Friday, October 28, 2011

The Raw Deal

I've been thinking about raw diets a lot lately.  If you've been following the blog for a while now, you'll know I've had lots of problems finding the right food.  When I thought I'd found a kibble that worked, Parker or Skye would think otherwise.

The current menu is Nature's Variety Instinct, with a food supplement powder, plain yogurt in the AM, and a spoonful of Wellness canned in the PM.  Yeesh!  While both dogs have been doing great with this, it can be a pain in the butt, and even then Skye has days she doesn't want to eat.  Skye's skin and coat have improved, but nothing fabulous, and they both gained a little weight while on it (I blame the canned).

Let's go that way Mom.

Then I was in a store near my house that I hadn't gone to before and they had Nature's Variety Raw patties and meaty bones in a freezer- since then I keep coming back to the appeal of a raw diet.  I'm not ready to commit to it, but I've begun researching the basics.  I love the idea of my dogs eating like wild animals- growing up my favorite shows were the documentaries of the lions eating the antelope and all that, so I'm not squeamish about handling raw food.  But I'm not all that financially secure, and I want to find the most cost effective way to do it before jumping in.

Yesterday I went with my boss to visit her friend that owns a pet supply shop- it was awesome!  All high quality foods, raw diets, and practical dog items like interactive toys, backpacks, and lots of Ruffwear.  I mentioned my interest in raw feeding, and she gave me a starter kit, a roll of chubs, and two lamb bones for free!  They are in my freezer, as I can't decide what to do with them just yet.

So, my raw feeding friends, I have some questions for you:

What is the best way to transition to raw?  If you've read my prior posts, neither Parker nor Skye do well switching their food, and I'm worried I'll end up with two very sick pooches if I just give them a raw meal.

There are also so many choices for raw!  Where I typically buy their food there is Stella and Chewies Freeze Dried, which doesn't look appetizing (but the dogs loved the free sample they tried), and Honest Kitchen.  I would consider trying Honest Kitchen to see how the dogs do, but I'm definitely more drawn to the Patties or other diets that still look like meat.  I know once I go down this road I'm going to be obsessed with it.  What I'd love is to eventually get on a system like the one Koira and Pallo are on over at My Life with Flyball Dogs.

What do you think?  Which type of Raw is easiest to transition to?  I can start there and get crazier as time goes on, but I think I'm almost ready to go for it.  I'm crunching numbers today to see what I'm spending now, and how that would compare with the different types of raw. 

Perhaps there is a combo deal I could do.  Kibble with raw one meal, just raw another.  As far as actual 'get-from-the-butcher' meats, what would you say is a good one to add in first?  Or at all?  Can you tell I'm clueless? 

Obviously I won't be switching them at random, but over the next few days I'll probably get a little research crazy until I'm more confident in my knowledge.  All your help will be hugely appreciated, since I know many of you love feeding raw. 

On the home front, everything is going fine... or fine for us.  Skye had to go to the vet for an infection on her leg from where a dog scratched her while they were playing and a potential infection on her ear where a friend's dog bit her over a ball.  So normal. 

Sinatra, aka Blue, is still doing great in his new home.  He loves his new mommy and is getting along with their other dog just fine.  I'll be going by to visit them in the next few weeks to get my crate back and do a little training with everyone.  Our house is almost too quiet without him, but when I woke up this morning to see snow on the ground I was happy he wasn't here.  Parker and Skye immediately went back to bed and haven't been seen since, but Sinatra needed his morning walk like a fat kid needs candy.

I did have one really awful day at work, which I'm planning on posting about in the next few days, so I'll leave the subject alone for now.  In fact, I'll stop rambling right now, because who knows how long I could go on?

Forever.  You could go on forever.


  1. I am no expert on raw. We are still using the pre made stuff because Sophie just doesn't do well when we try our own straight from the butcher version.

    What I can say is I was told by numerous people and read, do not mix raw with kibble. They digest at different rates and therefore should not be mixed (there was more to it but that was the gist of it.) If you want to still feed kibble, make one meal kibble and another raw.

