Sunday, September 12, 2010

Feeding raw food: Dogs are what they eat

Nelson is fully powered by raw. He really loves bison, beef and chicken – all served up pink and bloody. Many “dog people” are really familiar with the raw diet, but for some pet people, this is a totally new concept.

Deciding what to feed your pet is a lot like deciding what to feed yourself - you can live on cheeseburgers and fries, pre-packaged frozen foods, vitamin enriched home-made granola, something in-between or combinations. For all of these options, you are making choices between nutrition, convenience and cost. And - you feel different depending on the diet you choose – so does your dog!

Why people choose raw

Packaged pet food came out in the mid 1900’s to get rid of food processing plant by-products. Since then, pet food manufacturers have done a great job telling you you can’t feed your dog “people food”. Other than a few food items that are toxic to dogs, there’s no difference between healthy people food and healthy dog food, other than some commercial dogs foods are made with sub-standard ingredients and additives of questionable health value put together in non-human grade processing plants.

You may have heard about a BARF diet. That phrase, coined by veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst, stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, or Bones And Raw Food.
With a raw diet, your dog eats natural, human-grade foods with zero additives, preservatives, and unhealthy fillers. With raw, dogs are typically very enthusiastic about meal-time. You should notice improved overall health and vitality, better stools (less of them, and they’re not stinky), a shiny coat, and healthy white teeth. After switching to raw, many dogs with chronic skin rashes, hot spots and ear infections, see noticeable improvements.

However, not all veterinarians agree that the raw diet is healthy or safe. Some love it, some hate it – so depending on your vet, you’ll get different recommendations. Some people worry about getting sick from handling raw food – the key there is to handle your dog’s food in the same way that you handle raw meat you prepare for yourself.

Choices include ingredients, grain or grain-free, and fresh or processed

  • Ingredients

A typical raw food diet includes muscle meat or fish (chicken, beef, turkey, bison, etc. - the same stuff you eat), organ meat (liver, kidney, heart, gizzards, and such), bones, eggs, and fruit and vegetables (or green tripe). Their diet may also include supplements such as plain yogurt and/or digestive enzymes, and various oils like fish or canola. The key to a raw diet is that to retain all of its health benefits, meat and bones are not cooked or processed. Vegetables are only slightly cooked.

  • Grain-free diet

Purist BARFers don’t feed grains – anything made with corn, wheat, rice, etc. Many believe that our cute little biological wolves can’t process grains, believing they're the cause of so many of our dogs' serious modern-day health issues.

  • Fresh or processed

Regardless of if you choose raw and/or grain-free, you can also either buy pre-mixed foods or make your own. For convenience sake, you can purchase pre-formed raw patties or bulk meat blocks already mixed with fruits and vegetables. Conversely, you can assemble your own ingredients. By buying inexpensive human-grade chicken necks and backs and beef liver from your grocery store, asking for dog bones at your local butcher shop, and serving left-over and over-ripe fruits and vegetables, you can create a raw buffet your dog will love. Remember that your dog is an omnivore, not a carnivore, so it’s important to feed more than meat - fruits and veggies too.

If you want to improve the quality of your dog’s diet and you’re a bit squeamish about the whole raw thing, pop these natural ingredients into a slow cooker (except the bones – never serve cooked bones) and voila – holistic canine stew – freeze it in individual packages and Fido is set for the week.

This yummy doggie supper includes a raw beef patty, an egg including shell, and fruit and vegetable mush of bananas, mixed berries, brussel sprouts and broccoli, with two salmon oil capsules.

Tips to go raw:

  • The easiest way to start is buy quick-and-easy pre-packaged raw in either patties or bulk. Three very knowledgeable and very reputable local pet food retailers that sell pre-packaged raw pet foods are: Fido and Felix Foods, Metro Pet Market and Pawsitively Purrfect.
  • Provide a variety of meat sources. Buy chicken necks and backs, and serve them to your dog whole. Check what’s on sale at your supermarket, then buy it in bulk. Know of any friends who hunt? – offer to take their left-over parts.
  • Serve in-season fruits and vegetables. For example, in the spring provide steamed spinach with over-ripe bananas, and in the fall, zucchini with ripe tomatoes. Make it easy by saving your family’s left-over fruits and veges for Fido.
  • Serve organ meat such as beef liver or heart at least once per week. (My own dogs hate pork liver. They won't eat it.)
  • Ask your favourite butcher to cut up a beef knuckle bone into separate servings. Replace a couple of meals each week with bone (it’s not in addition to supper, it’s in place of supper).
  • Serve Fido your family’s left-overs, just make sure to exclude toxic foods like onions and grapes.
  • Toss a whole raw egg in every couple of days.
  • Add a dollop of plain, unsweetened yogurt and splash of canola oil to each meal.

The goal for your dog’s diet is to provide energy and increase their health and vitality. Do what works for your dog, and don’t stick to one approach if it’s obviously not working. If your dog shows any signs of not being well, talk with your vet – some issues can be diet related.

PS Hey Booberdog, hopefully this post helps Nelson not be jealous `,:3


  1. Right on there's my picture on the blog...see Booberdog Louise put my picture on the blog also :) We love our raw food, finally our mom saw the light...Booberdog actually did a back flip for her breakie this morning. Thanks for taking good care of us once again.

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