View Full Version : Book Review: Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr Ian Billinghurst

10th May 2007, 04:50 AM
Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr Ian Billinghurst BV.Sc.[Hons], B.Sc.Agr., Dip.Ed.

I’ve now got quite a collection of books that are about or cover in detail canine nutrition. With out a doubt this one outshines them all.

First up, I’d like to catch the attention of those who under penance of death will never feed their dog bones, or those who would never consider giving their dog un-cooked meats. Please don’t be turned off this book because it is about feeding a raw diet with raw meaty bones. There is an enormous amount of information in this book that is of benefit to everyone, regardless of what they will or will not feed to their pets. For example, those who are fearful of feeding their dogs whole bones because of fears of choking or suffering perforated intestines & bowels, there is an answer. The softer bones like chicken necks & wings can very easily be ground up in a blender, food processor, meat grinder or mincer. In fact some of the harder beef & lamb bones also can be ground up in this manner, depending upon your kitchen appliances. Though your dogs will not get the benefits of chewing & ripping, they will receive the nutritional benefits of the bones, that is the minerals, vitamins, enzymes & fatty acids contained in the bone & the marrow. The minced bone also firms up the stools & helps alleviate anal gland problems. For those who will not feed raw meats, there is a huge section on the benefits & the preparation of raw fresh fruit, raw vegetables, grains & other non-meat proteins. It also may come as a surprise to you, because it was a huge surprise to me, that at the end of the book, Billinghurst answers a letter from a person who is feeding their dogs a vegetarian diet. Rather than delivering a scathing attack upon the writer, Billinghurst makes some very constructive suggestions on how to modify the diet to make it a safer, more nutritionally balanced vegetarian diet.

Okay, so this book is pure and simple about feeding your dog a raw diet which includes lots of raw meaty bones (RMB).

It starts off with a “how to use this book”, followed by an introduction & then goes on to explode some very common myths. Billinghurst goes into great detail as to why you should not feed your dog processed commercial dog foods. Surprisingly, he also explains why a diet of only cooked foods (both meats & vegetables) is not a whole lot better than the commercial products. Billinghurst then delivers his very convincing argument why a diet of raw meaty bones, with raw vegetables & fruit, plus other proteins & a very small amount of grains is the way dogs are meant to be eating and should be eating.

The rest of the book sets about educating the reader about what should be fed, how it should be prepared, and very importantly, why this is so.

The section on Raw Meaty Bones tells of what bones to feed and what bones not to feed. The big message is NEVER FEED COOKED BONES. There are helpful hints on how to introduce bones to a dog that has never had them, what to do for your ageing dog that has no teeth left in its head, thanks to its lifelong diet of kibble and/or mushy foods, and which bones are the more beneficial.

Meat is one topic that surprised me somewhat. Billinghurst does not advocate the feeding of large quantities of meat on its own. The primary source of meat should be the RMBs and maybe only weekly would offal & other organ meats be fed. Beef, lamb etc are deemed fine to be fed, but not in large quantities. Billinghurst points out all the benefits of meat, but in this case, moderation is the key.

Vegetables, especially the green leafy variety get a huge thumbs up, but they must be served raw. The section relating to vegetables outlines which types are the best, what their vitamin & mineral content is and how to prepare them. The bottom line is that they should be served raw & ground, not grated & certainly not served up in lumps. Apparently the dogs’ digestive tract does not break down cellulose in plant matter as readily as the human digestive tract. Billinghurst states that stewed vegetables are more easily digested but that most of the nutrients, especially the enzymes are destroyed in the cooking. Large lumps or raw vegetables or grated vegetables are fine for recreational chewing and for filling but they do not provide enough in the way of vitamins & minerals on their own. So without supplements, the diet would end up deficient.

Fruits are given a big rap for their benefits & it is suggested they be served very ripe as the cellulose is already breaking down by this stage. For fussy eaters who turn their noses up at fruit, it is suggested that like the vegetables they be ground up very fine & mixed through other foods that the dog likes.

Other protein sources are discussed including eggs, cheese, milk, cottage cheese & yoghurt. They are all given the thumbs up, provided they are not a constant substitute for raw meaty bones.

Vitamins, minerals & enzymes are then discussed. Though feeding a wide range of foods will provide your dog with all of these in its diet, Billinghurst speaks of the different levels of vitamin/mineral provided. There is the vitamin deficient, the just adequate amount of vitamins, the plentiful quantities of vitamins, the megadoses of vitamins, and finally the toxic levels of vitamins. His view is that we should be aiming for the plentiful quantities of vitamins, not just the adequate amounts.

As a matter of interest, his view is that even the very best commercial dog foods contain only the just adequate amounts of some vitamins & minerals and toxic quantities of others.

Next there are sections on how to put it all together in an easy, no fuss manner. There is a large section on feeding puppies, and also the ageing sedentary dog.

