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NJSwede

Raw dog food - Fad or fab?

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I've heard some random dog owners (not necessarily the ones I would take advice from) rave about raw dog food. If you don't have access to your own butcher's shop, it's expensive, smelly and difficult to store.

 

My simple question is: Is it worth the trouble or is it just another fad?

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You will need to brace yourself as I think you will likely get a lot of responses on this topic, and people tend to be quite passionate about their feeding choices (kibble versus raw, various methods of raw feeding, etc.).

 

I feed small amounts of raw as supplements and for the dental health aspect - chicken backs, raw beef bones (from our own custom-butchered animals), raw beef (or other) organ meats, raw meaty pork bones, and raw meaty lamb bones. All this varies with what's available at a price I'm willing to pay. I can get a 40# box of frozen chicken backs for $24, and I do remove excess fat, so the price is pretty reasonable for those. I buy the pork and/or lamb meaty bones or chicken drumsticks when I am traveling.

 

I do understand that raw feeding requires a lot more than plopping down something raw for the dog to eat. They need balancing between meat, organ meat, bones, veggies (if used), carbs (if used), and any necessary supplements. I buy a rather pricey kibble that I find convenient and giving me good results. I have used less expensive kibble with good results, and so has my daughter.

 

I think every dog is an individual and notice here that what works well for one dog or one household, does not necessarily work well for another.

 

I think you will get a bunch of replies from people who feed raw and can share their experiences.

 

PS - I think a freezer is a very handy thing for facilitating raw feeding. Buying on sale, buying by box or in bulk, taking advantage of what's available to you (deer in season, for instance).

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Raw feeding doesn't have to be expensive, it isn't always smelly, and if you have a freezer it's not difficult to store.

 

I'm not going to get into a defense of feeding raw, but I will say I've been doing it for 13 years now. I've been to vets who are supportive and vets who are opposed to it, but but I don't have to visit vets as often as most of my friends who feed their dogs kibble and even the vets who've been opposed to my feeding raw haven't been able to find any reason in my dogs' health to recommend to me that I stop. I've never had to take the risk of putting my dogs under general anesthesia for routine teeth cleaning because my dogs have teeth that make it impossible to determine their ages by just looking at their teeth.

 

As for raw feeding being expensive, I don't track the costs, but I don't think I spend any more for my dogs' food than I would if I were feeding a good quality kibble. There are more and more raw food co-ops springing up all over the place, so buying in bulk and/or splitting purchases with other people really keeps costs down. Of course, people can spend a lot of money if they want to buy only human grade meats from human grade sources, but most raw feeders I know don't do that.

 

There is more work involved in buying this way. For instance I get large chunks of beef from culled dairy cows for $.65/lb. It comes in frozen 50# cases so I have to let it thaw enough to cut it into portion sized pieces and refreeze them, which is somewhat time consuming. Case lots of duck or turkey neck or chicken frames also usually come in frozen cases that have to be thawed and repackaged. I could also buy all of these things ground and/or premixed if I chose to, which adds to the cost but also make it more convenient.

 

And I'm sure I save money by not having to go to the vet as often, even if you only count the cost of dental cleanings.

 

As for its being smelly, it's no more smelly than preparing your own dinner, if you eat meat. The one exception would be green tripe.

 

I have healthy dogs with shiny coats and clean teeth who don't often need to go to the vet, though I take them in annually for wellness checks just to be sure. I have an ~16 y.o. BC/spitz-type mix who has some intestinal and age related arthritis issues, but who amazes the vet every time she sees her. She's never had her teeth cleaned and was cavorting like a puppy this weekend with the neighbors' young Shiba Inu who was here for the weekend.

 

So, yeah, I think it's worth it.

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Not worth the trouble for me. I buy a high quality dog food in bulk at wholesale price.

 

If you had a farm and could raise your own, it might be worth the trouble. I find it funny that some talk about avoiding the chemicals in nasty dog food, yet they don't buy organic, free range meat.

 

I have known humans who feed their dogs raw that have come down with food poisoning as a result. Something to consider, especially if you have kids.

 

No one has shown me clear evidence that raw is superior to high quality kibble plus supplemental fresh foods.

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I've fed raw before and now I'm feeding kibble. It it's worth it or not depends on the needs of your dog. My first BC did better on raw hands down. Her allergy issues cleared up when I switched her over so thats what I kept her on for the remainder of her life. My current male seems to be able to eat just about anything so, for the sake of convienience, he gets kibble with some add ins. But every so often he'll get raw meaty bones to keep his teeth clean.

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Buying in bulk and freezing pretty much requires that you already own a dedicated commercial freezer. I don't and that's a grand or two right there. You get a whole lot of food for that!

