The Healthy Dog’s Primer

What we have in common with dogs is what makes us such good friends. Dogs and humans are both social creatures that understand and usually respect the social order in the pack. We can both have a sense of humour and we both have a strong work ethic. We also know how to play.

It is easy to feel so connected to our pets that we forget just how different we are physically. These differences go all the way inside, too.

A dog’s digestive system is very different from ours. Dogs are scavengers and meat eaters. To expect a dog to thrive on wheat and corn is as ludicrous as asking us to live on raw carrion and uncooked meat and bones. Dogs have not been domesticated for so long that their intestines have become one with our own. Commercial pet foods have only been around for eighty years.

A dog’s gut is short and acidic compared to ours. It is designed to deal with the scavenging habits of a dog. Salmonella, the E-coli.s , and other bacteria that would make us very ill are nothing to a healthy dog.

Dogs thrive on an "Atkins” style diet of meat and vegetables, and it should be served raw. Raw meaty bones such as turkey necks or chicken necks and backs, given raw to your dog are not only safe, but very beneficial. A diet of at least 80% meaty bones with the balance made up of fish, eggs, fruit and veggies, and a few supplements will have your dog slim, shiny and smelling great inside and out.

Dogs do not require grains and they can even be detrimental. To a dog, grains are hard to digest and only get in the way. Clues to help convince you of their carnivore state are that a dog does not produce amylase, an enzyme that is in our saliva that starts breaking down complex carbohydrates as soon as we start chewing. A dog’s teeth are all pointed, made for shearing meat from bone. Also, their jaws cannot move sideways to grind.

A nasty effect of grains is to turn that efficient acid gut into a more alkaline environment, setting it up for not being strong enough to deal with the germs a dog will encounter in it’s every day mouth-to-the-ground life. If your pet has skin problems or digestive upsets, start with removing grains. It’s the cheapest test. There are a handful of very good grain-free kibbles available. "Evo” is one and "Orijen” is another.

Just like our diet, though, fresh variety is the best for your pooch. There are a few good raw dog foods available commercially. Check them out. If convenience is what you need, they could be the answer. They can be found in the freezers of some pet food stores. It is possible and not difficult to make raw food at home for your pet. It’s a steep learning curve, but there is a lot of information on raw pet food out there for the health of our carnivorous friends. Clean teeth, fresh breath, and small, nearly odorless stool are the first benefits. A strong immune system and level energy are just two of the long term benefits.

"Natural Food for Dogs and Cats” by Kimythy Schultz is an excellent book. The web site,

answers fifty questions to get you going.

Try Googling "BARF diet”. BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. See? You’re learning already….

We know how good nutrition makes us feel. Let your buddy feel good, too

Debbie Wood is a dedicated raw feeder who lives in Saanichton with her best friend Crash.