    I just went cold turkey switch. Kibble one day, raw the next. I stuck to one protein until I saw good poops and no tummy issues. Then I slowly added new proteins. 2 years later, I can switch between proteins without any stomach issues.

    My plan was to start with the pre made (Primal) and then as she did well and I got confident in my ability to do it on my own, switch to do it yourself like Koira and Paolo. Unfortunately, like I said that never worked for us. So Sophie continues to eat Primal. I found a co-op which helps subsidize the price but it is still pricy since she is a big dog.

    Good luck! Check out Dogsters raw forum. They are very helpful!

  2. I am in a similar, thinking-about-raw phase. I have 2 who eat TOTW kibble and do well on it, but 1 is a picky eater who never eats well when given just plain kibble, so I've always doctored hers up with canned food or cooked meat.
    I've recently started buying the Nature's Variety frozen raw medallions and mixing them in with her kibble instead of canned/cooked food, and she loves it. I started with just one medallion and she had no digestive upset. I'm seeing how she does and may up the percentage of raw to kibble, but will probably keep some kibble as the basis of every meal for convenience and cost.
    I tried giving her some samples of Honest Kitchen, but she just sniffed at it and walked away, lol. I think it wasn't meaty enough for her, but I do know of some dogs who do great on it. I have heard good things about the Bravo line of raw food, which I think is cheaper than some others, but I haven't tried it yet.
    Also, it is much cheaper to buy raw bones from the butcher than buying ones marketed for pets at the pet store. I would think it is probably better quality meat too. If there are ethnic markets in your area, those are the best bets -- I buy ours from Mexican or Korean meat counters.

  3. Well, I'm flattered that you look up to my dog's diet like that! I switched my dogs cold turkey in January after spending a few weeks doing research. The key to keeping digestive upsets to a minimum at first is lots of bone, mild meat, and to take it slow. Most people have problems with raw only because they try to add in other proteins too fast.

    If you want to start with prey model raw (what I feed), my recommendation is to go to your grocery store, buy some whole chickens. Cut each whole chicken into meal-size portions (by weight, 2-3% of your dogs' ideal adult weight per day). Feed. If you encounter loose stools, you can try trimming off excess fat and skin (but I never had to, and my dogs previously were sensitive to kibble switches).

    Then, stick with chicken for at least two weeks to let your dogs get used to it. Resist the urge to try them on something else. The goal is balance over time, so don't worry about them only eating one protein for a few weeks to a month at first.

    You will gradually be able to add in organs (a little at a time, with lots of bone at first) and other meats (one at a time, don't over do it). The final goal is to feed 80% muscle meats, 10% bone, 5% liver, 5% other organs, with as much of it being red meat as you can afford to feed. Some dogs will always need more than 10% bone to manage stools, and that's fine.

    Benefits of prey model raw versus premade raw: Your dogs get a workout while eating. Less chance of bacteria in the meat due to less processing (ground meats expose a LOT of surface area for bacteria to grow). More natural. You know exactly what your dogs are eating. And, it is much, much cheaper to feed prey model (if you shop around) than any premade raw food out there (or premium kibble, for that matter).

    Good luck, sorry for writing a novel in you comments!

  4. I've been seriously considering switching to some raw as well. Titan eats TOTW and gets cooked ground beef in the morning and baked chicken breast for dinner. Both with his kibble. But his stools have never been solid. I look forward to seeing how you do with the switch. May just be what I need to start mine as well.

  5. We heard that raw stuff is quite tasty and good if you suffer from allergies
    Benny & Lily

  6. Yay for raw! What Patty said about not mixing raw with kibble is sound advice. A lot of people will say it doesn't matter, but I've also known a lot of dogs to get sick from doing that. If you think about it logically, though, it makes sense that that would happen. The reason dogs can eat raw meat that would make us sick if we ate it is because their short, acidic digestive tracts push the food hrough their system before the bacteria therein can make them ill. Kibble on the other hand digests at a much slower rate, and when you mix the two together, there is a potential for upset. But having said this, it's entirely possible to do raw and kibble at two separate meals - we did it for years. I'd do kibble in the am with some type of canned food or other topper (yogurt, canned sardines or jack mackerel, etc.) and then raw in the evening. As long as the meals are eight or so hours apart, you should have no issues doing that.

