Raw feeding

Raw Feeding (Jerren: march 18, 2009)
Just curious if anyone here feeds RAW? I'm thinking of making the switch from Royal Canin dry kibble to a raw diet. Anybody Feed raw here?

(Gina: march 18, 2009)
Heidi mentioned she feeds raw. But I don't know details. I've considered it though.

(Mary: july 3, 2009)
I've been feeding Monkey raw food for a couple years now in an effort to take off weight. Although we don't feed him exclusively raw food - we give him TOO MANY table scraps and treats! - his main meal of the day consists of two patties of the raw, frozen food that we buy at Canine Center. I've noticed the difference in his stools which are consistently very compact and dry (probably a good thing!). He hasn't lost any weight, and a lady told me that two of the frozen patties is TOO MUCH. But really, one frozen patty looks like it would put him on a starvation diet. I feel good about feeding him the raw food and have thought frequently about switching Scooter over to raw. It's awfully expensive, though, so having two dogs eating the raw food would be prohibitive.

(Jerren: july 31, 2009)
Hey Mary, i missed your response before but thanks for responding. I ended up switching Sasha over to raw shortly after making this thread. And its been going great. As far as expense, its really not that bad as long as you buy in bulk. I wouldn't just go to Dierberg's and try to feed my dog. We get our meat from pete's in U city and Saveway in North city.

(Gerry: november 16, 2009)
I began feeding Abby a strong veggie menu combined with some chicken or turkey or liver and then just under 1/3 of a cup of her kibble food. I keep the kibble food, though in very small amounts, as it is my understanding that dogs simply need some crude fat for their coats, etc. I add some rice or oatmeal for bulk.

The veggies that I provide for her are steamed slightly for better digestion and consists of broccoli, peas, green beans, carrots, carrots and carrots. She loves them and the carrots are her treats now.

I prepare enough for two meals/day and only about three days, as I don't want the food to go bad.

I don't really know what I am doing other than feeding her as I would myself (except I don't eat kibbles). I want her to be healthy. Abby has a lost to a good healthy weight. Some of this is the additional exercise that she is getting, but I have no doubt that she has been able to lose weight while off of the fattier food she was consuming.

I have a neighbor that feed their five dogs (most mixed shepards) frozen mixed vegetables mixed with a bit of kibble food. They are healthy and lean. I am often thought of as being an over achiever, but it is nothing for me to chop up veggies for Abby for a healthier dog.

If any of you have ideas about this, I would welcome them.

(Amy: april 8, 2010)
One thing I do like about raw with raw bone or bone meal is that they are literally pooping powder. The sun turns it into a white dust that is spread by the lawn mower. I haven't picked up poop in a long time (mostly because I have neglected it, but the yard is virtually poo free because of the quick breakdown).

(Jerren: december 3, 2010)
I had a discussion with Mary the other day about raw feeding and she suggested that I make a post about it. I thought I had done this already but I'm unable to find it now so here it is.

I'll start with the benefits
A raw diet provides a range of benefits that commercial dog diets can never hope to even closely match.
These benefits include:
01. no doggy odor
02. naturally cleans teeth - no need for toothbrushes, de-scaling jobs, or gum disease
03. the time it takes for a dog to chew a raw meaty bones give their stomach adequate time to get the acids moving
04. much less stools produced - and they are firm, and turn chalky after a couple of days
05. decreased or non-existant vet bills (your dogs are healthier!)
06. less cost for dog food - Premium commercial dog foods are ludicriously expensive
07. mirrors what a dog would be getting in the wild - and certainly even the modern day dog has a digestive tract exactly the same as a wolf
08. puppies develop at a more appropriate rate - and quick growth spurts are avoided. You will want to stop fast growth in any pup.
09. the ripping and chewing involved in eating raw meaty bones develops the jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles of the dog. Commercial dog foods will never assist in this important muscle development.
10. dogs who were previously un-energetic, and sluggish become completely new dogs once the raw diet feeding begins
11. allergies dogs previously had on commercial foods, disappear once they start with the raw diet
12. arthritis has significantly reduced or disappeared in some dogs switched to raw
13. better weight control
14. dogs are living longer on a raw diet than what dogs previously had survived on commercial dog foods
15. better weight and survival figures in puppies
And the list goes on and on.

It costs me about $60 a month ($2 per day) to feed Sasha a raw diet. I think that's comparable to feeding a premium kibble. If that cost is not out of the question, then here's more info.

The "how much to feed?" calculation is based on 2-3% of the dog's ideal adult weight. (Puppies and adults eat the same amount of food.)

A breed-standard German Shepherd Dog (GSD) would eat about 2 pounds of food a day. I say "about" because every dog has a different level of activity and metabolism. But if you figured two 1-pound meals per day, that would get you in the right ballpark. Then it's up to you to adjust the meal sizes by just looking at your dog. If he needs to put on weight, feed more. If he's looking tubby, feed less.

