HH Backer Pet Show (day 1)

October 9, 2010

The first day of the Backer Pet Show was very good.  It started out a bit crazy as we were running all around the convention center trying to find out if our show sign was delivered by UPS only to discover that once again UPS failed to get it to us despite the guaranteed delivery we were given.  I am really looking forward to finally getting an answer as to what happened.

Aside from the lack of show materials it was very good.  The turn out is great and people are very excited about new products on the market such as our Eco Diet.  Another very exciting thing is that we spoke to a few new distributors that will improve our availability.  It looks like Steves will be more available in both Northern California and the entire east coast.  Hopefully today we will get a chance to talk with our mid west distributor.  Pet Food Show

We round up the day at a forum with a few other raw pet food manufactures discussing the impact that new FDA regulations could have on us.  It was agreed that raw pet food should not be put in the same category as Kellogg Corn Flakes and can not be held to the same testing regulations as them.  Being a raw meat pet food we should be regulated by the USDA not FDA.  It was very interesting discussing this with others in our category.  More to come on that.

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The Growing Market Demand for Raw Meat Diets

August 26, 2010

More and more pet owners are realizing the benefits of a raw diet, but either do not have the time or worry about contamination and do not desire to make it themselves.  The demand for a properly prepared, complete diet, raw meat pet food is growing exponentially.

First, let’s define properly prepared raw meat diet?

“Complete and balanced foods or feeding programs, using high quality ingredients, and processed and handled according to human standards. Commercial products have clearly marked safe handling instructions.”

Please note these are not all-meat diets, they are complete and balanced foods or feeding programs.

There are three different types of properly prepared raw meat-based diets.

* Feeding programs of raw food, which may include raw bones, from Pat McKay, Wendy Volhard, Kymythy Schultz, and Ian Billinghurst.

* Well thought out homemade recipes, from Dr. Richard Pitcairn and others, often using packaged mixes.

* Complete and balanced commercially available foods meeting AAFCO guidelines, like AFS, and Steve’s™ Real Food™ for Pets.

All of these are based on a diet such as might be found in the wild. Think of the dog eating a mouse or rabbit. The dog would eat raw meat, crushed bones and the prey’s digestive system, which would be full of finely crushed vegetables and fruits, and food and digestive enzymes.

The raw meat feeding programs vary. Some of the feeding programs and diets contain grains. Most do not. Many advocates of raw feeding believe that dogs and cats do best with no grains. Some use whole raw bones (chicken backs, turkey and chicken necks, chicken wings), some use crushed bones, and some add other sources of calcium and phosphorous.

Please note that we are not talking about what may be fed to greyhounds to enhance their racing performance. We’re not dealing with 4D meats. We’re talking about diets, using high quality ingredients, fed to dogs to enhance their overall life span and health. Although the number of diets on the market is small, some of these diets have been fed for many generations.

Properly prepared raw meat-based diets are expensive: Costs range from equal to the cost of super-premium foods for great shoppers and cooks, to three times the cost of super-premium foods for some of the commercial raw meat-based diet brands. To reduce cost, many people mix raw diets with a traditional dry food.

Raw feeding programs have been around for a long time and are well proven. Julie de Barclay introduced a complete feeding program in 1955. Subsequent feeding programs have been used over the last 40 years and for many generations of dogs and breeds. These programs include lots of variety, every meal different. Most BARF and Ultimate Diet feeders are very disciplined. Few BARF feeders mix the full weeks ingredients together as the speaker yesterday suggested. BARF feeders believe in the BARF program. In my opinion, when done right, the feeding programs like BARF and Kymythy Schultze’s are the most nutritious, and most palatable ways to feed dogs, perhaps even better than Steve’s Real Food. They do take time and preparation. Many people, though, want the same convenience with a raw meat based diet as they find with other dog foods.

The commercially made raw meat-based diets were developed to fill this need. They are formulated to meet or exceed AAFCO profiles for all life stages.

