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scarter
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15-09-2008, 07:41 AM

Raw Beginner - Help Needed with Optimising Diet for Performance

Hi,

We have an 11 month old Beagle. We started feeding her a raw diet 3 weeks ago.

Until recently we'd fed Beanie on Burns mini-bites. It kept her very lean - too lean according to some breeders and show people. But the vet always said she was in great shape. We tended to agree with our vet. Our pup has been a member of a whippet racing club (Beagle division) since she was 6 months old and every week without fail she'd get noticably faster.

Then for a variety of reasons we decided that a raw diet was our best way forwards (mainly because she has pollen allergies and we've found studies in human allergy sufferers that suggests to us that raw food might help).

In the three weeks that she's been on a raw diet she's put on 1.5 lbs (which is a huge amount for her - she'd been at a tiny 9.6 kg since she was about 7 months old. She's always been a very muscular little pup (but not bulky), but this extra weight is muscle bulk. Also her rib cage has really opened up. I'd say if anything there's less fat coverage on her. People have commented that she's looking good and we have to agree. It's as if the raw diet has quickly matured her from a lanky teenager to a lean, muscular adult.

If we didn't have any physical test to go by we'd be raving about the wonders of a raw diet!

But....

In the past three weeks at the racing she's not only stopped improving, but has actually been slightly slower, and we feel that her endurance is down very slightly too. (Although she is still very fast and has way above average stamina).

Now in my mind the real test of how well a diet suits a dog isn't how it affects looks, but performance. If a diet causes the dog to be slower or have less endurance then I feel it must be lacking in something and probably isn't keeping her in the best possible health.

The first point that I need to make is that there's no guarantee that her poor performance or improved looks has anything at all to do with her diet. It could just be part of the natural maturing process. But it *seems* to be food related.

We want to stick with raw rather than panic and go back to kibble, so we're hoping to learn more in order to adjust the balance of her diet to suit her better.

Here's what we're feeding her:

She's currently on raw for breakfast and kibble at night. (We aren't brave enough to do a complete switch over yet)

For breakfast a range of *very lean*, top quality meats including skinless boned chicken breast, lean steak, lean beef mince, turky mince, chopped turkey thighs, tripe, white fish, raw sardine - occasional raw liver and a tiny bit of other offal. Perhaps a couple of chicken wings, a lambs neck and a marrow bone or beef knuckle bone each week. And a wide variety of liquidised vegetables.

Some thoughts that I've had:

1. Her kibble was fairly high carbohydrate, very low fat and fairly low protein (19% I think).
2. Her current diet is much higher in protein and fat, but has no/little carbohydrate.
3. I've read that fat is a better source of energy in dogs than carbohydrate. This is based on studies of canine athletes - both endurance and spped. Does it take time for a dog's system to adjust to running on fat rather than carbohydrate? Or could it be that she's not getting enough fat (she has lean cuts of meat)? She is a very fit, active little pup that has always stayed very lean despite eating a lot!
4. What about carbohydrates - has anyone found that their dog does better if these are included in a raw diet? I know research has shown that they aren't necessary but does anyone's experience say otherwise?

Any suggestions/thoughts/ideas very welcome!

Especially from people with experience of tweaking the diet of competetive or working dogs. Beagles are endurance animals, but Beanie loves to sprint - chases are her favorite game. So I guess her physical demands are similar to that of compettive agility dogs. (In fact, she's starting agility classes in a week or two).
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Hali
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15-09-2008, 09:12 AM
I'm not so convinced that it is necessarily the diet that has caused these changes. Beenie is still a pup and could well just be going through a growth spurt.

Although an article about humans rather than dogs, surely much of the basics must still apply :

Growth spurts in young athletes
The fact that young athletes are physically growing and changing is obvious but the implications are often overlooked. For example a young person does no grow and develop in a controlled way but rather in growth spurts that occur regularly. Now we tend to take growth spurts for granted but there effect if profound. For example If you are a 150 cm person who is now 153 cm in height then you have to relearn balance and coordination because you are now 3cm different in height. Remember our balance and coordination is something that is learnt and is not natural. If you change the dynamics of this learnt behaviour then there is no wonder problems are experienced during growth spurts.