One thing that really surprised & delighted me about this book, is just how absurdly easy it is to feed a BARF (bones & raw foods) diet. I am on a couple of canine nutrition mailing lists and the hoo-ha & major production that people are going to, to provide their dogs with a raw diet is staggering & extremely off-putting. It doesn’t have to be like that. It is astoundingly easy & simple. In fact, provided you are feeding your dog good wholesome foods fit for human consumption, then there is absolutely no reason why you can not be tossing your dogs meal together at the same time that you are preparing the family meal. The only real difference is that you won’t be cooking the dog’s meat.

Speaking of “fit for human consumption”. All meats should be purchased from the butcher, that is the same place you buy your own meat from. Meat sold at pet stores is putrid, full of preservatives, contains meats unfit for human consumption and are not governed by the same food handling standards as that of human foods. Do not buy your raw meats at the pet shop.

Oh, I almost forgot. There is a section that covers the horrible things that can be found it raw meats. Billinghurst does not shy away from this topic one iota. In fact his warnings, particularly about hydatids is loud, clear & gruesome. However with just a little common sense it is extremely easy to avoid any of this. If you buy all your meats from a butcher shop there is no risk of hydatid. Those at risk are the farmer & his family, if the family dog is not wormed regularly & livestock is slaughtered onsite, tossing the organs to the dog, or if dead livestock is laying around for the dogs to eat the organs out. The other group at risk are those who take their dogs pig hunting & allow the dog to eat organs of the slaughtered animal. Also at risk are animals that are allowed to roam around the bush by themselves, killing & eating animals that are known to carry hydatid. There is no risk of you or your family acquiring hydatid if you buy your meat & your dog’s meat at the family butcher.

I was so impressed with this book that I have just ordered by the same author “The BARF Diet” and “Grow Your Pups with Bones”.

I can’t speak highly enough of it.

I would finally like to emphasise, if you will never give your dog bones nor give raw meats, please still consider reading this book. Though it may not & probably will not change your mind, you will find so much helpful information that will benefit you and your dog.

10th May 2007, 11:10 AM
Wow, that's a great review and thanks for the detail and effort! I am sure that will really help people considering a BARF diet as they think about options as it summarises his perspective and approach. I think this book is very helpful for anyone wanting to learn more about dog nurtition and the range of viewpoints available and he is one of the originators of bones and raw food feeding. This would be THE seminal book on feeding bARF and the ideas behind it. :thmbsup:

From a personal perspective -- I think it does need to be said that many do disagree pretty strongly with Dr Billinghurst and that he is pretty dogmatic on his own approach (fair enough, but it has made it hard for people to debate the subject with him if they don't totally support his point of view). I've wavered in my embrace of his ideas having read more about him personally and having had my own opposite experience of some of the things he strongly claims about eating bones -- eg that they are pulverised in the gut, pose no problem, are quickly digested, and so forth.

Having fed raw, I haven't found this always to be the case. That has made me move away from feeding raw bones as I feel Jaspar came very close to having a fatal encounter with a bone and at best would have needed emergency surgery; I am thankful this didn't happen when he finally vomited up two very sharp pieces of undigested bones half a day after eating them. He was very distressed in the time leading up to his vomiting them up. In addition, I know from experience that some very sharp shards of bone --even supposedly 'soft' easily digested bone in chicken necks --do end up in their poops and presumably at any point could tear through the intestine or stomach lining as they are clearly not always fully pulverised.

Hence I continue to recommend people read a broad range of pro and anti material on BARF as I do feel there are real risks. It really comes down to a personal decision on whether overall health benefits as claimed outweigh the risks. Unfortunately there aren't any comprehensive studies (or even small double blind studies) on the health benefits of feeding BARF -- that would help greatly in assisting people as they weigh up this feeding choice.

10th May 2007, 01:58 PM
Well, this is timely! I was going to post asking about RMB as I'm thinking about adding them to Katie and Lexi's diet. I currently feed NV medallions and think they need something more for their teeth.

Thanks to both of you for all of this information! I think I'll read up on it some more before I do anything. This sounds like a great book regardless of whether you feed raw or not.

I'm also curious about grains and if they are necessary in the diet. I've been feeding a grain free diet for about two months now and have noticed a remarkable difference in their ears (which is the reason I decided to try it - after many ear infections and stinky ears :yuk: ). Their ears are much cleaner and they don't seem to scratch at them as much. :D

10th May 2007, 02:09 PM
Thanks for posting that!! Again, it is quite timely because I have been considering switching to Raw and because we were just given an upright freezer, it could become more of a reality ;)

I also just purchased NV bison bones so I am interested in hearing why he says to not give petshop bones. It seems that everywhere I turn no matter what I am feeding is going to kill my dogs so I will have to take this all in with a grain of salt, as Karlin says. But I am really grateful for the resources you have provided!!


