Good morning guys,
I promised Lucie that I would make a post about raw feeding as I've been giving my dogs raw for the last two months or so and I have noticed a difference in them.
First off I'll just say that I'm no professional, I'm not a vet nor do I claim to be specialised in dog nutrition. This information is purely based on what I have read and, more importantly, seen and experienced myself.
So what are the benefits of feeding raw? And what are the potential risks?
Some reported benefits are;
- A shiner coat
- Healthier teeth
- Smaller stools
- Higher, but more controlled energy levels
- Less smelly breath
- Lower vet bills due to better general health
Some reported risks;
- Threat to humans and dogs from bacteria from uncooked food
- Potential choking hazard with bones
- Potential breaking of teeth on bones
- Keeping a controlled balanced diet
From personal experience, from reading a very good book called "Give your dog a bone - Ian Billinghurst" and from common sense I have seen all of the benefits, and more. Plus non of the risks *touch wood*.
I know a lot of people, myself included, are/were worried about the potential health risks of feeding raw. Myths abound regarding dogs choking on chicken bones, getting sick with bacteria, namely salmonella, the pain of having to get it all sorted out, the costs involved. Hopefully I can clear some of this up for the people that are interested.
Firstly, the easiest one. Cost. I was feeding my two on Beta as it worked well for Bentley's coat, he used to get a lot of dry skin and have other issues likey itchy feet. I was paying around £36 per 15kg bag of dog food, which isn't the most expensive but not the cheapest either. If I was lucky they'd have an offer on of two bags for £50.
Based on the above amounts, that works out at either £2.40/kg or £1.66/kg when on offer.
Compare that to the raw food I give them. I buy TESCO value chicken portions, which are obviously made for human consumption so no "good enough for dogs" rubbish. They are 2kg bags of frozen chicken thighs and breasts, some drum sticks etc and for that 2kg bag it costs me £3.50. This works out at £1.75/kg. I mix in some cooked and minced vegetables and left overs from my plate, as long as it's healthy and not dangerous to the dogs (no chocolate, onions, raisins etc).
So to feed them on a raw diet, at the worst it is 10p/kg more expensive. At best it is 70p/kg CHEAPER than the dog food I was giving them.
There is no prep involved, other than opening a bag with a pair of scissors and dishing out the required amount. I will explain how much to give them in a minute. But that's all there is to it. I add a spoonfull of the vegetables or some tinned fish maybe, just for variety and to help give them a balanced diet.
It's easy to monitor too. If they are having loose stools, give them more bones. If they are struggling to go, give them more veg/fish/fruit etc. It's really that easy.
Bentley turned 3 in Oct 12 and Keira will be 2 in April this year. For those that have dogs around this age, or those that remember it they will know that, although they are beginning to calm down a LITTLE bit, they can still be pretty mental! I remember people on this forum talking about the "zoomies" where the GSP will suddenly just go a bit mental and tear about the place like a lunatic. Well as funny as that can be, it's also a little annoying after a while and probably not that healthy. I haven't seen any of that since I started feeding raw. Their energy levels are as high as before, but it's a more controlled, steady, constant energy. I suppose it's akin to feeding children lots of food with a lot of E numbers in it, they just go a bit hyper occasionally as opposed to giving them some nice porridge witch gives them a continual, sustained energy?
I have seen no flakey skin, no scratching (other than the basic scratch here and there, no incessant scratching) no licking at paws after walks or baths. Their fur coats are more shiney, and look a slightly darker shade than before too. Their eyes have a greater sparkle to them, which may sound strange but for those that know me and are friends with me on facebook you'll know that I'm quite into my photography. My pups faces and eyes are something I take pictues of quite often and I have noticed a marked difference.
One of the biggest differences, which I think everyone would approve of, is the size, frequency, consistency and smelliness of their stools. After the first week or two of them getting used to it, they now go to the toilet twice a day and the size is perhaps 3 or 4 little "pellets" the size of a squash ball or golf ball? That's it. They are normally firm and crumble if squeezed. If left in the garden for a few days due to me being too busy, they often just dissolve away to nothing. There is a less offensive smell to them too.
