Mirrie enjoys her dinner of fresh ox tail - July, 2000
Please Note: The purpose of this page is NOT to "convert" anyone to the "religion" of feeding a raw diet. Making an informed decision about what to feed your Basenji(s) requires much research, and a commitment to accepting the benefits, as well as the risks, of that choice -whatever it may be! The following article simply attempts to illustrate a few of the reasons why we made the decision to "go raw" here at New World in December, 1999.
For those who think that feeding Basenjis a raw diet is a "new" concept, here is an interesting paragraph from Veronica Tudor Williams' 1946 book "Basenjis - The Barkless Dogs"...
From Chapter 10 - entitled "Hints on Feeding:"
"Adult dogs and bitches in normal health [should receive about] 4 oz. meat, preferably raw, and some dry biscuit, [at] about 8:00 a.m. About 4 oz. meat with a handful of biscuit scalded with boiled gravy, fed cool or cold at 6:00 p.m. About 1/4-1/2 pint of milk per day can be given to advantage, and small quantities of vegetables (carrots, swedes, cauliflower and greens ...) can be added. Adult Basenjis must be kept slim and muscular, though nicely covered with no bones showing, and the amount of biscuit given should be regulated so as to keep to this idea."
It's clear from this quote -- and from many other sources -- that prior to the introduction of mass-manufactured dog food products, biscuit [the "kibble" of its day] was given as FILLER in a diet composed primarily of fresh raw meat, fresh dairy products, and vegetables. Modern kibble products certainly have more protein and other nutrients than old-fashioned "biscuit" -- since the intent is for kibble to be a complete diet -- but both are primarily grain-based products. All kibble that is manufactured with an extruder [the vast majority of kibbles available today] must contain a high percentage of grain as its base or it cannot not be pushed through the extruder and then and dried into pellets.
I don't know of concrete evidence leading to the conclusion that any of the health issues affecting Basenjis today are strictly diet related. However, it may be worth considering that, once upon a time, our Basenjis (and all dogs) were not required to subsist solely on extruded, flavor-enhanced, grain-based products! How much wheat or corn are Basenjis "biologically programmed" to process effectively? The answer is probably the same as for other wild canids --- a VERY small amount; certainly no more than what might be found in the intestines of a grain-eating prey animal on any given day!
There are two pervasive "myths" about feeding dogs. These "myths" are part of the "kibble culture" created by pet food manufacturers (in the same way that Hallmark "created" Sweetest Day!) -- and they're also myths that owners thinking about feeding a raw diet must come to grips with! Let's take a minute to look at them...
Myth #1 - "Complete & Balanced Nutrition Is a Must At Every Meal"
The "myth" that dogs require complete and balanced nutrition at every meal, and that the forms of nutrients presented in the meals should remain the same, day after day, flies in the face of how our Basenjis ate for thousands of years. It also flies in the face of how WE eat! Most breakfast cereals contain all of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients a human "needs" to survive. But very few people would do well eating nothing but three big bowls of "Wheaties" per day! We realize that it is important for us to get our nutrition from a VARIETY of sources. And we certainly do not consume the maximum amount of required vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients at each and every meal! We do so over the course of days, weeks and even months. What we aim for is a nutritionally balanced diet "over time" -- not every day at every meal! Canines process their nutrients somewhat differently than humans do -- but there is no disputing that for years prior to the development of kibble, dogs did NOT eat the same diet, day in and day out like clockwork. Even if we only look at "domestic" dogs -- Basenjis in the 1940's and 1950's (who were lucky enough to survive the risks of distemper and similar ailments) managed to reproduce themselves admirably while eating a a variety of raw and cooked foods. And from the historical accounts I've reviewed, these Basenjis often lived to be as old, or older than many of our modern Basenjis (without the benefit of modern veterinary care, antibiotics or kibble!)...
Myth #2 - "Switching Foods is Bad, Bad, Bad!"
