Digby Van Winkle

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Wednesday 18 July 2012

What does Digby eat?

Disclaimer: This post is based entirely on my opinion and my own research into dog nutrition. Please read this post with an open mind and know that I am not judging anyone who disagrees with me. We all want to do what's best for our pets.

I wasn't going to make this post considering the controversial view some people have on the subject - however, I would however like to give you some insight on what raw feeding is, how to go about doing it, and the great benefits that come with the territory.

Dogs are carnivores. They have teeth identical to wolves, who are, with no doubt, carnivores. While they may take advantage of seasonal windfalls and eat berries etc they do not rely of berries in order to live. They don't have any nutritional need for corn/grains/vegetable matter and in fact can't effectively digest non-animal matter. Raw fed dogs are leaner, have cleaner teeth and shinier coats than dogs fed a diet of predominantly kibble. Most importantly, your dog will not get sick from eating raw (even raw chicken)! Dogs have a shorter gastro intestinal tract than us humans and have a higher acidity in their stomachs so are not prone to illness from bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli.

Raw fed dogs have cleaner teeth as a result of crunching through bones, ripping through meat and flossing their teeth when chewing on sinew/connective tissue. They don't inhale their dinner in record time and depending on the size and shape of the meal need to stop and think about the best way to eat their food. Digby routinely takes half an hour to eat his dinner (which is annoying when we want to go to bed but he's always exhausted afterwards).

There are many different "flavours" of raw feeding - ranging from pre-made dehydrated raw food  to diets made up of fresh meat, bones and organs. All of these diets are very different but follow the same basic idea: to feed your pet what they were biologically designed to eat.

 Essentially, they can be broken down into four main methods of feeding:

Commercially made dry raw food (K9 Natural and ZiwiPeak to name just two of them) is manufactured with the convenience of kibble or canned commercial food in mind. While nutritionally beneficial, they offer little in the area of mental and physical stimulation. 

Pre-made ground mixes can be great, if you know what's in them. They are generally made up of a mixture of meat, bones and offal. I use them to stuff a kong when we go to work in the morning and they do the trick but I am aware of the fact that feeding too many ground mixes with bone included can cause issues. Too much bone leads to constipation, and besides - dogs only need 10% bone in their diet which really isn't much and I'd much prefer my dog to get the benefits of chewing on a bone in piece of meat.

the B.A.R.F (Bones and Raw Food) diet is something I don't know a great deal about because honestly it doesn't really make sense to me but from what I gather it puts too much emphasis on bone for my liking, and advocates feeding vegetable matter & fruits to our carnivores.

Prey Model Raw (the model I most closely follow) aims to emulate the diet your dog would be eating in the wild - though that does not mean going outside, slaughtering a cow and presenting it to your dog. With that said, whole species appropriate prey such as rabbit is a great thing to feed and an option many raw feeders embrace. It's far more common though to feed what is referred to as "frankenprey". Prey Model Raw dictates a diet of 80% meat, 10% edible bone and 10% organs - of which 5% MUST be liver. It's non negotiable. Frankenprey is basically any combination of animal parts to make up that percentage and aiming for balance over time. For example, a whole chicken is 33% bone, 67% meat, so if you're feeding a chicken quarter (or a whole chicken!) you'd be aiming to ensure that your dog gets a little extra meat, too, and some organ.

I guess I should address why I disagree with the concept of feeding Kibble - even the grain free kinds. Below is an example of what you'll see if you look at the ingredients on the bags, and bolded are the ingredients that I would actually feed:

Duck Meal, Turkey Meal, Salmon Meal, Tapioca, Canola Oil, Tomato Pomace, Pumpkinseeds, Herring Meal, Sun-Cured Alfalfa Meal, Montmorillonite Clay, Natural Flavor, Vitamins (Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Biotin, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Carotene, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Potassium Chloride, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Sea Salt, Dried Kelp, Peas, Cranberries, Blueberries, Direct-Fed Microorganisms (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Yeast Culture, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract), Inulin, Mixed Tocopherols with Citric Acid (a natural preservative), Rosemary Extract, Freeze Dried Turkey, Freeze Dried Turkey Liver, Freeze Dried Turkey Heart, Freeze Dried Ground Turkey Bone.

As you can see I did struggle to find an actual ingredient in there that I'd feed but it is a good representation of how simple feeding our pet carnivores really has to be. I'm sure that you're wondering why I have left the vitamins out of my "acceptable ingredients" and there is a good reason for that. We all know that certain vegetables when cooked for us humans lose some of their nutritional value and are better eaten raw. It's the same for our dogs - cooked protein is very different from the raw equivalent and dogs do just fine in getting the nutrition they need from raw meat.

