The correct amount and the ratio of calcium to phosphorous in a dog food is well documented. There must be more calcium than phosphorous – at Cotswold RAW we aim for a ratio of between 1 and 1.5 to 1. Too much calcium isn’t a problem in adult dogs who can regulate their calcium levels but young puppies need the right amount and ratio. Our recipes are 80% meat which is a good source of phosphorous and so it’s essential that our meals also include bone in order to balance (bone is 70% calcium hydroxyapatite). DIY feeders need to ensure that they are providing sufficient calcium (a raw chicken wing for every 10kg of bodyweight is usually a good option).
There are other important ratios though. One of them is the ratio of protein to fat. Protein is a collection of amino acids which are the foundation of a healthy, balanced diet. As well as providing energy they play numerous important roles such as building and repairing muscle tissues and maintaining the immune system. They are needed to form new cells and assist in creating hormones and enzymes. Fat can get a bad press but is an important component of a canine diet. It is a concentrated source of energy (more than double the energy density of carbohydrate or protein) and supplies the essential ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acids. A dog’s metabolism relies primarily on fat for energy during rest and moderate intensity exercise and dogs don’t suffer from the same cardiovascular problems as humans. EU regulations recommend three or four times as much protein as fat. Some research suggests that dogs prefer to obtain their energy equally from protein and from fats which implies a ratio of 2:1 in their diet. Common sense suggests that having too much fat in the diet limits the available ‘space’ for essential proteins and certain breeds may be susceptible to developing pancreatitis. Yorkshire terriers, cocker spaniels and miniature poodles and schnauzers are all susceptible and a low-fat recipe from the Cotswold RAW ‘Wild’ range may suit these breeds best. Should any symptoms occur, consult with your vet.
The ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acids themselves need to be in balance. Both are ‘essential’ in the diet (dogs can’t synthesize them) but they compete for the same enzyme. ω-6 is inflammatory (good for dealing with chronic illnesses) whereas ω-3 is anti-inflammatory (good for allergies, arthritis and auto-immune conditions). Scientists suggest that in prehistoric times the ratio in a human’s diet was 1:1 but that now it is more like 10:1 (ie more ω-6) due to our modern diet and farming methods. It is generally accepted that a ratio of around 5 to 1 is ideal for dogs. Using grass-fed beef and lamb and wild protein sources regulates the balance by reducing the amount of ω-6 (derived from corn and vegetable oils) and increasing the amount of ω-3 (grass-fed beef has three times as much as grain-fed). There should be no need to supplement ω-3 with cod liver oil, which is common practice, in a quality raw food (refer our blog ‘The Dangers of Supplements’).