The commercially prepared raw meat diet manufacturers want the same things as other pet food companies – nutrition and safety. This is why some brands are presently, or will soon be, conducting AAFCO protocol feeding trials. And why some companies have joined the Petfood Institute.

How safe are properly prepared raw meat-based diets?

This question covers two subjects. One, how safe are properly prepared raw meat-based diets for dogs and cats; and two, how safe are they for humans to handle.

Over the last two years, we’ve seen many formerly skeptical veterinarians, breeders and retailers accept the fact that properly prepared raw meat-based diets are safe for dogs.

When I give my dogs bones – usually raw turkey necks – my puppy usually buries hers. A week or so later she’ll eat it. I can guarantee you that the bone is full of bacteria. But the puppy loves it and thrives on it. I hate to admit it, but week old turkey necks are still her favorite food.

We all know that raw meat has bacteria, most beneficial and some not. We also know that these bacteria do not pose a substantial risk to the dog under proper conditions of use. The short digestive systems of dogs allow them to stay healthy in the presence of potential pathogens.

Commercially made properly prepared raw meat-based diets have an excellent safety record. In the Northwest, where a lot of people feed raw meat diets, I’ve talked to all the retailers that sell raw diets, know all the distributors, I’ve done seminars in the stores, exhibited at veterinarian conferences, and met many thousands of consumers. Raw meat feeders are increasingly Internet connected. Word of mouth spreads quickly. If there were problems, my retailers would know about them and I would know. Indeed, our market keeps growing, success story after success story, retailer after retailer.

Our market and the growing number of raw meat feeders nationwide believe that properly prepared raw meat-based diet are as safe to handle as any raw meat product, like hamburgers, steaks, ribs and so forth. As with any raw human food product, safe handling instructions are important. Steve’s Real Food safe handling suggestions state:

“Treat as you would any raw meat product. Keep away from small children. Clean your hands, the dog bowls and all utensils in hot soapy water.”

Steve’s Real Food, like all properly prepared raw meat-based diets, takes extra care to ensure safety.

First, we use all human edible ingredients and handle the product according to human-edible standards.

Second, we manufacture the product in refrigerated rooms, keeping the temperature of the product below 28 degrees F during forming. We then individually quick-freeze, or flash freeze, at about –50 F wind chill, our ¾” nuggets. This not only locks in taste and nutrition it also minimizes opportunity for microbial growth.

Third, we make the food very easy to serve and clean up. Our nuggets are almost as easy and safe to serve as kibble, and certainly easier—and cleaner—than canned dog food. No can openers, utensils or cutting surfaces are needed.

To serve, most of our customers open their freezer, take out the bag, pour the right number of nuggets either directly into the dog’s bowl and serve, or into another bowl and defrost in the refrigerator. Most of our customers, we believe, defrost just what the dog needs for the next meal. This minimizes any mess in the refrigerator.

In addition, the flash frozen nuggets keep their shape in the dog’s bowl. The dogs eat them cleanly and quickly. We all know how much most dogs love real meat!

Why the market thinks raw meat-based diets are highly nutritious.

Results. They see how healthy dogs are on properly prepared raw meat-based diets.

We, in fact, believe there are many advantages to properly prepared raw meat-based diets.

Raw foods contain more of the nutrients found naturally in the starting ingredients than those that have been heavily processed through canning, extrusion, drying, acid treatment or some other process. Please understand that we are not saying that traditional dog foods lack nutrition. We are simply saying that there is more nutrition in minimally processed raw foods. That is why many of our customers often shop at farmers’ markets and natural food stores. They believe the taste and nutrition of fresh, whole foods is better for them and their pets.

To best understand the quality of these diets, let’s look at the ingredients in Steve’s Real Food for Dogs, my product. Other commercial products have similar ingredients.

This food is about 60% human quality chicken, 38% human quality vegetables and fruits, and 2% a special nutrient blend.

Delicious and wholesome. We’d all probably wish we, and our children, ate so well. Since the product is raw, produced in refrigerated rooms and flash frozen, the nutrients remain intact. As you might surmise, this product was formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for all life stages.

