Dietary fat continues to be one of the most polarizing and misunderstood topics in canine nutrition. Whether it’s people making their own prey model diet, which is commonly too high in protein in relation to the amount of fat, or a commercially prepared diet using carnivore-inappropriate vegetable oils, we’re headed in the wrong direction. Unfortunately for the misinformed pet owner, the cost in health terms is very high.
Dietary Fat In The Wild
Wolves’ diet varies by location, season, etc. Being carnivores they eat large and small animals depending on availability.
One thing all of these animals have in common is skin, including a layer called subcutaneous tissue. It’s essentially a layer of fat with various functions that include regulating body temperature and padding muscles and bones from injury.
As you can probably guess, when wolves eat as much of the animal as possible, including the skin, the fat content of the meat they’re eating is drastically raised. Given how your dog’s body works, this is a very good thing!
Domestic dogs don’t have a biological need for carbohydrates; they use protein to rebuild muscle and use fat for energy. As a built-in safety mechanism, your dog’s body likes to store energy.
When a diet is deficient in fat but contains carbohydrates, the body will store carbohydrates for energy instead. To get the same energy result, your dog needs to store twice the amount of carbohydrates, in terms of weight, as he does fats.
Contrary to popular belief, fat does not make an animal fat. The recent rise in canine obesity has everything to do with the rise in carbohydrate-rich plant ingredients in modern pet foods and not the fat content.
Conversely, a lot of so-called prey model diets that rely on lean meats are deficient in both fat and carbohydrates, leading to something even more dangerous.
In this situation the body is forced to use protein for energy, which has the unfortunate side effect of creating extra nitrogen to be filtered by the kidneys, which is very taxing!
There have been enough homemade diets deficient in fat and carbohydrates to create a misinformed view that raw diets create extra burden for the kidneys.
If those diets had a sufficient amount of dietary fat to use for energy, the byproducts would have been carbon dioxide and water (instead of nitrogen), which are much easier for the body to remove.
In either case, keeping carbohydrates low and adding the correct amount of dietary fat will correct the imbalance.
The 3 Key Fats Every Raw Fed Dog Needs:
Because most of us don’t have access to whole animals, we need to add dietary fat to a homemade or commercial diet. Try adding and rotating between the most carefully prepared and least processed versions of the following foods. It will ensure not only varying fat profiles but also the quality of those fats!
1. Raw Pastured Butter
Butter is made up of two-thirds saturated fats and one-third polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fat is a macro term for many different types of fats. They consist of short, medium, long and very long carbon chains. All have a myriad of different health benefits too numerous to mention.
I recommend reading Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer For Understanding The Nutrition Of Fats, Oils, And Cholesterol, by Mary G Enig PhD, to better understand saturated fats and the role they play in your dog’s overall health.
Also, because of their lack of double bonds, saturated fats are much less likely to go rancid, especially from heat and sunlight, than other types of fat.
Butyric acid, a short chain saturated fat found in butter, has shown very promising results in studies regarding diabetes, inflammation, cancer and digestion.
Choosing pastured and especially raw butter will ensure that you get a ratio of 1:1 in regard to the Omega-3 and Omega-6 content. It will also ensure higher levels of vitamins A, D, K2, E and other nutrients. Try giving your dog a teaspoon per 20 pounds of bodyweight per day.
2. Raw Coconut Oil or Coconut Butter
Coconut oil is mostly saturated fat. Fifty percent of that is lauric acid, a 12-carbon medium chain saturated fat. When lauric acid is digested, it forms an antimicrobial lipid called monolaurin which, along with lauric acid, has been shown to kill harmful pathogens.
Other notable medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil include caprylic acid, known for its ability to fight yeast, and capric acid, which has shown very positive results in studies dealing with diabetes and other health conditions.
Both are also backed by very promising research showing cognitive improvement in senior dogs. It’s brain food!
Use raw virgin coconut oil or, if you also want the added benefits of protein, fiber and other phytonutrients, use raw coconut butter, which is 60 percent coconut oil. Add one teaspoon per ten pounds of bodyweight per day.
(Click here for some great coconut oil recipes to add to your dog’s raw food diet.)
3. Raw Pastured Egg Yolks
Egg nutrient levels are responsive to dietary changes. Research shows that eggs from pastured hens with diets that include grass and bugs have better fat ratios.
The Omega-3 content is doubled and therefore provides a better ratio of Omega-3 to Omega- 6. This causes better inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses in your dog’s healing processes.
It also creates a more even distribution of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This makes egg yolks an excellent choice for healthy supplementation of a range of fats.
One large egg yolk has about 50 calories. Add it to your dog’s homemade diet or reduce his commercial diet by 50 calories when feeding. This is especially helpful to those whose homemade diets are limited to lean meats because of availability.
Keeping your dog within the spectrum of a diet consisting of low carbohydrates and an even distribution of calories from protein and fat is the best way to set him up for success.
These are the building blocks that allow vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micro nutrients to function properly.
Because of the nature of nutrition and the differing number of fats, rotating them for variety becomes the key to balance. Having learned what we can from science, we can hope to achieve the best possible canine diet.