10th May 2007, 04:07 PM
When I fed raw I used these books. Very nice review, Caraline! I did give up feeding raw because it was very messy, expensive and it was a lot of work, regardless of what Billinghurst says.

The one thing I truly miss about feeding raw is my dogs teeth! They were immaculate and gleaming white. Those RMB's really do a fantastic job of keeping teeth clean. I'm sure my dogs miss it because they really loved the raw food, veggie and fruit mushes, and the offal.

I may begin feeding some wings and/or chicken necks again just because of the teeth issue!

11th May 2007, 02:17 AM
I did give up feeding raw because it was very messy, expensive and it was a lot of work, regardless of what Billinghurst says.

Hey Barb. The book I have is the latest edition so I am not sure if Billinghurst has changed his stance on things, but in this edition he makes a big point about not trying to provide everything in the one meal. For example you could choose to give say rolled oats for breckie (if your dogs are into grains) and then just give RMB for dinner. Then the next day it could be veggies for breckie & organ meat for dinner. He stresses that you just need to provide all the nutrients your dog needs over a 3 week period, not all in one day. I've made up a menu plan so that I don't lose track of what has been fed & when, but I'm thinking it is going to take me about 15 minutes max per meal. I do have a juicer, so that very quickly makes the vegie & fruit pulps I need. When I was feeding large quantities of meat, I must admit that was fairly expensive, but the RMBs are almost a give away at our butcher shop & here in Oz chicken necks & wings are dirt cheap. Maybe different up there where you are.

I do find that with Sonny's long ears he does tend to get them mixed up in his bones & yesterday I spent a long time combing out a matt he had chewed on accidentally. I tied his ears up in a scrunchy for the rest of his meal, but today I am going out to get him a snood.

I'm also curious about grains and if they are necessary in the diet.

Hi Angie. According to Billinghurst, you do not have to feed grains to your dogs. In fact he seems to indicate that most dogs are better off without grains and if grains are fed they are to be kept to a minimum. He does acknowledge however that grains are a cheap food source so for many people it is a matter of economics.

I also just purchased NV bison bones so I am interested in hearing why he says to not give petshop bones.

I am not sure about bones, but of meat purchased from pet foods his main concern is that the meat is the rubbish that can not be fed to humans. Food handling laws for pet food is virtually non existent, whereas in most affluent countries like Au, USA, UK etc we have strict food handling laws for human foods. He believes that meats destined for the pet food industry are not controlled by food inspectors, are diseased & can come from old animals, and little care is provided during shipping, so the meats can be off. To compensate for this lots of perservatives & colours are added to make it less offensive to the humans that buy it.

Oh I just remembered something about bones. Not sure if this applies, but he states that young animals for slaughter do not have time for lead to get into their bones (from the atmosphere) but old animals do. That is why he says we should feed bones from young animals, or a least animals that have not been on this earth for long. Chicken necks, wings, carcasses are some of his favourite.

Barbara Nixon
11th May 2007, 09:38 AM
When we had the springers, a large beef knuckle each, from the butcher, was a regular treat, but rather smelly. Then Benji, my next dog, who was very fastidious (wouldn't even step in a puddle and never got dirty) didn't like any raw meat.

As the others had liked them, I gave Monty and Izzy hide chews (much cleaner) but stopped after hearing of several dogs choking on hide. I asked the vet nurse what I should use to clean their teeth ( Logic gel was little known then) and was told to give them a sterile bone, which I did.

I was a little alarmed at the sharp looking bits that Monty broke off and apparently swallowed (thankfully no bad effects), but threw the bones out and never used any again, when I saw Izzy's teeth.

The enamel was completely sheared off the inner surfaces of all four canines, causing those teeth to be dangerously sharp, for the rest of his life (if he accidentally caught you it really hurt ). The bones had to be the cause, because he wasn't a picker up of stones and such.

11th May 2007, 10:30 AM
Barbara what are sterile bones? I've never heard of them.

Something I learned, that I did not know. Apparently if raw bones are allowed to lay around the backyard in the sun for a long time, they get really brittle & become dangerous like cooked bones. I guess it does make sense, because they dry out like cooking them, but I'd never thought of that before. Thankfully I have never left bones laying around for fear that the dogs might fight over them when I am not around. I always give them their bones in a confined area and then remove them when they are done.

Barbara Nixon
11th May 2007, 12:56 PM
The bones have been treated in some way (by heat?) to kill germs and are sold in sealed packets.

11th May 2007, 01:29 PM
Ah, that sounds similar to some bones I purchased from the pet store a while back. They were sort of smoked & dried out too, though these ones weren't sealed. They were really big & I got some for my 2 Boxers, but I must admit I will never buy those again because they splintered really badly. I ended up tossing them in the bin.

In fact, I am not sure I will be feeding "recreational bones" to any of my dogs. Those are the large ones without much meat but the dogs spend all day chewing on. They are extremely hard and I think would be more inclined to be the ones that dogs would break their teeth on.