In fact during these growth periods young athletes performances may actually go backwards. There is sometimes a tendency to blame the athletes lack of commitment or to blame the coach for the poor performances. The growth spurts are usually evident in Girls between the ages of 10 to 12 years and for boys between 12 to 14 years. Growth rate then decreases until full height is reached.

During growth spurts there is also a tendency for parts of the body to develop disproportionaly to other parts. For example leg bones may suddenly grow however the muscles do not keep pace. You can well imagine that this will cause a loss of flexibility and strength and in some instances I have seen athletes who are one day very flexible and the next they can hardly touch there toes in simple stretch exercises. Your coach will be on the look out for these signs and parents are encouraged to provide feed back to the coach if they see any signs that physical changes are occurring. Training will be modified to accommodate these changes to ensure the athlete is not injured


the full article is here. http://www.clac.coolrunning.com.au/Injury2.htm

If I had more time, I would have seen if there were similar articles for growth in dogs. e.g. I note that greyhounds don't start racing until they are 18 months old (though whippets younger, but their bodies are much smaller and lighter).

Just something for you to consider
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cava14una
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15-09-2008, 09:29 AM
That makes really good sense Hali and was very interesting Thanks for posting
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scarter
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15-09-2008, 10:38 AM
It is quite possible that this is just part of the natural maturing process and it's one of the things we're considering. Her build has changed (for the better) in the three weeks that we've been feeding her raw - whether that's anything to do with the raw diet is unclear. Until about 7 months old she had just been very gradualy growing upwards and not putting on weight. Then she reached mature height and stayed stable for three months. Now she's had this uncharacteristicly sudden little 'outward' spurt that coincides with raw feeding.

There are other factors - not least my partner's mum is dying and we're obviously upset and stressed by this. She could be picking up on our lack of enthusiasm on race days.

So we're keeping our minds very open about this until we have more hard facts to go on. Maybe it would have happened just the same if she'd stayed on kibble. Or maybe the raw food has caused her to develop more quickly. Which isn't necesarily a good thing, and is a complete reversal of the lean, slow growth that occurs with Burns kibble. Or maybe she's not got such a good energy supply on raw.

So I'm only considering the *possibility* that it's down to diet. We want to pick the brains of people that have experience of feeding working dogs or canine athletes as we want to learn more about tweaking the basic diet to suit individual dogs. It stands to reason that the "basic formula" won't be ideal for all dogs. A couch potato has different dietry needs to an endurance dog, who in turn has different dietry needs ot a sprinter.

From the reasearch that I've done I tend to think that we need to up the fat content of her diet and perhaps feed her more fatty meats. She's not only highly active, but also seems to have a high metabolism. I'm just a little concerned that we're giving her too high a percentage of protein and that her body is learning to use that for fuel. Which I imagine is not a good thing.

Beanie's racing is just for her enjoyment. It's not serious competition. But because she's regularly 'tested' and timed it gives us good feedback as to her physical condition. But of course, the trick is to figure out which of the many factors are responsible for improvements and setbacks
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Sarah27
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15-09-2008, 10:47 AM
Originally Posted by scarter View Post
Some thoughts that I've had:

1. Her kibble was fairly high carbohydrate, very low fat and fairly low protein (19% I think).
2. Her current diet is much higher in protein and fat, but has no/little carbohydrate.
3. I've read that fat is a better source of energy in dogs than carbohydrate. This is based on studies of canine athletes - both endurance and spped. Does it take time for a dog's system to adjust to running on fat rather than carbohydrate? Or could it be that she's not getting enough fat (she has lean cuts of meat)? She is a very fit, active little pup that has always stayed very lean despite eating a lot!
4. What about carbohydrates - has anyone found that their dog does better if these are included in a raw diet? I know research has shown that they aren't necessary but does anyone's experience say otherwise?

