Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
We imagine many of our readers are strict adherents to the Primal Blueprint. You’re downing almonds by the bushel, guzzling fish oil, and avoiding grains like the plague, but what are you feeding Fido? Our bodies have had over ten thousand years to get used to agrarianism – and the stuff is still killing us! Commercial kibble has only been around for fifty years. Imagine how dogs feel.
Consider the wolf, a dog’s closest relative. Wolves are hunters and scavengers, relying primarily on animal protein. They are not, however, accomplished chefs. Check out a wolf’s den. No pots, no pans, no range stove. Not even a salt shaker. They were on the raw diet before it became hip. You won’t see wolves feasting on Purina; they eat raw meat, and lots of it.
Genetically, dogs are virtually still wolves. They weren’t even domesticated until 15,000 years ago. So, for some 5,000 years the furry guys were tagging along with hunter-gatherers, munching on the leftovers: meaty bones, organ meat, maybe a bit of mammoth rib-eye (if they were lucky). They were scavengers – like their wolf ancestors – and they flourished as our utilitarian companions. Why else did we keep ‘em around for so long? Sure, eating our leftovers may not have been the optimum doggy diet, but it was certainly better than the dry, over-processed sawdust that passes for dog food today. Modern dogs are pampered softies. Store-bought dog “food” works for them because they don’t do much more than sit around and sleep.
And does commercial dog food really work? Well, it certainly keeps them fat and alive. On the same token, the Western grain-based diet keeps us fat and alive, too, but we all know how we feel about that. Just as Big Pharma’s tendency to prescribe expensive band-aids masks the insidious nature of modern nutrition, so too does the veterinary community give the impression that cancer, bone disorders, and other canine illnesses just happen to man’s best friend. Nutrition, according to them, has little to do with it. But just in case it does, they just so happen to sell an expensive kibble – Science Diet, Nutra-Max, or whatever garbage their corporate sponsors have paid them to promote – that will fulfill all of your dog’s dietary needs. What luck!
Before you listen to the vet, check out the ingredients on the package. For you Primal Blueprinters, the results will shock you. You’ll see stuff like lamb meal, ground rice, wheat, corn, sorghum – and that’s for the premium brands! Why would you feed a carnivore grains? Somehow, we doubt wolves were out there shucking corn and harvesting rice. And just what is lamb meal? From Wikipedia, it is “the dry rendered part from mammal tissues, prepared for feeding purposes by tanking under live steam or dry rendering.” After all that processing, what little remaining nutritional value of the “meat” cannot possibly counterbalance the filler ingredients. The dog gets full, and even happy (hey, we all know that dogs will eat anything with a stupid smile on their faces), but the nutritional deficit adds up. You can stick with the kibble, but prepare yourself for a lifetime of vet bills, doggie dental bills (the most preventable expense ever), and vast amounts of smelly stool.
The truth is following a Primal Blueprint for dogs is the best way to ensure happy, healthy dogs. Best of all, you’re already used to preparing your own Primal-friendly meals, so the transition to a specialized dog diet shouldn’t be a huge leap. It’s easy, too: no cooking, no seasoning, no prepping. Just look at what wolves eat (read: any meat they can get their paws on) and go from there.
A Primal eating plan for dogs should consist mainly of organ meat, raw meaty bones (like chicken carcasses or turkey necks), and muscle meat, naturally and humanely-raised if you can swing it – just like us! Really, any animal product is acceptable. Wolves ate a wide range of animals, but it’s probably unrealistic to feed your dog antelope, elk, and deer on a regular basis. Some pretty affordable options include:
• Turkey: necks, backs, wings, drumsticks, gizzards, hearts
• Chicken: carcasses, backs, necks, legs, wings, organs, eggs
• Whole, oily fish: sardines, herring, anchovies, mackerel
• Beef: stew meat, ground chuck, organs, marrow bones
Dogs don’t need filet mignon to lead happy, healthy lives. The first things wolves go for are the organs of a fresh kill. They prefer the cheaper, fattier, more nutrient-dense meats, and sticking to them makes it possible to feed your dogs grass and range-fed animal products.