To do this properly, get yourself a cheap kitchen scale so that you can weigh each meal---at least for a while, until you are better able to eyeball the meal size. After a year and a half of feeding raw, I still weigh every meal to the ounce. That way I can increase or decrease meals by very small amounts over time. You can do this without a scale, but meal size is important. Over-feeding is the primary cause of diarrhea in raw feeding. And large breeds with predisposition to bone/joint issues need to be kept lean throughout life.

Next, "what to feed?"
Picture in your mind that you are trying to replicate what a wild canid would eat--that is, they whole carcass of small prey. Wolves eat birds, rodents, lambs, fawns, rabbits---and they eat all of it, meat, bones, organs. If they ever do catch larger prey, they eat as much of it as they can, leaving only the largest bones (skull, weight-bearing leg bones) which are inedible.

That's what you're trying to duplicate with grocery store items---you're basically re-creating a whole animal from various parts. it's "Franken-prey."

That's why raw feeders have devised 3 broad categories of food in a raw diet. First, Raw Meaty Bones (RMB) are edible bones with meat on them. Edible is the key here. The soft bones in chicken, turkey, rabbit--small animals---those are edible by a dog. A cow leg bone is not edible. That's a toy. (and a tooth-breaking risk, IMO) "Edible" is also determined by the size of the dog. A grown GSD will have no trouble eating pork neck bones or a turkey leg. But a pup or a small dog could not eat those.

Second, Muscle Meat (MM)--which is any meat with no bones. For our purposes, the muscular organs (heart and gizzard) are also considered muscle meat.

Third, Organ Meat (OM)--Liver, kidney, spleen, brain, pancreas--any of the secreting organs. These are fed in relatively small amounts (again, think of the ratio of liver to the rest of the entire animal in, say, a whole live rabbit.) A 25-pound turkey only has about 3 ounces of liver.

Of these three types of food, about half should be RMB, a little less than half should be MM. And a small fraction should be OM.

So now that you know the basics of what you're after, the challenge is finding cheap raw-feeding items. Cheap is one of my criteria--I try to feed for about $1 per pound on average, sometimes a little more. But your dog doesn't care what it costs. There's nothing nutritionally different about cheap meat versus expensive meat. You can feed your dog beef tenderloin or beef heart--he won't care. But if you're looking for cheap, here's the kind of stuff you'll find in the St. Louis marketplace:

Chicken leg quarters--(chicken leg and thigh. These are among the cheapest parts of chickens, and are often sold in 10-pound bags. On special, you can find these for 60-cents a pound. Always under a dollar a pound. Chicken leg quarters are the staple item in the diet of most raw-fed dogs. They are cheap, abundant, and have a good ratio of meat to bone (meaning you get a lot for your money.)

You can also find chicken backs and chicken necks--also very cheap. As you can imagine, these parts have more bone, so you'll have to make up the lack of meat in the meal with meat from some other source. (remember that Franken-prey model in your mind and the approximate amount of bone, flesh and organ in a whole beast.)

You can even buy whole chickens--sometimes these are a good deal if they are on sale. Whole chickens at Sam's club are, like 75 cents a pound.

(Chicken breasts and wings are the most expensive pieces, so I don't buy those for the dogs separately, but they get them if I feed whole chickens.)

Chicken gizzards are sold in huge "family packs" at Petes and Saveway and are a good cheap source of muscle meat.

Turkey and duck necks are cheap bone sources.

Pork neck bones (good for a big dog.)

Pork butt and Pork "callie" or "picnic" are cheap cuts of pork that you can use for muscle meat.

Pete's also sometimes has cheap ground beef (like, 1.69 a pound), and they usually have a decent selection of chicken liver, pork or beef liver, and other variety meats.

So, putting together meals. Here's my method: When shopping, you'll want to buy about half RMB, about half MM, and for every 10 pounds of the above, a pound of OM.

How much you buy will depend on your freezer space. With one dog, you can do this adequately with the basic freezer in your fridge, but it'll be tight. If you have a separate freezer dedicated for dog food, you'll be better able to buy in bulk and stock up. Freezers are cheap or free on Craigslist. I have a deep freezer dedicated to the dog food.

So...say you make a trip to Pete's. Here's what you might pick up:

10 pounds of chicken leg quarters
3 pounds of duck necks
2 pounds of turkey wings
5 pounds of pork neck bones

That's 20 pounds of RMB.

so you'll need about 15-16 pounds of MM to go with it. Perhaps,
5 pounds of ground beef
5 pounds of chicken gizzards
5 pounds of pork butt

Then pick up 3 pounds of liver.

You've now got 38 pounds of food. About $40 worth, and enough to last for 16 days.