Raw foods contain numerous substances – including enzymes and complete families of antioxidants and phytochemicals – that modern science is discovering are important for optimum nutrition in humans and laboratory animals. My market and I think this holds true for dogs and cats.

Pet Nutrition Science is a dynamic field. As with human nutrition, we are all learning more everyday. For example, we’ve recently learned of the nutritional value of Omega 3 fatty acids, carnitine, taurine, selected fibers, and many other things. Pet foods continue to get better and better.

One such area of study is enzyme addition. Enzymes are found abundantly in fresh, raw foods. When the dog ate its natural prey the dog consumed hundreds and probably thousands of different types of food, metabolic and digestive enzymes.

Enzymes are deactivated or destroyed at temperatures above 105 to 170 degrees F; all the natural enzymes are destroyed in cooking dog foods. This forces the dog’s digestive enzymes to do all the work, and perhaps puts a strain on the dog’s long-term ability to manufacture necessary metabolic enzymes.

What are the value of enzymes? With humans, some prominent scientists and physicians claim that enzyme deficiency is America’s #1 health problem. For dogs and cats, Nature’s Recipe®, in their literature, noted that one of the factors in disease is the “inability of the body to produce adequate quantities of essential enzymes to digest food.”

A little over a century ago Vitamin C was first discovered. In 1958, free radicals were discovered. Today, when we think of disease-fighting nutrients, we don’t just examine A or E or C. We study the phytochemicals, flavonoids and antioxidants.

Phytochemicals are naturally occurring compounds in vegetables and fruits. Epidemiological evidence from more than 200 studies of humans link consumption of foods rich in phytochemicals with decreased risks for certain diseases ranging from some cancers to aging to some forms of dysplasia.

Fruits and vegetables have hundreds of antioxidant compounds. Some antioxidants, like vitamin C, and perhaps some of the unknown antioxidants, are destroyed by heat. There is a growing consensus among researchers that antioxidants must be in balance, that humans and laboratory animals need the complete families of antioxidants that only raw foods provide. Many of the antioxidants identified as having a health-protective effect represent a group of compounds found in the intact food, which in concert provide the health-protective effects. The selected antioxidant alone will not yield the entire health benefit.

To be at our best, we can’t just add selected antioxidants and phytochemicals to our diets: People need some raw foods. My market and I believe these are important to pets too.

Now that we’ve seen why many people believe properly prepared raw meat-based diets are highly-nutritious, let’s take a closer look at who these people are, and, for those who feed commercially made raw diets, where they buy their food. We’ll then conclude this section with a look at how raw diets fill an important need of the independent pet food store.

Who is feeding properly prepared raw meat-based diets

There is a new joke in the raw feeding community. What does BARF now stand for? Born Again Raw Feeders. Some raw feeders are, in a sense, obsessive about telling other people their success stories with raw feeding.

Our market is quite broad: Breeders, boarding kennels, veterinarians, and individual dog owners who fall into the dog-as-important-family-member category. I’ve met raw meat eaters of all breeds, large and small. Feeding raw diets is somewhat income related as raw meat based diets are certainly more expensive.

I can probably divide the market for raw meat-based diets into two groups of people: People who believe in natural foods for themselves and people who want the best for their dogs. Both groups seem to be well connected through the Internet.

Most of our market believes in their right to choose organic, natural, or whole foods. Whether or not the benefits from organic or natural foods have been proven through science is not an issue with them. They believe in the benefits of whole foods, the value of enzymes, and especially unknown nutrients. They also believe that there is a lot that science does not know about nutrition. They often shop at natural food stores and farmers’ markets. They are often vocal, and they are definitely growing.

