The foundation of many raw homemade dog food recipes are protein sources called “meaty bones” and “grinds.” These “meat cuts” were made popular by the veterinary originator of the Bones And Raw Food diet or the “BARF” diet for dogs. Their primeval resemblance to part of the ancestral diet of wolves and wild dogs and relative bargain price has reinforced their inclusion in raw homemade dog food. However, the nutritional quality of meaty bones and grinds are difficult to verify and may have health risks to dogs.
What Are Meaty Bones and Grinds?
Meaty bones are the necks, backs and wings of poultry and include the necks and backs and pelvis of small livestock like rabbits. They are typically stripped of most muscle meat. Basically meaty bones are butcher scraps. Grinds are simply the ground-up version of the same pieces.
Nutritional Value of Meaty Bones and Grinds
Because these are scraps and their protein content is subject to the butcher’s skill in removing muscle, they are extremely variable in their nutritional content. With the exception of chicken necks, which are primarily fat and bone, these cuts cannot be found in the USDA database of food analysis. The USDA database is the only source available for verifying the nutritional content of meat products.
In other words, there is no way to verify that a diet composed of meaty bones or grinds meets the nutritional needs of dogs. Dietary adequacy is based more on faith than fact.
Health Risk of Meaty Bones and Grinds
Feeding raw necks to dogs may cause hyperthyroidism.
The thyroid glands of animals and humans are located in the neck. Often thyroid tissue is not limited to the glands and is present in various areas in the neck. The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating the level of the body’s metabolism by secreting thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroidism, or excessive thyroid hormone, is rare in dogs. The condition can cause weight loss, heart murmurs and heart failure and kidney failure.
Recently, two veterinary studies have discovered hyperthyroidism in dogs fed raw diets that included raw necks. It is thought that thyroid tissue in the necks increased blood levels of thyroid hormones in these dogs. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism immediately reversed with a dietary change. Apparently the extra thyroid hormone present in the raw diets containing necks was enough to cause this serious medical condition.
Raw Diet Should Contain Real Cuts of Meat
Defined cuts of meat are listed in the USDA nutrition database. This information allows analysis of raw homemade dog food recipes for their nutritional adequacy. Also meat cuts not associated with the neck are unlikely to contain extra thyroid hormones. Choose raw recipe sources that do not include meaty bones and grinds.
~Dr Ken Tudor
The Dog Dietitian
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