Sunday, March 11, 2007

Low carb for your dog!

Raw feeding your dog

I posted a response to a comment and decided to create a post on raw feeding your dogs.

Raw feeding is commonly referred to as feeding a BARF diet. BARF stands for Bones And Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Diet.

I came across raw feeding as a result of trying to figure out how to treat a severely overweight cat I'd adopted. Georgie was at least 18 pounds...and this was a cat that should only have weighed, at most, 9 or 10 pounds! After I adopted him I started doing research on cat foods, trying to find a good, nutritious food that would allow Georgie to eat, but still loose weight.

In the middle of doing Internet searches one day a friend called and we were talking about what I was doing. I'd already started low carbing, and I knew that all the carbs in the packaged cat food couldn't possibly be good for Georgie, and all the "diet" cat foods were even higher in carbs! Now, remember cats are true carnivores! Cats in the wild eat meat.....and only meat. they don't eat veggies, or grains, they eat meat!

I remember commenting to my friend that I wished I could find a low carb cat food. She laughed and said something to the effect that low carbing may be good for people, but probably not for cats and dogs. After hanging up the phone, I did a search on carbs in cat and dog food and found a bunch of articles promoting raw feeding!!

Well, that was the start. I read article after article and found so many web sites I was amazed! It seems that there are people all over the planet promoting a raw, meat based diet for not only cats, but dogs also.

Cats are carnivores. Many experts call them "true carnivores" because they eat meat. Just do a search on lion, tiger, cougar, or any large cat and you will find the same thing. These animals eat meat. They don't eat grass, they don't eat berries or other fruit, they don't dig for root veggies, they eat meat! Depending on the size and location of the cat, they may eat deer, or antelope, or even rabbits, but whatever the animal, they eat meat!

Dogs are also carnivores, although they will be omnivores if it suits them. In the wild, by preference, dogs will eat meat. They will, if necessary, eat almost everything, including vegetation, which I guess makes people think they could do well on a vegetarian and/or grain based diet. BUT, in the wild, they prefer meat, just like their ancestors the wolf.

I don't think anyone disagrees that dogs are descendants of wolves. The controversy is what wolves eat in the wild. Wolves will eat meat. They hunt in packs and the leader gets the choice. The controversy comes with the stomach and intestines. It seems that wolves have been filmed eating the stomach and intestines of animals they kill, however, many people say that the wolf will shake out the stomach and intestinal contents before eating the organ. I'm researching all of this and find that there are actually sites that give instructions on raw feeding your dog (and cat, but to a less extent). I start reading this information and find that, when fed meat and bones (and to some extent veggies and fruit), dogs will have stronger and whiter teeth with little or no decay and fresher breath, less poop that isn't as foul smelling, less body odor (including "wet dog" smell), more resistance to disease, healthier and shinier coats and a host of other things. this sounds good. So I start to research more and decide to start feeding my 4 critters (2 dogs, 6 months old and 2 cats, 8 & 10 yrs old) raw meat and bones. I decided at first to try toe veggie feeding too as it seemed that most experts in this area recommend veggies and a tiny bit of fruit for dogs, but not cats. The only problem with fruits and veggies (other than watching the ones that are NOT good for them) is that these have to be "pulverized" as dogs are unable to digest whole ones, but can digest ones that are pulverized like they would be found in the gut of the animals they eat (hmmmmm...this sounds unnatural, but OK, let's give it a shot.)

So.....I go to the store and stock up on meat for the puppies and cats. I buy ox tails, beef heart, cheap pieces of beef and pork, chicken of various cuts and a bunch of veggies as per the instructions in the raw feeding sites. I also joined a raw feeding group on Yahoo.

When I get home I start preparing the veggies....put everything in a blender and blend until it's well pulverized, and then put in smaller containers and freeze. I also separate the meats into individual servings and freeze all but a couple days worth.

Dinner time!!! I give each dog a few pieces of meat along with a couple of chunks of beef heart and a good dollop of "veggie slop". I also give each of the cats a good amount of meat. (Cats and puppies were kept separate, as they didn't get along at all!).

So....what happened? Well, the cats flatly refused to touch their dinner, and Georgie proceeded to cry and howl. I gave in and fed them their kibble. I tried several times with the same effect, and finally gave up, but did feed them canned cat food over dry.

