Monday, September 15, 2008

Pork Hock Specialty - Intro to RMBs

Waiting for supper on the feeding mat.

Tonight was one of the boys' favorite meals ... pork hocks!

Gio and Romeo are fed a raw diet, specifically Prey Model Raw (PMR). A PMR diet consists roughly of 80% meaty meat, 10% edible bone, 5% liver, and 5% other secreting organ. Every day does not need to be perfectly balanced, rather we strive for "balance over time". This model is designed off of the rough proportions of a prey animal that a wild canid would be eating in nature in attempts to mimic a natural diet for a dog.

A key component to a raw diet is the inclusion of Raw Meaty Bones (RMBs). An important thing to remember about RMBs is the M part ... MEATY! All the benefits that dogs get from eating RMBs comes from the muscle, skin, and connective tissue holding everything to the bone. The bone itself is not as important.

There are two main types of RMBs: edible and inedible. What is or is not edible will depend primarily on the dog in question. In general, all chicken RMBs (bone-in breast, thigh, drum, leg, quarter, back, neck) are edible by the vast majority of dogs. Those bones are easy to crunch, swallow and digest. They make up an important part of the PMR diet by providing important minerals such as calcium. For my dogs, weighing in at roughly 15lb and 40lb, other edible RMBs include turkey wings, turkey necks, pork ribs, pork brisket, whole trout (and similar fish), salmon heads, and whole rabbit. Other dogs may be able to handle other types of bone without issue, but it is important to know your individual dog's abilities when it comes to bones.

Inedible RMBs include any cut that has edible meat but inedible bone. This generally consists of weight baring bones of large animals like cattle, pigs, sheep, deer, elk, bison, etc. The leg bones of these species are very strong, dense, and hard. In a battle of dog tooth versus leg bone, the leg bone will win, often resulting in chipped or broken teeth and a trip to the vet for a dental extraction. As such, these bones are often referred to as "wreck bones" ... meaning that they will "wreck" your dog's teeth. If you DO choose to feed them, again, know your dog. If they are a safe chewer then proceed with caution. But if they are a strong or enthusiastic chewer, then you would be best to avoid them completely. Allowing your dog to consume bare bones void of meat is also not recommended. The meat acts as a sort of cushion or buffer for the bone as it travels down the throat and into the stomach. Without that meat cushion, you run the risk of damaging the esophagus.

Another important aspect of RMBs to remember is the R portion ... RAW! Cooked bones are a very bad idea. Heating alters the composition of the bone, making it hard and very indigestible. If any portion of a cooked bone gets consumed, you run the risk of serious intestinal damage or blockage. Not good news! This includes the left over pork ribs from the human supper table, the smoked bones you get at pet stores, bleached bones also sold at pet stores, or any human bone-in piece of meat that has been smoked, cured, dried, boiled, etc. Any heating at all means that the bone is cooked and you should not feed it! Just because it is sold at a pet store does not mean that it is safe for pets! It just means that enough people are gullible enough to spend money on them and no one has complained loudly enough when something went wrong.

The benefits of RMBs are fantastic! Not only are they a natural, healthy meal, but they offer great benefits outside of the nutritional realm as well. The act of eating RMBs is wonderful for cleaning teeth! Offering pork RMBs such as pork hocks or pork shoulders are especially good, as the thick, tough skin acts as a sort of polisher for the teeth. Since RMBs are generally quite large, they encourage the dog to use all of their teeth to rip, tear, grind, and chew off hunks of meat, polishing and buffing even the hard-to-reach back molars and the seldom used canines. RMBs also provide a great outlet for dogs that like to chew and serve as a fantastic jaw work out. They also exercise the mind. Offering tricky RMBs like pork shoulders really make the dog think about what they are doing and mentally work at taking the meal apart. Nothing will tire a dog out quite like a good long meal of complicated RMB!

Remember to always supervise your dog with any RMB! They are not something to be given to keep the dog occupied while you are away. Note that my dogs are eating their own RMBs in very close proximity to each other, both on the same small bath towel. This is not possible for every dog. RMBs are often seen as very high value items, so dogs with any sort of food possessiveness should be monitored closely. If you are in doubt, feed the RMBs in each dog's individual crate. That way they will not feel as if their food is being threatened by the other dog's presense and they can eat in peace. Always take away a bone that is getting too small. The rule of thumb is that the RMB should be the size of the dog's head, that way they cannot gulp it. But once all the meat is stripped from the bone, you should take the remainder away so as to prevent hard chewing on inedible bones or an eager dog from attempting to swallow it whole.

The boys helping to clean the "table" after eating.

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