Settler's Kitchen has been relocated to the "Dog Bowl." The Dog Bowl is a part of a canine nutrition website I have created where all nutrition information can be kept in one spot.
Ok, so I am not going to lie...I truly thought the DIY raw feeding was going to be challenging (or well, at least take more thought). Truth is, I like it a lot better than commercial raw (and foods are right at your fingertips in the grocery store!). It provides A LOT more variety and control of ingredients.
I think one of the most important things for people to remember is your dog needs animal protein (and well, kibbles have A LOT of fillers). People have to keep in mind how a dog's digestive tract is made up to better understand how they break this animal protein down as many people often question, "is raw meat good for my dog?"
Dogs have strong hydrochloric acid in their stomach which allows them to breakdown harmful bacteria and fully digests proteins, bones and fat. They can eat all sorts of things we would not be able to (and well, a raw burger really does not sound all that appetizing). Dogs break foods down in their stomachs for up to eight hours and send smaller amounts of digested foods through the small intestines quickly. It is their digestive tracts job to kills germs and stop them from multiplying.
A picture truly is worth a 1,000 words (but I will write a few more!). Stare at the two images above. Just for a second. Now, picture a McDonald's Coke, burger and fries next to an "ideal" human meal including quality, fresh foods. There is no way someone could tell me a processed meal from McDonald's is going to be better than a quality home-cooked meal. Now, that being said...the McDonald's meal probably wont KILL you....but the affect it has on the body...well....you decide. For anyone that has ever cleaned up their diet or done some "testing" to see how they feel eating quality foods and cutting processed foods out can probably attest to the amazing differences. Why not allow your dog the same benefits?
If you have inquired about diet at some point in your life I am sure you may have been advised to "shop the perimeter of the store." That is where the fresh fruits and veggies, meats, and fish are. Grains are cheap to add to dog food and have a longer shelf life. I guess it is sort of like a Twinkie.
I have been very hesitant to post any graphic images of dog's stool vs. raw stool. HOWEVER, I think this alone can influence someone to take a look at what they are putting into their dog's body, how often their dogs are going to the bathroom...and just the overall disgust and size of a kibble fed dog's stool.
Olson, Lew. Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2015. Print.
so you've been following along, looking at pictures, reading...but just when you think you are ready to begin you take a step back and realize you have no idea where to start!
well, the good news is...i really did not either. you read so much about all the "rules," balance, variety and so on...and it freaks you out. you start getting nervous. i get it, and it is okay. i am still learning too. i enjoy learning and try to expand my knowledge every day.
where to start:
start adding to your dog's kibble (it is that easy!)
- you can simply start by adding fresh whole foods such as different ground meats (cooked or not), eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, pulverized veggies, kidney, hearts, sweet potato etc.
- you can also purchase commercial raw and add that in as well if you think that is going to be easier (i personally fed primal, vital essentials, answers pet food)
- you can mix 50/50, but really it is up to you
- add some fish oil! EPA 180mg DHA 120mg
switch to commercial raw
- do away with your kibble entirely (YES!) and start with commercial raw. you will find that the "complete" diets (generally patties or nuggets) are the most expensive. they may range from $30/bag all the way to $60+. you'll want to vary your meats...so this certainly (in my opinion) is NOT the most cost effective way to do things but it may be convenient and easy and give you a great starting point
- you can also add fresh foods (like the ones listed above) to your "complete" diet...however it is not really necessary (look at the ingredients first)
- add your fish oil!
switch to commercial raw, save a little money and add your own supplementation
- look at purchasing raw in 5lb logs (they have smaller as well)
- the logs are not advertised as "complete" diets so you can add fresh whole foods (obviously not meat though) - you should read the ingredients so you know what is in them
- you should still add fish oil and perhaps supplements. i choose to get my supplements from a company called b-naturals. i add the immune blend.
do it yourself!
- when/if you're ready you can have so much fun with this!
- find a meat market (or order) and look for muscle meats, organ meats and raw meaty bones
- if you cook the meat, animal protein should make up 50-75% of the diet (you will need to add calcium to the diet in this case (900mg per pound of food given)
- if you are feeding raw, you can split up the organ meat/muscle meat for one meal and raw meaty bones for the other. that should give you the 40-50% of calcium the dog needs
- you can add some other whole foods (animal protein is what a dog needs though!)
