Book Review: Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olson

I’ve just had to return this book to the library so I thought it would be fitting that I review it, since I think it is a very good book….

Title: Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals

Author: Lew Olson

Copyright Date: 2010

Publisher: North Atlantic Books, Berkeley California

Available through bookstores.  If your bookstore doesn’t have it, it can be ordered, or you can order it yourself from an online bookseller.

Also, chances are you’ll be able to find the book in your local library, especially if the library has access to other libraries through InterLibrary Loan.

I found out about this book by painstakingly going through the zillions of “how to make your own dog food” and “dog food recipe” and “dog nutrition” books on Amazon, and reading the reviews.

A word of caution on online reviews: Amazon’s reviews have been infiltrated with “fake” reviews, that is, reviews that appear to be by everyday readers, but are not.  Many of the reviews written by real readers have been inundated with comments from folks accusing them of being fakes.  A lot of the reviewers don’t understand that they’re supposed to be reviewing the book, not how fast the book arrived at their doorstep.  For books that have accompanying online message boards and information websites, reviewers tend to review these sites and forget that they are supposed to be reviewing the book.  And you always get the occasional person with their own agenda putting up crap that has nothing to do with the book and is not helpful for those of us deciding whether to purchase.

Despite this, I do read reviews, but I read between the lines.  People have whatever reasons they have for giving a book a star rating…read between the lines here, please, because a lot of people will adore a book and only give it three stars.  Are they naturally stingy with stars?  Heck if I know.  Then you’ll get the reader who gives a book five stars, and says, “It was great, but it gave me a rash,” or whatever.

When I read book reviews, mostly what I’m looking for is:
Who found the book useful, and why?
Does it contain the material I’m looking for?
Does the book have a particular slant that may turn me on or off?
What makes this book unique?

If the book passes the test, I look it up in my library’s catalog, and get this: Chances are, your local library’s catalog is available to you right at home!  Google your local library, find its website, and then find the link to your library’s catalog.  At my local library, I can request books from home, see what I’ve got checked out, renew books, and even pay (ouch!) library fines.  Check into your library’s available services for text or e-mail alerts reminding you when a book is due.   Another thing you might want to do is to ask at the library if there is a book drop return box super handy for you so that you can return a book with ease.

Anyway, just a plug for libraries…I look the book up in the catalog and see if it’s on the shelf at the moment we speak.  If it is, awesome, I go have a look and decide if the book is what I’m looking for.  If not, I look over what my library’s catalog site offers for information about the book.

In regards to Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs, I found the following publisher’s description:
In the whirlwind of information about local, organic, and whole foods, it’s easy to forget that our canine companions can also benefit from–and deserve–a more natural and nurturing diet. Preparing Fido’s food at home may seem daunting, but it’s really not, says Lew Olson in Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs. Olson discusses canine nutritional needs and explains the research on how home-prepared foods, particularly raw foods, can meet pets’ needs better than commercial, processed dog food. Step-by-step instructions and recipes make preparation easy. The book includes charts with the recipes, instructions on keeping diets simple and balanced, guidelines on preparation, suggestions for finding ingredients, and how much to feed a dog by body weight. There are recipes for healthy adult dogs as well as guidelines for puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with health conditions including pancreatitis, renal problems, gastric issues, allergies, heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. Pet owners seeking to give their dogs a better coat, better skin, and healthier teeth and gums, as well as longer lives and more stable temperaments, are sure to welcome this book.

I would say that this description is completely accurate.  Here’s a link to my library’s links to Table of Contents, Author notes, etc:

Lew Olson, the author, is not a vet, but holds a degree specializing in dog digestion.  She is a dog breeder and dog show judge.  She also is president of a couple of kennel clubs.  You can bet she’s seen a lot of dogs and the ins and outs of feeding them.  In case you’re curious, her specialty is Rottweilers.  I trust this author.

