Raw Feeding Faq
Well, I have been asked many times to comment on the raw diet I feed, raw diets in general, and things of that nature, so here it goes. A lot of this is taken from my posts on a variety of boards to a variety of people.
At this point, I have been feeding my dog Bowie raw for 1 year, 11 months, and he has been grain free except for table scraps for 1 year, 3 months. He still gets the occasional veggie here and there (mostly in with his ground meals).
Here is a Kim version of a Raw feeding FAQ. Please note that I didn’t deal with questions like “Won’t your dog die from eating bones” and such – I expect that if you are reading this far, that you know raw bones don’t splinter. These are the questions that people ask me when they are interested in the diet and have done some of their own research. This is also geared towards dogs (though I also raw feed cats).
What is raw feeding, and why do you feed it? How does feeding raw differ from a BARF diet? How many ways are there to feed raw and why does everyone do it differently?
Raw feeding is based on the premise that you are going to feed a species appropriate diet. Animals in the wild did not have bags of pelleted AAFCO goodness to give them a nutritionally balanced meal at every moment. It is also in part the rejection of this notion that a grain laden cereal based pelleted food is the best for my dog to eat. It is feeding safe, healthy, known ingredients that are nutritious and whole.
I feed raw because I see the results in my own animal. I would not continue him on something he didn’t clearly enjoy, and didn’t thrive on. I don’t think it is a miracle, and I don’t think it saved his life. But it certainly has improved the conditions of his life, and without it I do not think we would be where we are today.
There are a variety of ways to feed raw. I don’t consider myself a BARFer at this point, I say that I feed raw. BARF tends to remind people of the Billinghurst diet, which I don't and have never followed. You can feed a la Pitcairn, Kymythy Schultz, Lonsdale, BARF, and anywhere in between. There are pre-made mixes, there are whole prey feeders, and everything in between. People who supplement heavily and give 40 things a day, and people who don not. What you have to do is above all, what you feel comfortable with and what your dog does WELL on. *** (Please note the different between a recreational bone and a Raw Meaty Bone. A RMB is a bone with a lot of meat on it – so much meat that often you cannot see the bones. A recreational bone is something that is just for chewing and has little to no meat on it, and is not meant to provide a full meal –like a marrow bone).
What do I feed? I have evolved to feed mostly towards the Lonsdale model - whole prey, or as big as I can get it. I don't recommend the Billinghurst way of starting with backs, necks, and wings (WAY too boney) but it is the way I started feeding, and I understand that the parts (and chicken in general) are easy to get, and cheaper than other cuts. I still maintain that the parts are much too boney for constant feeding in the long run. I do keep ground on hand because 1) Bowie gets it some mornings when I will be gone a long time 2) the cats use it to switch and 3) I use it when someone else is feeding the dog. I don’t feed many veggies, but they are in there.
Why is variety important, IMO?
My concern is not so much the lack of variety overall, but feeding ONLY ONE meat source for prolonged periods of time. I know some people (and cringe) when I hear they saying they feed only chicken quarters or only beef…I consider variety to be an important part of my dogs diet. Each animal has something that another animal does not – one type of meat may be higher in Vitamin B, some may be higher in copper or zinc, etc. If you focus on one of these meats, then you will lose out on the benefits of the other meats. I feel that by splitting them up, and avoiding the rut of feeding just what is easy, what is on hand all the time, and what he has “always eaten”, you provide variety and ensure a more balanced diet. It scares me to hear of animals that eat chicken for 90% of their diet.
How do you make it cost effective? And how much do you feed, how much do you buy, and what do you do with it?
Making your raw diet cost effective is something that takes time, work and research. I started out feeding a VERy expensive diet, and I have since evolved. Be forwarned – buying pre-made and/or ground foods will almost ALWAYS cost you almost triple what it costs to feed if you prepared everything yourself. That being said, there are some VERY good deals to be had from some “raw dealers” who have ground and RMBs.
The best way to save money is to buy in bulk. Plain and simple, the more you buy, the less it costs you. If you have a big freezer, this is even easier.
