Talking to your regular vet about feeding raw or a natural diet might be the most intimidating thing to do second only in trepidation to conversations about vaccination. In this month’s blog, I’m going to concentrate on how to discuss your natural food decision constructively with your vet.
Here is how it happens- Someone you know recommends that you should be feeding the Volhard diet. Whatever the motivation to switch food- be it behavior, illness, pickiness, health -You agree that your dog might do better on a fresh diet so you agree to try it. You start feeding the Volhard diet which consists of a dehydrated foundation mix to which you add fresh protein.
Once you add the fresh protein the diet is considered complete and balanced. The Volhard diet is a very unique hybrid diet which recommends raw 80/20 beef be the protein used but allows flexibility for cooked proteins and rotation of proteins as necessary or desired.
Most strict “raw” feeders do not consider the Volhard diet “raw” because of the dehydration process on the mix. The cold dehydration process used to dehydrate the ingredients found in Volhard never uses an amount of heat high enough to cook any of the ingredients in the foundation mix so, in fact, it is a raw product and should be handled in that manner. Vegetables denature at a much higher temperature than meats. When you add human-grade raw 80/20 protein then you are in fact feeding a raw diet.
The point of this blog is not to debate whether Volhard diets are “raw” or not so we will use the term fresh and natural to describe this diet going forward. This is also an advantage for you to discuss the diet with your vet as fresh and natural versus “raw” which carries a stigma and may put your vet on the defensive.
What we all can agree upon is that your vet probably has never heard of the Volhard diet. Here is an education opportunity! What will your vet want to know about Volhard?
● It not only meets but EXCEEDS AAFCO and NRC Daily requirements and standards and is complete and balanced with the addition of protein for all life stages.
● The diet is put through feeding trials, however, we use all breeds of dogs, regional locations, ages, activity levels and sizes of dogs who are not caged and lead normal active lives. Dogs are clinically tested for blood, urine, feces, chronic inflammation, and hair mineral analysis not just during feeding trials but results are provided to the company from pet owners feeding the food throughout the dog’s life.
● Volhard works with a full-time Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist who is also a Ph.D. on all formulation and Volhard has a team of certified nutritionists, trainers, and breeders who also contribute feedback.
● Volhard uses no Chinese ingredients.
● Volhard uses human-grade, non-GMO, organic whole food ingredients as appropriate.
● Volhard’s manufacturing facility is in Pennsylvania and is an SQF certified facility.
● Volhard is not a new company- but instead has been in business making food for 40 years providing research, testing and a has a long track record of food safety. Wendy Volhard was the first to create a Natural Diet for dogs in the USA back in 1973.
● Even though Wendy Volhard has retired, the formulas have never changed nor will they. (This is a rumor that needs to be dismissed.)
● All sourced individual ingredients are tested for E.Coli, mold, fungus and salmonella.
● Every small batch made is put through a test and hold protocol and is tested for e.coli, fungus, mold and salmonella again as a final product before packaging and fulfillment.
These are all important reasons why you chose Volhard. You are seeing fantastic results. You are excited and ready to share the news with your vet!
I should mention the fact that your vets do have your dog’s very best interest at heart. The problem with your average veterinarian giving you nutritional advice is that they have had very little nutrition training outside of the few hours focused on food during their 4 years in school.
Most vets get their information from other biased or uninformed vets, they believe what they read in the vet publications sponsored by kibble companies, they get their info from sales representatives of the big kibble companies or from limited private reading. I am sure you understand why kibble companies do not make the best reference source as they are only interested in selling their products and are not open to alternative diets even if that might be actually needed. Private reading usually reinforces whichever position on the argument they’ve previously decided.
In order to help you through this process, there are two main issues that need to be discussed at the forefront:
● The safety of responsible raw, fresh (natural) food feeding
● The adequacy or ‘completeness’ of the natural diet.