I could go on about this for days but I'll leave you with some excellent resources that have helped me in learning more about what I can now see is a natural way of feeding.

The Many Myths of Raw Feeding and RawLearning.com are both excellent resources to check out if you are interested in making the switch with your dogs. I can't stress enough how easy it is once you get the basics down. If you have any questions or want me to elaborate on anything at all, please leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer or point you in the direction of someone who can.


  1. Thank you for this excellent post! This answered a lot of the questions I had concerning feeding my dog a raw diet. Unfortunately, I just don't think this is something I could commit to just yet. I definitely feel inspired to look more into feeding our little girl RAW though!

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      You know what? Even if you choose to never feed raw at least you can say that you know what it is and what it involves. I know this diet isn't for everyone but if you ever have any specific questions I'll be more than happy to answer them.

  2. Hey Digby, cool new site. We met this morning and got on well. Good to have another cool as woofer in the same hood...

    Bristol the Wonder Dog


    1. Ahoy, Bristol!

      Was good to meet you/sniff you in the tail region this morning. Now I know you're not a Griffon but you are a very fine looking little dude so I wanted to extend the invitation to join our Griffon and Small Dog playgroups. More info at https://www.facebook.com/WellingtonGriffonMeets

      We're having one this weekend. Would love to chase you up and down the beach sometime!

  3. I've been feeding my GSD and Yorkie raw for 7 months. I completely agree with everything here. My GSD had diarrhea, hotspots, limping from pano (from accelerated growth as a puppy) unbalanced energy, excessive shedding, allergies, etc. until we started raw. Now, ALL OF THAT has disappeared! I would like to add that a must to the raw meat diet is green tripe (stomach from cow, deer, or sheep). It is a miracle food for dogs. It has too many benefits to list. Here is a great link regarding tripe. http://www.maryannland.com/Green_tripe.pdf
    Thank you for speaking out in favor of raw feeding!

    PS- i found you on IG. My usr name is captivated_by_this :)

    1. Hello and thank you for your comment :)

      Yes, I do agree that green tripe is a wonder-food, packed full of important nutrients and the dogs seem to LOVE it! My nose? not so much, but you get used to it.

      There was so much I wanted to cover in this blog post but unless I wrote a novel there was no way I'd fit it all in.

      I am so very glad to hear how a raw diet has helped you. All I keep hearing are the stories about how raw changed a cat's/dog's life and so I am really glad that I took the time to carefully consider what to feed. The uneducated me thought that Kibble was fine, but after doing the research there is no way I'd feed anything but raw.

      Thanks for the link, it will make for good bedtime reading :)

  4. VERY interested in this and have been for some time... We've been reading up on it for a while and it just makes such sense! But what on earth is the best option for an EXTREMELY squeamish strict vegetarian owner for raw feed?! :S I'm going to see what's available in the UK and see.. I don't want my beliefs to hinder our wee pugmens health!

    1. Firstly, I commend you for even being open to the idea considering your beliefs (and how squeamish you are!) so I am going to be very honest with you.

      You will need to handle meat, and you will need to have things in your house/freezer that you think are vile. I'd recommend getting a seperate freezer for the dogs first off.

      As you have pugs, a breed that doesn't have the best jaw alignment (much like Griffons) you'll need to be very aware that you aren't feeding food that they could try to swallow whole. Big is good - so stay away from chicken wings/necks, unless they are attached to a whole/half/quarter bird. The ideal style of feeding for gulpers (which pugs frequently are) is to feed big or frozen/partially frozen food - whole chickens, pork roasts, whole (skinned and gutted if you need to) rabbits, large portions of beef heart, etc. Yes, meat can be gross to handle, but I'll let you in on a secret - anything, when frozen, loses most, if not all of it's gross factor. Case in point: Chicken livers. I won't even breathe through my nose when handling them fresh, let alone touch them - but I freeze them on a tray and then once frozen put them in a bag and voila - non-offensive free flow tastiness for the pooch!

      I'd go with supermarket meat over pre-made raw, but it really depends on what suits you. If you go with pre-made, try to make sure you aren't feeding just ground/minced. They have teeth and need to sink them into meat/bones etc to keep them clean :)

      If you want to talk about it in more detail I'm happy to help, and if you do decide to switch I'm more than happy to coach you through it!