calcium deficiency. Raw bone is a very species-appropriate source of calcium and many other important nutrients. In fact, raw meat and bones provide almost every nutrient your dog or cat needs to be healthy.
Add a few other raw foods - including an occasional small portion of organ meat, vegetables, and some extras - and you’ve got a super meal for optimum health: complete biologically specie appropriate pet cuisine. And that optimum health includes mental health, because most dogs and cats love to eat bones. It makes them very happy. Many animal lovers call raw meaty bones “dog and cat candy”! Bones also firm up stools and help to naturally express the anal glands as Mom Nature intended. When feeding necks, you’ll notice that some raw chicken necks come with a lot of fat attached. Raw fat is good, but leaving it on all the necks may satiate your pet before enough other nutrients have been consumed - especially with a small or sedentary pet. In this case, just pull off the extra fat; the skin can be left on. If you have a large animal, especially one who burns a lot of calories, you may want to leave some of this fat on the neck, as it provides additional energy.
Since cats and dogs, unlike cows and horses, are not really built for chewing, they mostly just mash and crush bones before swallowing them. If they swallow a piece that is too big, they may bring it back up to continue crushing until it is smaller, and then swallow it again. This is normal, and pets that are new to bones usually become more adept as they gain experience. If you are really having a difficult time with the concept of feeding your pet raw bones, remember that it is a very natural source of species-appropriate nutrients. Begin with raw chicken, turkey or duck necks (depending on the size of your fur kid), as they are mostly cartilage and very flexible.
Do not feed the home made diet without some form of raw bone, or you will create nutritional deficiencies. Raw, meaty bones provide nutritious marrow, amino acids/protein, essential fatty acids, fibre, enzymes, antioxidants, and a vast array of species-appropriate minerals and vitamins all in a usable form. Plus, they make pets happy!
Keep in mind: bone is high in calcium and in phosphorus.
This food group includes vegetables and plants that grow above and below the ground. Above-ground veggies include asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, dandelion greens, dark leaf lettuce, kale, okra, parsley, sprouts, squash, watercress, grasses, and so on. Fresh herbs may be included in this group. Use a good herbal reference book to ensure that any herbs you use are safe for your pet. Vegetables that grow below-ground include potatoes - but do not feed green ones, or those with sprouted “eyes” - as well as sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, and the like. If you want to feed beets, do so only occasionally in very small amounts, and don’t be alarmed if they come out the same colour as they went in. Fresh garlic is good in very small quantities. A small amount of fresh, organically grown ginger is an excellent addition to your veggie mix. It contains nutrients, and also has enzymatic and anti-inflammatory action.
To give your pet a variety of nutrients, feed a wide variety of vegetables, and combine a few different ones in each meal. Include vegetables from both categories in every meal: that is, those that grow above and below the ground. For example, you might mix carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, parsley, and ginger. Do not feed only above- or below-ground veggies; feed both. Don’t give iceberg lettuce, as it has little nutritional value. Rhubarb and onions are best avoided, too. Sprouts should be fed only in moderation. Vegetables that are high in oxalic acid, such as spinach and chard, are good occasionally, but if fed every day may interfere with calcium absorption. Excess consumption of cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, broccoli, or kale) may interfere with thyroid function. This should not be a problem if you simply remember to rotate a wide variety of veggies.
Don’t feed the same thing week after week. And don’t feed veggies in excess. Remember that prey animal you’re building? It probably has a pretty small stomach, and that’s where your dog or cat would find most of its vegetable matter. As important as they are, don’t go overboard with the veggies. Too many above-ground vegetables can loosen stools and upset pH balance. Keep in mind that you’re not feeding an herbivore. For our dogs and cats to best utilize them, vegetables must be put into a digestible form, just as they would be in a prey animal’s stomach. Use a food processor, blender, or juicer to thoroughly pulp vegetables before feeding, and feel free to use veggie parts that might otherwise be thrown away, such as broccoli stems and celery and carrot tops.
Raw vegetables provide the following nutrients:- enzymes; antioxidants; beta-carotene; carbohydrates; fiber; phytochemicals; vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, D, E, and K; boron ; choline; folic acid; inositol; iodine; PABA; pantothenic acid; calcium; chromium; copper; iron; iodine; magnesium; manganese; molybdenum; phosphorus; potassium; silicon; sodium; sulfur; selenium.
Tripe ... the magical, mystery meat ...
We have discussed tripe in the article titled "Probiotics", but it does warrant it's own entry here. Tripe is the stomach of ruminating animals. These animals (i.e. cattle, buffalo, sheep, deer, goats, antelope, etc.) are classified as being four-footed, hooved, cud chewing mammals with a stomach that consists of four chambers. The four chambers of such a stomach are known as the rumen, reticulum, omasum and the abomasum. The food the animal eats (i.e. grass, hay) is swallowed unchewed and passes into the rumen and reticulum where it is then regurgitated, chewed and mixed with saliva. It is again swallowed and then passed through the reticulum and omasum into the abomasum, where it is then further broken down by the gastric juices, amino acids and other digestive enzymes.
So how can something so disgusting, be so good? These same gastric juices and enzymes not only aid the animal in digestion, but also aid the dog in digesting and efficiently utilizing his food. The amino acids are necessary for muscular development and, the other gastric juices, we believe, are the best cleaner for their teeth!
