Raw feeding FAQ
Someone pointed out to me that I never posted this here... so I figured I might as well! This is old (almost 3 years old), but most of the info is still applicable.
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).
**update 8/06- I have now been raw feeding almost 5 years***
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
ARCHX Bowie's Semper Fidelis v DRU, VC CDX ASCA-CDX CDX-H RE RL1X RL2X RL3 ATT WAC TT CGC FFX-OG
Beja's Bombs Away v Bowie, CD ASCA-CD CD-H BN RN NA RL1 WAC ATT YTT PTT CGC
Bowie's Here Comes the Boom!