Right now, I average about $1.00-1.50/ lb of meat, since I can get some things REALLY cheap – However, I also end up paying a lot for my more exotic meats, and Bowie does love his lamb. I buy some really cheap meats, some fairly expensive meats, and try to average out in the end. In all, I spend about 50-60 bucks.
Bowie is about 95-100 lbs. He has metabolism about as fast as flowing molasses - he eats 1.5-2 lbs a day, but because I don’t feed individual meals all the time, some days he eats 4 lbs and then gets only teeny meals the next day, some days he eats one meal of 2 lbs and then nothing for the rest of the day, and then other days he eats two meals of 1 lb each. It all depends on what piece of meat I am feeding him, and how it breaks down into meals, as well as to how much he wants to eat each meal. If he is hungry enough to eat 4 lbs, then he can eat that and his gorge means he probably wont even be HUNGRY at the next meal (yes, some dogs will walk away from food!). Bowie often will eat 2-3 lbs and walk away from the rest on the floor, so I am blessed with a self-regulator! In all, it averages that B eats about 12-15 lbs of meat a week – adjusted for how he looks and how much activity we have, as well as how much training (read: more crap food) he eats each week.
The general rule is to feed an adult, healthy animal between 2-4% of the dogs body weight, and adjust as needed. The average dog starts at 3% if they are of ideal weight, are moderately active. A very active dog will need more, a very sedentary dog will need less. A heavy dog will need to lose weight, and should be bumped down below 3%. An underweight dog should eat more. Most large dogs need lower percentages than smaller dogs (a Chihuahua will probably eat 4-5% easily, while a Deerhound may only need 1-2%). You need to look at how much your dog weighs now, if that is the ideal weight (I prefer my dogs to be a tad leaner than normal), and how much activity the dog actually gets. The raw diet is easy to adjust up and down, and you need to use your judgement as to how much to feed. The 2-4% body weight is a guideline. Bowie eats less than that because he has the slowest metabolism on earth – he is under 2% body weight most of the time.
What are places I can look for food? What are samples of food you can feed?
You really can get food anywhere, and not spend a ton. My local foodstore has many meats that are about a dollar or two a lb, and these are the ones I look at. I don’t even look at (ok I dream) about those 12 dollar slices of beef, or the organic lamb chops. Look at the meat on sale, the meat almost past its date (your dog won’t care, I promise), the meat that is buy one get one free. Don’t just look for necks, backs, etc (see below) – your dog can east almost anything as long as it is raw.
I prefer my meat as big as possible. If the meat is at least the size of the dogs head, it is harder to choke on it. I like big, chewy RMBs because the dog has to WORK to get the meat – smaller bite size pieces don’t need to be chewed because they can go down the hatch whole – which is common with necks, for instance. Bowie can chew an entire chicken back in 2 bites and then swallow it.
Things I feed:
o chicken - whole chicken, chicken quarters, and I will admit, bowie does chew well so I can feed backs, necks and wings (necks and wings are very tiny and very boney- I can feed them to the cats occasionally, but they are good small meals for B, and I can track with them and use them in training!) – it comes down to KNOWING YOUR DOG, and not feeding it all the time.
o turkey - whole turkey, turkey necks (a little more meat, much bigger), and turkey wings. Turkey can be very hard for some dogs, and turkey wings and such are some of the few meats that B has problems with!
o cornish game hens - whole (and usually about a lb, the ideal meal!)
o beef - beef ribs (whole side, not individual ribs), beef necks, oxtail
(whole tail, not little cut ones), beef roasts, and any just meat cut
o pork - necks, ribs, shanks, roasts, any meaty cut
o lamb - necks, ribs, shanks….do you get the gist yet?
o fish - Bowie doesn’t but the cats eat whole fish
o rabbits – whole
o duck – whole
o green tripe!! A favorite
o I also have more exotic meats that I feed in the ground form (can’t get whole pieces) - buffalo, duck, kangaroo, venison, goat … these are rare treats, and much more expensive for me and I tend to buy them on sale.
o DO NOT FORGET organ meat – liver, kidney, and all the other gross insides.
o Heart - technically, it is a muscle meat. I give it it’s own little position and love to feed it – it’s good for YOUR dogs heart. Do not feed it as your muscle meat though
Almost any of these foods can be obtained from the foodstore – don’t be afraid to talk to the butcher and spend some time looking at the meat. Every time I go to the store, I walk by the meat section and see what is on sale – rummage through to find those packages marked less, and if so, I have no qualms about picking up a few things here and there!