On the first point, I would like to share with you that there is very little evidence that any natural or fresh food made by a responsible food grade manufacturer has caused physical harm to dogs or their owners. In the Volhard diet, you receive a foundation mix without the protein added so you are able to acquire fresh, safe, quality human-grade raw 80/20 beef to add to the diet without concern. Your vet might provide you with anecdotal cases of sled-dogs getting Salmonella or Greyhounds in training acquiring infections. I feel like there are many anti-raw advocates out there just looking for cases to bring into the light demonstrating the contamination of raw food that actually causes harm. And, as you can see, these anti-raw folks struggle to find a handful of cases over the last 50 years and none of them in a domestic setting.
So let’s talk about the second point. Where is the evidence that reputable manufactured food is playing a role in nutritional deficiency diseases? Vets are very nervous about home diet makers who do not feed complete and balanced diets to their dogs and when they result in deficiency diseases it is very upsetting. The cases vets will quote will usually be where people have fed nothing but fatty scraps of meat to their large breed puppy for months, or where an owner has given their dog nothing but mince from the supermarket for years. Obviously, without the right vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, and proteins these dogs are at risk for bone disease and other illnesses.
You need to feel confident! You have done your research on this subject and that is more than most people so I feel like you will make better decisions about what to feed than those folks described above who just throw their dog chicken nuggets from McDonald’s as their natural diet. So realize at this point that your initial conversation with the vet really is in your favor.
You pack your dog up for their wellness exam and you head to the vet to have the “dreaded” conversation.
You make the announcement, “I have switched my dog to the Volhard Natural diet and I feed raw 80/20 beef as my protein”. There you said it and cringe… Here are some helpful tips on how to remain confident and calm at this moment and have a collegiate conversation about raw, fresh or natural feeding.
Q: What will happen if I tell my vet about my choice of feeding raw meat and fresh or Natural feeding such as Volhard?
A: When meeting a new vet, it might be easier to just leave out the fact that you are feeding your dog a natural diet. You might even be tempted to lie instead of having a confrontation. I used to worry that the vet would stop the exam, shame me for my decision and blame whatever the issue that brought me there on the diet. There is that chance, but do not be dishonest, be upfront about what you feed your dogs because your vet does need to know to do the best job they can at keeping your dogs healthy. They are supposed to be your partner in this effort. No partner is a true partner without proper communication.
I told my vet that I have chosen to feed the Volhard Diet and I use raw 80/20 beef as the protein. I also told him that this was not up for negotiation, but instead, I was just letting him know so he would be a good partner in my dog’s health. Surprisingly, I got no confrontation from him and instead, he asked some great questions. I know that it will not be that way for everyone, but if your vet yells at you- get your dog and leave. You do not deserve to be yelled at for the way you raise your dog.
Q: What if the vet says raw feeding is bad and I am going to kill my dog?
A: This is exactly why I am writing this blog to help you be more confident in your ability to feed your dogs a balanced natural diet. The more confident you are, the better the conversation will go with your vet. I have met many veterinarians who blatantly disagree with raw feeding and thanks to my years of research and experience, I'm confident enough to engage with them in a collegiate discussion. You need to also be smart enough to know when to walk away when a veterinarian shows that they're incapable of having that discussion respectfully.
Q: What do I say if they suggest that raw feeding is a fad diet that has no science behind it?
A: It is important to really know the facts and the facts are that people have been feeding raw for longer than they've been feeding kibble. Kibble has only been around for 100 years, created as a convenience for pet owners. Before kibble, dogs ate what they could find or fresh food given to them by humans. It is important to understand that feed grade food such as kibble is a part of the human waste disposal system created in the US. There is certainly science behind that. I agree there is a lot of money and time invested into the making and marketing of kibble when it was first created. People wouldn’t pay money to buy dog food in a bag or can. It wasn’t selling because most people just fed their dog what they ate. In the process they shamed owners for feeding scraps- not because the dog would get sick but because those folks were not buying kibble. Have you seen Pet Fooled? It's available on Netflix. Today we're experiencing recalls along with an acute rise in dog obesity, cancer, diabetes, digestive issues, allergies, and a litany of other health issues. Dogs are not living as long as their counterparts in other parts of the world. These can be linked to the way we are feeding our dogs 100% processed diets. An educated vet will be open to feeding a natural diet.
