No Bones About It

By: Barbara Cicognani

No bones about it…natural raw bones are “out” and unnatural processed substitutes are “in”.

The reasons are not hard to figure out: we’ve been sold a bill of goods…and a lot of expensive fake bones in the process! Having been brainwashed that “Bones are dangerous!”, we’ve settled for less than second best.

In addition, we seem to have forgotten that processed commercial kibble is the new food on the block. Dogs used to eat real food, generally table scraps. They also ate raw bones. Lots of raw bones. And lived another day to eat another bone.

What has happened to the old way of feeding? How did it end up tossed by the wayside?

It all has to do with dollars and cents. Some marketer somewhere saw a goldmine in the sweepings on the grain floor…a way to make a quick buck. Why not? It’s the American Way, after all! So, the sweepings were gathered, a few synthetic vitamins and minerals thrown in to replace the natural ones lost in the processing, and voila’! Complete-canine-nutrition-in-a-bag was born! The only accurate aspect of this description is that it came in a bag.

The ingredients were not suitable for dogs. The formulations were not complete. But, slick advertising elevated dogs to a new level in society and created a market for a product pitched to play on the emotions of these new pet people. Before long, expensive premium foods appeared on the shelves, followed by even more expensive super-premium foods.

But, were the dogs thriving on these products? If the increase in skin and coat problems are any indicator (and it is), then the evidence points to the negative. What about the number of obese dogs? Another negative indicator. Granted, some dogs do seem to do well on commercial food. But, some people seem to do well on fast food, too, but we’d be fooling ourselves if we suggested that a diet of junk food is optimal nutrition for humans. Yet, we do just that in the canine world when we advise dog-owners to feed their dogs commercial food. Every day. For the life of the dog. And we think nothing of it.

But we ought to. We ought to wonder why vet students get so little nutrition education in vet school. And why what they do get may be taught or sponsored by commercial food manufacturers who may have even developed the texts used in the classes. You didn’t know that?

When you consider that nutrition is the foundation of growth and development and the basis of good health, it becomes imperative that we stop depending on advertising agencies for our knowledge of canine nutrition. We need to begin to think for ourselves about what we are feeding our dogs and what the dogs were designed to eat.

But Joe Blow could never manage to feed Rover a balanced diet! He needs the dog food company to make sure Rover gets balanced canine nutrition. Not so! Dogs have managed to survive for millennia without dog food companies.

Given today’s greater knowledge of nutrition and the better living conditions under which most dogs live, they ought to thrive on the old diet of raw meat and bones. And they do! A dog’s digestive system hasn’t changed, even though the dogs themselves come in all shapes and sizes these days. The outer wrapper may vary, but the inner workings are all still there, just waiting to kick into gear should real food appear once again in the Rover’s bowl.

But what about bacteria? Well, truth be known, dogs can handle lots of bacteria, once they’ve become acclimated to it. After all, these same dogs raid the kitty litter box or cruise the pasture, looking for “goodies”, given a chance…and lick their butts!

But what about the danger of eating bones! Don’t forget about that! Yes, bones can be dangerous…cooked bones, that is! Heat leaches out the fat in a raw bone, leaving a dry, brittle bone that is prone to splinter into sharp pointy pieces, deadly to the unwary dog that ingests it. Raw bones are not brittle and do not splinter as do cooked bones.

So, what do I feed my Akitas? Well, as you no doubt guessed, lots of raw, meaty bones! Specifically, raw chicken backs and turkey necks. Venison, in season. Beef bones for teeth-cleaning (did I mention the tie-in between no more bones for dogs and the growing need for dental care for these same dogs?), for exercise, and as a distraction on fast days.

My dogs thrive.

My vet bills have plummeted.

Nutrition truly is the foundation for health.