One thing to be aware of here. If you are changing from biscuits to raw feeding, you may find your dog being sick for the first week or two. By this I don't mean regurgitating food that has just been eaten, I mean food they had a few hours earlier. It's usually just a few bits of catilage or bone that their stomachs can't quite handle yet. This is because being on biscuits for a while, the pH of their stomach has dropped from 1 to closer to ours so they can't dissolve the bones as well. It doesn't last long before they are able to dissolve it all and you'll rarely see any sick. Just wanted to make you aware so that you don't worry about it. This is fairly common and goes away after a week or two.
Bentley was on dry biscuits for the first 3 years of his life so his teeth were just starting to get a little brown here and there and I was having to clean them which he didn't particularly enjoy. Chews and dentastix were "ok" but only went so far. Since being on raw his teeth are beginning to clean up nicely from scraping on the bones. Healthy teeth and healthy gums.
They also LOVE food time now. Whereas before it was nice to be fed, but never really that exciting unless they were really hungry or I was putting things on top to add to the taste.
Now to the potential hazards.
Bacteria. "Your dog’s saliva contains a different enzyme, known as lysozyme, which is important in killing any bacteria that may be present in whatever your dog chooses to eat. Humans, who generally cook their food before eating it, do not have this protective enzyme (www.doggies.com)."
It continues, "...Although both stomachs (human and canine) use acid to break down food, the dog’s stomach is much more acidic, carrying a pH of about 1, while a human stomach weighs in with a pH between 4 and 5. This is another protective enzyme that allows your dog to eat some really gross things and not get sick. His very acidic stomach kills most of the bacteria found in less-than-fresh roadkill and any other tasty tidbits he may find. The highly acidic environment is also more conducive to digesting bits of bone. (http://www.doggies.com/articles/134-your-dog-s-digestive-system.html#ixzz2IDoPNlnF)"
The above link explains a lot more than I need to post on here but as you can see, it's no more of a concern than worrying about your dog choking on a dog biscuit, or, heaven forbid, being hit by a truck if it got off leash etc. There are risks everywhere in life, some are greater than others. Bacteria aren't a high risk.
Onto choking on bones. Another myth about dogs choking on chicken bones is because some people decided that dogs should eat cooked meat like humans do. Well, cooking a bone makes it brittle and more liable to break and lodge in a dogs oesophagus. Raw food doesn't generally have this risk (see above disclaimer on risks). The dogs teeth break the bones in a relatively clean manner, more research on the web can explain this better.
Never, ever feed your dogs big weight bearing bones of large herbivore animals such as cows. They are far too dense for a dog to chew through and may end up breaking their teeth. By all means if you get one and there's plenty of meet on it let them chew on it to get the meat off it but once it has been picked clean, take it off them and bin it.
I have already touched on keeping a controlled balanced diet. I would HIGHLY suggest reading "Give your dog a bone" by Ian Billinghurst. You can get it from Amazon for less than £10 I believe.
Lastly, how much do I feed my dog? Well this is based upon how much your dog either weighs (fully grown) or is likely to weigh (puppy).
The recommended amount to feed your dog is 2-3% of your dog's desired body weight per day.
Bentley weighs 34kg so 3% of his body weight is ~1kg. He gets 500g per meal, one morning and one evening. Keira gets a little less as she only weighs 24kg.
Some foods you can give your dog;
- Whole Eggs
- Beef (any parts, except dense weight-bearing bones)
- Liver (any species)
- Kidney (any species)
- Green tripe
- Heart (any species)
- Spleen (any species)
- Sweetbreads (any species)
- Lung (any species)
- Whole rabbits (or parts)
- Chicken (whole or parts)
- Turkey (whole or parts)
- Pronghorn antelope
- Whole fish (avoid fresh salmon)
- Canned fish (use sparingly)
In conclusion, I would highly advocate feeding raw for anyone that may be interested in it. I am available to answer questions if you have any.
Also, please remember I am from the UK so I have based the costs of feeding on UK prices and stores. Depending where in the world you live, the costs may be higher or lower. I do know of people on here that feed raw so if they feel they want to add anything or correct me on anything then please do so. As stated at the top, I'm no vet or specialist.
Thank you for reading, if you got this far, and sorry it was so long!
Phil, Bentley and Keira.