 

What I'm really interested in are the health effects.

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I'm feeding 3 dogs and I don't own a commercial freezer.

 

At the moment I have 3 smaller chest freezers, a 3, a 5 and a 7 cf., though I'd like to ditch the 3 cf. and switch to one larger 9 -10 cf. for the garage and keep the 5 cf. one for in the house. But these were what I picked up cheaply use or as scratch & dent sales.

 

No need to spend anywhere near $1,000 for a freezer unless you have a lot of dogs. The three of mine combined cost less than $400.

 

ETA: and the in-house 5 cf. freezer isn't dedicated to dog food. I often have people food in it.

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You keep killing all my excuses here! :)

 

Maybe we'll give it a shot. Sounds like you guys serve it on the bone?

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If your dog is healthy on what you're currently feeding, you're probably just fine sticking with it. But with digestive issues or chronic issues like allergies it's well worth seeing if a change in diet will help. That may mean just a different kibble, a minimally processed cooked diet or a raw diet. I don't think there is a one size fits all solution. It's just finding out what works best for you dog. FWIW - my chest freezer cost less than $300 when I bought it new 8 yrs ago.

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As I said, even the vet who was adamantly opposed to feeding raw couldn't find a reason in my dogs' health to tell me to stop, and reluctantly admitted I was doing something right.

 

The one who was supportive loved it when she had vet students observing visits when I had an app't. She'd point out how healthy my dogs are and would show them their teeth and tell them they'd never had a dental cleaning. The students, who'd had very little education in nutrition and what there was provided by kibble manufacturers, were pretty astounded.

 

A long time friend who's a vet and was always pretty skeptical of feeding raw has come around after seeing how well my dogs are doing on it.

 

Edible bone is definitely an important component of a balanced raw diet. The most cost effective way to feed bone is as poultry necks or backs, or ribs from other animals that aren't very meaty, and then add meat to that. Bone only needs to be about 10-15% of the diet, though some raw feeding approaches use much more than that.

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I have one BC that would be fine on just about anything, but the other requires some of the most expensive foods out there and even that is a bit high in carbs for him. That's why I started feeding 1/2 raw. After moving everyone over to include raw, I noticed that even the easy dog was also doing much better. The JRT that always had a "flea allergy" suddenly didn't anymore, and she went from acting like a 10 year old dog to acting like a 4 year old, which is not necessarily a bonus with a JRT, but we love her. I live where we never have a break from fleas, but suddenly, I'm not having to treat for fleas all the time.

 

I think I have the best of both worlds. My squeamish family members can still feed if I'm late getting home, the dogs get many or all of the benefits of raw, I'm actually saving money on raw, and I can get rid of some of the parts we don't eat from home raised animals.

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You keep killing all my excuses here! :)

 

Maybe we'll give it a shot. Sounds like you guys serve it on the bone?

I feed raw and I would suggest doing a lot of reading before going to the store and buying 'bones'. There is a lot of information out there and a lot of different ways people feed what they call a raw diet. Just like what you eat day to day can be very different from your friends and family.

 

I feed mostly boneless meat, a few bone-in meals a week, and small bits of liver and kidney a few times a week. An egg once a week or so. I also feed a lot of variety-venison (this is the staple meat for us as most is free/given to us and hunted by us), chicken, turkey, pork and our nice neighbors up the road sometimes give us rabbit and always give us the organs from their chickens, pigs and rabbits. Meat that is purchased mostly comes from a local rural butcher and we feed a lot of beef heart/tongue and pork heart/tongue which they give to us for cheap.

 

Most days my dog is eating for free or damn close to it but everyone's situation will be different (and I certainly don't feed this way because I want to save money). Some add supplements, some add veggies some add rice, some are heavy on the bone content, and so on.

 

I think there is nothing wrong with feeding kibble and most people and dogs do just find feeding it. Whatever makes the most sense to you is what you should feed because you will get all sorts of opinions on dog food brands, raw vs kibble, cooked homemade diets and so on. Just like how you feed yourself or your kids, what works for you will be different than what others eat. I don't think raw is some miracle worker, I don't feed meat because I think my dog is a wolf, or because I think all huge corporations are out to kill our pets. It just makes sense to me and has for the past year. I see no reason to stop but if the situation changes, I would have no issue going back to kibble.

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I would suggest doing a lot of reading before going to the store and buying 'bones'.

 

Most definitely!

 

I fear that much of the bad rap raw feeding has, especially among vets, is because of the people who do it without knowing what they're doing.

 

It's not rocket science, any more than feeding yourself and your family is rocket science. But that doesn't mean there aren't some basics you need to know.

