Last Updated on 2022-05-08 by Admin
We switched Annie’s diet from cooked to feeding a Raw meat diet. Often also called the BARF diet.
The decision was not because of ideology, but because Annie would start whining and not eating after one year of eating cooked meals. Feeding raw was a natural progression.
I’m not a purist on the raw diet. I would have been just as happy to continue feeding Annie cooked food. As long as I can recognize what is in the food, and it is human-grade, I’m okay with it.
Being a curious person, I researched the topic of a raw meat diet for dogs. It did not take long to read the phrase “Ancestral diet.” Every time I read that phrase, my reaction is skepticism. It seems to ignore that dogs have been living with humans for thousands of years, domesticated for a long time. With it, the diet must have changed dramatically over time. Animal’s and humans adapt to all kinds of changes, would the dog not have done so?
I was also sure that some scientists must have wondered about this as well. Please see the resource section at the bottom for some of the research done. In short, it seems, the difference between dog and wolf is that dogs can digest starches and wolfs can’t.
The many Meat options
There are several places where to buy raw meat for dogs. Pets shops, specialty shops, small meat processors, even Your butcher may have a sign out stating they sell meat for pets. I occasionally buy some frozen meat for Annie from a small meat processor specializing in dog food and treats. They have meat like water Buffalo, Bison, Rabbit, Turkey, Chicken, Beef and others. And many come as organic, grass-fed, human-grade, and none human-grade. It always amazes me how many options there are.
I buy and process most of the meat myself. I want to know what I feed Annie, and know there are no preservatives in the food. The Boxer breed is prone to cancer, reducing that risk is vital.
While feeding Annie raw meat has turned out the be a good thing, it is costly. However, there are ways to keep dog food cost in check.
Quality Beef at a reasonable price
I never buy ground beef to feed to Annie raw. I cook it. There are two reasons for that. One, You can often get better and leaner meat for less or the same price. Two, You don’t know what is in the ground beef, the fat content is guesswork. Dogs need lean meat. Many supermarkets expose packaged meat to gas to keep the colour a beautiful red, making it hard to know how fresh it is.
I used to buy whole inside rounds from a butcher for less than the price of ground beef. One piece of an inside-round is large, 20 + pounds. I would remove the visible fat, mainly just the cap. With the fat-cap removed, the meat is lean. Some parts of the inside-around are pretty tender, good enough to make steaks for my wife and me. It is also great for roasts and as stewing meat. Whatever we don’t use, I cut in small cubes, and package it in daily meal sizes and freeze for later use. Many other cuts are also suitable, talk to Your butcher. You want a lean cut. If it’s just for the dog, it won’t matter if the meat is tough
I found after Thanksgiving and Christmas, butchers and even grocery stores to have Turkey thighs for a reasonable price. When available, I buy lots of them, at home I de-bone, package and freeze what I don’t need immediately. The bones, if not to big, are also given to Annie. If they are huge, I just use them to make a Turkey stock. The stock, when cooled, is strained and refrigerated overnight. The next day I remove the layer of fat on top. The fat-free stock gets added to the food, or the Rice can be cooked with it.
Why not also make turkey pot pies and other dishes for human consumption with it.
Some times there are good specials on Utility Ducks in the grocery flyers. Asian supermarkets often have a whole Duck for a reasonable price. Duck has a lot of fat, and most of the skin and fat needs removing. Then I de-bone the leg and breasts. The Breast cage, wings, and leg bones I keep and add to the cubed meat. Neck, heart and liver are cut smaller and also used.
The spine gets simmered for a few hours in water to make a healthy stock. The stock is cooled, strained and refrigerated till the next day. Then I remove the layer of fat. Some of the fat-free stock gets poured over Annie’s food. Any extra raw bones can be frozen and utilized when feeding meats like Beef that often don’t contain bones in the form that I feed Annie.
Lamb is not affordable in my area, and there are only a few cuts available. For that reason, Annie doesn’t get raw lamb often. Lamb is the kind of meat I buy from a small meat processing shop that makes dog food. If I see some ground lamb at a reasonable price in the grocery store, I cook it and drain off the fat and juice before feeding Annie.
Rabbit is by some people considered controversial meat. Rabbits are also pets. For that reason, some pet shops may not have Rabbit meats or treats. Rabbit is another expensive meat, and not many stores carry it. I would love to feed Annie Rabbit more often. The only way to buy it is from the small meat processing shop that I frequent.
The small meat processing plant near me sells raw frozen salmon. It contains bones, crushed heads etc. Annie has eaten it raw without problems. I feel more comfortable feeding Annie cooked fish and bones removed.
It is essential to feed internal organs. Internal organs are high in nutritional value. Unfortunately, grocery stores don’t carry many internal organs these days. The liver and kidney are the most common. Few stores carry lamb spleen, beef heart and tripe. For a balanced diet, organ meat needs to be in your dog’s diet.
If you are new to feeding raw, I recommend that you add some internal organ meat slowly, noticed with Annie, that a small amount works out fine, but more copious amounts caused diarrhea.
