Buster has been on Stella & Chewy’s Duck Duck Goose frozen raw food diet for dogs (and the dehydrated raw when we travel) since September 2013.
There seems to be a mystical dividing line between feeding raw food diet and feeding kibble. A lot of people who feed raw are curious why anyone would feed kibble and vice versa. Some people who do feed kibble but want to feed raw just sit there staring at information about raw but get scared away. Then you have those who go to the grocery store, buy a chicken breast, and throw it into their dog’s bowl.
Dog nutrition is one of my favorite subjects. It is also an extremely difficult subject to figure out in real life when your dog is an allergy monster, but you want to make sure he has the best proper nutrition. I can honestly say I have probably spent around 150 hours just since September doing my own reading and research specifically about raw food.
Sometimes I feel like a walking double-edged sword. I feed my dog a raw food diet, and I swear by it. I can honestly say I will not put him back on kibble. I will specifically make our budget smaller in other areas so we can afford his raw food diet. I specifically set time aside every week to drive to the pet food store to buy his raw. But, I am a vet tech at an animal hospital that absolutely does not recommend raw (except for the holistic veterinarian who marches to the beat of her own drummer). I am not allowed to recommend a raw food diet, and to be quite honest, I try to keep the fact that I feed my dog raw as quiet and hush-hush as possible at work. Because, there is still a stimga and such a huge dividing line between the thoughts and sciences between feeding raw and feeding kibble. I’ve only been at this hospital for a few months, and I really do love it there. I see no reason to rock the boat and cause controversy when Buster is my dog, and I know that everything I do for him is nothing but the best.
So, this is undoubtedly one of many posts to come on raw food. If you EVER have questions or just want to talk about it, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook or Twitter. I LOVE talking about dog nutrition and raw food, but I honestly don’t have many people to talk about it with.
So first thing is first… why raw? I will honestly say that I purchased Buster’s first bag of Stella & Chewy’s frozen raw food diet out of desperation (and almost) tears. His paws were swollen and bloody, despite weeks of antihistamines, steroids, antibiotics, and topical treatments. I had just found out he was allergic to almost everything. I mean, just look at his allergy test. Look at all the positives and all of the borderline positives. I will say that, while false positives do exist, I feel his test is very accurate with the experience and reactions he has had in his life to certain foods and environments. When I got these results, there were only 2 commercial kibbles on the market that I found that had 0 ingredients he was allergic to, and honestly, I did not love the companies. I did not love where they sourced their ingredients, I didn’t love some other included ingredients, etc. etc. So I bought a bag of raw food.
Buster devoured it. I continued doing my research. At the same time, he continued acting like a kid in a candy store every single time I got his food bowl ready. He didn’t get sick. If anything, I noticed he looked brighter and his fur was shinier and he seemed to have a more consistent energy level. For the first few weeks after starting the raw food diet, I would feed him and just stare at him thinking, “What have I done?” “Why don’t the vets at work recommend raw?” “Am I hurting you?” “Are you really getting healthier?” After a few more weeks (when his paws were completely healed and even had hair growing on them again and he didn’t have a yeast infection in his ears for the first time ever) and countless hours of research, I decided this was the best thing I could do for him. My pet food store guy now orders 2 bags for me at a time so he always has one for me, and I pick it up weekly.
But what about Salmonella and E.Coli, you ask?
…I’m sorry, have you not come across the dry dog food recall lists lately? Almost all of them are because of salmonella. Also, do you cook raw chicken and beef for your family? Yeah, you do, so here’s a pro tip: when making your dog’s food, follow the same precautions and don’t lick the countertop. Your dog’s stomach is extremely acidic, and they produce a large amount of bile. Bile is anti-pathogenic and anti-parastic. A healthy dog also has pancreatic enzymes as a second line of defense to break down and digest food. Also, your dog naturally has some salmonella in his GI tract already. As an added bonus, most companies of pre-made raw have each batch of their food tested by an outside laboratory for some strains of Salmonella and E.Coli. Stella & Chewy’s even publishes their test results online, which is one huge reason I love them so much.
But won’t it make my dog mean?
…How does that even begin to make sense to you?
But what about parasites inside the raw meat we give to our pets?
…Do NOT feed your pet intestines and stomachs of animals. That is gross and WILL contain parasites. Feed your pet muscle meats. Toxoplasmosis is a real thing. Freeze the meat for at least 3 days prior to serving, and that should kill any parasites. (I mean, people eat sushi all the time and do fine, don’t they?)
But won’t he choke?
…Grind up the bone or have a butcher do that for you. Or, buy a pre-made raw food diet for dogs. NEVER give your dog bones (ANY kind of bones) unsupervised. Also use common sense when giving your dog bones. But, the bones really do provide some great mental stimulation and teeth cleaning.
Do NOT willy nilly buy a chicken breast or some ground beef and give it to your dog thinking that you are giving him a raw diet. Nope, you’re not.
