About a year ago my partner and I took the leap and adopted a dog, Olive. This was our first foray into dog parenting. I had big dreams for life with our new pup — I would play fetch with her in the yard, take her to the farmer’s market, and make all her food myself. Most of my dreams dissolved after the realities of house training and leash reactivity and Olive-doesn’t-like-fetch set in. But one goal that stuck is that Olive eats raw, home-prepared food.
Before we continue, two things: One, I am not a veterinarian. This is simply what has worked for us and our pup. Two, we are about to talk about poop. LOTS OF POOP. If you’re eating a tasty burrito, maybe set it down ’til we’re done.
When I started researching raw food, I found that information online was sparse and mostly from people’s personal experiences. Dog forums had helpful tips and our vet had recommendations (we were immensely lucky to find a vet who supports raw feeding), but mostly we were on our own.
Our first attempt was to buy all the recommended raw food ingredients and use a meat grinder to make ground patties. Here’s what I learned from this. Firstly, most dogs don’t require their food to be ground. Olive was INHALING the ground patties because she didn’t need to chew them. Secondly, grinding 30 lbs (14 kg) of raw meat each month was a royal pain in the ass. This didn’t last long.
Next we tried chunking up meat and mixing it with kibble. This also didn’t last long. Fun fact: dogs’ stomachs process kibble and raw meat at different rates, which can cause nausea and inconsistent poops. Olive was eating grass and butt-scooting regularly (a sign that her anal glands weren’t emptying properly). We tried shifting to meat in the morning and kibble at night. It helped, but her poops were still hard in the morning and liquid at night. Ugh! So the vet expressed her glands and we switched up her feeding again.
Our current system is to feed only raw meat, no kibble. We chunk up meat in roughly meal-sized portions, 8oz (0.2 kg) for each meal. And we supplement with organs, raw eggs, and raw meaty bones. This has been AWESOME. In the beginning her poops were still inconsistent. The solution: a probiotic. Since we’ve added a probiotic with dinner, things have been going regularly (yup, that’s a poop pun).
I wanted to share with you some of the raw-feeding knowledge we’ve accumulated from experience, our vet, and the internet. It’s by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it’s enough to help first-timers start their own raw food journey.
First, the staples of a raw food diet are meat, bones, and organs
It’s what a dog would eat if it were consuming an animal carcass, since that’s basically what dogs ate before domestication. In our house we aim for roughly 85% meat, 5-10% bone and 5-10% organs. In the beginning we transitioned new proteins slowly, over the course of a week. Anything beyond meat/bone/organs is extra. Some owners believe veggies are essential while others believe they’re unnecessary. We’ve tried including veggies; currently we exclude them because they’re fiddly to prepare. We add a raw egg every few days (we crack it directly into her food bowl, shell and all) to keep her coat shiny.
Adult dogs eat about 2% of their body weight per day.
For Olive this means 1 lb (0.4 kg) per day split between breakfast and dinner. For puppies and elderly dogs, percent of body weight will vary and is available online.
So how do we feed our dog bone?
I can hear people right now clicking their teeth about how dangerous it is to feed bones to dogs. Please listen! RAW bones are not dangerous for dogs. They’re pliable and dogs’ teeth are designed to crunch them up safely. COOKED bones are extremely dangerous. When bones cook, they become brittle and can break off in shards in a dog’s mouth and digestive system. We only feed raw bone.
We started Olive off with relatively soft bones, like chicken bones, and we always ensure the bone is surrounded by meat so she chews it properly. We never feed a bone with no meat on it. When feeding raw, bone content determines poop solidity, so we use that as a gauge for how much to feed. For Olive, she gets chicken for breakfast (with bones) and boneless meat for dinner. This creates firm, but not crumbly, poops. We also try to feed bones that are a size Olive might consume in the wild, such as chicken and rabbit bones, so she doesn’t chip her teeth on bones that are harder than she can handle. We do feed “raw meaty bones” (a specific raw-feeding term), which are large bones with chunks of meat and sinew still on them. They’re too large for her to eat the whole bone – usually beef ribs or pig feet — and they provide awesome dental cleaning and jaw exercise. It takes Olive about an hour to gnaw off all the meat and sinew, and then I throw away the bone.
It’s also important to note that we don’t feed Olive grains
Dogs have a difficult time processing grains like wheat and rice. We noticed an immediate, dramatic change in Olive’s poop when we eliminated grains. It had been “poop filler” and didn’t provide nutrition. When we stopped feeding grains, Olive’s poop volume cut in half. She went from two poops a day to one. As the person who picks up that poop every day, it’s been one of my favorite things about raw food.
Do any other homies feed raw? What are your tips? Or if you’re interested, what are your questions? Let’s discuss!