Just reading the Table of Contents tells you that you can find a variety of choices as to how to feed your dog.  This book leaves it up to you to decide what is the most practical and healthy option for you and your dog.  There are also special chapters on specific health concerns and special considerations for puppies, elderly dogs, breeding females, etc.

Please note that there is no chapter on feeding your dog a vegetarian diet.  There’s a reason for this.  I’ve looked at seven instructional books on how to feed a dog something I make at home from scratch, and the consensus is that dogs and vegetarian diets don’t jive.  Many dog recipe books do contain vegetarian recipes, but these are not meant for everyday feeding.

My two cents would be to reserve vegetarian dishes for “treat” foods.  I don’t know about your dog, but Puzzle loves both raw and cooked vegetables.  You can freeze a vegetarian dish in an ice cube tray (mini-cubes if you have a teensy dog like Puzzle)  and then give them to your dog in nice small bits.  How yummy.  You can also freeze canned dog food in cube trays for treats.

If I’m going to chop veggies, Puzzle often, but not always, comes tip-toeing into the kitchen to wait for some piece of veggie to go flying off my cutting board.  If I don’t want her to have what I’ve dropped, I can usually retrieve it in time, either by being quicker than she is, or by telling her it isn’t hers and keeping my fingers crossed that she actually minds me.  It’s very interesting that of all the foods that have gone crashing down to my floor, the food she’s quickest and sneakiest about has always been eggshells.

There’s a reason for this: eggshells are a good source of calcium, an essential nutrient for dogs.  The dog food books I borrowed all confirm that many home cooked diets require calcium supplementation.  Calcium is supposedly in kibble, but I’m not really sure if the calcium is digestible and in the appropriate amount for Puzzle.

Some dogs can get calcium from raw bones that they chew on.  The awesome thing about this is that the dog can use his or her natural body sense to know when to chew on the bone to get the calcium.  The not-so-good thing is that some dogs are heavy-duty chewers and will break the bones into nasty pieces that can mess up their insides and cause all kinds of grief. Be forewarned that puppies and adolescent dogs often end up with some kind of digestive woe from swallowing contraband and this can include bones.

This happened to Puzzle once.  My vet explained that a dog’s digestive system is very cleverly made to handle bones just fine.  The problem was that Puzzle had ingested a lot, lot, lot of chicken bones from devouring someone’s discarded cooked chicken that she found while we were out on a walk.  Cooked or not, the sheer number of bones she wolfed down while I stood there like an idiot, helpless to get them away from her, was too much at once for her little tummy.  Yes, there were a bunch of vet bills and lots of doggie throw-up on my floor to clean up, as well as special “bland” diets to keep Puzzle’s tummy soothed while she recovered.  If your dog throws up a lot and has diarrhea, you definitely should take your dog to the vet to get an injection of fluids to treat dehydration.  You also want to stop the diarrhea in its tracks.  Whether to give anti-emetic medication or other tummy medications such as antacids varies from vet to vet.  Your dog’s stomach needs acids to digest the bones, but too much acid can irritate the dog.  I actually had two vets disagree on what to do about the antacids.  Needless to say, I, Puzzle, and my credit card eventually recovered, and I caught up on lost sleep.

Well, lesson learned I guess.  I must say that ever since then, Puzzle has picked up bones off the street now and then, and it seems that her digestive system is much, much stronger than it ever was before the mishap.  Very weird.  I really should have taught her to “give up” stuff she’s got in her mouth, but I neglected to teach her this.  So if she steals your grandma’s statue of Baby Jesus and chomps on it and carries it around town while we’re on a walk, well, that’s just tough.  This  has never happened, anyway.

I studied and studied dog nutrition and what would be right for us, Puzzle and I, as a team, given every factor you can think of.  This includes availability of food, cost of food, nutritional benefits of various foods, where I can get the food, in what form, how much home cooking effort is required and whether I have the cooking equipment, how much I’m going to concoct at a time, and how I’m going to store leftovers.  And…will Puzzle eat it?  Of course she will.  My dog eats any crap you put in front of her, especially if it’s in her bowl.   I’ve seen her turn up her nose at food only once.  Rice saturated with Pepto Bismol.  She grumbled about it for a while, took little bites and (as far as I could interpret) gave me a questioning look, and then went and ate it anyway.