Any suggestions/thoughts/ideas very welcome!
I've been raw feeding for about a year nowand although I don't have a competing/working dog I have actually seen an improvement in my dog's overall well-being, body condition and mental health.

I think maybe she isn't getting enough fat. Whole beef hearts have a fatty 'cap' and are a good meal for a dog. Also you can leave skin on any chicken. My dog likes pork shanks which also have quite a lot of rind/fat on them.

Dogs don't need carbohydrates in the forms of grain/veg/fruit - they can't digest it so it goes straight through.

I follow a prey model diet which is 80% meat 10% bone and 10% organs. The organ meat is essential to the diet and 5% has to be liver. I feed around 3% of my dog's body weight per day.

IMO liquidised veggies aren't necessary and just give you a load more work to do! The dog can't digest it so it doesn't really add anything to the diet. Saying that, my dogs get leftover veggies but this is in addition to their normal food.

You could join the raw feeding group on Yahoo Groups. There are people there with over 20 years raw feeding experience and they are very helpful.

HTH
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Loki's mum
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15-09-2008, 10:53 AM
Hi, dogs that are raw fed often need less food. The higher the quality of food (natural food) the more efficiently the body will process it. Try more bones and less muscle meat (kinder to to your wallet too!) but be aware that feeding bones along with kibble may cause consipation.
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Sarah27
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15-09-2008, 10:54 AM
Too much bone can cause impaction. If it gets to the point that the dog's poop becomes crumbly then there's too much bone.

Around 10% is the best figure apparently.
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scarter
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15-09-2008, 10:57 AM
Hi Sarah, I've joined a raw feeding newsgroup and am waiting for my application to be authorised. With regard to veg - she doesn't have much and as it's not going to do her harm I'd rather err on the side of caution and give her it. For the time being at least. I'm still keeping my mind open about carbs. Everything I've read so far tells me that they aren't necessary, and perhaps are even harmful. But I'm listening if anyone's experience tells them otherwise.

I'm so used to buying lean meat for us that I automatically chose skinless chicken breast and lean cuts for Beanie. But on reflection, as she has no/low carbs in her diet it stands to reason that she needs much more fat than we do. I'll try some of the meats that you suggest!

I actually have quite a good book on feeding canine athletes and it explains that very active, Agility type dogs need to get around 60% of their calories from fat. (That's NOT the same thing as saying 60% of the diet needs to be fat, as fat has a much higher calorific content than protein ). But the book is based on feeding a kibble diet so in order to apply the theory in that book to raw feeding I need to get my head around working out how to do all the caluclations to figure out percentages once the water content has been taken out! I haven't cracked that one yet
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Sarah27
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15-09-2008, 11:00 AM
I think it might be confusing the issue to use a formula for kibble then try to apply it to raw.

Basically when you're feeding raw it's like trying to feed a 'whole' animal. So they need everything from the animal - organs, bones, muscle meat and fat.

Lamb is a good source of fat too, but it's a bit expensive at the moment. Buying large parts of animals is a good way to get a good balance too - like giving a whole pork shoulder (with the bone in).
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15-09-2008, 11:11 AM
I understand what you're saying, but I want to take a slightly more scientific approach than just modeling her diet on feeding whole animals. That's fine to get in the right ball park, but it doesn't help much when trying to optimise the diet for dogs with different energy requirements.

To give an example of what I mean, would you expect a low energy, older house dog to thrive on the same diet as a sled dog that runs for hours each day? And would you expect a grayhound to thrive on the same diet as that sled dog?

So whilst you can't directly compare a raw diet with a kibble diet you can get in the right ball park by looking at scientific studies that show what ratio of fat, protein and carbohydrates works best for different types of dog. The studies themselves have often been made on dogs fed raw food. It's just that the author of the book has kindly done all the hard work and made the calculation to convert the figures into dry food percentages...which are no use to me
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