I am re-running a post from August 19, 2008. Original link here if you want to read the comments. I have been having discussions with several people about raw feeding so I thought it would be great to re-run this post. I have also updated with some new ideas and a new link at the bottom.
I am often asked about how one goes about converting a dog from kibble to raw. Many people, concerned about the pet food poisonings from last year, are looking for a more healthy way to feed their animals. What better way than feeding carnivores a species appropriate diet of raw meat and bone? Raw feeding is not rocket science. We have been conditioned over the years by vets and pet food companies that our dogs need all these supplement and special foods that can only be found in their expensive kibble. Now, I am not going to go into all the evils of kibble. There are lots of sites out there that discuss this issue far better than I could. Here is a good link.
There are different methods of feeding a raw diet. The two prominent ones are the BARF (bones and raw food or biologically appropriate raw foods) and RMBs (raw meaty bones). People who feed BARF believe that in addition to feeding raw meat you feed raw vegetables as well. Now, I am not going to get into the debate about whether or not dogs need vegetables. Personally, I don’t believe they do. That being said our dogs do get some vegetables in their diets. In my opinion, dogs need a healthy variety in their diets which includes all sorts of foods.
Once you decide to feed raw you are faced with a plethora of choices. Should you feed ground raw? What about veggies? Grains? Supplements? It can be an extremely daunting undertaking. We first decided to feed raw when one of our shihtzus developed a bladder stone. When it was removed it looked identical to a piece of Iams kibble – which is what they had eaten for years. I did a little research and learned pretty quickly that bladder stones form in a high ph environment in the body. Feeding raw makes the body more acidic and prohibits the formation of the stones. At first we fed a ground raw that had veggies, supplements and some kind of grain ie oats, rice etc. We did this for a while until the quality started to slip and the dogs would no longer eat it. We then tried making our own which proved to be a whole lot of work and not much fun. More research let us to the conclusion that feeding raw meaty bones was the most appropriate diet for our canine family.
Now, a little definition, a raw meaty bone (RMB) is not a bone with a little meat. Think of a chicken leg and thigh and that is what I am referring to when I talk about RMBs. Another good example is pork bones, riblets, ribs, chops etc. Dogs are able to chew up and digest raw chicken and pork bones. These bones are only dangerous to our dogs in the cooked form. Beef ribs and shank steaks, for example, are also good examples of RMBs but the dogs cannot chew up the beef bones.
If you are considering starting your dog on RMBs, and your dog is a bit of a gulper, it is wise to start with pieces that are larger than the dog’s head. This will encourage the dog to chew and eat the food rather than swallowing it whole. When first starting out it is advisable to start with one meat source – chicken is usually a good first choice for many reasons. Chicken has almost the perfect ratio of meat, bone and organ (more about that later). The bone is easily eaten and digested by the dogs. It takes the dogs a couple of weeks to adjust to the new diet and there could be diarrhea. Chicken will mitigate this problem. The bone in the chicken will help to produce firm stools (bone poops). After a couple of weeks you can start to add other meats. If the dog develops diarrhea then adding some chicken bone with richer meat is one solution. For the first couple of weeks it is also a good idea to give the dog some yogurt – like plain astro or something like that.
Let’s talk about amounts of food and ratios. First of all you want to feed 1-3% of a dog’s ideal body weight depending on the dog’s activity level. You will need to buy a scale and weigh the food. You also want to feed based on the following ratio: 10% bone, 10% organ – of which 50% is liver. Now, before I lose you, you don’t need to feed this everyday. We are striving for balance over time. In our house we rotate through different meats, every other day is chicken as it is the perfect ratio. Getting the organs in can sometimes pose a problem as some dogs don’t like them. We have that problem here and have solved the problem by drying liver and other organ meats for the dogs.
A bit about sourcing the food for your dog. We find that we get really good variety from a small Asian grocery store in Vancouver. We get excellent prices and they will cut and package the meat as we want. They also have more ‘diversity’ than your average grocery store. We have found things like pig snouts, pig tails, lung, spleen, chicken feet, rabbit etc. You need to make sure that you find a reputable source for your meat. If feeding your dog organic is important to you then you will want to find an organic source.
Dog size is no barrier to feeding raw. In our house we started the pug on raw at 6 weeks of age. She had her first lamb neck slice at 8 weeks. Everyone eats raw at our house. We have a 19 year old Pomeranian who has no teeth. We were giving her other food and she started to steal RMBs from the other dogs. So we gave up. We still need to supplement her diet with some commercial food as she cannot eat the bone (no teeth) and she develops diarrhea from time to time. She really enjoys here RMBs and can strip a raw chicken leg in under 15 minutes. The other dogs are very helpful by cleaning up her bones when she is done.
What benefits can you expect from feeding raw? Overall we have noticed an increased level of health. Our dogs have not been treated for fleas since we got rid of the fleas in the house we bought. We have not treated for fleas for over 18 months in spite of the fact that we have multiple dogs who go offleash all the time. Our dogs seem to need to go to the vet less. Their teeth are pristine. All of the bone chewing, meat ripping and masticating keeps their teeth in great shape. Raw also helps dogs who are prone to allergies. Their meals are entertaining for them and very enjoyable.
Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I will answer them there or expand this post. Here are some other great links:
Rawfeeding group at Yahoo – high volume list.
Raw Meaty Bones list at Yahoo
Update for October 24, 2010
Lately we have been revising how we feed somewhat. We still feed primarily raw meaty bones. However we have branched out a little more in what we feed. This is based on our belief that dogs need variety and coupled with the fact that sometimes we are not as organized as we should be.
We are now, occasionally, feeding a high quality kibble with canned. They get this about once every 2 weeks. Our smallest dog, Molly, has no teeth and is unable to eat bone although she does just fine stripping the meat off. She is now being fed some ground raw. Clio also needs some extra calories as she has always been quite thin. She has always been thin and now she seems to be burning more when she coughs. We supplement her with higher calorie meats with bone ground in so she does not get diarrhea, to which she is also prone. She really seems to like duck.
Sometimes we are cooking for them now which they also seem to enjoy. This started when we had a flu bug come through. Cooking ground meat and rice seems to help firm up their stools plus they really like it!
I think they key is variety. A dog who eats different food all the time will not get into trouble if they get into something they shouldn’t. Some dogs, who eat straight kibble, can have an adverse reaction if they get into something fatty. I have heard of dogs who end up with pancreatitis as a result. Feeding dogs a variety of foods helps keep their digestive systems nimble and prepared for anything.
Here is another interesting link about commercial pet food.