Another "myth" -- and a convenient one if you happen to be a pet food manufacturer interested in repeat sales -- is that dogs must eat the same food every day, or they'll suffer digestive upsets. Changing kibble brands should be done with great caution, etc. etc. We've all heard this before - even from our vets! Let's apply some simple logic to this claim... If we all ate Total Cereal for every single meal, for one, two, three [or more] years of our lives, and suddenly switched to eating chicken for every meal, what would happen? Chances are GOOD that we would be in for some serious digestive upsets! Why? Because our digestive systems were in a "rut"... That's a very unscientific way of putting it -- but literally, our bodies would react -- perhaps violently -- to being asked to process the "new" nutrients and other substances presented by the chicken. Our Basenjis are no different in this regard. We often feed them the same food for every meal, every day. Then, when we try to switch to something "different," they vomit, have loose stools, or both. Hmmm. Not very surprising... So why should it be a surprise that a Basenji who becomes accustom to eating a WIDE VARIETY of foods can eat nearly anything and almost never suffer digestive upsets? Yes, this is true - and my own Basenjis (as well as my carpets and upholstery, since December, 1999!) serve as proof!
I'd be remise if I also didn't mention that, IMO, this nutritional variety is not only good for a Basenji's body -- it is good for his or her SOUL! Many unfortunate humans have lost the "pleasure" of eating -- spending every minute counting calories and fat grams. Many canines have lost the "pleasure" of eating too -- no ripping, no tearing, no grinding, no skin, no bones [yes, bones!]... Just a bowl of dry "chicken meal & corn pellets" sprayed with flavor enhancer and "add on" vitamins. Ask someone who has been feeding raw for awhile about the sound of a dog crunching on a chicken wing... At first, I'll acknowledge, it is a terrifying sound! Soon, it becomes a very COMFORTING sound. It is the sound of real dogs -- eating REAL food -- with tremendous gusto, using their teeth, jaws, shoulder and neck muscles in the process.
Yes, the New World Kidz still eat some kibble [California Natural & Precise] -- in small amounts. My kidz have had no difficulty eating both kibble AND raw food -- although I realize that some dogs do have trouble with this. I believe, however, that it isn't necessary to feed a 100% raw diet in order for our dogs to reap many important benefits. The paragraphs above talk about the importance of "variety." I personally can't see why a good quality kibble can't be a small PART of that "variety" if feeding kibble is an important convenience for a dog's owner. Convenience is NOT a "dirty word!" We all do many things in our lives each day that are convenient.... I like going to Burger King now and then. Its convenient - even though I realize that nutritionally, I could do much better. Most of the time I DO much better -- but occasionally, I do what's convenient! I feel the same about feeding a small amount of quality kibble to my dogs in addition to their raw diet... That may make me something less than a "BARF-purist" -- but so be it! Feeding our Basenjis is not a zero-sum game. We can feed both raw, AND kibble if we choose, and provide our dogs with (again, IMO) significant benefits over what a 100% kibble diet can provide.
There are many good books and internet sites that discuss the pros and cons of raw diets. See the New World "Links" page for some of them... It is important to learn as much as possible about raw feeding -- the benefits, the risks, and of course the "how to" (although this is pretty intuitive stuff, guys!) -- and to make an informed decision about whether or not this method of feeding is right for your Basenji... AND right for you! It DOES take extra work and commitment to feed a raw diet. You will have to put conscious effort into deciding what your Basenjis will eat, and when they will eat. But then again, nothing is as easy as opening a bag and scooping kibble! In terms of cost, I'm not at all sure that there are any real advantages to feeding raw -- much depends on your source of supply for basic items like chicken necks, backs, organ meat, etc. If you routinely stay for extended periods at hotels that don't have refrigerators or freezers, this may pose a challenge (although it has been my experience that we are lucky to live in a time when grocery stores with meat counters are virtually everywhere!). Where there is a will, there's a way! For owners who feel the rewards are worth the risks, these minor inconveniences pale in comparison to the benefits of a primarily raw diet.
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Karla A. Schreiber