 

Sadly, I've read about dogs dying because their owners fed a raw diet consisting of nothing more than boneless chicken breasts or similar. It was so nutritionally bereft that it killed the dogs.

 

So, yeah, do a little research before jumping into it, if that's what you decide to do. It doesn't need to be complicated, though many sources would have you think that it is. But you do need to have a basic understanding of a dog's nutritional needs before getting started.

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I found your comments about flea allergies to be interesting. Relatives of ours who have fed the el-cheapo Alpo in the great big bag, had a Border Collie that had horrible flea allergy. Living in a warm and humid climate, it was impossible for them to keep fleas off him. He would have thick, hard scabs covering the area above his tailhead and they would cover an infected area. He would have bald areas from scratching and was miserable. They did finally use a flea medication that would prevent even a killing bite because even one bite would send him into misery. He was put down at the age of 12 due to kidney failure. I have often wondered how much his diet contributed to his ill health - he was morbidly obese (they fed him way too much to begin with, as well as it being a high-carb and low-quality "complete" diet) as well. Of course, I have no proof of cause and effect but I still wonder.

 

He was not the first dog they had with such horrendous allergic reactions to fleas - their Irish Setter male, years previously, was practically bald in warmer months from his flea allergies. I am sure they did not feed anything "better" at the time...

 

I have one BC that would be fine on just about anything, but the other requires some of the most expensive foods out there and even that is a bit high in carbs for him. That's why I started feeding 1/2 raw. After moving everyone over to include raw, I noticed that even the easy dog was also doing much better. The JRT that always had a "flea allergy" suddenly didn't anymore, and she went from acting like a 10 year old dog to acting like a 4 year old, which is not necessarily a bonus with a JRT, but we love her. I live where we never have a break from fleas, but suddenly, I'm not having to treat for fleas all the time.

I think I have the best of both worlds. My squeamish family members can still feed if I'm late getting home, the dogs get many or all of the benefits of raw, I'm actually saving money on raw, and I can get rid of some of the parts we don't eat from home raised animals.

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I've been raw feeding for eight years.

 

I will use grain free kibble as-needed, but I consider my dogs raw fed. It has been more than worth it to me, having seen the health benefits first hand.

 

I would have to be in dire economic straits to even consider giving up raw feeding.

 

My vote is definitely a resounding "FAB"! :)

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I'm no expert, but I'm a little ambivalent. I do feed raw, though, so go figure.

 

I don't quite buy the whole story about dogs being wolves and raw being their natural diet (dogs have been domesticated for a very long time - long enough, I expect, that they would have adapted to cooked food). I have searched and have found no published, peer reviewed studies showing any benefits. I don't necessarily need that for confirmation, but the whole story doesn't quite add up for me, so it would help.


That said, I think the foods are very good quality, certainly a big step up from normal grocery store stuff. I think it's a healthy diet because it has good ingredients and is natural food, not because it's raw. I hedge my bets with a premium kibble (I go half and half), esp. since the kind of pre made raw I feed isn't AAFCO certified..

 

Interestingly, my dog is very picky about what raw meats she'll eat. She loves raw beef but will not eat raw poultry in the several prepared raw brands I have tried. She will, however, eat raw chicken necks.

 

I've been feeding her raw for the 7-8 months I've had her and she's definitely really healthy, trim, active, etc - she does well on her diet. She's also never been sick, other than conjunctivitis. And the raw food makes picking up after your dog a lot easier. Also, the prepared frozen raw stuff is pretty convenient to use, really. I'm not sure I'd bother if I had to make it myself.

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I got into raw feeding because of my 15 month old BC. I have had him on high quality kibble for most of his life. We noticed that with foods that contained corn or rice in them his undercoat would fall out and NOT regrow no matter how many supplements of good quality we used. I tried a verity of foods trying to figure out what was causing it. After much research and consulting with my vet who feeds her own dogs a raw diet, we came up with what my two are eating now. I can see some regrowth of his undercoat, small but it has only been 2.5 weeks since he was switched to raw. Time will tell but he is happier, and more energetic.

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I don't quite buy the whole story about dogs being wolves and raw being their natural diet (dogs have been domesticated for a very long time - long enough, I expect, that they would have adapted to cooked food).

 

Me, neither. And, in fact, there's DNA evidence that dogs have indeed adapted to digesting carbohydrates that their wold progenitors cannot do. But it doesn't mean they have a nutritional need for carbs, not that they really do them any good.

 

I have searched and have found no published, peer reviewed studies showing any benefits.

 

Studies like this are usually done by the people who have something to gain financially by it, so until someone's making enough money off raw food to support the research, it's unlikely that it'll be done. <_<

 

 

And the raw food makes picking up after your dog a lot easier.

