Taken from The Dog's Dinner Revisted by Ann Ridyard
This is an interesting question and one which I get asked about all the time. When we think of wild canines or wolves eating, this does not conjure up an image of a wolf chomping on a fish. Many wild living carnivores may not even see a fish in their whole lifetime, never mind having them appear regularly as a menu item. So why would we include fish when we attempt to recreate the natural diet? Well the first and most obvious reason is because the raw fish is something we can feed in true ‘prey model’ style, it is a ‘whole food’ and this is the best way you can feed it.......as a whole; head tail, bones and all. Mother Nature has worked out bone to meat/organ ratio for you and all you have to do is feed it. Oily fish is a good choice, such as sprats, sardines etc.
There is a nutrient that raw fish is high in, which dogs need as part of their balanced diet. This is of course Omega 3. If you are feeding your dog a natural diet made up from mostly grain fed animals then the addition of fish to your diet is quite essential, to ensure that you are providing enough of this valuable nutrient; whereas if you feed from free range or organic grass fed sources, then the meat you are providing your dog with will be higher in Omega 3s. As discussed earlier in Chapter 7, if you are able to provide your dog with ‘wild caught’ items, such as rabbit or venison then you are also increasing the amount of Omega 3s in his diet. There are other sources of Omega 3s present in the foods you are already feeding, for example egg yolk contains a small amount, and this will increase if the hen that laid the egg was free range and reared on natural foods instead of corn fed.
What if my dog won’t eat fish? This can be an issue as some dogs simply hate fresh fish. The alternative plenty of owners choose is to feed canned fish, as many dogs that won’t eat raw fish, will eat it out of a tin! This isn’t really ideal, as tinned fish contains a lot of salt in the form of sodium. The dog is not designed to process large amounts of salt and will very often drink more to help the salt pass through his body more quickly; this causes him to urinate more often, but if he can’t process it quickly enough then he could be at risk from salt intoxication, which could even lead to kidney failure and seizures. If you feed tinned fish as a regular part of your dog’s diet then this is something you should consider.
You could also consider cooking the fish for the dog.........Yes, I know, I know !!....... this is a book about raw feeding, but there is just no getting away from the fact that your dog needs Omega 3s and if he just won’t eat fresh fish, and your diet does not contain other sources of Omega 3, you are left with limited alternatives. I would much sooner see a dog eat cooked fish that has been prepared by its owner than the dog be served fish from a tin, with plenty of added salt !! ALTERNATIVES? There are a vast number of people who supplement with a fish oil on a daily basis to try and compensate for the fact that their dog won’t eat fish. Cod liver oil can be especially popular, but could also cause the dog further problems and in my opinion is not a good replacement of the real thing. This is just my opinion though and you will encounter many which differ on this very controversial little area of a raw diet. But if I share the facts that helped me make my own choice not to include them in my dog’s diet, and you research this subject for yourself, you will be in a better position to make an informed choice as to whether you want or indeed need to include them in your own dog’s diet.
The long term daily use of fish oils could have a detrimental effect. When we supplement a diet with one thing, we very often introduce the need to supplement with another, and so on and so on. This statement holds very true when we use fish oils in place of real fish in a long term diet plan and this is not my opinion, this part is fact. I want this book to remain straightforward, but the effect of long term daily use of fish oils does require delving into the science of why this is so. There are two types of fish oil; cod liver oil and fish body oil.
