I have been lucky enough to attend a couple of shows with the Cotswold RAW team over the summer. It’s always great to get to chat to the team, and fantastic to meet people and often their dogs, some of whom are already feeding raw, others thinking about it (and occasionally, some frankly horrified by the idea!).
The most exciting thing this year was that I discovered in the freezer on the stand a pack of lamb tripe chunks!
Now, I appreciate that many of you will be holding your noses at the very thought of this, and NOT being as excited as I was, but, please bear with me, as I’d like to tell you a little more about this wonderful food.
I was introduced to tripe by a gamekeeper friend many, many years ago (and had pretty much the reaction above !). At that time, I was a relatively newly qualified Veterinary Nurse, already interested in nutrition, but with my studies in nutrition lead by processed food manufacturers, so the idea of feeding tripe was a real no no!
However, even then, it puzzled me that my friend’s team of hard working dogs looked so fit and healthy considering their “shocking diet”.
Moving forward in time, I have more recently been learning more and more about the virtues of tripe, and suggesting it as an option to help poorly dogs, especially in my own field of training and behaviour.
There is a lot of research going on at the moment into the gut microbiome – the bugs that live in our dogs’ guts. This is super interesting to me, as one thing we now know is that more serotonin (a chemical that works on the nervous system and affects how a dog feels) is produced in the gut than anywhere else. (The origin of the expression “gut feeling”, perhaps?)
This can’t happen without a mixture of “good” bacteria, and one of the ways to get a “good” mixture is by feeding fermented foods. (Look up Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride for more information on this in relation to humans)
How is this relevant to tripe?
Well, tripe is the stomach muscle of a ruminant. Ruminants derive their nutrition by fermenting vegetable matter. Consequently, tripe has bits and bobs of left over fermented vegetable matter in all the crinkles. For our dogs, it’s vital that it’s green tripe, not bland, washed and chemically cleaned tripe sold for human consumption (and of course, the Cotswold RAW product is green tripe).
It’s a real health food, and effectively a probiotic for dogs, as well as highly nutritious, a great source of essential fatty acids and beneficial enzymes. It’s easily digestible, and, very importantly, dogs just love it. I particularly like that the Cotswold RAW product is in chunks, as this makes for good chewing and tearing (expression of natural behaviours is very important for our dogs’ wellbeing).
I’m not going to tell you that tripe is the nicest thing to feed, when considered from a human point of view, it can pong. BUT it does make a difference where you source it from – good quality products will be frozen very, very fresh, and as long as you thaw and feed in a sensible time scale, it really isn’t bad at all. I can vouch that Cotswold RAW’s beef and tripe complete is minimally smelly, a great way to introduce tripe as it includes the fresh herbs and leafy greens in all the 80/20 range. Anyway, the pleasure of seeing how much your dog enjoys it is definitely worth it, as are the health benefits.
An important thing to know is that you do need to be careful to keep tripe separate from human food. One of my buying decision criteria for tripe is “is it in a good strong container?” (The Cotswold RAW product is, of course). This is because some of the bacteria which are really useful to our dogs are not so great for ourselves, but you just need to have the same good hygiene practises as for any raw meat (whether for your dog or yourself) – I have a separate solid drawer in the freezer and just defrost in the same bowl I use for all my raw dog food.
There are all sorts of different ways to use tripe to help dogs, but as each case is different, I would always suggest that you talk to a vet who understands canine nutrition and will understand the benefits of tripe (your own vet may be as horrified as I used to be, so it’s best to find a vet that is familiar with raw feeding, there is a list on www.rfvs.info).