The spread of misinformation in the holistic pet world really irritates me.
Misinformation in the wider pet industry is one of the few things in this world that we can depend on. You could set your watch to the constant churning out of bogus new claims and the latest “healthy,” must-have, exorbitantly expensive “food,” that is strangely, almost indistinguishably similar to the last one. We have come to expect it and old cynics like me barely even notice it anymore. What I do notice, and what I will always speak up about, is people spreading bad information about good nutrition. I don’t care whether you’re Purina or a blog no one reads.
Just stop it.
So, let’s talk about feet. What a segue*.
Chicken, turkey, duck, CROCODILE.
This post will double as a clarification of some misconceptions about feeding feet from poultry and reptiles, as well a contribution to my “dogs on the dole” series (AKA my tips for feeding fresh in a global pandemic), because feet are not only a safe and nutritious addition to your pet’s diet, but they’re also usually very cheap. Feet are super versatile and can be fed fresh and raw, as a key ingredient in high gel bone broth, as a bone broth pate, or dehydrated as a chew treat with dental benefits.
Feet are made up largely of skin, cartilage and tendons, which is also the main reason they’re touted as a health food. This makes them a great, single ingredient dehydrated treat or chew, and it is especially the case with crocodile feet for enthusiastic chewers (and pets that don’t tolerate poultry). Feet contain little actual bone, and the bones they do contain are very small and soft, so they are easily passed and digested - just look for air dried treats that have been made without heat (like these), which won’t splinter like cooked bones. If your dog is inclined to swallow things whole without chewing, you should supervise or assist them to eat treats like this, just like you would any other.
One thing I love about feet is that they contain a bunch of the weird bits and pieces that are important nutritionally but often lacking from even a well varied modern diet. One of the challenges of feeding only human grade meat is that it’s cleaned and trimmed of all the bits we humans don’t eat but that our pets would have, like skin, cartilage and nails (or bums, fur and feathers). Some people worry about the nails left on feet, but they’re not going to cut up your pet’s insides. Nails are just protein, and we’re not talking about bald eagle talons. A chicken’s nail is a few millimetres long; a crocodile’s is a touch longer but much blunter, and ducks’ are barely even visible. Let’s not forget that dogs and cats are predators at heart so, in the wild, small animals like birds and reptiles would form a significant part of their diet, and this would include their feet. This nutritional diversity added roughage, which functioned similarly to fibre in the modern diet. I’ve also researched extensively and I can’t find a single reputable account of anyone ever experiencing their pet being injured internally by eating a foot of any kind *shrugs*
Nutritionally, the big benefit of feet relates to their ability to assist with osteoarthritis and joint pain, which is attributed to their high concentration of glucosamine and chondroitin. According to peer reviewed research, “Glucosamine regulates the synthesis of collagen in cartilage and may provide mild anti-inflammatory effects while chondroitin sulphate inhibits destructive enzymes in joint fluid and cartilage.” Adding loads of chicken feet to bone broth with give you a thick, high gelatine content result, which is great for both joints, and sealing or healing (same thing) the lining of the gut. Once the broth has slow cooked for at least 24 hours, the leftover feet with be so soft you can blitz them to a paste and feed the mousse as a treat (it’s GROSS).
Or you can just give them to your pet raw and save yourself a whole lot of work. They make a good meaty bone option for small puppers and cats, because they can be quite easily cut to size.
Feet are relatively high in fat because they are largely skin, but fat is an incredibly important macronutrient for dogs and cats and, fortunately, high cholesterol is something they very rarely need to worry about. If your pet has elevated levels of fat in their blood, it is far more likely a symptom of something else - like diabetes, pancreatitis or hyperthyroidism, which are three of the biggest issues for pets eating heavily processed pet food. And if that’s the case, feeding them a fresh, whole food (like feet) is just about the best thing you could do for your pet.
So there you have it. Feet for thought (I’M SORRY).