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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Feeding Your Pets, Part Deux

Carol, of Pet E-cards commented on my previous post about pet diets, which reminded me of a few other things. First, raw meat or commercial pet foods aren't the only options for feeding your animals. If one is afraid of the risk of bacteria in raw meat, one can cook the meat before feeding it to their pet. With raw food, the risk of pathogens is minimal; the short length of the dog and cat digestive tracts makes it difficult for bacteria to flourish before being passed out the other end, but nevertheless, for those worried about contamination, you can simply cook the meat first. Some also worry about feeding their dogs bones and for them, bone dust will still allow your dog to get some calcium, albeit without the benefits of chewing the bones. Dogs that chew bones strengthen their jaws, clean their teeth (which helps to control "doggy breath"), and get their calcium from the bones. One caveat: never, ever feed cooked bones! They can splinter and tear your dog's digestive tract. Raw bones however do not pose such a risk.

Unfortunately, if your pet has been on a standard commercial feed, you will probably need to slowly convert them to a raw diet. My dog was only 4 months old when we got her, so I spent about a week ramping her up to real food and then fully converted her when the kibble ran out. Older dogs are probably going to need some probiotics to replace the beneficial intestinal flora that the grains and preservatives in their feed have killed off. I didn't have to use probiotics, but I would imagine you can simply add a pill to one of your pet's daily meals and begin adding a bit of raw food to their kibble, slowly increasing the proportion of raw food to kibble until s/he is on a fully raw diet. You can experiment with other foods as treats too. Layla loves sweet potatoes and this weekend I tossed her a tennis ball-sized apple which she gnawed on for hours. She'll play around with carrots and celery, but mostly just shreds them on the carpet. And for a chew bone, beef legs work well. They are far too big for the dog to swallow and serve as a way to occupy them for hours.

You'll have to forgive me. I'm not 100% up on proper feeding of cats as I don't own one, nor am I in the market. However, there is a great deal of research out there that can steer you to the proper course. Jane Anderson has a great resource website for those interested in learning the myths, rumors, pros, and cons of feeding raw.