A second group of raw meat based diet feeders consist of people who seem to care more about their dog’s diet than their own. They feed their dogs only the best. These are some of the people who started feeding the higher priced super-premium foods that took off in the 80s. Often these people learned about raw diets because their dog has or had a health / skin / allergy / coat problem and a friend or veterinarian told them about a raw diet solving that problem. Interestingly, we’re finding that some of this market are changing their personal diets based upon the success they’ve seen with their dog foods, eating more fresh vegetables and fruits and less grain.

Many of both of these groups of people were making their own raw meat based diets before they were introduced to the commercially available raw meat diets. We make it easy for them, and assure them that the food is complete and balanced. But if they can’t buy it, they will make their own, which may entail greater risk to them (more handling) and to their dogs (the food may not be complete and balanced).

Where people buy our products.

Our retailer market consists of veterinarians, leading-edge independent petfood stores, and natural food stores.

Three of our top five retailers are veterinarians. They see results. We work with holistic and, recently, a growing number of traditional veterinarians. There are hundreds of veterinarians nationwide who are selling or recommending properly prepared raw meat-based diets.

Independent petfood stores have always needed differentiated products. Today, with premium petfoods available in grocery and mass-merchandise, the remaining 10,000 or so independents are further challenged. Many are now finding that properly prepared raw meat-based diets are filling their need for highly differentiated, profitable, petfoods. Large grocery and mass merchandisers often sell premium petfoods at lower prices than many independents can buy it. Differentiated products are often the only ones they can make money on. My guess is that as of September 2000 over 600 independent petfood stores nationwide have invested in freezers and sell raw meat-based diets. I expect this to triple next year.

As I mentioned above, properly prepared raw meat-based diets fit the natural food store shoppers’ belief system. They know the value of eating raw, complete foods for themselves, and believe raw meat-based diets will benefit their dogs. My guess is that as of September 2000, 200 natural food stores sell raw meat-based diets. That number will probably more than double in 2001.

The need for regulation

One leading Northwestern trainer and breeder said to me “The worst looking dogs I see are on bad raw meat diets; the best looking dogs I see are on properly prepared raw meat-based diets.”

There are people who feed raw meat improperly; those using home made recipes without the science, or those who daily add several cups of raw hamburger to their dog’s kibble. Calcium is usually the problem. Readily available, properly-prepared, commercially made raw meat-based diets meeting AAFCO standards will solve this problem.

The need for regulation is clear. Enforcement of existing petfood regulations, with the addition of safe handling instructions, will help dog owners, retailers and most of all dogs. However, regulations should not be done in a manner that limits choices to the owner, in the same way that regulations should not impair the availability of properly labeled organic or natural foods. Regardless of your beliefs on the merits of raw foods, it should still be the consumers’ right to choose what they think is best for their pets.

On another note, I also suggest that the AAFCO petfood committee should begin work on revised nutrient profiles for properly prepared raw meat-based diets. I make this suggestion because the bioavailability of nutrients, especially minerals like zinc, in grain-free raw diets may differ from their availability in heat processed grain-based foods.

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When Vomiting Is Not About The Dog Food

August 26, 2010

When you pet vomits it can be a very alarming incident.  Immediately you think “Is something you ate?”, “Are yPuppies Scarfing Dog Foodou sick?” and then the sympathy sets in and you feel bad for pour sick Fido.

The truth is that Fido may not be sick at all.  If your dog scarfs down its food or gulps up large amounts of water before eating, they will vomit up what they just ate.  Their stomachs can’t handle the sudden intake of food and water and so it rejects it.

Therefore next time your pup pukes, take a look at the consistency of the vomit.  If it is undigested food, then they are probably just eating too fast.  Also remember the the number one indicator of your dog having a parasite or pour organ function such as kidney failure is what is coming out the other end.  If you see diarrhea or a sudden change in the consistency then they are likely sick and you should consult your holistic veterinarian.

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Food Habits of Feral Carnivores: A Review of Stomach Content Analysis

August 23, 2010

Originally published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association Nov/Dec 1979, Vol. 15, page 775.
Reprinted with the permission of the AAHA.