Going from traditional kibble to raw feed can be a little unnerving for newbies. Try to resist the impulse to do a half-kibble/half-raw dietary transition. This will only confuse the dog’s digestive system and lead to explosive diarrhea. Remember – you’re not switching kibble, you’re replacing poison with real food! Go cold turkey (pun intended). Puppies are blank slates and will take to the diet immediately, but older dogs may need a couple days to get used to the new food. Prepare for detox if your dog’s been on kibble for awhile. Vomiting, diarrhea, bad breath, and itchy skin are all par for the course. Don’t worry… ride it out!
Stick to fairly basic foods at first, like turkey and chicken necks. Dogs love to gnaw and chew bones, so this will come natural to them. If your dog’s a gulper (and most reformed kibble eaters are), hold the bones for them while they eat to promote proper chewing. Once they’ve figured out how to chew, you can start adding different meats.
To truly see the benefits, you have to try the diet out for yourself. Results tell the tale, but some common benefits include:
• Shiny, soft coats: the Primal eating plan for dogs will imbue your pal with a beautiful luster. Heads will turn at the dog park; you better get yours spayed unless you want a promiscuous, irresponsible single mother on your hands. Fish oil supplementation makes this even more noticeable.
• Pearly whites: eating clean food and chewing raw bones will clear up any plaque deposits and leave your dog’s teeth gleaming.
• Lower vet bills: eating food the dog is evolutionarily designed to eat will take care of the allergies and minor illnesses that account for most vet visits.
• Lower costs: buying wholesale and shopping for bones and organ meats are actually considerably less expensive than purchasing “premium” commercial dog food.
• A happy, long-living best friend: the oldest dog on record was an Australian cattle dog named Bluey who dined exclusively on kangaroo and emu. Your dog will live a healthier, fuller life on a Primal eating plan.
• Firm, odorless poop: on a raw, Primal eating plan, dogs waste little of what they eat. That means stool is small, hard, and without much odor. It also turns into white powder after a day or so, making cleanup effortless. Also, the added strain of passing hard stool will naturally express your dog’s anal glands, rendering another expensive vet trip obsolete.
Don’t dogs choke on bones?
Not on raw ones. Cooked bones splinter, and they can get lodged in a dog’s throat. Raw bones are pliable, and the calcium content is absolutely integral to a dog’s health. Plus, chewing bones keeps the teeth clean. No more astronomical dental bills!
What about food-borne bacteria? Isn’t raw meat dangerous?
Wolves seem to do just fine eating days-old carrion. Dogs’ stomachs are equipped to handle bacteria in much the same fashion, so don’t worry about contamination. Still, humans are vulnerable, so wash up!
What if my dog is constipated?
Again, the straining is actually good for your dog. But if it absolutely refuses to come out, a little raw canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) will do the trick. Raw pumpkin also firms loose stools.
How much should I feed?
Let’s use a sixty-pound retriever mix as an example. Assuming it gets plenty of exercise, feeding about a pound and a half to two pounds of assorted meats and bones is plenty. Everything varies from dog to dog, of course. If you can’t feel its ribs, reduce the food. If its ribs are a little too prominent, feed more.
Vegetables can be added to your dog’s diet. In fact it is recommended. Carrots are fun to crunch, and broccoli, spinach, and celery can be ground up and added to a mixture of ground meat. Supplementing with fish oil is also recommended for a shiny, healthy coat.
Have fun with it. Your dog is an incredibly eager eater, and watching the transformation is a true joy to behold. Go slowly and listen to your instincts as a Primal eater yourself.
Do you have dogs you feed Primal food? If not, are you thinking about making the switch? Hit us up with a comment and share your stories!