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2017 has been the year of revelations about raw feeding, the biggest one being that we need to begin balancing the fats in our dogs' diet. That little tidbit blew my mind and made me wonder if I would have transitioned my dogs to raw if some well meaning raw feeder told me that I also had to balance fats in my dogs' diet.
What does that even mean?
Balancing Fats in a Dog's Diet
“A good dietary omega-6/-3 balance makes the cell membranes fluid, permeable, flexible and healthy. On the other hand, too much omega-6 (from chicken fat, corn oil, safflower oil, soy oil, canola oil, etc), makes the cell membranes, including those in the brain, brittle, sluggish and inefficient, so that the dog thinks and moves a little slower. Likewise, too much of an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA in the diet can make the cell membranes prone to oxidation, which leads to premature aging.” ~ Steve Brown for Darwin's Natural Pet Products
I first learned about balancing fats earlier this year on Facebook and I was annoyed because I was finally becoming comfortable as a raw feeder and someone threw a monkey wrench into my entire routine.
I took a deep breath and began doing my homework, starting with an article written on Dogs Naturally Magazine article that explained that chicken is high in linoleic acid (LA = Omega 6), so we need to offset it with a-linoleic acid (ALA = Omega 3). And ruminating animals (like beef) don't produce enough LA or ALA, so the essential fatty acids (EFA) need to be added.
As I was researching the best walnut oil and flaxseed oil for dogs, I began to wonder – do I really need to add another oil to my dogs' diet? I returned to the DNM article and one statement stood out…
“It’s a good idea to rotate ruminant and poultry meats to balance the saturated and polyunsaturated fats.”
This was repeated in a discussion on Facebook as a more experienced raw feeder reminded us that if we're already rotating the proteins in our dogs' diet, we're balancing the fats.
My Main Issues with the Idea of “Balancing Fats”
While I appreciate the continuing to learn about raw feeding and what's best for our dogs, two things come up when I think of balancing fats in raw dog food.
1 – It's Intimidating to Raw Feeders
As I stated at the top of this blog post, I don't know if I would have continued on my path to transition to raw feeding if I was told that I had to balance fats. In the beginning, I was overwhelmed with all of the information flying at me and I was aware of fatty acids, balancing, or the rest. But like everything with raw feeding, at first, new concepts are foreign and difficult to get my head around and after some time, it finally clicks. I got the sourcing down, I have my budget down, and my dogs are eating a balanced (over time) raw diet. Balancing fats will click too.
2 – Contradictory Information
As with everything related to raw feeding, there is contradictory information out there about balancing dietary fats. Some people say we don't have to do it, others say that it's pivotal, while others remind us that there are various paths to making this happen. Arrgghh!!!! This drives me crazy because I want to do what's right for my dogs but I don't know what “right” is. Yes, I can call my veterinarian, but if this is “new” information, will he know? Or what if he tells me not to worry about it and he's wrong? And now I've stepped solidly into the land of Over Thinking Everything.
So let's take a few steps back.
Is it Necessary to Balance Fats in Raw Dog Food?
After speaking with several experienced raw feeders and veterinarians experienced in raw feeding, I have learned that it's not necessary to actively balance fats in my dogs' diet because they get a variety of proteins – the fats are already balanced.
However, if something changes and I'm only feeding poultry or only feeding venison, then I may have to take a second look at my dogs' diet. While it's tempting to say that people have been feeding raw for years without balancing the fats, I'm not willing to shut down new information. In my case, I'd be closing the door on the topic out of laziness – Yep, I'll be honest.
After I stop my “I'M NOT DOING IT!!!” tantrum, I take a step back and wonder – what if I didn't feed a variety of proteins? Rodrigo has an intolerance to several proteins and, to be honest, it would be easiest to just feed him duck because I know he can eat duck. Thanks to this new (to me) information, I know that I need to feed at least one poultry and one ruminating animal – for Rodrigo, that would be duck and venison.
Voila! The fats are balanced. Fingers crossed.
How to Balance Dietary Fats in Raw Dog Food
As I continued reading, I learned that we have options. Dogs Naturally Magazine advises adding flaxseed or chia seed oil when feeding lean poultry (1 Tsp per 1 pound of meat) and Walnut or hempseed oil when feeding lean beef or another ruminating animal (1 Tsp per 1 pound of meat).
Animal nutritionist Steve Brown advises…
- Alternating proteins regularly, adding more variety into our dogs' diet.
- Adding 2 cans of sardines (I buy the ones in water with no salt added) weekly to a large dog's diet.
If you're having trouble finding more protein options, you can…
- Find a raw food co-op in your area.
- Post an add on Craigslist or connect with hunters for more options.
- Connect with local raw feeders to find more sourcing options.
What's most important is that we not over think the information that comes to us about raw feeding. It can quickly become overwhelming, even after four years of feeding raw, so take a step back, do your homework, and reach out to other raw feeders to learn how they're feeding your dogs.
It's amazing how easy it is to get overwhelmed – even after more than four years of raw feeding.