By: Susan M. Landry, BS and H.J. Van Kruiningen, DVM, PhD


A good deal of disagreement exists within the veterinary profession about the proper diet for dogs, some nutritionists advocating meat and fat rations and questioning the need for carbohydrates, and others describing a necessity for carbohydrates and suggesting deleterious effects from high meat protein diets. The proliferation of commercial dog food products and the hyperbolic television advertising associated with them have compounded the dilemma for the veterinarian and the dog-owning public.

The authors became concerned about canine rations because recent studies suggest that canine acute gastric dilation may be related to diet. The disease occurs with greatest frequency in the best-cared-for animals, in dogs fed exclusively soybean-cereal grain-expanded dog food products. Acute gastric dilation occurs shortly after a meal and has been shown to be fermentative in origin.

We conducted a review of the available wildlife literature, with the intent that the information gathered concerning food selection among feral carnivores might influence future considerations regarding the feeding of domestic carnivores.

Review of the Literature

Food habits of feral carnivores have long been of interest to wildlife specialists, who have attempted to elucidate predator-prey relationships and their fluctuations. Three methods have been used to determine the foods of feral carnivores: (1) examination of stomach contents; (2) scat analysis; and (3) direct observation.

In the examination of stomach contents, samples are floated in water and then dried in ovens. This is a common method. A partial identification is accomplished by inspection of undigested fur, bones, feathers, plant material, teeth, scales, and other such tissue. Identification is completed by microscopic study, comparing these materials with reference collections. Stomach contents are relatively easy to identify, and this method allows for distinction between carrion and freshly killed material.

In the scat analysis, fresh feces are collected, floated in water, and dried in ovens. Identification is based on comparisons with reference collections. This method provides a larger sample size than stomach contents, but identification is more difficult.

Direct observation of animals’ feeding is the third method used. Ear tagging devices and radio telemetry permit precise tracking of an animal’s movements, thus allowing first hand observation. This method of monitoring is especially valuable for studying endangered species or animals on game preserves.

We chose to review stomach content analyses because they offer more information than scat analysis and greater numbers than have been studied by direct observation.


Table 1: Food Habits of Coyotes, as Determined by Examination of Stomach Contents

Economic losses to farmers resulted in extensive studies of the coyote’s predatory behavior. Sportsmen and trappers have made a large number of specimens available for research. Thus, the food habits of this canid are well delineated [Table 1]. Sperry, in a 5-year study encompassing 17 states and all seasons, ranked rabbits as the primary food of coyotes. Carrion and rodents were next in importance. Similar findings have been reported for various regions.

Table 2: Comparison of Food Habits of Coyotes from Four Regional Areas in California

Geographic influences on selection by the coyote are exemplified in a study of 2222 stomachs from California. Regional differences among four areas of the state are documented [Table 2]. The intake of rabbits in the eastern region is twice that of other regions, while the deer intake is almost one-half, suggesting a proportional relationship. This type of relationship is also seen in the coastal region where coyotes appear to prey predominantly on the rodent population, resulting in a decreased intake of rabbits, sheep, and birds. Other examples of regional influence can be seen. Stomachs of coyotes from Texas contain fruits of native plants; poultry remnants are a common finding in stomachs of coyotes from such states as Arkansas, Nebraska, and Missouri, where broiler production is a prominent industry. These findings suggest that the coyote is an opportunistic scavenger.

Table 3: Seasonal Variations in Food Habits of Coyotes

In an analysis of 770 stomachs of coyotes in northwestern Missouri, rabbits were the staple food. The percent occurrence, however, varied seasonally and annually, the changes reflecting the population densities of rabbits. The greatest consumption of rabbits occurred in the winter – 58.1% by volume compared to 35.2% in the summer [Table 3]. Mice and rats were found more frequently and in greater quantity in fall and winter months. This report is at variance with other studies, which report highest consumption of rodents during the summer and fall. It may be more difficult for coyotes to find and capture smaller animals in the snow. A slight increase in the amount of carrion consumed in the winter months has been reported.

