As I have written many times, the most important thing for our puppies’ and dog’s development, health, and well-being is diet. That, and a loving, nurturing environment that provides boundaries and guidance through training and teaching is all that a dog needs to have a wonderful life. The more that I have researched optimum canine diet, the more I am certain that the best diet for a dog is raw diet. Raw diet can come in multiple forms, and dependent on the age, health condition, and breed of dog, there is no one right answer on exactly what should be included in raw diet. That depends on your dog.
To start with, dogs need a certain ratio of muscle, bone, and organ meat to be healthy and get the nutrients they need. Some people supplement this base diet with tripe, vegetables, raw eggs, raw milk, yogurt…things of this nature. Very few people add some grains, but that is usually based upon certain breed types.
I have been wanting to transition to a complete raw diet for a while now. Our dogs have been fed a combination of organic, high quality dry food, and raw meat, organ meat, bones, eggs, raw goat’s milk, raw goat’s milk yogurt, and some veg. They also get some cooked meats and bone broth. I am now in the final stages of converting to raw diet, and I am very excited, and so are they. What stopped me thus far had been affording raw diet, and finding enough sources for the meats, bones, and organs.
This past trip to town I picked up 50 pounds of beef heart, 20 pounds of beef liver, 20 pounds of pork neck bones, and 30 pounds of ground chicken and turkey chubs with bone and some veg. That will not get me through three weeks. But, we are getting closer!
Part of what I am learning is how to source for raw diet as inexpensively as possible. I was already spending a LOT of money on dog food, so right now I am trying to keep that the same, or reduce cost. Since we have large dogs, we need a lot of food. Our dogs average 85 pounds each. Dogs need to eat approximately 2-3% of their body weight daily, depending upon their work load. Lucious, our male White GSD is an athlete who is agile, and very high energy. He looks like he does not have an ounce of fat on his body, so he will need a minimum of 3%, if not a bit more. The nice thing about Lucious is that he seems to regulate his food intake. He gets full, and will not over eat. In fact, if he has meat and he gets full he will bury it for later. He likes to age his meat, and he likes to hide it so that the chickens don’t steal it, or the coyotes, either.
Jasmine is a bit older, and trends towards a little heavier at times. I will base her at 2-2.5% of her ideal body weight. Keep in mind when converting to raw that you can adjust quantities as you observe how they are doing on the diet, and increase or decrease according to your specific dog. There may be times of year that they need more or less food, too, such as more in the winter as it gets cold, and less in the heat of the summer, when no one wants to eat too much.
Chelsea, since she is still building back from her litter for winter cold will get at least 3%. And Maia, who is now just 3 months old and growing (fast) will be based at 3% of current weight. The Ophidian Cats are also converting to 100% raw, too, and have had partial raw from kittendom and birth, respectively, with our older cat doing amazingly well with the transition, though he used to have mostly dry food. He is looking svelte and is acting very young at 14+ years of age! The same ratios apply to the cats, though they only eat what they need. It is amazing to see raw raised felines—the musculature on them is impressive, and they are very large, healthy cats!
I am still working on sourcing for raw, but will share what I have thus far learned, in hopes that readers will transition to raw as well, for the health of the beloved carnivores in their lives! The most direct way to source for raw is by raising the animals oneself. We are doing this on the farm, but there are times when there are no animals to butcher and nothing left in the freezer. (Hopefully someday that will not be the case.) So, in the meantime, while waiting for pigs to grow, etc., we look outside to source. The first, and my favorite source, because it is free, and often the healthiest, is deer. Healthiest because deer are also raised on a natural diet without chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics. Deer get hit by cars every day, and what better use for a deer that lost its life then as food for someone else? Many counties have sheriff departments that are responsible for road kill deer. They often have lists one can get on to get a call when a deer is hit and then go collect it immediately from the deputy on site of the accident. Now I am on a list for my county, but unfortunately do not have access to a vehicle but twice per month, so that has not worked out too well, though I could have gotten two deer this past week, and my dogs, cats, and freezer would have been nicely full. Darn.
Many people source meat from conventional groceries—sale items, etc. I do not do this because I do not and will not buy factory farm meat. It is full of toxins, antibiotics, growth hormones, and in factory farm chicken meat, we find arsenic—from the chicken’s feed.
There are raw meat coops in many cities, and many people work with local butchers for obtaining meats at discounted prices. It takes a bit of homework and leg work, but it is So worth it! What you get in return is a healthy dog with shining white teeth, regardless of age, no body odor, shiny eyes, shiny coat, and good energy. And let’s not forget few if any health problems. When we invest in good diet, we save at the veterinarian’s office!
I will keep posting updates on this topic, including more ideas for sources for raw! In the meantime, there are pet food stores that carry raw products under brand names such as Bravo, Primal, and many others. Here is a great site to read reviews of all types of pet foods, including packaged raw products for pets. If you do need to feed dry food due to budget or availability, you can check on different brands here to try to find the best quality option for your pet!
And here is an excellent forum for discussing and learning about raw diet. Check it out!