Do I Need a Dog Nutritionist?

Dr Nick Thompson responds to a worried Westie owner concerned about raw food.

Dear Nick,

I am anxious about changing my Westie onto raw food. I need some guidance, please? Do I need to contact a dog nutritionist? Thanks.

Dear Reader,

I guess the answer to that question is: if you want to, but it’s not essential. Let me explain.

If raw feeding were dangerous and difficult, then I’d say yes, you need professional guidance, just as you take your car to the garage because you have no idea how a carburettor or clutch works.

But the good news is that raw feeding is neither risky nor complicated if you understand a few basic guidelines. You manage, I assume, to feed yourself without needing professional help?

Everyone I’ve ever met was nervous when they first started feeding raw, so you’re not alone. Almost everyone looks back on their first days feeding their dog real raw food and thinks, ‘why didn’t I do this years ago?!’

The dog-owning public has been disempowered by forty or more years of propaganda from the ‘dog food’ corporations. The brain-washing subtext from these billion-dollar companies is ‘we will take responsibility for feeding your dog. We are the experts, and we know all the mysteries of nutrition, so you don’t have to. Leave it to us’.

Most people go along with this because it appears to make their life easier. I’m all for an easy life (so I can study more about food and nutrition), but most people get drawn into the falsehood that feeding dogs is complicated. The problem is that science now tells us that feeding any creature, including humans, on ultra-processed food for extended periods (more than 1-2 days!) can lead to ill health and metabolic damage.

So, to expand on my first sentence – you can talk to a nutritionist if you’re unsure how to feed raw, but there are other options, too.

The easiest and cheapest option is to talk to trusted raw food companies (Google a phone number). They are generally very knowledgeable and experienced and more than happy to help. Most will give advice whether you use their foods or not.

Find a company whose service you like, whose ethics match yours and whose price-point doesn’t pinch your pocket. Remember – you usually get what you pay for.

The other alternative is to do lots of reading before you start. I would suggest these books might be helpful. In no particular order, look at:

Jonathan Self’s ‘Honey’s Natural Feeding Handbook for Dogs’

‘Real Food for Dogs and Cats: A Practical Guide to Feeding Your Pet a Balanced, Natural Diet’ by Clare Middle

Caroline Griffith’s book ‘The Best Dog Diet Ever’

A little more technical but equally valuable is Dr Karen Becker’s ‘Dr Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats: Simple Homemade Food’.

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