Unusual foods and/or quantities of food merit mention. Items such as leather, paper, and tinfoil have been found in coyote stomachs. Dirt, sticks, pebbles, and bark are often found in coyotes that have been trapped. Stomachs filled with insects have been reported. Farmers cultivating watermelons have experienced heavy losses from coyotes. Persimmons are frequently found in stomachs and, in areas where they are plentiful, comprise a significant part of the coyote’s diet.

Table 3: Seasonal Variations in Food Habits of Coyotes

In an analysis of 770 stomachs of coyotes in northwestern Missouri, rabbits were the staple food. The percent occurrence, however, varied seasonally and annually, the changes reflecting the population densities of rabbits. The greatest consumption of rabbits occurred in the winter – 58.1% by volume compared to 35.2% in the summer [Table 3]. Mice and rats were found more frequently and in greater quantity in fall and winter months. This report is at variance with other studies, which report highest consumption of rodents during the summer and fall. It may be more difficult for coyotes to find and capture smaller animals in the snow. A slight increase in the amount of carrion consumed in the winter months has been reported.

Unusual foods and/or quantities of food merit mention. Items such as leather, paper, and tinfoil have been found in coyote stomachs. Dirt, sticks, pebbles, and bark are often found in coyotes that have been trapped. Stomachs filled with insects have been reported. Farmers cultivating watermelons have experienced heavy losses from coyotes. Persimmons are frequently found in stomachs and, in areas where they are plentiful, comprise a significant part of the coyote’s diet.


The fox, like the coyote, has been the subject of much research. Foxes have also been considered extensive predators of domestic livestock. Analysis of food habits of the fox indicate that this canid is an opportunistic carnivore, consuming items that are easily obtained.

Table 4: Food Habits of Foxes, as Determined by Examination of Stomach Contents

The major foods of foxes are small mammals such as rabbits and rodents. Although these foods are similar to coyote foods, there are differences. Some reports indicate that rodents are more important to foxes as a staple food, though this is not borne out by available data [Table 4]. In addition, the red fox eats less rabbit and more of other game than the coyote.

The importance of game birds in the fox diet in debatable. Instances can be found where game birds are a major food item. This choice of prey probably occurs when there are large populations of birds or when populations of rabbits and rodents are low. Inspection of fox stomachs often reveals that this animal is not strictly carnivorous. Apples, grasses, persimmons, plums, and miscellaneous vegetation are often found. A comparison of red and gray fox stomach contents shows different preferences. Plants appear more frequently and in greater volume in gray foxes. This difference is especially noticeable in winter months.


Table 5: Food Habits of Wolves, as Determined by Examination of Stomach Contents

The food habits of wolves are modulated by their social behavior. Food is often obtained by a cooperative effort of the pack. As a result of the animal’s size and pack society, the wolf can successfully prey on a variety of animals [Table 5].Historically, the food of wolves appeared to have been buffalo, antelope, elk, deer, caribou, and moose. Today, when populations are adequate, these animals still comprise the major part of the diet of wolves. Caribou and moose remnants predominate in wolf stomachs in northern regions. In areas where man has settled and substituted domestic livestock for food, the wolf has done likewise. Tissues from livestock occurred 456 times in an analysis of 3346 wolf stomachs. Stomachs were obtained from states west of the 100th meridian and reflect the agriculture of that region. Wolves select animals requiring the least amount of energy to hunt and kill. Domestic livestock are unable to defend themselves effectively and are easily captured.Flesh, hair, and bones of deer are found in stomachs of wolves from all regions. Deer are also eaten in greater numbers than is represented by their populations. This suggests that deer are preferred food.

Beaver tissue and carrion are common findings in wolf stomachs. Carrion is utilized as food, particularly by animals that have been handicapped by injuries from traps or by worn teeth and in areas of low prey populations. Minor food items eaten by wolves are rabbits, hares, birds, and fish. Insects, invertebrates, and fruits, such as plums, watermelons, and berries also are seen in wolf stomachs. Infrequently, snowshoe hares are reported as a major food source. The size and social behavior of wolves would suggest that the hare probably does not contribute significantly to the wolf diet.


