GIVE YOUR DOG A BONE

    You are probably familiar with the axiom you can't judge a book by the cover. Ian Billinghurst's book is the epitome of that sentiment. Give Your Dog A Bone is a paperback, has unusual formatting, and rather hard to read print. It is not the most impressive book I've ever seen from a superficial appearance perspective. Moreover, Doctor Billinghurst published the book himself, and I doubt he had previous publishing experience. However I didn't pay the $27.95US for the book so it could sit on a coffee table and look good. I purchased it for the content, and it was probably the best money I ever spent for the sake of my Kuvasz.

    Billinghurst put the sub title The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs For A Long Healthy Life on the front cover. I scanned the book very quickly at first, looking for specifics, and was a little bit disappointed there wasn't a chapter entitled How And What Gregory Barrett Should Feed Triumph And Phantom. However there was common sense as Billinghurst promised, and I think even more importantly, the contents were EXTREMELY thought provoking.

    Billinghurst writes in his introduction, "... feeding dogs can be explained in two or three lines. Feed your dog a diet consisting of about sixty percent raw meaty bones. The rest of the diet should consist of a wide range of good quality human food scraps. Most of them should also be raw." Then in Chapter 1 he proposes the following:

Fact Number One 
    Although the mind and the outward appearance of our modern dog has changed dramatically, the internal workings, including the entire digestive system, and the way food is utilized for growth, maintenance, repair and reproduction, is fundamentally the same as it's wild ancestors.
If that is so, a study of the foods eaten by wild dogs, should provide us with a sound basis for feeding modern dogs.
ASKING THE DOG ABOUT FEEDING DOGS
    There are six words which may be used to describe the eating habits of a wolf and other wild dogs. Those words are carnivore, hunter, scavenger, opportunist, vegetarian and omnivore.
Your Dog is a Carnivore
    Dogs, like wolves love to eat other animals. They will eat their internal organs, their meat, their bones, everything. I am talking about all dogs. It doesn't matter whether you own a chihuahua, a maltese, a great dane, a poodle or a bull terrier - cross - rottweiller. They all love to eat this way.

    Even if you don't agree with anything else Billinghurst writes in the 319 pages, you have to admit the preceding makes sense. I read the book over and over, and each time I retained a little more of the philosophy, and subsequently I was able to de-program myself.

    I was brainwashed by the dog food makers. I believed them and their representatives of all kinds when they told me I couldn't possibly feed my dogs on my own. I believed them when they said my dogs needed the BALANCED diet their products provided. I believed them when they said their primary concern was the HEALTH AND WELFARE of my dogs.

    If only I had known. I have uttered those words so many times with regard to my dogs, and always after the fact and in despair. The breeding caused genetic problems aside, I wonder what difference a proper diet would have made in the lives of my first two Kuvasz Tyra and Amiga. What difference would a fresh food diet right from the beginning have made to Triumph and Phantom's health and quality of life? What problems might never have occurred if the breeders fed their breeding stock healthy diets?

    Billinghurst's book made me think and made me act:

    Dog food makers are in business to make money. Everything they do to their dog food product is geared toward that result. It's not a sin for them to make money, but unfortunately they can't make money or dog food without negatively affecting your Kuvasz.

    They put chemical preservatives in the food to maintain shelf life. Their packaging almost always lists the mysterious BY-PRODUCT or ?-MEAL ingredients. Cooking and processing eliminates most of if not all of the nutritional value from food. Their additional replacement nutrients can be just as harmful to your dog as too few. Basically, YOU DON'T HAVE ANY CONTROL OVER WHAT YOUARE FEEDING YOUR DOG BECAUSE YOU DON'T REALLY KNOW WHAT'S IN THE FOOD. While it's true we don't even know what's in our own food, I feel confident our food is better than the traditional dog food available.

    Every dog has different food and nutritional requirements. Since Triumph had demodectic mange as a pup and still has skin problems, as well as a tendency toward developing uric crystals, and problems with airborne allergens during the summer months, I can address those specific problems when I prepare his food and vitamin intake. Phantom is cowhocked, has some arthritis, and poor quality teeth, so some of her intake is different and reflects her particular needs. Your Kuvasz may have different requirements altogether, so I suggest you keep that in mind when you click on the link and read my FEEDING SCHEDULE menu and notes document on the KUVASZ AS PETS page. The references are examples of what is effective for us at the present time.

    Is it easy to go to the store and buy several bags of dog food to last the next couple of months? Absolutely. It's also much faster to pour the food out of a bag and into a bowl. Easier and faster but not better for your dog in my opinion. If you care, and your Kuvasz is a priority, you will make the transition. But the transition is a challenge... it definitely takes more time to prepare the food. Moreover, you really need to read more than just Give Your Dog A Bone. Why? Because if you were like me and didn't know much about nutrition, or how vitamins react with one another and are absorbed, then you must educate yourself.

    Initially my head hurt when I tried to figure out which food and supplemental vitamins canceled each other out, which would only react when served with fat etcetera, and what purpose they each fulfilled. Since governments and businesses are only just starting to consider that there is money to be made in the areas of natural food and nutrition, as well as homeopathy and herbal treatment, concrete definitive information is hard to find. Relatively few studies have been done. You may also frequently find contradictory information concerning everything from vitamin dosage to curative results. One example would be the value in glucosamine sulfate versus glucosamine which contains chondroitin sulfate. Some sources I have encountered say that chondroitin sulfate cannot pass through the stomach lining. Others insist it can. For the time being I choose to believe the latter and I'm waiting for future empirical evidence.