The dogs on the other hand, were in heaven!!! They loved it! Well, except the veggie slop. That they pushed aside and ignored. The next day, the same thing. Meat? yes. Veggies? no!!!

After reading more, and talking to other raw feeders, I decided my pups probably don't need veggies. They do get my leftovers on occasion, especially if they are buttered! Some people insist on veggies, but I personally figure if I have to prepare it, it's probably not crucial for their health

Today they pups (now 3 1/2) are still being fed mainly raw food, although because of financial considerations they also get canned food and occasionally kibble. I hate that I have to do this, but money is tight, and I just can't justify the expense involved in the amount of meat these 2 eat. They are both around 60-65 pounds, and can easily eat close to a pound of meat each! I do insist on buying canned food that doesn't contain rice or other grains, but I just can't afford the amount of meat they would like.

My two dogs are perfectly healthy. Neither of the dogs has ever been sick. They have no immunization, except for rabies (required by law) and they receive only heart worm prevention and flea/tick medication. They both have the whitest teeth I've ever seen in dogs, soft shiny coats, and are energetic and perfect weight. On every check with the vet (yearly) they are declared "perfect". They're friendly, well behaved and so much fun to have around.

To feed your dog RAW:
1. Don't worry about bones, as long as they are RAW. Cooked bones are brittle and can splinter and cause major problems, but raw bones shouldn't be a problem. If you are nervous, you can either buy a grinder or ask your local butcher to grind the bones for you. You can also buypre-packaged (usually frozen) BARF food that contains ground bone.
2. Always keep an eye on your dog when they are eating. If they start to choke, you want to be close by. After a while, if you are confident your dogs are OK, you can leave them alone, but always be aware that they may need you!
3. Make sure the pieces you give the dogs are big enough that they don't try to swallow them whole! You want them to eat them slowly, chewing (and crunching) the bones before swallowing. Gulping can lead to choking. Within reason, the general rule is the bigger the better.
4. Buy human quality meats, although you can buy meats that are older and probably not good for humans to eat. Dogs can handle the bacteria better than us and seldom have a problem with meat that's a bit old. Remember, in the wild, dogs will often eat meat that is downright rotten!
5. If you choose to feed your dog veggies (and a little bit of fruit) be sure to completely pulverize them before feeding. No need to cook.
6. Give a variety of meat and bones. Chicken quarters, oxtails, organ meats are all great for dogs. Too much bone can cause constipation, so watch your dog's poop until you get the hang of it. All meat and no bones isn't good either, as they need the minerals in the bones and the fat in the marrow. Be careful with large marrow bones as they can be too hard for some dogs. Ask your butcher to cut them into large pieces if necessary. Also, be aware that some dogs cannot tolerate the high fat of marrow, and may get diarrhea. If this happens, limit the amount you allow them to have at any given time.
7. Be sure to give organ meats a couple of times a week.
8. Look for balance over the long term, not daily. If the dogs have chicken several days in a row without organ meats, that's fine. Variety is usually the best, but some dogs are picky and have favorites.
9. If possible, get yourself a freezer and find a butcher. Most butchers will order meats for you. Often there are raw feeding groups that will buy in bulk and share with you. Freezers make it easy to take advantage of good finds. Some stores will also sell you scrap meat and bones, but the ones in my areas won't.

Be aware also, many people will think you're strange, including your vet! My first vet was never told I was raw feeding. I found him fast, due to the way I adopted the puppies, and really didn't like him. (How I found my puppies, click here) When the pups were only 8 months old, even tho he said they were "perfect" weight, he told me to change them over to "senior" food! Now, I understand large breed dogs can sometimes grow too fast and too big on puppy chow, but to go to senior food at their ages??? His reason was that it was lower in fat (sound familiar low carbers?!?!) and would prevent problems "down the road". I never went back to that vet. (They also wanted to vaccinate against every known disease, regardless of risk of the pups being exposed!)

I have a new vet that I love. She is very accepting of my way of feeding, and completely understands my views on vaccines. She sees them once a year, checks them out and has so far declared them healthy. She also gives me a prescription for the heart worm so I can buy it online (I lost a dog to heart-worm, so that is a must!).