Table 6: Food Habits of Felidae, as Determined by Examination of Stomach Contents

Bobcats eat mice, hares, rabbits, squirrels, and porcupines [Table 6]. Deer are also considered an important food item, but there is some controversy as to how this animal is obtained. Bobcats have been observed consuming carcasses of deer with gunshot wounds. Eyewitness accounts have also documented instances of bobcats preying on live deer. The actual preference of the bobcat, whether for freshly killed meat or for carrion, cannot be determined from the information available.

The frequency of porcupines in the bobcat diet is significant. Bobcats do not seem to be adversely affected by quills. Porcupines are frequently found in bobcat stomachs even in areas where porcupine population densities are low and where other bobcat food is plentiful. This suggests that porcupines are preferred food.

Minor food items are birds, skunks, and fish. Leaves, twigs, soil, and other such debris also are commonly found. Since bobcats are ground feeders, the presence of these items is probably the result of accidental ingestion. Green grass is also found frequently enough to be considered a food item. The nutritional value of grass in the bobcat’s diet, however, has not been determined.


Little is known of the food habits of cougars. Deer supply the major portion of the diet – outnumbering the total of all other prey [Table 6]. Other important foods are porcupines and lagomorphs. Tissues from horses, cows, coyotes, bobcats, skunks, and beavers also have been recovered from cougar stomachs. This data indicate that this felid prefers to eat large animals. The intake of lagomorphs may be an indicator of availability rather than preference. Low population densities of larger animals may force utilization of rabbits and hares for food. The cougar will also consume grasses in both winter and summer. Brown, coarse, giant ryegrass has been found in the stomachs of cougars. This type of grass is avoided by livestock even in winter. Nutritional benefits of this grass for the cougar are unknown.


Knowledge of food habits of the lynx is also sparse. The major food supply of this felid is the snowshoe hare [Table 6]. Microtines and birds are next in importance. Lynx will also utilize red squirrels, fish, grass, and birds, particularly ducks.

The importance of the snowshoe hare is emphasized by the frequency of occurrence and/or percentage biomass. In Central Alberta, snowshoe hares represented 75.7% biomass, carrion second at 9.8%, and ruffed grouse at 9.2%. In Alberta and MacKenzie districts, snowshoe hares occurred with a 52% frequency, while the second ranked food item, microtus, occurred with a 22% frequency. The absolute dependence of the lynx on the snowshoe hare has been attributed to what is termed “feline specialization”. Felines choose their foods with respect to their own size. The lynx is a medium-sized feline, and thus is limited to capturing small animals.


From these many studies into the food habits of feral carnivores, it can be concluded that the staple diet of carnivores living in a natural setting includes other animals, carrion, and occasionally other fruits and other grasses. The larger the predator, the larger the prey. Wolves and cougars possess the capability to bring down large species of prey and thus eat less frequently than other carnivores and tend to engorge when they do. While the domestic dog is regarded as a descendant of the wolf, out-crossings with other canid species appears to have been responsible for many of our domestic breeds. Most of our domestic breeds possess the conformation, size, ferocity, and hunting capability similar to that of the coyote and the fox, carnivores that hunt individually, catch and kill small animals, eat carrion, and occasionally car fruits or grasses. The data suggested that medium- and small-sized carnivores are sometime hunters, sometime scavengers, eating what they can get their claws on. Anatomically, our domestic breeds of dogs possess gastrointestinal systems similar to those of the feral carnivores studied. They share in common strong carnassial teeth, simple stomachs of great digestive capability, thickly muscled esophagus, stomach, and intestine, residual cecae, and simple non-sacculated colons.