Take it all home, and portion it out for meals--either do it all when you get it home, or meal-by-meal. You'll figure out the best method that works for you. I make up individual meals in zip-lok bags, making enough meals to last for a couple of weeks. Then, each day, I just grab a zip-lok bag from the freezer, thaw on the counter, and plop in the bowl. All the weighing and portioning already done.

That's the basics.

Raw feeding can be as simple as that. It should be no more complicated to feed a dog as it is to feed yourself. The same basic principles apply: Eat a variety of minimally processed, species appropriate foods, and don't eat too much. There are very few hard and fast rules. The key things to follow:

Feed appropriate meal sizes; monitor this by watching the dog's weight and physique.

Feed an appropriate ratio of bone to meat; monitor this by watching the dog's poop. If the poop is too hard (dog is constipated) then there is too much bone in the diet. Adjust accordingly.

Feed as much variety as you can find and afford. A dog cannot thrive on chicken alone. Rotate at least 4-5 different protein sources in the diet to ensure that the dog is getting a broad array of nutrients. Few people can afford to feed exotic meats to their dog all the time (rabbit, bison, goat, etc.) But splurge every once in a while--Remember the $1 a pound average. If you can feed cheap chicken for several meals, then you can afford to splurge on something else and it will all average out.

The biggest commitment this way of feeding requires is time. It's not easy to find foods, store them, portion them, etc. Kibble exists because it's easy! But once you get the hang of raw feeding, everyone develops their own system to make it easier.

And finally dogs of any size can be fed a raw diet ;)

(Pam B: december 3, 2010)
I had never even heard of feeding dogs in such a manner. How interesting...thanks for giving us all of that information. I would be kind of nervous about the bones...it seems that I frequently heard to definitely not give chicken bones to a dog because they could splinter and tear along the digestive tract.
Thanks again for sharing.

(Jerren: december 7, 2010)
Actually becoming quite common. I think the first concern most people have are the bones. The thing about giving a dog chicken bones is one of the misconceptions I was hoping to help clear up with this post. Sasha eats chicken bones almost everyday. As I stated earlier, it is one of the main staples in the raw diet.

I'm sure you've heard stories of the farmer having to chase the wolves away from his chicken coup. Well I'm quite sure those wolves weren't eating around those bones lol. A canines body is designed by nature to be able to digest food in this way. They eat rabbits, rodents, birds, deer, and whatever else they can catch in the wild and they eat it all (minus the bones that are too big for them to eat.)

Consider this, have you ever seen a pack of wolves grazing through a wheat field or a corn field? Of course not. They don't eat it because their bodies don't require it. So nature didn't intend for them to eat this stuff, why should we feed it to them?

When you hear "don't give your dog chicken bones" that is referring to "Cooked" chicken bones. In this diet, the meat is never cooked. I'm no scientist but when we cook chicken the Molecular structure changes. The heat makes the bones more brittle and this is what causes them to splinter and be dangerous for our animals.

This doesn't happen in raw feeding. I've been feeding Sasha a RAW diet for almost 2 years now and have not had a problem at all. She hasn't been sick. She doesn't have allergies. She doesn't smell bad nor does she have gas. She doesn't have achy joints. We get nothing but gushing praise about her health when we visit the Vet. We'll never be affected by any pet food recalls. I don't have to worry about if her food has rat poison in it or any other foreign chemicals with long names I can't pronounce. I really do believe this is the best way to feed our animals. I think they deserve it.

(Jerren: december 7, 2010)
Jerren, I have a great deal of interest in raw feeding as Abby has a liver problem that does not allow her to eat processed (kibble) food. At this time, I prepare her food and her liver numbers are perfect, however it is a great deal of work. I cook all of her food.....yes, the 10lb of carrots, and the brocolli, and the 10lb of ground turkey. I add a full can of the large oatmeal and a rice cooker pan full of rice. I'm assuming that could be about 2 lb. Alot of guess work, but it does work. Your way if I am reading this correctly is not cooked at all (literally) raw. How do you mix the various types of meats (MM, etc)? I feel that I am missing something here. I have never heard of the stores you are referring to, so could you please tell me where they are? Schnucks and Dierbergs do not price the way you mentioned. I do have concerns about the quality of the meat that I purchase, so I do buy the better grade. I only use chicken and/or turkey ground meet.

Yes, the food is not cooked at all. As far as the quality of meat, I've not had any concerns about that. Sasha certainly doesn't care. Feeding time is the happiest time of her day. You'll have to try it to see what I mean. But the excitement over meal time does not die down. It hasn't in the year and a half that I've been doing it. I don't know how a person could go back to kibble after feeding raw.