So I decided on a cooked meat diet for Puzzle.  Yes, there’s a wonderful chapter in Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs on feeding a cooked diet.  Nothing fancy, just a basic how-to.  Of all the dog food books I took out of the library, this one has the most down-to-earth and practical guide for doing exactly what I wanted to do.  The chapter is short, to-the-point, and sensible.  Nothing fancy.

You won’ t find delicious stews, meatloaves, and birthday cakes in this book.  Go elsewhere for those.  What you will find are guidelines and how-to instructions.  The book will tell you how to transition your dog to the new diet, how much to feed your dog (it’s not the same as kibble) and much more.

The introduction to this book is awesome.  It’s called, “The Untold History of Dog Food.”  Set aside some time to read this.  It’s well-written and as a matter of fact, I’d say this chapter is rather profound, or at least I found it to be.  Why?  There’s a little message in it for the dog owner: Be aware, be informed, be skeptical, dig deep.  By digging deep I mean looking at dog food from a political and economic standpoint as well.

“Why is all this questioning necessary, when all I want to do is feed my dog?” you may ask.  Trust me, it pays to learn what went on with the economics of dog food to understand what is behind the kibble in fancy colorful eye-catching bags you see in the supermarket aisles.  It pays to understand what the “dog food industry” is doing to our heads with all their advertising.  It affects how we spend our money.  If you buy a product, you are saying “yes” to that company and all its practices, including the practice of deceiving us and lying to us.   Every purchase you make is a political statement.  Who are these companies, what else do they do, and who is behind them?  This chapter goes into that.  It’s what it says it is, a history, an evolution of how we went from feeding our dogs scraps of meat we had on hand to opening a can of god-knows-what and giving the contents to our dogs just because a big business making lots of money told us that this was how to love our pets.

Advertising is just that.  It tries to tell  us how to become more loved in a love-starved society.

Anyway, this is a good book.  I read the chapter on skin conditions because Puzzle occasionally has dry skin, but didn’t read the one on, say, how to feed a lactating dog or the chapter on kidney issues or other issues because these do not apply.  I will not hesitate to borrow the book again should I need it, especially when Puzzle graduates from “adult” to “senior.”

Puzzle will be six in November, on the 26th.  Since I switched her to a cooked meat diet, she has picked up stuff off of the ground less while we’ve been on walks.  This may or may not be an indication that perhaps she is less driven scavenge to acquire nutrients while we’re out.  Still, I often think of her as the Trash Queen.  She still finds a discarded wrapper full of a half-eaten delicacy such as a bagel or cupcake or pizza crust hard to resist.  The object for her is to scrunch it around as much as she can and then extract the goodies.  If some of the paper gets eaten, well, so be it.  Lately, though, Puzzle has eaten less paper, if any, so there must be something I’m doing right, don’t you think?

Have a nice night.  Happy doggie dreams.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Lew Olson”

    1. Hi, yes, I got this message yesterday but I had to go out so couldn’t answer right away. Every dog is different and a dog’s nutritional needs change over time. I never had an actual recipe that I wrote down, because every meal was different.

      If your dog is used to boring factory food, then you will want to be sure to switch over gradually. They used to say that a dog had to have the exact same thing each day. That’s omly true if you feed your dog commercial food. What they found was that dogs can indeed eat a variety of foods and they can eat different food each day. You can go right back to kibble if you are traveling, if you have no other choice.

      Every dog has particular likes and dislikes. Puzzle’s change from day to day. Sjje usually eats anything, but now and then, she decides she doesn’t like a certain food, so I stop it.

