What The Fluff!
Updated: Oct 13
Whole prey tends to be less popular in the raw feeding world as it is usually harder to source and is definitely not for the faint of heart. But whole prey is a great addition to a fresh food diet as it adds variety, fiber, enrichment, and more!
Now let's dive into the raw side of whole prey!
What Is "Whole Prey"?
"Whole prey" is just that...the whole prey or the whole intact animal. And by intact, I mean intact as in what the animal would look like if it was freshly killed (see image above). The animal fed includes the fur/feathers, head, feet, intestines, etc.
I would like to take a moment to emphasize that feeding whole prey does not mean feeding a live animal to your pet. It is feeding an already deceased animal. Live feeding is NOT whole prey feeding. Animals that are used as whole prey should be humanely killed before feeding.
Since whole prey includes the skin, fur, blood, organs, and more in one neatly wrapped animal bento box body. This means those small prey animals such as rabbits and quail count as a whole balanced meal! Smaller whole prey animals pretty much meet all the NRC guidelines except iodine (kelp) and vitamin E (depends on the quality). And the nutrients not found in whole prey can be balanced over time.
Feeding whole prey also gives your animal excess to ALL the organs in the body not just 2 at a time like the traditional DIY diet. This means brain, eyes, liver, kidneys, pancreas, ovaries or testicles, spleen, and thymus! That is a whole world of variety and nutrients compared to just 2 organs. This does not mean that feeding only 2 organs at a time is bad but just highlights the variety that whole prey gives!
Additionally, whole prey is a great source of fiber due to the fur and feathers! Since the fur and feathers are intact, they are allowed to travel through the dog's GI tract and act as a pipe cleaner cleaning out the intestinal tract, which aids in overall gut health, as well as bulking the stool.
I wanted to touch on the topic that fur & feathers are a reliable bioavailable source of manganese. I scorched the web high and low to find reliable sources but there are honest none and just a lot of anecdotal evidence to whether or not fur and feathers have bioavailable manganese. It's not so much a question of the presence of manganese but the bioavailability of the mineral. From what I have gathered, fur and feathers are very high in β-keratins. Keratin resists digestion for example, which is why cats cough up hairballs. Basically, fur and feathers are digestive enzyme proof and the nutrients in the fur &. feathers will not be broken down and absorbed. While fur and feathers cannot be broken down... wild carnivores must have been getting their manganese requirements somehow, right? As they were definitely not fishing, boiling, and eating blue mussels. But this just shows how much more we have to learn and explore and that mother nature has a beautiful and mysterious way of working. But as of now, foods best fed for manganese are blue-lipped mussels are tripe since we know how much manganese is in these foods.
Finally, probably my favorite benefit to feed whole prey is enrichment! The "feel-good" hormones oxytocin & serotonin is released when dogs chew, chomp, and tear on whole prey. And the motion of tearing and ripping flesh also helps floss your dog's pearly whites! Dogs will often "play: with the whole prey sometimes which provides great mental stimulation. Whole prey is a great mental enrichment tool just by itself!
What Counts As Whole Prey?
Whole prey means the whole animal! Prey animals such as:
Whole guinea pig
Whole Cornish hen
Whole fish (Yes, this is whole prey too!)
Introducing Whole Prey
When first introducing raw whole prey, most dogs are a bit resistant to the new texture of their food as they're not used to eating fluffy meals! Make sure to click here for my whole prey troubleshooting guide to help you and your dog successfully tackle whole prey meals.
While sourcing can be a bit tricky here are some of the top tips I've accumulated over time!
1. Local Showers: reach out to local rabbit showers as they will usually be more than happy to sell (or give) their deceased rabbits to you. The lady I source from actually started raising rabbits for her dogs but now exclusively raises rabbits for showing and whole prey for other pet owners.
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3. Hobby Farmers: If you have friends that have their own chicken or quail (like me!) that raise their own animals, you can often get animals that have passed to feed as whole prey.
The most important thing to remember when feeding whole prey is respecting the animal... which brings us to our next topic.
Respecting The Animal
Whole prey takes a high tolerance for gruesomeness but it also takes a high level of respect for the animal fed.
Acknowledging that the animal is allowing our carnivores to eat a truly ancestral and biologically appropriate meal is just one of many practices I do to give my gratitude to the animal fed. I also make sure to have a zero-waste policy since the whole animal is a perfect meal therefore none of it should be wasted!
In addition, making sure to source humanely dispatched animals is another way to make sure to be as humane and respectful as possible.
If you are feeding a freshly caught fish or rabbit (any wild game) it is vital that it is frozen at -0.4°F (-18°C) or colder for a minimum of 3 weeks or more to ensure that any parasite or worm in the animal is properly killed to make fit for feeding.
Another precautionary step you can take is removing the intestinal tracts of the animal as this is where the parasites and worms will reside. I usually don't do this step for animals I have purchased but for wild rabbits that Stormy catches, it is a vital step.
Skinning & Gutting
If you do choose to skin & gut your whole prey here is a handy video on how I like to skin & gut my whole prey.
It's vital to understand that pet owners who choose to feed whole prey are not doing it for their own enjoyment but to allow their pets to eat as ancestrally as possible and gain all the benefits mentioned above.
You definitely do not have to feed whole prey to have a "complete & balanced" raw diet but it is a great addition if you choose to do so! As always, I hope you enjoyed and Always Keep Exploring!