Monday, November 10, 2008

Dog Food (A Raw Food Diet)

I never thought I would be one of those people that made food for their pets. I secretly chuckled at a few that I knew did.

When we found our current Corgi, Monty, the breeder recommended making food, talked to us about it a lot, sent us home with plenty of literature on it, and a week supply for our new puppy. At that time, we also had a geriatric Corgi, Kirby, who suffered from shoulder pain which we hoped was arthritis, but it turned out to be bone cancer. She'd already had a bout with cancer three years prior. The breeder thought that Kirby might benefit from the food as well, since she had an arthritic German Shepard that saw some improvement on the food.

It recommended that you switch over a dog to this food without mixing, but there might be some detoxing where the dog has diarrhea and just doesn't look good for a couple of days. Since Kirby was already suffering, I decided to mix it with her hard food. Wouldn't you know, she ate all the homemade food off the dry food and spit the dry food back in the dish. I didn't notice anything off about her as a result, and she always enjoyed eating right up until the end, three months later.

Monty still eats the food, and loves it. He dances around in circles when I'm bringing the bowl over. He's lean and muscular for a Corgi, which is a commonly overweight breed.

Now, here's one of the best things about feeding this food. The dog's poops aren't as smelly and in about two days, they turn white and break up into a powder. I'm told it's because they aren't eating carbohydrates (a filler in most commercial foods) which their digestive systems aren't able to process properly. This may be why many dogs and cats develop diabetes. This food can be fed to cats, also. So, onto the food...

As far as special equipment, you'll need a couple of really big bowls, 20 or so freezer containers and a meat grinder. I have a 575 watt Maverick Meat Grinder which retails for about $100, but you may be able to pick one up on ebay cheaper.

Next you need some meaty chicken bones. You can use chicken wings (expensive), chicken bones from the butcher (cheap but troublesome since you'll have to cut them up to fit in the grinder), or chicken necks. I use the necks; they're only 59 cents a pound and they easily fit in the grinder. I buy 20 or 25 pounds at a time. That makes enough food for our 26 pound Corgi for a month.

You grind those necks up raw, bones and all. You may be thinking, "BONES?! You're not supposed to feed an animal chicken bones!" If they're cooked, you're not, because they splinter. Raw bones are fine. If a fox or coyote kills a chicken, what do you think it's eating? Some call this a raw food diet; others call it BARF (bones and raw food). There's a lot of information on the internet about this, but don't get confused by all the different way of doing this. It's like parenting; there are a lot of different ways to do it and you've got to figure out what works best for you.

Once you're done grinding the meat, you'll need to grind a little bit of vegetable (I'll talk about quantities in a minute): carrots, parsnips, celery, sweet potato, broccoli, squash, ginger, garlic or green beans. Veggies grown above ground are stool softening and below ground are stool hardening, which you may want to consider. They don't need to be beautiful vegetables. I've used overgrown green beans from the garden, limp carrots and trimmings from broccoli stalks. This is clean out the crisper time, but avoid bell peppers and onions which make some dogs ill.

Then you should add kelp granules, alfalfa powder, cod liver oil and vitamin C powder. If you have an ill, ailing, injured, pregnant or nursing dog, there are other herbs you can add. I add Sportszyme (promotes faster healing if he gets injured), and Acidophlus (aids digestion). I get all these at Thomas Veterinary Drugs. I won't bore you with item numbers, but if you want them, just ask.

Finally, add some chicken broth, mix it all up, put it in containers and freeze. If you forget to take some out of the the freezer in time, don't microwave it. You don't want the bones to start to cook. Just put the container in a pot of warm water for about 45 minutes, and you can get enough from the edges for a meal.

How much to feed can be a bit of a trick to start. The rule of thumb is 3-5% of body weight depending on activity level to maintain weight. My 26 pound dog with moderate activity level gets 1 pound per pay, or 1 cup in the morning and 1 cup at night.

If you have a very large dog, or several dogs, you might think this would be too much work. It might be. It takes me about an hour to make a month supply for my dog. I figure my cost is between 30 and 50 cents per day for food. If you don't have freezer space, but have more time, you could make it in smaller batches.

At last, quantities:
4 cups of ground meat and bone
1 cup broth
4 T vegetables
4 t kelp and alfalfa
2 t cod liver oil
1,000 mg vitamin C

I have an Excel spreadsheet with quantities going from 4 cups of meat to 24 cups of meat, which I'll share if you want it.

An excellent book on this subject is Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats by Kymythy Schultze.


Kitt said...

Lucky dog! I know a number of people who sing the praises of a raw diet. My cousin's dogs are fed raw, but he can't be bothered to prep the food himself. He pays an arm an a leg for the stuff.

Sophie has always been a free-feeder with kibble (Nutro Naturals) to which I started adding eggs scrambled in milk a few years ago. It takes her about a day to finish off a bowl. I've tried adding in ground meat, but that just makes her sick. I figure it's best not to mess with what has worked well for her this long, but I may consider raw food for my next dog.

She sure is strange! said...

I've been contemplating a BARF diet for my dogs(not sure about the cats yet) for a while. You wouldn't believe how sick I am of stinky dog sh*t!! We have 2 over 75lbs, 1 over 40, and 1 about 20lbs. I imagine the cost would be prohibitive(probably around $170 for our dogs), but maybe I need to research it. Can they eat meat besides chicken? I'm wondering about the local game processing place, if they've got leftovers.


StephanieInCA said...

Great advice—I will definitely try some of this with my Westie, Mr. Henry.

One note of caution, though. Some foods that are perfectly safe for humans (like rasins and onions) are toxic to dogs. Read more here: Five Surprising Foods that are Poisonous to Dogs

Aunt Becky said...

That dog eats far better than I do.

Ginny said...

This intrigues me, although I am scared of the chicken bones. I know, I know... but I know someone who fed their pet raw chicken and a bone perforated its stomach and the bile was leaking into its body, etc. Animal died, necropsy done, that's how they found out.

Anyhoo, I am curious of your opinion of garlic. I saw StephanieInCA's link about poisonous foods. We have been feeding our dogs garlic for almost 3 years now (about 1/2 clove per day) w/out problems. However, the benefits are immense. We used to buy frontline religiously but we still had fleas and ticks riding on the dogs into the house. But since we switched to garlic, we have not seen anything - NOTHING. I have suggested this to others who have lamented on the price of flea meds with the problem of fleas still getting on the animals, but am wondering if maybe it is something I should do myself but not suggest to people? I don't want to be responsible for harming someone's pet.

Betts said...

Ginny, I have heard both the benefits and dangers of garlic, and I don't know what to believe. I haven't fed my dog garlic because of my doubts. It sounds like the small amount you're feeding your dog is working well. As for the bones issue, since my food is ground, the bone bits are very small and should never be a problem. Some feed their dogs whole chicken parts (wings, necks or legs). I have done this on occasion without incident, but I can see how it might be a problem when the dog is responsible for grinding the bones him/herself.

Thanks for reading. - Betts

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