a Raw Diet
David Crisafi, owner of "Tech", a chocolate Labrador Retriever
Why We Chose A Raw Diet
Our family personally follows a paleolithic/ancestral type diet sticking to foods that are fresh and not processed. So grains are a rare occurrence in our home and we eat a variety of meats, organ meat, fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, tubers, and on occasion rice and corn. As we were planning for Tech to come home with us the discussion of food was on the top of the list. It only seemed logical for us to have Tech follow the same lifestyle that we do.....meaning eat the way you are genetically supposed to eat. So we began doing research, a lot of research, on feeding Tech a raw diet. Here is what we discovered:
It is now generally agreed that the ancestor of the modern dog is the wolf. What is not clear is how long that domestication process has been going on. The basic environment which the modern dog requires in terms of food and exercise is exactly the same as it was (and still is) for the wolf. So although we have carried out selective breeding to alter our dog's outward appearance and mind, we have not asked it to cope with, nor have we selectively bred it to deal with any dramatic change in feeding or exercising.
Dogs in the wild did not have little cooked pellets that contained cooked vegetables and grains (or cooked meat, for that matter), thus their systems are not made for digesting these ingredients. A raw diet is a direct evolution of what dogs ate before they became our pets.
Some pet owners who have made the switch have noticed drastic changes in their pets, including:
Prey Model - Proponents of the whole prey model diet believe dogs and cats are both natural carnivores and therefore there is no nutritional or dietary need for anything other than meat, bones, and organs. The supporters of the prey model also focus on feeding meats from a wide variety of animals, and some add small amounts of vegetable matter. Supplements are generally not used in a prey model diet.
BARF - The "BARF" diet, an acronym for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones And Raw Food was created by Billinghurst. A typical BARF diet is made up of 60-80% of raw meaty bones(RMB), that is bones with about 50% meat, (e.g. chicken neck, back and wings) and 20-40% of fruits and vegetables, offal, meat, eggs, or dairy foods.
What model did we choose?
We lean more on the side of the Prey Model but do give Tech some vegetables (cooked and raw), fruit (although he doesn't like fruit) and yogurt (for digestion) from time to time.
Raw bones or Ground bones?
Some proponents of raw diet claim noticeable benefit to the dental hygiene of pets who eat raw bones, while others believe that ground bone should be used instead, to prevent the possibility for intestinal puncturing and dental fractures. The abrasion between bone and teeth when chewing is believed to scrape off dental plaque. Cartilage, ligaments, and tendons are thought to act as a natural dental floss. The chewing and tearing action is also believed to strengthen the jaw, neck and shoulder muscles, keep the digestive juice flowing and boost the neurological and immune system. Proponents of ground bones believe that the chewing of muscle meat may also assist in keeping teeth clean.
We tried both and found that the raw bones were the best option for Tech. He enjoyed the meal more and actually took the time to chew his food. One of the main problems with grinding the bones is that the dogs do not chew, therefore, do not allow for the predigest enzymes to kick in and the benefits of clean and health teeth.
How much do you feed your dog?
The general rule is to feed a healthy adult dog between 2-4% of its weight daily, and then adjust as needed. If you have an overweight dog, start on the lower end of the spectrum, if you have a dog who needs to gain a little bit of weight, start closer to 4%. You will also be able to judge by looking at your dog- if he is looking a little thin, bump up his meat intake. Puppies may require up to 10% of their weight daily during growth. Raw diets are ideal for growing puppies, too, but they canít eat all the same bones an adult dog can. Give puppies non-weight-bearing bones, as their young teeth canít handle thicker bones.
What we feed Tech?
We got Tech at 8 weeks old and immediately started him out on a raw diet. We started him with chicken (meat and bones) and chicken livers 2-3 times a day. We would just throw the thigh or wing with some livers in his bowl at he would go at it. Initially you may have to hold onto the meat and let him eat it out of your hand until he gets used to doing it himself. You also want to monitor his first few meals to make sure he is chewing it and not just trying to swallow the whole thing at once. Also, once he/she gets used to eating the food himself, he/she may want to pick it up and carry it somewhere else in the house. I have 2 young boys, so that wasn't ok with me. Like with any other training with puppies, we just had to correct him over and over until he stopped. You also may want to designate a "eating area" for him/her. Some people just throw down a towel, shower liner and throw the meat on that or they have them eat outside. Tech eats out of his bowl, but we have a mat underneath the bowl just in case in falls out.
Currently, Tech (9 months old) eats twice a day (morning and evening) and we have found he likes more bone then the suggested 10%. So we either give him 2 drum sticks and thigh with liver or necks, backs and spine with some livers. On occasion I will give him some raw steak or ground beef (no red meat bones), fish (with the bones) or add in some raw eggs (with the shell). As I mentioned, we give him vegetables, fruit and dairy on occasion. We give him NO supplements. For snacks I give him chicken feet or you can find some good dehydrated raw snacks at some of the pet stores.
Here is a list of some items your dog can try:
Like any dog, they will tell you what they like and don't like. They will also tell you if they are hungry or not, so just let them be your guide.
What about the bones splintering?
Cooked bones run the risk of splintering- NEVER feed cooked bones! Raw bones do NOT splinter.
What about bacteria in raw food?
This was one of my concerns when we starting looking into the raw option. Raw meat is not safe for humans because of bacteria like e-coli and Salmonella. But, canine digestive systems are have some natural immunity to bacteria, and can handle the bacteria in meat without issue, when in good overall health.
The only other bacteria concern is clean up. We clean up the floor surrounding his bowl after every meal and wash our hands and counter tops thoroughly. We used to wipe Tech's mouth the first few weeks, but we stopped doing that. Didn't see the need after a while.
Where to get the meat?
We recommend finding a good butcher or local farmer for your meat source. If you have some extra freezer space, youíll probably be able to work out good deals buying in larger quantities. As far as cost goes, raw is less expensive than kibble. Kibble has filler in it, while a raw diet is 100% food a dog will benefit from eating. People feeding kibble need to feed more of it to satisfy a dogís dietary needs; raw food is more cost effective in that sense.
What if my vet doesn't agree with raw?
Get another vet....SERIOUSLY. That was my first question when looking for a vet for Tech. My vet is 100% on board with the Raw diet.
Where can I get some more information?
I did a lot of research on this message board. It has an answer to just about every question or concern you may have:
I would never feed another dog differently. He has thrived on the raw diet and we haven't had one issue. I can't tell you how many people comment on his coat and teeth, everyone cannot believe the benefits that have come from simply feeding him Raw. I cannot recommend it enough to everyone.