Feeding a raw diet [including raw bones, which are completely digested by dogs] is the most effective way to eliminate skin or ear problems and provide the best nutrition possible for your Lab. When food or bones are cooked - either when making homemade food or by the commercial dog food companies - the heat destroys the enzymes and bacteria that dogs need for proper digestion and nutrition. Avoiding processed foods is just as important for a dog's health as it is for ours.
You can make your own raw food or purchase it. If you prefer the convenience of purchasing it ready to eat, we recommend Darwin's Pet Food. We feed Darwin's to our Labs. It costs less than many of the premium processed dog foods and they even deliver here in Washington State and Oregon.
Before starting your Lab on a raw diet, we recommend that you acquire one of two books.
First, Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats is the perfect book for those who want simple, clear recipes that meet NRC and AAFCO requirements for both puppies and adult dogs. The most recent edition [the 3rd] the basic recipes in the first but also provides many more details, including nutritional analyses of all recipes plus offers options for omitting certain foods, telling you what additional supplements need to be provided in those cases.
and second, or those who really want to understand the whys and wherefores of homemade diets, Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet, the author Steve Brown delves into the ancestral diet of the dog and compares it to the latest NRC guidelines. Brown is the creator of Steve’s Real Food for Dogs (he no longer owns the company) and See Spot Live Longer Homemade Dinner Mixes. Step by step, he investigates the nutrients supplied by different foods, and how to go about combining those foods to achieve balanced meals that meet NRC guidelines without the use of synthetic supplements (he adds vitamin E and also includes bone meal in recipes that don’t include bone). Particular attention is paid to ensuring that fats are properly balanced, going beyond the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.
Dogs are able to handle all sorts of bugs that we humans cannot. Just think about all the things they get in to and awful things they eat when on their own - YUK! They actually need many of the different types of bacteria that would make us terribly ill.
The stomachs of dogs (and humans) make industrial strength hydrochloric acid and dogs hold chewed food in their stomachs for 4 to 8 hours after ingestion. The low pH of the gastric juices provides a barrier to pathogens. Only a little food at a time is released in to the intestine, which it passes through quickly. This gives any bacteria that may live through the repeated acid baths little time to colonize and produce gastrointestinal distress. In humans, on the other hand, the food may pass through the stomach into the intestines in as little as 30 to 60 minutes. The partially digested food may spend as long as 12 to 60 hours in the intestines before it is passed into the colon, and then eliminated. This means that “the intestines suffer prolonged exposure to whatever germs survive a minimal aid wash in the stomach.”
This information demonstrates how dogs can easily digest raw meat and bones and have the ability to destroy harmful bacteria. Nature is wise in her design and provides protection for these carnivores in consuming prey, drinking pond water and eating food stuff contaminated with bacteria. Problems such as salmonella, E Coli and other food borne pathogens are skillfully handled by the extended time in the strongly acidic environment of the stomach. Any surviving pathogens have little opportunity to propagate during their quick transit time though the intestines.
Occasionally we feed commercial foods as a matter of convenience or just for a change but we only feed the top quality ones such as Merrick, Canidae and Wellness and always only GRAIN FREE.