      She LOVES the following: raw ed peppers pr green peppers (she prefers red), carrots, which I usually cook, string beans which also I cook usually, cooked potatoes, cooked white rice, cooked sweet potatoes, apples without the peel or core, cucumbers or zapallito without skin, zucchini, and other things. My vet said not to give Puzzle broccoli or anything in the cabbage family due to a dog’s ability to metabolize too much calcium from these veggies, although humans don’t actually use the calcium in broccoli. I’ve heard mixed reports about dairy and most say that it isn’t poisonous, but be VERY sparing. avoid lactose, and any mold or crust. Go check out your local humane society’s site and it’ll tell you a list of foods that dogs should never have. They say onlons, some bones, apple cores, garlic, anything else resembling onions or garlic, grapes or raisins, peach pits, whole corn such as niblets or corn on the cob, caffeine, chocolate, most processed foods due to artificial sweetener and “mystery salt,” and booze.There are more foods on this list. I’ve seen raw eggs listed but you can indeed give your dog raw eggs. These are good for your dog but if you feed too many, for whatever reason, your dog could end up deficient in certain B vitamins. Dogs can eat raw meat. I cook it because I don’t want raw meat around for sanitation reasons. Cooking it is a viable option depending on many factors. Another thing many choose to do is to mix kibble with homemade. I don’t have a fridge and we’re still ending summer here, so I have had to add kibble and feed fewer perishables.

      As for meat, this should be most of what your dog eats. Chicken is good, as is beef, pork, or some fish. if you want to get fancy, give your dog lamb. Most love it. Puzzle loves liver, but in her older age she cannot eat as much fat as she used to.

      With your chicken, please cook with skin and bones in the chicken. Then, depending on your dog’s needs, you can discard the skin or feed it to her mixed in with her food. They say not to give a dog the juice that is produced from cooking. I wouldn’t give it to your dog in huge amounts, but I don’t see why you cannot save a small spoonful and add it to spice up the flavor. Actually, you can use meat skin or juice to get a dog to gobble up a pill. We don’t have peanut butter here. I think it’s okay to give that to a dog but you cannot use it as a sole protein source. I would stay clear of legumes, including soy, lentils, tofu or any soy derivative, canned legumes, or whole peas. If you do feed peas, cook the heck out of them. Rice is a good grain. I find that dogs vary in their need for grain. I don’t know for sure but I think if the dog grows up on commercial food, his system is accustomed to grains, so when you switch over, most likely your dog will continue to need grains to digest their food and provide bulk.

      Dog stomachs are highly acidic like ours. My vet assured me that although most people are hesitant to give bones, dogs can indeed break them down in their stomachs. My vet said people can, too, but dogs do it better. She said what’s not good about bones is the choking danger and the danger of the bones being so sharp once splintered that they pierce the dog’s insides before getting broken down. If you choose to give bones, do so with your dog’s needs in mind and stay in the room. I used to take them away after 20 minutes or so. Some dogs shouldn’t have bones at all for a variety of reasons. We get by without them these days.

      As for supplements, ask your vet about this because it depends on the dog.

      Puzzle cannot tolerate canned food nor any salt whatsoever. I used to give her unsalted green beans out of a can, but actually, there’s some form of salt in them and also they may have been washed with isoproplyl alcohol and even formaldehyde. Around here, the commercial salt is vile. Puzzle throws up any canned fish I give her and I’m sure it’s the salt.

      I think I posted around November 26, 2014 or the 27th Puzzle’s liver birthday cake, and I included the recipe as I made it at that time. This is a special occasion food and too high in fat to be given too often. Other than that, I have never written out the recipes. Mostly, I find what’s available, on sale, and what won’t go bad nor need lengthy storage.

      One more thing. When you start out, grind the food. Later, your dog may be able to tolerate it chopped up and you won’t need the blender. You may need to add fat such as mackerel oil or just plain olive oil if your dog needs higher fat content, if the meat is very lean, or if your dog has dry skin. There are veterinary preparations you can get as well.

      hope this helps! Julie

Feedback and comments welcome!