I finally did it and added Give Your Dog A Bone by Dr. Ian Billinghurst to my collection of dog health related literature!
Note: This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated in 2022.
He is an Australian veterinary surgeon and nutritionist who holds a degree in both Veterinary and Agricultural Science. He’s been a strong advocate of the numerous health benefits of a raw food diet for dogs (& cats) since the 1980s.
The book itself came highly recommended as the bible of raw feeders, so it was about time I gave it a read. After all, I’ve been feeding my dogs Missy & Buzz (and now Wally too!) raw dog food since 2015.
I will say that I didn’t learn too much new information on the raw diet per se. The book did, however, underline the principles of raw feeding that I learned to apply over the course of the last years.
That said, it was nice to get some sort of endorsement out of it!
Give Your Dog A Bone by Dr. Ian Billinghurst – A Review
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Raw Facts About The Book
Give Your Dog A Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs For a Long Healthy Life was first published in 1993. It offers valuable advice on healthy feeding for our best friends on 313 pages.
You can buy Give Your Dog A Bone on Amazon for around $26.99.
The Essence Of The Book: Raw Meaty Bones
As the title of the book suggests, Dr. Billinghurst praises the numerous health benefits of offering our dogs raw meaty bones, from puppyhood to senior dogs.
Besides that, he delves into the downsides of highly processed, cooked commercial dog foods.
He also talks about the different components that make up a a balanced raw dog food diet – meat, organs, and vegetables/fruit.
I can tell you from my very own experience that offering raw meaty bones will eliminate the need to brush your dog’s teeth!
Another nice side effect is that you won’t need to take your pup in for an expensive dental cleaning at your vet’s.
Raw meaty bones are also known as Mother Nature’s doggie toothbrush.
They’re rich in:
- Vitamins and
- Essential fatty acids (FYI: Beef and lamb bones are much lower in fatty acids than chicken and pork bones).
Dr. Billinghurst does a great job describing why raw meaty bones have such an impact on a dog’s immune system on pages 112-141 of this book and why you should NEVER feed cooked bones.
I found this chapter (7) to be the most important one.
Raw Meaty Bones Provide Exercise For A Dog’s Entire Body
As you may know, I place a lot of emphasis on the importance of both physical and mental daily exercise, paired with raw dog foo food for ultimate health.
So how awesome is it that raw meaty bones come with the bonus of providing exercise for a dog’s entire body?! Dr. Billinghurst describes this beautifully on page 124:
Meat left on the bone means your dog will have to rip, tear and chew at it. This is the way nature intended your dog to eat. It is part of keeping your dog healthy. […] It helps a growing dog to develop properly, and it helps keep an adult dog fit.
Think of a dog with both feet planted firmly on a lump of meat still attached to its bone. Head down, taking hold of that meat, ripping and tearing away. What is that dog exercising?
That dog is exercising its whole body. Its jaws, its neck, its shoulders, and its front legs. It is also exercising the back and hind legs which are braced to resist all this activity up front.
Any Dog Can Eat Raw Meaty Bones
A dog’s whole system is designed for and in fact needs bones to function properly. That desire and ability has not been removed from any breed of dog, no matter how altered its mouth and teeth may be, and no matter how frail and “non-dog-like” it may look.
This includes the shortest-faced Pug dog, the daintiest Papillon, the sweetest Pomeranian, through to the roughest and toughest of Pit Bull Terriers. Any breed you care to name can, will and should eat bones.
Age makes no difference. So long as your old dog still has sufficient healthy teeth left, eating bones with all its benefits should either continue, or commence as part of its life.
Your vet may have to scale some teeth, remove others that are rotten and perhaps treat your dog with antibiotics to fix a mouth infection, but once that poor sore mouth has settled down, your dog can commence to chew bones.
Give Your Dog A Bone, Dr. Ian Billinghurst, page 114.
What I Learned – Recipe For Vegetable Pulp
I really enjoyed Dr. Billinghurst’s recipe for vegetable pulp on page 185.
I was aware of the importance of pureeing veggies and fruit for maximum absorption of the nutrients. That’s because dogs lack the enzymes necessary to break down plant cell walls.
But it hadn’t occurred to me to add other ingredients to the pureed veggie/fruit concoction to mimic the stomach contents of ruminant animals wild dogs would dine on. For example:
- Vegetable oils like soybean or safflower oil
- Brewer’s yeast
- Raw egg yolk
- Apple cider vinegar
- Plain yogurt
What I Didn’t Like About “Give Your Dog a Bone”
While this book is chock full of theoretic knowledge about the raw diet, it is not the most actionable book.
No pictures of dogs eating bones
I say that because it offers only vague recipe descriptions of raw dog food and no pictures of dogs eating raw meaty bones.
I would have enjoyed getting a glimpse into the author’s raw-fed dogs’ dinner bowls.
No raw feeding formula
Billinghurst also makes it a little difficult to understand how much raw dog food a dog should actually eat. He keeps saying that “it does involve knowing how to look at a dog and how to weigh a dog, and a general idea of the sorts of foods which are high in calories” (page 283).
An experienced raw feeder will probably understand where he’s coming from and that he means that you need to judge your dog’s overall body condition to figure out how much to feed him on a daily basis.
But someone who’s new to the raw feeding world would have a hard time figuring that out and could use a more mathematical approach, which there IS!
I know this because I have used that raw feeding formula to determine how much raw dog food Missy & Buzz (and now Wally as well!) need to look their best.
Generally speaking, an adult dog should be fed 2-4% of their ideal body weight.
Now, obviously this is a general guideline and will depend on your dog’s sex, age, metabolism, and level of activity, but it’s a good starting point.
I wrote about this in my blog post How To Figure Out How Much Raw Food To Feed Your Dogs.
Give Your Dog a Bone: Bottom Line
Overall, Dr. Billinghurst’s book is very informative. He covers all the important aspects of why raw dog food is so much healthier than a commercial, highly processed dog food diet.
If you’re an experienced raw feeder, you likely won’t learn anything new, but it’s always nice to get the endorsement of a professional.
It’s definitely a wonderful book to recommend to a hesitating traditional vet who praises the benefits of commercial dry and wet food.
If you know very little about raw dog food and are interested in finding out more about what species-appropriate food is capable of, then I’d suggest you get your paws on this book right now!
-> 313 pages, retails for around $26.99
Have you read Give Your Dog A Bone, or can you recommend another good book on raw feeding? As always, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!
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