    As to raw, there are many ways to do it - BARF, whole prey, prey model/Frankenprey and then of course the various commercial raw products, some of which you mentioned, that are now available. One thing I can tell you is that you will almost certainly save a potentially large sum of money by going the "do if yourself" route, if you are comfortable with it. But if you're not, that's fine, too. As was mentioned, the Dogster raw forum is a great resource, and although I haven't been around there much in the last year or so, there are usually a core group of people there who are very helpful to newbie raw feeders.

    Good luck!

  7. I'm with Ptty and Tucker, in fact, I'd go even further and say not to mix kibble and raw, especially if your pups already have some tummy issues. Carbohydrates, like the potato or sweet potato in kibbles combined with the fact that the dry kibble has to rehydrate in the stomach for the body to process it, mean that kibble stays in the system a while. Typically, kibble is digested in about 6 - 12 hours and raw is digested in 4 - 6. The bacteria in raw doesn't cause a problem, in large part because the body does process it so quickly, but imagine you've got fresh chicken juice, soaking into the kibble still in your out's belly from breakfast? There is a potential disaster there. Some dog's can handle it, but others can get really ill. We wouldn't risk it. If you wanted the convenience of a mixed diet, then maybe Honest Kitchen mix in the AM and raw patties at night.

    The first few weeks of feeding raw were a hassle but now we are in a routine. Those patties are really handy for grab & go feeding too. You might be surprised how easy, but I'm finding more and Moore that the fresh meat route of using chicken thighs, whole fish, and other "real meats" is just as easy - and a lot more cost effective!

    As my confidence has increased, we now feed patties some days, other pre made raw some days, honest kitchen some days and fresh "Franken-prey" on others. To me, that is the best thing about raw, it's designed to be always changing which means pick picky Felix never gets bored.

    We love feeding raw and we can't believe we spent so many years struggling with kibble and Felix's allergies. Best choice we ever made!

  8. As to what Kolchak's mom said, yes, the beauty of raw is not that there is no wrong way to do it (there are, and the biggest mistake people often make is to jump in without doing proper research, and then blaming the diet when issues arise rather than their own lack of preparation) but that there are SO MANY RIGHT ways!

    With two small dogs premade commercial raw is well within my budget, but I still prefer to "do it myself" most of the time. Exceptions are when I travel (when I rely on things like Stella & Chewy's, Honest Kitchen, or Grandma Lucy's) or when I have a petsitter come (when I will usually use the frozen patties or chubs from Primal or Bravo, etc.)

    I love the flexibility of raw, and I've never felt better about what I was feeding.

  9. To your question about chicken sensitivities in chicken and switching to raw: While Skye might still have issues with chicken (was it itchiness, skin issues, or stomach issues?), generally dogs that are allergic to or have a hard time processing a cooked protein will have no problem with the same protein served raw. This isn't always true, but more often than not.

    You could choose to start with a different protein if you want to avoid chicken, but make is something with plenty of edible bone, like duck, turkey, or rabbit (though all three will be harder to find and more expensive than chicken). Rabbit is a great choice if you can find it at an affordable price, since it is lean red meat with decent amounts of edible bone (which is super important in the beginning to manage stools, that is what bone is good for).

    I forgot to mention in my novel above that when buying any meat from a supermarket, make sure it doesn't have added sodium (turkey and pork almost always are enhanced with sodium), which can cause some serious itchiness. In the US, if the label doesn't say anything is added, nothing is added.

  10. Hi Y'all,

    I'll be watching with interest. My Human has toyed with the idea of tryin' me on raw but the logistics of moving back and forth between locations and the gettin' a balanced diet since a bite of just about anything but salmon and potato breaks me out in a rash.

    Y'all come back now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  11. You know I wouldn't be surprised if your dogs turned their noses up to kibble altogether -- even if you did 50/50 (one kibble meal AM and one raw meal PM). I've heard that is sometimes the case. has some great, well-researched info on both homemade raw and on prepared raw.

  12. Switching to an all raw diet was never an option for us. Just too much work and storage and whatnot. Not to mention finding a way to feed them separately and not have raw cooties everywhere.

