first published Top Dog Journal September 1993
Meat is a valuable food source for ourselves and our canine companions. The smallest baby puppy can begin to successfully digest meat from about ten days of age. The oldest dog, with a healthy digestive tract, can digest meat; meat is an integral part of the canine's life cycle.
The ability to digest any food matter depends on the suitability of preparation. The baby puppy cannot digest a slab of meat, he has not the dentition to achieve the first masticating, nor the tissue strength of the intestinal wall to further digest the meat.
Begin the baby, as with humans, on small amounts of carefully selected and carefully prepared meat. The prime quality rump steak scraped across the surface with a knife or ultra finely minced will yield a material eaten greedily by a healthy puppy. Such can be easily digested in his infant intestine. The next stage is to continue with the prime quality meat, as it is easiest to handle and even really large litters will not consume much in the way of whole steaks, is to work away from the finest scrapings to the finest slivers, cut and diced, and cross cut again. Puppies can be weaned on meat from about ten days of age and by weaning time be on much more manageable meat piece sizes comparable with a fine mince or cut and diced with the knife by the loving owner.
PROBLEMS WITH MEAT
Few problems will ever be detected when feeding meat to the healthy dog. Meat by itself does not provide sufficient nutrients and should be fed with a careful selection of commercial dry foods and or supplements.
Overfeeding, feeding too much meat, will result in the bloated stomach appearance immediately after feeding and the droppings may contain undigested pieces of meat, still quite distinguishable.
Feeding pieces too small will allow the dog's digestive system to rapidly digest the entire meal, leaving him hungry and craving more. In an attempt to overcome this behaviour the owner increases the amount and the dog can gain weight quickly. It is a technique which could be useful in the convalescent animal: reduce the meat piece size and feed more regularly.
Feeding pieces too large will see the pieces flushed from the stomach into the intestine before the stomach juices can sufficiently digest the piece. The piece thus enters the next digestive stage in a form not suitable for adequate digestion and so pieces can appear in the droppings, again undigested. Alternatively, if the digestion is sluggish in the dog the large pieces remain in the stomach for overly long. In such cases it could be expected that the meat and stomach contents will become offensive if wind passes up from the stomach, while the dog will also have a reduced appetite but could actually be losing weight.
Using prime quality human grade meat the dog may lose weight despite receiving large amounts of correctly sized pieces - in such cases the fat content of the meat may be too low. Incorporate some animal fat into the diet. A fit and working dog will have a higher demand for fat than the average pet.
Constant skin rashes, claimed by many `experts' to be the result of feeding meat are unlikely. More likely is that too much food of any sort has been offered or that there really is just a single flea being carried!
These are potential scenarios - they may not be true for your own case.
Piece size is a matter of preference and the dog's ability. A steak presented to a Pekingese is unsuitable - he will gnaw for hours, gain little benefit from his meal. If ingested expect the piece to sit heavily in his stomach for many hours. Whereas a bean size piece fed to Great Dane will be gulped down, digested within minutes in the stomach, and provide no lasting nutrient value! As a starting point consider the size of your dog's mouth, provide him with pieces which he can comfortably pickup and hold one to two in his mouth. The quantity can be estimated, on a first time basis as experience and observation will soon dictate his needs, by considering the size of his stomach. A dog's stomach does not occupy the full area behind the ribs to the hindquarters! The stomach fits in behind and back from the last rib, the bulk of the flank region is made up of intestine. No value can be gained by feeding so much food in a meal that the stomach becomes overfull. Overfull the stomach walls are unable to comfortably contract and relax, an essential part of the digestive process similar to the tumble and agitation of the washing machine. =