Some of the "weird" things I feed my puppies:
Oxtails. They love them, but are often too expensive. Once in a while I'll see them marked way down at the store and when I do, I always buy them.
Pork neck bones. Personally I wouldn't feed my dogs beef neck bones (not that I've ever seen them in the store) due to fears of "mad cow" disease.
Beef heart. Not weird, but what I do is cut the heart into large chunks and put them on a cookie sheet. I think freeze them. Once frozen, I place them in a zip lock freezer bag and give them out as treats. I do the same thing with chick hearts and giblets.
Pigs feet. Mostly meat and fat with a little bit of bone. The dogs love them! I usually feed these with a little extra meat.
Chicken feet! Yep, chicken feet. They are popular in some stores, depending on the ethnic makeup of the area, and are usually available from butchers. These too I put in the freezer and give out as treats. They're pretty gross looking, but the dogs love them!

Here are a couple of pictures of my dog's food.

Pork neck bones with a pig's foot and some beef heart.

Pork neck bones

Discarded pig's foot

Daisy with a pig's foot.

Beef heart, pork neck bones

Give raw feeding a try! Your dog will be happy and healthy and less likely to develop heart disease and diabetes, like so many dogs are developing today!

Do some research. Google "BARF", "raw feeding" and see what you find! Of course you'll find some that are totally against it, but you'll also find people that have been feeding raw for many years and have healthy dogs to show for it. Even some reputable breeders feed raw!

Feel free also to ask any questions, either in comments or by email. I'm no expert, but I'll be glad to try and help you find answers!

A note about cats. I no longer have my 2 cats. Georgie ended up being adopted due to the constant battle with him and the puppies. The other cat has since died. I've been told it is harder to switch cats and there are a few precautions you have to take with cats. Be sure to get all the info before you try to switch your cat! You may have to just leave them the food for several days before they'll "give in" and eat it. But most say once switched, the cats never want to go back. If you do feed commercial products, be sure to get only food that is 100% meat and fish! (One ingredient, I believe it's taurine, will be added to canned food, and is essential for your cat)


TESS said...

Well done! Thank you! This gives me an idea where to start.

Cindy said...

You're welcome Tess! Hope it helps some!!!

TESS said...

It really was a help and I have spent all morning doing research. I don't think it will work for me as A. No freezer and B. I frequently have to leave Sam and his caretakers won't want to bother with it. I then recalled a post Jimmy Moore did on Low Carb for Dogs and found a company called Innova. I purchased the Raw Food kibble from It was $54 for a 28 lb bag. I ended up getting a 5% discount for ordering on line and a rebate of $14.99 because I chose not to accept the free magazine offer that came with the order. You had said you are feeding yours some kibble and not knowing how much more expensive than a raw food diet this might be or even if it might be less, thought I would pass along the info. I have made a copy of your post so when things change I will have a starting point. Thanks again for your help.

Cindy said...

Again, my pleasure Tess!

I understand the problem of leaving the dogs with others. My own son hated feeding them raw and complained every time he had to feed them!!!

Nice to know the prices. I've done some (little) on the commercial raw foods, but decided against them. I will, however, check out the raw food kibble you mentioned!

Have to share also....I posted this on another site and received 1 comment. The person that commented said she would never feed her dog raw for fears that she would waske up in the middle of the night with her Chihuahua gnawing on her neck! LOL I must admit that's not an anti-raw arguement I've heard in the past!

TESS said...

Oh Dear! Honestly Cindy I can't even imagine such a thing. I would surely think, if the pocket size dog started nawing on her neck she could control him! I will let you know how Sam likes his commercial raw diet dog food. Not my favorite option but most certainly better than what he is getting now. There will come a time when we can try the raw route. Even if it is only mixing a little in on weekends.

Fat Victoria said...

I buy Innova Evo food for my cats. It's 50% protein with 7% carbs and no corn or grains. They prefer Friskies, but will eat this. Their coats are so much softer than on the high carb diet cat food they used to get. It's hella expensive, but they're worth it.

I like things easy so my cats will always get dry kibble and it's good to know I can give them a healthy food with no fuss.

Cindy said...

My babies are worth it too Victoria! I'll have to check it out.