Recognizing the limitations inherent in stomach analyses as traditionally performed, it nevertheless appears reasonable to surmise from these reports that carnivores in their natural environment consume diets high in animal protein, bulk, and roughage (not plant fiber, but indigestible or poorly digestible parts of animal carcasses, such as bone, cartilage, scales, fin, fur, feather, tendon, and teeth), and low in carbohydrates and caloric density (the fat content of the flesh of wild rabbits equals 5%).

The medium and small feral carnivores undoubtedly eat several times daily (nightly really) catching as catch can, with periods of rest or fruitless scavenging or hunting in between. From stomach analyses it can also be recognized that carnivores masticate their prey minimally and prefer to swallow large bollets, ie – portions of carcasses with indigestible portions included.

An understanding of the food habits of feral carnivores should influence the diets and feeding practices we impose upon domestic carnivores.

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Phosphorus and Calcuim in Your Dog’s Diet

August 22, 2010

By Spencer Roach
Research and Development
Steve’s Real Food Inc.
Eugene, OR 97401

Raw diets, when prepared properly, are certainly the healthiest ways to feed dogs. But too often many people get confused about the proper ways to add calcium and phosphorus and change a great diet into a poor diet. Dogs need the proper amounts of calcium and phosphorus in order to grow well and remain healthy. This article will outline how much calcium and phosphorus dogs need, why, and will list the calcium and phosphorus sources of common ingredients used by many raw feeders.

Calcium and phosphorus are both essential minerals in canine diets. Calcium is a critical component of bone and cartilage, and it also plays a minor role in hormone transmission. Phosphorus is also a major component of bone. Calcium and phosphorus are found in bone as calcium hyoxyapatite, with a molecular formula of Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2. While the calcium/phosphorus ratio in hydroxyapatite is 1.7:1, energy-carrying molecules such as ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) and others increase non-skeletal demand for phosphorus. As such, the optimal dietary calcium/phosphorus ratio is between 1.2:1 and 1.3:1. The chart below lists calcium/phosphorus minima and maxima for various life stages on a dry matter basis1.

Growth Adult Maintenance Maximum
Calcium 1.0% 0.6% 2.5%
Phosphorus 0.8% 0.5% 1.6%

Calcium/phosphorus metabolism is mediated by 1,25(OH)2-vitamin D in the small intestine, and by parathyroid hormone in the bloodstream. There is a complex feedback loop that balances intestinal absorption, bone resorption, and renal excretion of both minerals. Too much calcium can result in increased bone density, which has been implicated as a factor in hip dysplasia in young and old dogs alike. Too little calcium can cause bone demineralization (and consequently an increased risk of skeletal fracture) and stunted growth. Phosphorus excess can lead to renal damage, while phosphorous deficiency is rarely (if ever) seen in carnivores.

Most of the calcium and phosphorus in Steve’s Real Food chicken and turkey varieties comes from raw, ground up chicken backs or turkey necks. We also use a variety of calcium and phosphorus supplements in order to reach optimum levels of nutrition. Many raw diet advocates overestimate the levels of phosphorous in meat. Meat and pure calcium supplements alone do not provide adequate levels of phosphorus. We found through extensive nutrient analysis that we had to add phosphorus in conjunction with calcium. We use several pure calcium sources and calcium/ phosphorus sources to fine-tune our food’s nutrition. Below are the calcium and phosphorus contents of some common raw meaty bones and other mineral sources. Also included are moisture, protein, and fat, so the mathematically inclined can estimate the dry matter calcium/phosphorus content as well as the energy density. Carbohydrate content is negligible for all ingredients.

Calcium (%) Phosphorus (%) Moisture (%) Protein (%) Fat (%)
Beef, whole 0.07 0.2 65.5 19.6 12.2
Chicken Brest 0.01 0.17 69.5 20.9 9.3
Chicken Backs 0.48 0.4 60.7 12.6 24.4
Chicken Wings 0.87 0.78 64.8 17.2 12
Turkey Necks 0.69 0.73 62.5 12.4 19.9
Beef Bonemeal 30.6 11.3
Egg Shell Powder 38.1
Dicalcium 29.4 23

1) Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), Official Publication, 2001.

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