- get some fish oil/supplements
the general rule is 2-3% of a dog's body weight...depending. if your dog is underweight obviously you may need more. if your dog needs to loose weight switching to raw alone may help because the quality is so much better...but you need to remember to take it slow and not just cut their food in half. perhaps cutting back by 10% per week may be a good place to start.
if you need some help, i am happy to assist. do not let someone fool you into paying them for nutrition services for your dog. as always, if you have specific challenges or questions you can consult your veterinary professional. do what you are comfortable with.
yup, it's true....my human went overboard. and not that i am complaining or anything, because when i was counter surfing i am pretty sure i caught the smell of rabbit, turkey gizzards, and pork neck. now that is where it's at.
and no, she has no idea how long this will last. but what is important is the variety! and i think the deep freezer will come in handy as well. ....now, she did say she would keep better track. we are estimating (yes, i do math) that my sister and i will go through almost 60lbs per month (including meat and some extras such as yogurt, sweet potato, etc).
so, i think it is sort of strange, but all of a sudden she started weighing my food on the food scale. she says it is because people are messaging with questions and she needs to be clear (and well, that makes me happy that people want to make a change!). i weigh 53lbs. i am lean (and handsome) and am 2.5 years and still in-tact. so, she tells me i get 11 ounces per meal right now. just shy of 1.5lbs per day. (i personally think I will need more...i mean i need to feed these muscles somehow).
raw preparation does not take a long time. i watch very carefully EVERY MEAL. sometimes i even salivate on the floor. commercial raw, do it yourself raw, or even home cooked. it takes minimal thought, mostly just common sense so items are thawed out beforehand. this allows for so much variety though. i stick my nose in the bowl and sometimes i just don't know what to grab first! i love it!
i think it is important to know that in order to make a change, you must...well, make a change. you can start slow by implementing foods you already have around the house (yogurt, cottage cheese, veggies, etc). even if you have some cooked meats (unless they are heavily seasoned of course)...or even before you cook/season them!
all and all, i think it important for you folks to know that while it may SEEM overwhelming at first....you just need to start. start somewhere. start simple. and we are here to help! and we are happy to help you get started!
it is the best choice you will ever make.
It has been almost two years since I started feeding my dogs raw. I am so amazed and thrilled as I continue to learn more and more each day and love finding out new ideas of how diet impacts daily life so much. I have found that most people are not very familiar with raw and really do not understand all the truths and myths that surrounds it. Some people are not even open to researching it to find the truth. That is okay - it will always be an uphill battle, especially for as long as a kibble company sponsors the nutrition sector in vet school (a super short course).
I am discouraged when I continuously hear some of routes people have been advised to take with their dogs, resulting in no changes at all and potentially making the problem even worse (or certainly putting the dog through a lot). Like I always say, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. My goal is to educate people and put the message out there about proper diets so people begin to do some of their own research. It is all about planting the seed. Different dogs and different challenges NEED different diets. Not all dogs are the same. But raw (or home cooked definitely allows you to control that).
Fresh whole foods (the ones the kibble companies try to advertise as going into their cooked food) are the best thing you can give to your dog. Think about yourself. Going to McDonald's for a "complete" meal, or home cooking proper foods without fillers? Raw allows you to take out ingredients from the food and give them in a fresh form WITHOUT all the added junk (which causes a lot of the issues people spend $$$ on trying to fix such as excessive itching or spend on "special prescription" diets). And you have WAY more control doing it yourself ESPECIALLY for a dog with challenges. Think about going to a restaurant for example - so many additional things are added to the food to make it taste good. When you do it yourself...you know exactly what you are eating and where it is from. From personal experience and my OWN diet I can certainly attest to making certain changes and adding in and taking out certain foods and how it has impacted me personally. Diet is a lot of trial and error - but it is better than trial and error with medications not even being able to diagnose the exact problem.
Recently, I have "graduated" raw a bit and am moving up to the next level of my commitment to my dogs and helping them live the healthiest life possible. When I started raw I started with commercial raw diets (it is a great way to start in my opinion as all of the information can be overwhelming at first). Prepackaged patties or nuggets, then on to 5lb logs of food so I could better control what was in it (feeding supplements separately).
Here and there I would toss my dogs something extra, but primarily I was feeding strict protein (especially due to my female's incontinence) rotating meats. I finally felt ready to do it on my own though! So I went out on an excursion looking for organ meats, muscle meats, raw meaty bones, and some other things I could add such as sardines, cottage cheese, goat cheese, sweet potatoes, and some other various veggies.
I have so much fun meal planning for my dogs (and when I say meal planning I do not mean taking extreme amounts of time figuring out or preparing their food). I just mean I really enjoy creating their meals and putting together variety. I have the option of what to feed and how I want to feed it. One of the myths surrounding raw feeding is that it is too time consuming. It really is not. Even the way I am doing it now - when I grocery shop, I shop for everyone. What to feed for what meal becomes second nature. Luckily I am trying to eat a lot of the same foods I am feeding my dogs (I just need to cook my meats!) so it makes it easy.
I hope you consider doing some research and looking more into this ESPECIALLY if you have faced certain challenges with your dog (itching is a GREAT example, so is being overweight, or joint issues). Even for those who may have had ongoing or continuous challenges with something and just cannot solve it. Diet COULD be the answer you are missing. There are some really great resources out there and I am SO happy to provide guidance to anyone looking to make this beautiful change for the benefit of their dog!
I look forward to continuing my researches, and I hope this may be a new beginning for you.