    I started giving them 1/4 of their diet in Primal Raw burgers. Yes, I mix raw with kibble half an half in the AM. Whatever. I noticed a big difference in coat condition and poops in both dogs. However, I need to be careful which Primal formulation I choose. Mango has a very sensitive belly and some of the meat, like lamb, is just too rich for him.

    They also get a big helping of green beans with their breakfast (or sometimes baby food vegies from a jar). I never had much luck with yogurt. Makes them kind of loose in the poop.

    Good luck!

    Mango Momma

  13. Hi all :)

    I've been on the raw diet (stuff from the butcher and grocery store) for almost two years now. Healthy as a horse I am :) You can find info on it and a link to a book that was very helpful to my pawrents on a tab at the top of my blog. Note: I don't get turkey any more (Mom thought I acquired a slight allergy to that so it's been cut out of my diet for quite a while now) I do get chicken necks again. I've gotten good at crunching them in lieu of swallowing them. This was actually what I started on as they transitioned me over from Origen kibble (kibble in AM then a couple chicken necks in PM with veggie glop). In my pawrents' reading, they found that mixing a non raw diet with a raw diet for longer than the switch over period could be detrimental as raw foods and cooked foods have different digestion periods and the cooked foods can cause the raw to stay in the system too long. That's just what they've read. I'd research this more yourself if you're considering doing both and draw your own conclusions.

    For breakfast, Mom now makes a couple week's batch of 'breakfast burgers' for me. About 1 cup of veggie glop mixed with 1 1/2 pounds of 80% hamburger. She breaks them into 14 paddies separately wrapped in wax paper and stored in the freezer in a rubber maid type container. Pulls out one each night to thaw for the following morning's breakfast. Fast and easy raw breakfast! :D Dinner is the RMB's and fish.

    Honey The Great Dane (lives in Australia) has been on a raw diet for years as well. You can check out her take on it over at her blog...
    http://bighoneydog(dot)com/ 5th tab to right at top of her site.

    Hope this helps :)

    Waggin at ya,

  14. We have been experimenting with Honest Kitchen (feeding occasionally like canned) and just yesterday made the decision to switch completely. I love it because I don't have to remember to defrost anything. With 3 big dogs, going to a commercially prepared frozen raw diet was out of the question financially but Honest Kitchen makes it more affordable - some of their formulas are pricey but I do the turkey & oats one - all in all, we'll be spending about $20 more per month on HK than their kibble.

    I know Hurley is not going to transition well (we are doing just a few days of mixed kibble & HK) but sometimes you just have to grin & bear it, right? I'm hoping some pumpkin mixed in will help with the transition too. Sadie & Maggie have done well with the occasional feeding so I have high hopes that their transition will be easy peasy.

    In making your decision regarding how to transition, canned food digests at a faster rate than kibble as well and can be compared to raw in that regard. If you have been giving them a combo of canned & kibble and they do fine, it stands to reason that using the same method of mixing when transitioning to raw will help the transition go well. What works for some dogs digestion-wise is not at all what works for others. I know that Hurley would do worse with a sudden transition, which is why we are doing the kibble mixture for a few days. Maggie, on the other hand, rarely has an issue with any transition, sudden or not. Use your best judgment, along with considering the research and advice, when deciding how to transition. You know your own dogs best!

  15. We aren't raw feeders but have heard its great. Cant wait for more updates!

    Stop on by for a visit

  16. Hi,

    I've been feeding Bruno (he is almost 2) raw for about 3 months now. Totally LOVES it.
    I switched cold turkey, and had no problem. I did a lot of research before and one of the most extensive reading I found is here:
    It's really funny since he's on a raw diet, he get so excited about eating! He looks at me like" Mommy, you finally giving me FOOD"
    What I do is give him bones in the morning (chicken leg, neck, leg quaters...etc) and in the evening he gets ground meat, organ meat and veggies (which I blend and keep frozen) and I supplement with vitamin e. I do the bones in the morning because this way he has the whole day to digest the bones. The first week, I mixed the ground meat and the bones and he woke up twice the middle of the night to puke some bone up...
    Good luck!!!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...