Also something I didn't mention before. If you have a food processor, you can grind the meat down to mush for your dog if you are concerned about her actually crunching on bones and what not. However, in my humble opinion, I think it takes the fun out of it. :)

My primary stores include:

- Pete's Shur Sav---there are two locations in University City, I shop at the one at 7434 Olive at Hanley. They always have a good selection of chicken and turkey parts, as well as duck necks and some pork--organs, pork necks, etc. Check their weekly sales--they often have specials on chicken leg quarters.

- One block west of Pete's on Olive (7700 block, north side of the street) is a small Asian fish market where I buy fresh and frozen fish--mostly sardines and mackerel.

- Continuing west on Olive (8000 block) is a "Farmers Market" that's actually another larger Asian grocery. This place usually has a decent selection of pig parts--heart, tongue, etc.

- Sam's Club is a good resource for whole chickens and ground beef--both can be bought by the case for a special "case price"

- Shop-N-Save is a place that I check for sales---in the past they have had promotional chicken quarters in 10-lb bags for under $5...so when they do I stock up.

-Sav-a-lot is a great place as well. They too often have promotional chicken 1/4's in 10 lb bags for $5.

Save way- Thats on Grand and Broadway. They always have awesome deals on everything and have a large variety. Its kind of in a rough part of town though lol. But if you ever want to take advantage of their good deals, call me and I can go there with you as it can be a bit confusing when you first go. http://www.savewayfood.com/thisweek.pdf

I also buy whole turkeys whenever I find them on sale at any grocery store. Nobody wants them except at thanksgiving, so if you find any, they are usually cheap.

I also sometimes buy ground green tripe from aplaceforpaws.com

There's no real trick to raw feeding---at least not in St. Louis. There are no buying co-ops or special places that cater to us raw feeders. The best you can do is to watch for sales on meat, always be on the lookout in any grocery store you go into for reduced-priced meat, and venture into some stores you might not otherwise shop in to see what they have. "Regular" mainstream grocery stores like Schnucks and Dierbergs are not very good resources for cheap meat. Except the occasional pork steaks when they are on sale.

I hope some of this helps. Let me know if I can help further.

(Susan S: december 8, 2010)
Jerren, How do you package your food? Do you just cut it up and combine at all together based on your ratio? Do you sometimes just give her an entire chicken for a meal? Do you ever add any vegetable or fruit to Sash's diet? Finally, as a comparison to what it would cost to feed Tucker, what is Sasha's ideal weight? Thanks for the information.

(Jerren: december 9, 2010)
When I come home from shopping I weigh and separate everything in 1 gallon freezer bags (the cheapest I can find.) Again, I have a deep freezer dedicated to this. When I go shopping I normally come home with close to 100 lbs of food for her.

Its funny that you ask about the whole chicken. Just a couple of days ago, i gave her a whole stewing hen ( i think thats what they are called) and shot a video of it with my phone. I'll post it up later. I got it from Pete's on Olive and they were $.99 per lb.

I normally don't add any vegetables or fruit to her meals. She probably wouldn't eat it anyway. lol. There have been occasions where i tossed in some peas and carrots. She normally eats around them. Again, a wild canine probably wouldn't graze fields for broccoli, cabbage, and turnips. So they really aren't necessary here. I do know a lot of people do choose to include veggies in their raw diets. That is up to you.

Sasha's Ideal weight is probably about 65lbs according to my vet. He is the vet for the st. Louis county k9's and he always gives complements on Sasha's build. So for me to feed her, its about $2 per day.

(Angie: december 12, 2010)

Thanks for all the info. I do feed about 1/3 raw (I give him chicken, eggs, lamb, steak, turkey, etc.)
I'm a huge fan.
But, one thing concerns me about all that you posted.
Are you not worried about the "toxins" that are in this raw food that you are buying from the conventional grocery store? As in "toxins", I mean antibiotics, growth hormones, etc. in this meat, that you are you are buying. When your dog is eating it, it is digesting these toxins. When these conventional meats are given to children, they develop faster and enter puberty faster. Here's some articles to read what I am talking about: http://www.foodincmovie.com/about-the-issues.php

I have a local nutrition store up the street from me here in St. Charles, where I try to buy most if not all of his food, where the meat is free-range, no antibiotics, no hormones, etc.

Here's a great book, I suggest for anyone wanting to switch to all raw. http://www.mercola.com/forms/see_spot_live_longer.htm

(Jerren: december 12, 2010)
I suppose it is up to the owner who is feeding this diet to decide if they want to try to find organic meats etc. Perhaps if there wasn't such a big difference in cost, I would feed Organic meats from happy, naturally raised animals. But again that would kind of negate the cost/lb savings as I described originally.

I hate to put it this way but I'd rather take my chances with USDA approved meats over the rat poison and other junk they put in off the shelf kibble.

Here is some info on some of the myths concerning Raw Feeding: http://www.rawfed.com/myths/

As with anything, I suggest you do your own research and weight the pros and cons. Raw feeding may not be right for everyone. I believe it is for me and Sasha though.