So I am realizing that implementing raw (or transitioning to home-cooked or raw), while certainly is not challenging, can be very overwhelming at the start. I am going to try to breakdown some of the most important pieces of how to begin. (Which primarily is...just begin).
While there are certainly many components to raw, you can not focus so much on getting everything perfect that it deters you from starting at all. So, let's start with some basics: simply adding food to your dog's current kibble or freeze-dried meal (or whatever you feed). Some raw is better than none.
Implementing Raw - Adding to Your Dog's Current Diet
1. Just start. It doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to be exact, just start.
2. Add animal proteins - it is what your dog needs (eggs are great too!)
3. Rotate proteins, variety is a good thing (different flavors!)
- Red meat, poultry, organ meats, cultured dairy (I like to give goat milk), eggs
- For beginners, it is very easy to pick up name brands of patties or nuggets (say Primal, Stella & Chewy, etc) and add that. OR you can save by going with 2lb or 5lb logs (say Primal, Vital Essential, etc). OR if you have healthy leftovers from your dinner (obviously and hopefully cooked...you can add that too).
4. Feed your dog its regular meals (of course you can adjust the amount) and add in your choice of protein (from a butcher or grocery store is an option too if you opt not to use pre-packaged stuff. Fresher is better, of course....depends on cost too). You CAN follow the weight chart somewhat on the packaging, however...FEEL YOUR DOG! Are they fat? Are they skinny? Do you want to maintain? If you are giving scrap or going to a butcher, a food scale eventually can be helpful. BUT to keep things easy, start with pre-packaged and then get creative and brave.
5. If you give a pre-packaged raw you can easily just throw that into the bowl and not worry too much. If you are NOT giving ground bone or raw meaty bones (as you get more into raw), you need to supplement with calcium (most pre-packaged raw food WILL have bone in it...read the ingredients)
6. Start giving fish oil capsules to your dog
This is a pretty good and easy start. In no time you will realize how easy it is to full transition into using pre-packaged meals, or getting brave and going to a butcher and exploring more into supplementation.
I like to get my supplements from B-Naturals. Not to mention, there is GREAT information on this website and also wonderful newsletters and also information on a good starter book.
Olson, Lew. Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2015. Print.
one of the best things about a raw diet is the creativity. would you want to eat the same thing every single day? an overcooked crunchy piece of scrap? you really need to know what you are feeding humans! you cannot just believe that kibble is an ideal diet when in reality there are so many fillers to allow it to keep it shape. why would you not want the healthiest option for us!?
i hear humans all the time saying "oh, i just don't have time for raw." and, well, i am not entirely sure what that means. raw is so much more fun than kibble and it is just as easy to scoop out raw as it is to scoop out kibble (and may i mention much more beneficial and nutritious). you can switch up your proteins, you can add some different fun and enticing supplements and meal toppers...it's great! good for picky eaters, good for dogs with health challenges and concerns (sure you may have to do some research to figure out WHAT based upon different health challenges)...but at the end of the day why not fix something through nutrition opposed to giant vet bills and medications (oh and perhaps no results or solid diagnosis....let's just keep guessing, right).
so again, i challenge you to implement raw. just a tiny little bit! you can grab it from the grocery store, you can grab it from a butcher shop, or you can grab it from a natural dog food store. but just try! try, try, try! it is not hard! i promise you.
i am one lucky guy. at least twice per day two gourmet meals are at my service. generally mom does not include any fruits or vegetables (i am a carnivore, i don't need carbs!), primarily because they are not necessary. some people may like to add for variety (or, just have never looked into it), but most need to be cooked or pureed for digestibility. our digestive tract is shorter and food spends more time in our stomachs and less in our intestines. it's too bad we cannot break down carbs well...because i certainly wouldn't mind a powdered donut every now and then.
unfortunately for you canines eating kibble it is probably impossible to get away from carbs. just please, please, please beg your humans to implement some REAL food! how do you think your humans would feel if they were forced to eat non-real foods at every meal (hm, well some probably do). eventually they would crave something real and wholesome! for kibble, those carbs and preservatives are necessary or else how would those big nasty bags of kibble have a shelf life (ah, yes carbs and fillers)?
very simply, the pet food industry is lacking quality control. kibble may sort of seem convenient but companies making these convenience packages of small crunchy things are unfortunately lacking quality and adequate quantities of proteins and other importance vitamins, minerals, and supplements. i am sure you did not realize that your kibble could potentially contain slaughterhouse wastes, fillers (no nutritional value), contaminants, sugar, pesticides/herbicides, drug residues, artificial flavorings/colorings...yeah and a bunch of other horrifying ingredients.
ok humans...think about it...if you ate a diet over the course of most of your life that was complete garbage and lacked nutritional value how do you think your health would hold up? besides obvious weight gain, diabetes, cancers feeding cells, etc...it just would not be a good situation. so, humans, i tell you. patience. patience with everything. patience with your diet, patience with mine.
go ahead, look up who sets the standards for different kibble companies. perhaps the quality control advisories are members of the same company itself. makes me wonder!