It always amazes me how well dogs can digest raw bones. I remember when we started to feed Annie raw meat. My wife would give Annie all kinds of bones, and Annie happily chewed on them, and when I saw her swallowing a large junk, I was worried and told my wife that she just ate that junk of bone. My wife was not at all concerned. I, on the other hand, was already thinking of X rays, surgery and veterinary bills. But nothing happened, that whole junk of bone was digested. It is a good idea to supervise the dog while chewing on raw bones.
Eggs are also something that I feed Annie occasionally. She might get a raw egg mixed in her food. When I find that I don’t have defrosted or fresh meat on hand, I might just make Annie an omelet and add the vegetables and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. I keep the eggshells, wash, dry, and then bake at 300 F for 5 minutes, let them chill outside the oven and grind them into a fine eggshell powder. I use the coffee grinder to powder the eggshells.
The eggshell powder is used instead of bones when I feed Annie Beef or Turkey that does not contain bones. The eggshells are a great source of calcium.
Vegetables and Legumes
Most of the vegetables should bee cooked for dogs to digest them, carrots and zucchini when shredded can be added to the food raw. We prepare once a week a batch of mixed vegetables and legumes.
One bunch of chopped kale, a bunch of spinach, ½ cup pink lentil, 1 to 2 shredded carrots, and 1 cup of water get simmered together. Some times we may have squash or yams instead of carrots, we rotate with the season. Lentils I replace with canned, drained and rinsed, Kidney beans, Black Beans, Chickpeas etc. I add about a ¼ cup of the vegetable mix to her food.
Annie likes Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Mango, Shredded Apples, Shredded Pears and sometimes will eat Watermelon. When Annie was a puppy, she ate all the alpine Strawberries we had planted. They used to come back each year. But after Annie harvested them, they never grew back.
I have given Annie the following; cooked Oatmeal, White Rice, Brown Rice, Potatoes, Buckwheat, Pasta, quinoa. I find that Annie gets an upset stomach from Brown Rice. The starch is not the central part of the meal, just part of the meal. Annie and I have shared a piece of bread and butter for breakfast after our morning walk.
Calcium powder and Bone meal
When I cut up a large junk of Beef, I don’t have any bones to add to the food. In such situations, some form of calcium supplement must be added to Annie’s food. There are many different types of calcium supplements available for dogs.
I highly recommend that you do some homework and read the labels. Some calcium powder contains a high percentage of ash. For example, bone meal may contain heavy metals. Check if a certificate of analysis is available for that product. Giving Bone meal is not the same as giving fresh raw bones. I try to utilize the bones from the meats I feed Annie. Those can also be frozen and given later.
Omega-3 fish Oils
I have tried several fish oil brands and can’t claim to notice one being better than the other. When purchasing pet food supplements, most likely, it is not human grade.
After some research, I decided to only by fish oils that have a certificate of analysis. By buying a product with some certification, I can at least get a concrete measure of how that product compared against the standards. From reading the analysis certificate, I get details of allowable levels of heavy metals, environmental toxins, oxidation limits and how the product measured against the various standards.
As Boxers are prone to cancer, I can at least do my best to reduce the exposure to things not suitable for Annie.
I ended up buying Nordic Naturals Pet cod liver oil. On the company website, I found a page to enter the LOT number and get the analysis results. The oil passed many standards, not just one. I now have some idea about the quality of the oil. This approach is a lot more scientific in making the right decision than acting on user opinions and star ratings. I value this kind of information tremendously. It’s great when you can type in the lot number and get the results on their website.
Because of the importance of Omega-3 in the diet, I wrote an article on where and how to evaluate a good Omega-3 fish Oil.
Feeding raw meat is more costly than feeding kibble or cooked food. Can what is spent extra on food be recovered via better health, longer life span, and lower Veterinary bill?. Unfortunately, the result of that I will never know.
Update March 2022
Due to the increasing costs of feeding a dog, I wrote a post on how to keep dog food cost in check during inflationary times.
The raw meat diet takes some effort. Sure, there are more straightforward ways than my chosen path. Many people will be perfectly fine to get food from the pet shop. Or buy the meat from a small meat processor. When feeding raw, there are many options. That is one of the BARF diet’s strength. Overall, I have to say there is more and better information available in feeding raw food to Your dog than what I found for cooked food.
Calcium and fish oil, the most common supplements added to dog food, need to be evaluated for heavy metals and other things. So reading the product label is essential, but just the beginning. I recommend using products that have a certificate of analysis. As these two items get digested every day, whatever is in these products accumulates in Your pet. We know that heavy metals are toxic to humans and animals at certain levels.
I’m glad Annie is doing well since we feed her a raw meat. As she gets older, I’m sure we have to make adjustments to her diet. But for now, I just want to enjoy her. And one nice benefit from feeding raw is that the Dogs body odour is pleasant.
Update Feb 7 2021
Better Gut Health with Food, Prebiotics & Probiotics is a new article that might be of interested to readers who have dogs with digestive issues.
The Genomic Signature of Dog Domestication Reveals Adaptation to a Starch-Rich Diet https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23354050/
Diet Shaped Dog Domestication https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2013/01/diet-shaped-dog-domestication
Genome Sequencing Highlights the Dynamic Early History of Dogs https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1004016