Q: What if my vet says if you are doing a home diet it's impossible to feed a balanced diet that way?
A: Volhard is not a home diet. It is a commercially made diet that has been formulated to exceed the AAFCO and NRC requirements for all life stages, and breeds. It is an intimidating process if you are going to make a homemade diet, however, this is a non-issue for you as you have chosen to let Volhard do the hard work and you are using their dehydrated formulas to feed a natural, fresh diet without worrying if it is complete and balanced. Choosing a reputable manufactured food grade product can really make a difference in your ability to feed raw conveniently and safely.
Q: What if my vet says that raw meat has salmonella and E. Coli and these bacteria are dangerous to dogs and my kids?
A: If raw food prep or feeding is done without good handling practices, yes it can be dangerous. You would never lick your fingers after making a raw burger patty for the grill. Well, do not do that after your dog’s meal prep either. You should never be allowing your kids to lick a dog’s bowl full of kibble- why do that with a fresh diet? Feed your dog then pick up the bowl and wash it.
In extreme cases where a dog has open ulcerations in the gut or a human has a severely compromised immune system, then bacteria may pose a problem. With the Volhard diet, we recommend braising the meat in these cases to provide a lower bacteria load for the dog to handle while thy heal. However, for a healthy dog, the bacteria is a non-issue. A dog's saliva has antibacterial properties and a dog's gut is highly acidic, making it an environment in which bacteria cannot live in. The dog has a shorter digestive tract which allows for the efficient processing of raw meats.
If you feed a homemade diet and do not provide the necessary nutrients in that diet or do the research to learn how to feed a balanced raw diet, your dog can become seriously ill. Knowing this, you have researched raw feeding and are transitioning your dog to a reputable brand such as Volhard Dog Nutrition that is endorsed by many veterinarians in your community and the country.
Q: What if my vet says that feeding raw meat could increase aggression in dogs?
A: This is a false statement on so many levels. Your dog will not change their disposition just because of the fact that raw meat is the protein option. If your dog has resource guarding issues they will exhibit those with whatever food is fed. Consult a trainer to work through resource guarding issues.
When a quality balanced diet such as Volhard is fed your dog will actually be more focused, easier to train, calmer, healthier in disposition because they are not constantly uncomfortable, hungry, itchy, or irritated.
Q: My vet said that If I feed my dog raw bones as calcium intake they will be doing expensive surgery on your dog to save them guaranteed.
A: The great news is that the Volhard diets do not require bone ingestion for calcium. You can use raw meaty bones (RMB) for teeth cleaning and exercise but they do not need you to add bone meal or bone fragments for calcium. If I give my dog RMBs I teach my dogs to take their time chewing them instead of swallowing them whole. Dogs should always be supervised when they are eating raw bones. I also give my dogs beef knee caps and beef knuckle bones that have been cut in half. These are huge in size, making it impossible for my dogs to swallow whole. They're mostly cartilage, which is great for exercising the jaw and cleaning the teeth.
This blog was created to help you have a great and inspirational conversation with your vet about feeding a natural diet. Here at Volhard Dog Nutrition, we do believe that raw meat with a fresh, diet is superior to kibble. This is a way to empower the pet owner to be confident in their decision to feed naturally. Let’s choose to share our experiences, share links to resources, and if you come across someone who strongly believes that their kibble is superior to fresh food, then move on.
We are not trying to turn a staunch kibble advocate into a fresh feeder. A win for Volhard is to make the diet as fresh as it can be within reason for the pet owner and the dog. Bottom line is that you should not be afraid to tell your vet that you feed a natural diet. You should not feel ashamed, out of fashion, or bullied. Be confident that choosing Volhard is the best choice for your dog and that your dog’s wellness is of the utmost importance to you. We are your Volhard Dog Pack- if you need help talking to your vet or your vet has questions, we are just a phone call, email or post away from helping you. We can provide information to your vet if they are open to it and we can help you feel confident in your choice to feed Volhard Dog Nutrition.