    If I were to take Triumph and Phantom out into the wilderness and release them, they would employ two completely different survival techniques. Triumph who has an extremely good nose, would simply find people and charm them into feeding and caring for him. He really is a person in fur. Phantom on the other hand is a truly instinctive and resourceful animal, and would hunt and fend for herself. The dichotomy is that while Triumph was always able to eat almost anything and everything, Phantom was a picky eater, sometimes suspicious of food, and known to spit out food she didn't like no matter how well disguised. Phantom was also sick to her stomach more than Triumph. While she regularly threw up bile a couple of times a week in the morning, Triumph was rarely sick. So you can imagine my surprise when I began feeding them the meaty bone and fresh food diet, and Phantom ate everything with passion right from the beginning, while Triumph examined his new food suspiciously and at length. Phantom wasn't sick to her stomach after she stopped eating processed dog food, but Triumph had diarrhea until the addition of unsalted cracker, unsalted breadstick, or dry toast bits. We also can't puree Triumph's (salad) "stomach contents" as Dr. Billinghurst suggests in his book, or else his stool becomes too loose. And while Billinghurst and other natural food advocates suggest fasting dogs as much as a day or more a week, or not feeding them on a regular daily schedule, we continue to feed Triumph and Phantom every morning, noon, and night. Phantom must graze those 3 times a day, otherwise her stomach grumbles so loudly it wakes her and even us if she misses a meal. Moreover they both live to eat now, and it's truly a pleasure to watch them enjoy their meals. They both used to lie down while they were eating and Phantom did not really show much enthusiasm for meals. But now they both stand while they eat, and each meal is a special occasion for Phantom.

    So where do I get the new diet items for my Kuvasz? I pick up the fresh meaty chicken bones several times a week from my dog loving and very charitable local butchers. They give me the chicken parts I require absolutely free. (Another source you might consider for fresh meaty bones are local restaurants) Karen and I buy more fruit and vegetables now since Triumph and Phantom are joining us in consuming salad type food, and some of the other items are grocery store items as well. The extra vitamin and nutritional supplements are purchased from health food stores. While we previously spent approximately $20+ a week to feed Triumph and Phantom processed dog food, we now spend $15 or less.

    The change to a natural diet for my companions motivated me to continue educating myself about nutrition. But as sometimes happens, the more I learned the more questions I had, and the greater my desire to know if the contents of the feeding schedule was providing a proper balance. I asked a canine nutritionist to review Triumph and Phantom's menu for me, and provided their ages and weights at the time, as well as the menu elements and proportions. I received the following feedback:

I reviewed the diets you sent on the 12th of August using a computer database (Dine 3) as well as the United States - Canadian Tables of Feed Composition. There were some difficulties in analysis. Many of the supplements are not listed in commonly available databases. The term 'pieces of chicken' was hard to quantitate because the data bases which provide information on wings and necks do not include the nutritive values of the bone and those which contain that information do not separate the information into specific anatomic parts of the animal. A mixture of 80% whole broiler and 20% feet and legs was devised as a way to approximate the 'piece of chicken' used in the diet. The amount given each day was set at 300 gms (about 10 oz). With those reservations, the following are my conclusions:
1. The trace element and water soluble vitamin requirements of the animal were very likely met.
2. The protein and fat requirements (including unsaturated fatty acid requirements) were met by the diet.
3. The requirements of the animal for calcium were not met and the amount of phosphorus in the diet very greatly exceeded the amounts recommended. This sets up a rather large calcium/phosphorus imbalance that should be addressed.
4. The use of whole chicken bone in feeding canines should be discouraged. These bones are of a different structure than bovine or other mammalian bones and may shatter and splinter when bitten. The sharp fragments can pierce the animal's gastrointestinal system.
The following table lists the macronutrient concentrations on a 1000 kcal of metabolisable energy basis which allows for a non-mass based comparison of composition of the diet with the animal's needs.
Nutrient
Protein (g)
Fat
Ca (mg)
P (mg)
Ca:P
Found/1000 kcal
140.2
44.2
940.0
12,813.5
0.07
Recommended/1000 kcal
62.9
22.9
2900
2300
1.26
Clearly, the most serious matter with this diet is the Ca/P ratio and this should be addressed.

    I was disappointed to learn about the calcium/phosphorus imbalance. However if you printed the original version of the FEEDING SCHEDULE linked from the KUVASZ AS PETS document, and compare it to the present menu, you will see I am now feeding Triumph and Phantom less chicken, and that I significantly increased the quantity of green leafy vegetables in response to the outlined problem.

    The nutritionist's warning about "whole chicken bone" was not a surprise. Except for Billinghurst, I'm not aware of any other veterinarian who recommends chicken bones, even uncooked ones. I suspect the number of people who feed their dogs chicken, bones included, is very very small in comparison to those who don't. I've read and heard the horror stories too. But I also know there are positive effects on Triumph and Phantom's teeth and gums from the chicken bones, and that the bone marrow is good for them. Consequently I choose to continue feeding them raw chicken pieces, but the bones have been clipped short, and I frequently grind the chicken and bones up entirely. I also carefully check their stool each day for signs of adversity.

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