A sceptic’s guide to raw food – 4 - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

A sceptic’s guide to raw food – 4

Nick Thompson continues his series on the feeding of dogs and cats with raw food with a discussion of the many issues arising and how they should be handled.

ISSUES arising from feeding dogs
and cats a raw food diet are many
– most of them good. But, as with
all things veterinary, things don’t
always go to plan.

In this month’s instalment, I’d like to
discuss how to deal with issues when
all does not run as smoothly as you
would want.

Usually dogs and
cats going onto raw
food will make a
smooth transition
(cats usually taking
more time and work
than dogs, but they
are cats) and all will
be well.

I have seen problems with pets
refusing to eat raw, with owners
worried about their pets’ reduced
drinking on raw, with dogs and cats
who will not eat bones/chicken wings,
etc., with animals whose symptoms
persist, even on raw, with animals who are fine for months on raw, then
suddenly symptoms return, and with
pets who suddenly go off their raw
food.

Let’s go through these scenarios
sequentially.

If a cat or dog refuses raw when first presented, it’s usually because it’s
such a new experience that they don’t
really understand what to do with the
food. First get them back onto their previous diet to ensure nutrient intake.
Then transition (going from wet food
to raw is easier than dry food to raw)
more slowly onto the raw food diet,
remembering that with cats this can
take months.

If they refuse even then, consider
steaming the vegetables before
blending and “sealing” the meat in a hot pan/wok to warm the meat and
give colour and flavour to the surface
of the meat, leaving the interior raw.

If they still refuse, consider changing
the meat; if on meat, try sh; if on
beef/lamb, try poultry; and vice versa.
At a push, try adding tinned sardines
or raw tripe to the food to enhance the
smell.

The worried phone call from owners
saying their dog and, most frequently,
their cat has reduced their drinking
is a common sequel to a successful
transition to raw food. Some cats
actually stop drinking altogether when
on raw food. Anxieties are easily
quelled when you explain about the
new water content of the diet.

Cats and dogs who do not eat bony
material is a problem. I usually suggest
trying heart initially to get them
chewing something. Hearts, beef or
lamb usually are really good to get the
pet thinking about really using their
mouths, jaws and teeth.

This can be enough to then get them
started on chicken carcases, turkey
necks and the like, later on. If not,
a hot wok and ash-frying them for
seconds can be sufficient to brown the skin without cooking the bones (never feed cooked bones – they are
dangerous).

Other alternatives are looking for
bony material from different sources,
e.g. fish, venison, turkey, duck, goose
or pork can be helpful. Meaty bones
are best as the meat cushions the teeth
going through the bone and will make
a bone more attractive to those animals
who are not interested in bone/
cartilage.

If one takes a cat or dog onto a raw
food diet for clinical reasons, say bowel
or skin problems, and those symptoms
persist, there can be a number of
causes. First, one would have to
question one’s diagnosis and consider
re-evaluating the case. Secondly, change
the raw food; change the protein and
change the vegetable component
and try for at least two weeks if the
condition allows.

A “raw diet” is a very flexible
phenomenon. As long as it is complete
and balanced, you have a very broad
scope to make up something that suits
the patient. Make sure the owners are
compliant with the diet and not giving
treats out with the plan. Clients are
usually motivated if they’ve gone to the
trouble of converting to a raw diet, but disillusionment can set in with some if
you don’t get instant results.

Symptoms returning some months
after a successful change to a raw food
diet, with initial miraculous results, is
seen when transitioning dogs and cats.
If the improvement only lasts for a few
months, then the obvious thing to do
is to change the protein to something
that re-establishes the improvement
and is appetising to the patient and
acceptable to the owner.

I will always try to get even the most
sensitive dogs and cats onto a number
of proteins, rotating daily or weekly
so as to not provoke sensitivity due to
chronic exposure to a single protein.
One can consider beef and tripe to
have very different allergenicity. I have
dogs sensitive to beef but not to tripe,
and vice versa (I think it is to do with
the high digestibility of the tripe).

Pets going off raw is a rare problem
and usually solved with a change of
protein. If, after having exhausted
many new veg/meat combos, they still
refuse, I will add rice, quinoa, amaranth
or buckwheat to “stodge up” the food.
I will also consider steaming the veg
and lightly cooking the meat. This can
often help some older animals, too.

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