In an analysis of a sample of green tripe by a Woodson-Tenant Lab in Atlanta (more details below), Georgia, it was discovered that the calcium:phosphorous ratio is 1:1, the overall pH is on the acidic side which is better for digestion, protein is 15.1, fat 11.7 and it contained the essential fatty acids, Linoleic and Linolenic, in their recommended proportions. Also discovered, was the presence of Lactic Acid Bacteria. Lactic Acid Bacteria, also known as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, is the good intestinal bacteria. It is the main ingredient in probiotics.
Finally, because of it’s rubbery texture, serving it in large chunks also aids the canine in strengthening it’s jaw muscles and has an added benefit as a form of canine dental floss.
The white tripe that you find in the grocery store has been cleaned, scalded and bleached. It has almost no nutritional value for your fur kids. This tripe is usually found in dishes such as menudo, and not suitable for our fur kids!
Green tripe does not necessarily refer to it's colour. In this instance it refers to the fact that it has not been touched - not cleaned, not bleached and not scalded. It's actual colour is brown, however, sometimes there will be a greenish tint due to the grass or hay the animal ate just before slaughtering.
Tripe present an interesting challenge for us, pet parents, but is a "super food" in our books for our fur kids:
- Protein: 13.33%
- Fat: 12.75%
- Crude Fiber: 2.99%
- Moisture: 72.24
- Calcium: 0.1%
- Phosphorous: 0.13%
- Lactic Acid Bacteria: 2,900,000 gm
- pH: 6.84
- Ash: 1.25%
- Calories: 424 cal / cup
- Iron: 126.4 mg/kg
- Potassium: 0.14%
- Manganese: 25.7 mg/kg
- Zinc: 23.11 mg/kg
- Selenium: 0.31 mg/kg
To obtain more generalised nutritional data points for tripe, have a look at the USDA database on nutrition [here].
What Exactly Constitutes “Organ Meat”?
There is often some confusion amongst pet parents and guardians as to what is organ meat, or what is “offal”. Most people have a general knowledge of what an organ is – considering we, as humans, have many. Where the confusion comes along is figuring out which organs from which animals are okay for our pets, which organs give the best “organ nutrition”, how much of them to feed and what is and isn’t considered an organ.
What is considered an organ – seems like a silly question. We all know what organs are, but do we really understand the difference between those that constitute an organ for the purpose of raw feeding and those that do not? More often people feed that which is most available to them. In the grocery store that means chicken and beef livers, chicken gizzards, chicken and beef hearts, beef kidney, and occasionally beef tongue. Arguably all are organs – in a technical sense anyway. What you might not be realizing though is that certain of those listed above (whether they are from common animals or more exotic sources), aren’t going to give your fur kids' what they need by way of organs when their whole diet is taken into account.
First let’s start with the organs that are, for the purpose of food, considered muscle meat. These include hearts, gizzards and tongues. Are they still organs? Certainly. For the purpose of raw feeding your pets though ... the rules are a little different.
Muscles meats such as those listed above, while technical organs, are not going to give your fur kids the nutrients and vitamins that you would be feeding organs for. Since this is the case, you cannot feed hearts, tongues or gizzards and count it towards your organ totals – which should be approximately 10% of the total diet. (Yes, we did say forget about feeding based on percentages ...). You count these instead as muscle meats realizing that you must still feed liver, kidneys, spleen etc. to hit that organ recommendation.
Organs should comprise approximately 10% of your dogs total diet. Liver is probably the most important of the organs and thankfully is quite easy to obtain – especially beef and chicken livers. Liver [ref] is rich in potassium, copper, and Vitamin A as well as the B vitamins. Vitamins D, K and E are also well represented. Because of the high amount of Vitamin A, liver should be fed often but in small quantities to avoid the dreaded “dire rear”. You’ll know if you have fed too much! Other viable organs are kidneys, which are rich in Vitamins D, K, A and E, iron and zinc, and spleen which offers much of the same.
Remember that moderation is the key – you can easily feed too much and each dog, as an individual, is going to have a slightly different tolerance level for organs.
Offal can refer to organs in general and usually does. It also refers to items such as raw green tripe as discussed previously (again, technically an organ but NOT an organ for the purposes of raw feeding your fur kids). Essentially, the term offal encompasses organs but is not an exclusive term for organs so don’t let it confuse you!
Organs are an important part of your pet’s diet but you need to know that if you are feeding items like hearts and gizzards only you are short-changing your pet nutritionally speaking. Always make sure to include some liver at minimum to your pet’s diet, if you are making your own home meals, to give them access to those vitamins that they may not receive anywhere else.
To summarise, feed as organ:
- Brain and Sweetbreads
Feed as meat (muscle):
- Lung and Trachea
- Green Tripe
Additional Articles and Videos
Good reference articles & videos further reading available at:
- Organ meat in a raw diet by Plear Littlefield from The Raw Feeding Community - (RFU)
- Why Organ Meat is Important for the Raw Fed Dog, by Dana Scott - (DNM)
- Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats, by Beth Taylor and Karen Shaw Becker, DVM (Amazon)
- Dr. Pitcairn’s New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD (Amazon)
- Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs, by Lew Olson, PhD (Amazon)
- Dr. Bruce Syme - Raw Diets and Calcium (YouTube)
- Dr Vicky Payne - Raw Meaty Bones (YouTube)