 

OMG! Absolutely!

 

Every time I dog sit I'm just amazed at both the quantity and the ungodly stench of kibble fed poop! That alone tells me how much of it just isn't being digested. My dogs' stools are much smaller, much less odiferous, and disintegrate much faster than kibble fed dogs' poop.

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OMG! Absolutely!

 

Every time I dog sit I'm just amazed at both the quantity and the ungodly stench of kibble fed poop! That alone tells me how much of it just isn't being digested. My dogs' stools are much smaller, much less odiferous, and disintegrate much faster than kibble fed dogs' poop.

 

Really? I've litteraly been around dogs my entire life, but I've never come across any dog that poops a more ungodly smelling toxic waste than our lovely Seana!

 

Other than that, she's in good shape from what I can see. Shiny coat, good energy, normal stool (other than the smell) and shiny white teeth. A tad overweight, though, but I'm not sure raw food would fix that?

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I've been feeding her raw for the 7-8 months I've had her and she's definitely really healthy, trim, active, etc - she does well on her diet. She's also never been sick, other than conjunctivitis. And the raw food makes picking up after your dog a lot easier. Also, the prepared frozen raw stuff is pretty convenient to use, really. I'm not sure I'd bother if I had to make it myself.

There really isn't anything to make though. Once you know what you're doing it is no different than feeding yourself, though easier.

 

All I do is take meat out of the freezer or fridge and hand it to the dog. That is all. I cut up the organs when I get them home and place them into ice cube trays. A few times per week I pop one out and hand to the dog. I don't cook, chop, cut or do anything other than give it to him. If it is a very large hunk I take it away when I think he has had enough and put it back in the fridge for tomorrow. Feeding partially frozen also takes away any mess from thawed juicy meats.

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Other than that, she's in good shape from what I can see. Shiny coat, good energy, normal stool (other than the smell) and shiny white teeth. A tad overweight, though, but I'm not sure raw food would fix that?

Raw won't solve a fat dog. Feeding too much meat (and any food for that matter) will still make your dog fat. Feed any type of food in accordance with your dogs' needs. Too fat, you're feeding too much for your dog, or maybe there is a medical reason. The best way to judge is to feel your dog and know what a healthy look and feel is then adjust the food from there.

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I have fed raw and kibble. I have 9 dogs (and, until recently, 2 LGDs) and, frankly, raw is prohibitive for me, even with raising some of my own meat (and I don't buy much meat for myself either, partly because of the cost and partly because I have ethical/moral issues with the way animals are raised for slaughter, though of course kibble contains parts of animals raised that way as well, and I'm not about to go vegan for me or my dogs). And I've done the math, so yes, I do know it's more expensive to feed my pack raw. I see nothing wrong with feeding raw and I think cost issues would be less of a problem with just a couple of dogs, but I also don't buy into the claims that raw fed dogs are healthier and go to the vet less often (though they do indeed have smaller poops). My kibble fed (occasional raw for their teeth and chewing pleasure) dogs rarely go to the vet, and if they do, it's generally work/injury related. My kibble fed dog kicked cancer on her own. And all of my dogs live to the 15-16+ year old range with reasonable healthiness up to the end. So clearly kibble isn't killing them.

 

Most of what you'll get from folks you ask on forums is anecdotal evidence pro or con for kibble or raw or any combination thereof. There's nothing wrong with trying raw, if you're willing to do some research of front and make an effort to feed a balanced diet. A poorly considered and fed raw diet is definitely worse than a kibble based diet, IMO.

 

As Liz notes, if you're not considering the source of your raw meats, then you're not necessarily avoiding "contaminants" (chemicals) in the food and your dogs will be exposed to some of the same things that kibble fed dogs are exposed to.

 

As I always say, feed the best that you can afford to feed, in a form that is most sensible for you and your lifestyle. There's no wrong answer (other then feeding really crappy food).

 

J.

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Raw won't solve a fat dog. Feeding too much meat (and any food for that matter) will still make your dog fat. Feed any type of food in accordance with your dogs' needs. Too fat, you're feeding too much for your dog, or maybe there is a medical reason. The best way to judge is to feel your dog and know what a healthy look and feel is then adjust the food from there.

 

We're gradually lowering her portion size to find the sweet spot. She was a bit chunky when we got her three months ago and I don't want to starve her, so I'm trying to slowly get a couple of pounds off of her. She's already lost a little.

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I find it interesting that everyone professes that dogs don't need carbs. They are not obligate carnivores and hard working dogs DO need some carbs for optimal performance. There are thousands upon thousands of pages of scientific papers out there on that very topic.

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