Fish oils are made from the bodies of oily fish and cod liver oil surprisingly enough is made from the livers of cod! Cod liver oil is therefore very high in vitamins A and D. Both these vitamins are fat soluble and cannot be expelled by the body if fed in excess, instead they are stored by your dog and this could lead to vitamin toxicity. Vitamins work hand in hand with each other when eaten in foods as part of a natural diet, but by supplementing them in addition to the vitamins our dog’s diet already contains, you are in danger of overdose. Both cod liver oil and fish body oils can oxidise in the dog’s body when used daily, this means they will rot and will deplete your dog’s reserves of vitamin E, which is another fat soluble and residual vitamin, stored by the dog’s body and a powerful antioxidant. When we add fish oils to the diet, the dog’s vitamin E supply kicks in to mop up any oxidation that has been going on when the fish oils turn rancid in the dog...... which they will with over use. Many people try to counter act this effect by also adding vitamin E to the diet. If you can calculate, specific to your dog’s size, diet and health requirements just what the exact amount of vitamin E to add to the diet is, then I expect this would work well..........but what if you get it wrong? Would this have any long term problems or effects? Well let’s say you underestimate the amount of extra vitamin E needed, this will leave your dog’s system at the mercy of free radicals, developing courtesy of the fish oils. Free radicals can alter cells in the dog’s body and if he doesn’t have enough vitamin E to combat this, the free radicals can then gain a hold and cause damage to more cells, which could eventually lead to serious problems, including cancer. But on the other hand what if you overestimate the dose of vitamin E, would this too be dangerous? The overuse of this vitamin does have an impact on the dog’s body via another vitamin, this time vitamin K, which has an equally important part to play in maintaining health. Too much vitamin E will overwhelm the dog’s supply of vitamin K, which helps blood to clot – not great news if your stud dog needs his ‘haemophilia normal’ status as part of his health tests for breeding purposes.
I have included these extreme examples, as I wish to highlight the effect of incorrect supplementation and over use of vitamins and the effect one can have on another and the effect this could then have on your dog’s long term health. I am not suggesting if you give your dog fish oil he WILL get cancer, or if you over supplement with vitamin E your dog WILL experience clotting issues, but please check this information out. There could be health reasons specific to your dog, which requires the supplementation of extra Omega 3s. This information is provided to help you choose the best way to do this for your dog.
If you do use a fish oil to supplement, make sure it is of really good quality, as cheap fish oils will certainly do more harm than good. Some manufacturers take into account that fish oils will deplete a body’s vitamin E supply and so they will add them to compensate; but very often it can be in a synthetic form which is less costly and not so effective as using natural vitamin E and more often, they are included to preserve the life of the product and to prevent it becoming rancid before use, they are doing this for the product’s sake rather than your dog’s sake and it will not be enough to help him cope with the onslaught of the free radicals. Other undesirable additives added to preserve the fish oil may include ethoxyquin, BHA and BHT, these additives can also be found in the cocktail contained in most commercial pet foods; these could also oxidise in your dog’s body adding to the onslaught of free radicals; the more free radicals he has, the harder his system has to work to overcome them and the greater the damage to his health will be. When we swap to a raw diet our hope is to eliminate damage inflicted by commercial food, when we use fish oil daily, we can often reintroduce what we first set out to avoid.
If you really cannot get fresh fish into your dog you could try using a minced fish which you will source from good suppliers of the raw diet.
Tips to get fresh fish into your dog’s diet - Be a little cunning and if your dog loves tripe then defrost it over any fresh fish you plan to feed, the tripe juices and smells will overpower the smell of the fish and your dog may be fooled into eating it - if you mix well! Try freezing chopped up fish with a favourite mince and filling raw hooves or Kong toys with the mixture.
Alternatives to fish oil? - If you have read all of the above and don’t wish to use fish oils and have been unsuccessful in tempting your dog with the real thing and are now worried that he may not have enough Omega 3 in his diet, then there are alternative oils which can provide them. Caution should however be paid to the daily use of all oils. If I were forced to include them to increase Omega 3, then I would choose Yumega Plus. This oil made is from flax and starflower seeds, with enough vitamin E added to combat free radical damage within the dog and not just merely added to protect the oil. Please ‘google’ this product, as it can also be very helpful for dogs which experience ‘seasonal itchy skin’ and hay fever.
Now go HERE to find out which are the best fish to feed