All commercial dog foods (even pre-made raw) on the market have to meet AAFCO standards. While they are far from perfect, they have at least set the minimum standard of nutrients that has to be in your pet’s food to be considered a completely balanced meal. (Did you know that your dog actually does have a nutritional requirement of copper and zinc and magnesium and Vitamin A, etc.? Without at least the minimum amount, your dog could become super ill. But, did you know that Dalmatians can’t process copper properly?). The point is that you can’t willy nilly throw your dog some raw meat and call it done. The meal HAS to be balanced. Now, do you eat a completely balanced meal for every single meal every single day? I doubt it; I know I don’t. But, at the end of the day or at the end of every 2 days, you have probably eaten all the recommended servings of all the recommended food groups and have balanced out what you have taken in, right? Probably. Same with dogs. Every single meal doesn’t have to be balanced, but it DOES HAVE TO be a completely balanced diet over the span of about a week.
There are different “types” of raw diets.
BARF – Bones And Raw Food. Typically this is 60-80% of raw meaty bones and 20-40% fruits and vegetables.
Prey model – 80% meat, 10% bone, and 10% organ
There are a lot of different school of thoughts on supplements. If you’re feeding a high quality food, then you shouldn’t need supplements, right? I tend to agree, but I also have a sensitive allergy monster, so I wholeheartedly believe in a daily probiotic, fish oil, and coconut oil. I’m also researching to start him on a joint supplement as prevention.
I have never made my own raw food for Buster from scratch. There are a lot of reasons for that.
1) While a pre-made raw food diet for dogs is expensive, I somewhat justify it because an outside laboratory does in fact test it. I feel like it’s safe. I also don’t terribly mind buying it from my local pet food store guy and giving him the profit. He’s a really nice older man who has helped me with so many different dog issues. There have been days I would go in frustrated and concerned about one dog topic or another and spend an hour or two talking to him, and I would at least have a better grasp on the situation and some more knowledge when I walked out.
2) I live in a pretty rural area. I absolutely do not trust buying meat from the grocery store and giving it to my dog; honestly, I don’t even like buying meat for my husband and I at the grocery store and have strayed away from it. You’d think there would be tons of farmer’s markets and butchers here then right? Nope. I can’t find any that I trust. I am not just going to buy any ol’ raw meat for Buster. I need to know where it comes from, what the animal is fed, the living conditions of the animal, I need to know no antibiotic or hormone injections are given, etc etc.
3) I have read a few books on raw feeding (Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats and Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs are my favorites) and have spent countless hours researching, but for myself, personally, being the Type A control freak and worry wart that I am, I don’t feel like I know enough about completely balancing it yet. I am terrified that I wouldn’t balance his meal properly, and he would get sick. I don’t think I can just dive in and give it a try and figure it out as we go; Buster is too sensitive for that.
My husband and I plan to be moving within the year, and the area we are looking at actually has some great local farmer’s markets nearby. I’m hoping that, eventually, in the near-ish future, I will have read and gained even more knowledgeable and feel confident enough and have access to the resources to make Buster’s raw from scratch, and I hope it will be a money-saving outstanding success. But for now, I will happily purchase his pre-made raw (I have been eyeing Darwin’s to see if that would save us some money) and know that he is healthy and getting the best nutrition.
I know he has a lot of environmental allergies as well as food allergies, and of course, his allergies are worse in the summer/fall. I’m so excited to see how he does this summer/fall while being on the raw food. I really hope that does help. He will probably still need to be on daily Benadryl but if he doesn’t end up with bloody, raw paws and needing to be on antibiotics every other month for a skin infection, then that is winning.
Kibble has not been in existence long. Before kibble existed, dogs basically survived off of table scraps. Honestly, I don’t judge those who feed kibble. Before Buster started raw, he was on Orijen and Acana, and I still wholeheartedly support them both (and I buy the freeze-dried Orijen treats). I think Champion Pet Foods is an outstanding company, and honestly, they are one of the few kibbles on the market that I actually trust (I personally don’t trust Alpo, Purina, etc. for a variety of reasons).
The main opposition I hear about raw diets at work is that it is a “stone creating diet.” Ironically, the holistic veterinarian (who does encourage raw) has about 60%-70% of her patients on a raw diet (whether that be homemade or commercial). Another 20% or so of her patients get raw as a topper on kibble (a whole other topic that I don’t necessarily agree with) or on specific days; they don’t get it consistently, but they do get it. Another 10% feed premium, high quality kibble like Orijen. Since September, I have seen 1 dog of hers have stones (a Bichon Frise, typically a breed genetically prone to stones). On the other hand, the other veterinarians at work have had probably 3 dogs (on a low to mid-grade kibble, like Purina or Hill’s) and 4 cats (not quite sure what they were on, but it wasn’t raw) have stones. There is a whole lot more to this subject – the amount of water intake your pet is getting, the amount of protein in raw vs. kibble, low purines, etc. that I will post about one day. But, I thought this little observation I’ve noticed was amusing.
But in the meantime, what do you feed your pet? Do you struggle with that decision in any way? Would you feed raw if you could? Feel free to leave a comment or contact me!