About three weeks ago, Dagny’s diet got a whole lot more fun for her. Much to her surprise, dry kibble just disappeared out of her bowl, and instead, she was given yummy hunks of raw meat like beef, beef heart, liver and a host of other raw diet options that she loves to scarf down. Switching to a raw diet for dogs is not the right choice for everyone and I’m the first to say that. Some dogs can live perfectly healthy lives eating kibble, but Dagny is not one of them. What is a raw diet for dogs?
Why did we switch Dagny to a raw food diet?
First off, I’m not a vet or nutritionist. There are various schools of thought regarding the raw diet and I’m not looking at any of them critically here. This post is about my personal experience with the raw food diet for dogs. Why did we decide to go raw? It wasn’t because of any strong nutrition convictions, nor was it to be trendy or to fulfill a need to make my life considerably more difficult. The reason why we decided to switch Dagny to a raw diet was simple: She was having major diarrhea from kibble and after trying a couple varieties (holistic, grain-free, etc.) and consulting with her vet, we thought we’d give the raw diet a try in an effort to spare her intestines and our carpet the trouble.
We’ve been diarrhea-free since we started feeding raw and the best part is that Dagny LOVES her food. Yes, it’s a little more work, and yes it’s a little more expensive, but we spent a pretty penny at the vet three times trying to get to the bottom of her glorious diarrhea issue. So when you look at the whole picture and her health overall, the cost of the raw diet seems to equal out in the long run.
What is a raw diet for dogs?
A raw food diet is exactly what it sounds like. It mirrors what your pet would eat in the wild and doesn’t contain any commercial kibble. Instead, a raw diet revolves around feeding your dog a fresh and varied diet that is made up primarily of raw meat. Isn’t that dangerous? Not if it’s done right. You have to remember that a dog’s digestive system isn’t like ours. They have an extremely short digestive tract and a dog’s stomach has more hydrochloric acid than a human’s making it easier for them to process raw meat.
A raw diet for dogs is too hard
Think you can’t handle feeding your dog a raw diet? For anyone reading this who says, “Oh, I can’t do a raw diet myself,” I’m here to tell you that you can. If I can do it here in France in a tiny kitchen, so can you. A raw diet for dogs isn’t super involved but you do have to know what you’re doing so your dog doesn’t develop a deficiency and plan a little bit more. If you don’t feed your dog raw meaty bones, you’ll need to add a calcium supplement. But it’s not complicated. A raw diet book that I bought to help me figure this out is called Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals. It contains lots of useful info on how to prepare a raw diet for your dog as well as variations based on any special conditions your dog may have. You’ll also need a food scale, at least in the beginning, to measure out the right portions of food. Also, before changing your dog’s diet, speak with your dog’s vet and talk to as many people as you can about it. There are several risks to keep in mind when considering the raw diet, so make sure you really do your research.
Benefits of a raw food diet
Have we noticed any changes in Dagny after switching to a raw diet? Yup. First and foremost, the diarrhea disappeared within a day and in its place were smaller, more compact stools. Her poop is very dark in color and barely smells. Her coat is much softer and her coat shines as well. She also had a little dandruff before and now it’s gone. Coincidence? Probably not.
Pre-made raw diet options
No time to make your dog’s food? If you live in the United States, there are a bunch of companies that make prepackaged raw patties and nuggets that you can buy online or at your favorite pet food store. Primal, Stella & Chewy’s and Nature’s Variety have great options that are frozen raw and freeze-dried. A raw diet for dogs doesn’t get easier than that. If you’re more of a DIY type, have the time and/or are looking to save a little money, you can do what I do and make batches of food on the weekend that you freeze until it’s time to use it. France really needs to get in gear with distributors of prepared raw diets for dogs. Stella & Chewy’s and Primal Pet Foods, are you listening? The only drawback to buying pre-made raw foods would be the cost especially if you have a large dog. One 14-ounce pouch of Primal’s freeze-dried formula is about $25 and and a 16-ounce bag of freeze-dried food from Stella & Chewy’s is about the same price. That won’t last long. But, if money isn’t an issue and preparing raw meat meals isn’t your thing, these companies make it really easy for you to feed your dog raw.
How much does a raw diet cost?
As I mentioned above, a pre-made raw diet can get pricey. But what about a homemade raw diet? I’d estimate that I spend about 9 euros per week on meats (rabbit is more expensive so we buy that sparingly) and an additional 3 euros per week on the vegetable and other protein components (sardines, eggs, etc.). Her supplements last a while, so I’m not sure of the weekly cost. So each month, her food costs about 48 euros, which, right now with the favorable exchange rate, comes out to US$62/month. If you’re looking for the cheap route, feeding your dog raw isn’t an option. But like I said, her vet bills weren’t cheap and I feel we’re making an investment in her health. But that’s just my opinion.
Raw foods: So what does Dagny eat?
Here’s a snapshot. She eats all kinds of raw meat including beef, beef heart, chicken and rabbit as well as organ meat like liver. About once a week she’ll get some sardines and all this is mixed with various vegetables, her calcium supplement and fish oil. There are many other items that have a perfectly healthy place in a raw diet for dogs as well like raw eggs, yogurt and cottage cheese. This week, her meat component consists of ground beef and beef liver along with cauliflower and spinach. One caution about liver. There’s something about liver that when mixed by hand, just smells awful. The smell doesn’t come off my skin no matter how many times I wash my hands. But hey, you do what you have to do for your dog, right? We make up a week’s worth of patties and freeze them so all we have to do is thaw one out the night before and it’s ready to go when it’s time to eat. If we have time to go to the grocery store in the afternoon, we’ll buy some chicken and just chop up the pieces. But our homemade frozen patties work wonders when we don’t have time to make her food.
Dagny says she doesn’t have any complaints. And if she’s happy, so am I. 🙂