Other places I get meat: butchers, restaurant dealers, raw food dealers, you name it. If it is meat, I will use it!
How did you switch your dog over?
How I switched? B went cold turkey pretty much (no pun intended). I didn’t know any better, and he was too eager. I would only recommend this for HEALTHY dogs though, because some dogs can experience some upset, etc. Many suggest you offer the raw food at a meal, and if they don’t eat it then you can pick it up and put it away - next meal, offer it again. A healthy animal will not starve themselves – but make sure your dog can handle this.
Most people suggest starting with one type of meat and introducing it slowly and once they are settled on that (1-3 weeks) introducing something else, one protein source at a time. For instance, if you start with beef, you can feed all sorts of ground beef, whole beef, or organs. Many people tend to start with chicken – it’s cheap and available.
For a smoother slower transition, you can mix the ground food in with canned, or put a little bit of canned food on top of the raw. If offering a whole RMB you can just try to sear the outside and make it aromatic (some oil, garlic, whatever they like). Many recommend not mixing kibble and raw in the same meal, but I know people that do it without a problem. Again, it comes down to knowing what your dog can handle.
Do you supplement?
Do I? Not really. I use some fish oil because my dog does not do well on fish, and I also give him some joint support for his specific problems. But other than that, I would prefer to feed foods high in the vitamins and such that I think he needs, rather than supplementing. Some recommend feeding a multivitamin, some recommend vitamin C, etc. I think that if you look into it so much, you could supplement with 20 different things. If you need to supplement that much, I would look at what the diet is missing and focus on how to change it. I would like to feed things as natural and as fresh as possible.
Are you concerned about bacteria? Where do you feed your dog, and do you clean him up afterwards?
As time goes by you get less and less concerned about things J Ideally, Bowie eats all his RMBs in the kitchen - once he is done I can just mop/spot clean the floor. Some meals he can eat right off a plate and not worry about it. He knows to stay in there when I tell him to - and for new dogs, you can either gate them or just block them in if the kitchen is where you want to feed.
Others feed in crates (works well for messy dogs, for multiple dogs, and some food/guarding issues), some feed outside (no clean up!).
However, the other place Bowie eats is in the living room - he likes being off the lino better because he has a better grip and his back end won’t slip out on him. When he eats in there, I normally put a blanket or a towel down and he has to eat his meat on that. I know many people that train their dogs (and bowie is quasi-trained, I am too lax in this area to make it an issue) to eat their RMBs only on a towel.
Ground meals are essentially a non-issue - most dogs can eat them neatly right out of the bowl.
For cleaning the floor I either use antibacterial kitchen spray or a Swiffer antibacterial currently – you can also use vinegar/hydrogen peroxide, some others use ACV.
As to cleanliness on the dog, it all depends on the dog. For most meals, Bowie doesn’t even use his paws - you would be amazed at how much a dog can eat without getting it all over him. Of course, short haired (or smooth coated) dogs are much better at it than other breads with beards and long hair. The only meal B uses his feet for continually would be ribs, because he has to manipulate the long side of beef/pork/lamb. Unless he is obviously goopy, I don’t really bother cleaning him. He will clean his own paws off once he is done, and that’s all that matters. I don’t concern myself too much with any residual bacteria left on him –I am sure he has a lot more than that on him just from being outside, spending time on the floor, licking himself, etc.
For dogs with fur, if it hangs in their face I would recommend tying it up for meals and if they have ears, put on a snood! Of course it all depends on if you plan on keeping them in a full or half coat or just shaving them down. End of story is that most dogs will keep themselves at a pretty good level of cleanliness, unless you have a pig.
So that is it for now. I hope I answered a lot of the beginner questions – I can’t think of what else to put on here!