Review: Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs

Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs.

I bought Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs with some Christmas money and really enjoyed reading it. I found it to be a helpful and non-scary introduction to a raw and natural canine diet, which is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

Dr. Lew Olson is a rottweiler breeder with a Ph.D. in natural nutrition. She writes that she’s experienced firsthand the immense benefits of a raw and natural diet with her own dogs, and the book is sprinkled with testimonies from her clients and other people who have seen their dog’s health and energy drastically improve.

Her initial overview of canine nutritional needs and the American pet food industry was incredibly interesting and insightful. While I have read a bit about the horrors of your average kibble, I had no idea how vast and political the pet food industry’s influence is. Unlike Celeste Yarnall, Olson supports her arguments with cited evidence and research and doesn’t come across sounding like a conspiracy theorist: Instead, she’s just a woman who wants her dogs to be healthy. And your average kibble is decidedly not healthy.

The following chapters provide step-by-step advice on how to switch from kibble to a raw or natural diet. The later chapters also provide specific recipes for dogs with various health issues, including cancer, joint trouble, bladder problems, and skin allergies, just to name a few.

My only critique of the book is that it can occasionally read like a sales pitch for Berte’s products, which she includes in every recipe. A little research reveals that Olson is a part of B Naturals, the company that sells these products. I would have had more respect and trust in Olson if she had disclosed this connection forthright.

That to say, however, this is an excellent introduction to raw and natural diets. Olson makes you believe that it is indeed possible to feasibly and economically feed your dogs well.

What should I feed my future dog?

Dog food canisters from Etsy.

Lately, my dog reading focus has been pretty heavy on the health and nutrition side of things. I’ve been scouring Dog Food Advisor constantly and I’ve been writing down all sorts of advice and ratings. I read the (pretty terrible) Natural Dog Care and the (really great) Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs. The latter book especially convinced me of the truth that dogs should not be exclusively eating low-grade, high-carb, and high-grain kibble.

So, this means I want to make food for my dog or supplement his or her kibble with fresh meat and natural food. Therein lies the rub. My husband and I are de facto vegetarians. I say “de facto” because we tend to eat vegetarian six nights a week; I don’t eat any meat myself for the rest of the week. This means we’re not really in the habit of buying a lot of meat. We’ll eat it occasionally and if we go to friends’ homes for dinner, but it’s not a regular part of our menu. We can buy meat, however, and we are blessed to be surrounded by plenty of local farms and butchers who raise and sell organic, free range beef and poultry.

These are my options, as I see them:

  1. Kibble diet: Buy a high-quality, grain-free kibble and feed exclusively.
  2. Half kibble/half homemade diet: Supplement homemade meals with high-quality, grain-free kibble.
  3. Raw diet: All raw meat and fresh foods, all homemade and self-prepared.

Everyone I know who has a dog has them on an all-kibble diet. Most dog owners I know also stick to the adage that “people food” is bad for dogs (a myth quite successfully perpetuated by the pet food industry). These dogs eat the exact same thing, day in and day out, and don’t complain. They get fat, though, and often smell bad and shed terribly. After having read these excellent books, I don’t think I could feed my dog an all-kibble diet and feel good about it. Unless it was a really, really high-quality kibble. I might be eating my words on this in a few months, but from today’s vantage point, I don’t think my conscience would rest comfortably if I gave my dog only kibble.

I’m leaning most toward the half kibble/half homemade diet at this point, at least in the beginning.  If I find out that all homemade/raw is easy and affordable, we might just go for that. The plan would be to mix kibble with homemade recipes, including some raw meats, fruits and vegetables, and recommended dairy products. I think this plan could also help us cut down on the food that we throw away: Dog as (carefully moderated!) trash reducer. I plan on arming myself with books like Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs and other canine cookbooks to make sure that our future dog is getting all of the nutrients that he or she needs.

I’ve read some about raw diets for dogs. They make me a little nervous, for a few reasons: 1) I don’t cook all that well for myself; I’m not sure how reliable I would be at cooking every day for my dog; 2) It sounds really expensive; 3) It also sounds very time-consuming; and 4) It would take some effort to find reliable places to get such raw meats. Maybe I will work up to it. For right now, though, I’m not sure if I have the guts (or capital) to jump into a raw diet.

Either way, it’s a lot to think about, and I’m sure I may think differently about some of these things when I’m actually in the day in/day out grind of having a dog.

What kind of diet is your dog on? What do you recommend? If you feed kibble, do you have a particular brand you like? I’m all ears!