So, I continue not to be well at all and we are doing minimal training unfortunately. When things get back on track I think I'll go back to Level 1 and refresh our skills from the beginning as some Level 2 skills are getting rusty! So instead of talking about training, I'll do an entry on raw feeding to address the search queries I get on the subject.
This will be the first post in a series addressing some of the common search queries I receive.
Whole prey raw feeding
I brought home Knightley when he was 8 weeks old, and pretty much from that time he had an erratic tummy. At 20 weeks of age I put him on a very high quality 'All Life Stages' kibble, but his tummy problems still continued - runny stool and even diarrhea for no apparent reason several times while he was still only a baby. He also always had *heaps* of eye discharge, especially when we woke up in the morning. I wondered if he had a sensitivity to something in the food I was feeding him.
The rationale is of course that dogs and their ancestors the wolves have for many thousands of years eaten animals and parts of animals. Over the course of weeks and months the dogs and wolves would eat a certain ratio of meat : bone : organ as naturally appears in most mammals. For a while there was controversy over whether dogs were omnivores or carnivores. People claimed that in the wild wolves would eat the stomach contents of their prey. However, more recent studies have proved that while wolves will greedily eat the actual stomach of their prey, they carefully pick their way around the stomach contents. Only in the most direst of starvation will a wolf eat anything other than meat. Ov er the following millennia as humans and wolves became closer and the dog was born, the dog would get the hunting scraps - often offal and bone. This continued over the centuries. We didn't feed our dogs vegetables or grains like are in most kibble, and we didn't grind their meat completely down into a sludge like once again you find in kibble. Until kibble came along, dogs tore at raw chunks of meat, eating mostly the offal and cuts that nobody else wanted and crunching up edible bone. Of course not all those dogs were well nourished, but if we are careful our dogs get enough variety, and the ratios of meat : bone : organ are good, then they are going to thrive on the diet that nature intended for them.
So, finally when Knightley was nearly 7 months old, I figured he was old enough that a) he'd done most of his growth so I couldn't mess him up that much and b) how hard could it be? So I started looking around for information and came across the whole prey model, and specifically the "rawfeeding" Yahoo Group which gave me excellent information. After a couple of weeks hanging out reading a lot of posts on the group, I was ready to give it a go. For the first couple of weeks they recommend you start with chicken and/or turkey, as it's a bland meat so better tolerated in those first weeks, and has easy bones for a novice raw feeding dog to crunch up and eat.
Ratios for feeding Whole Prey
After about 10 weeks on raw, Knightley eats ox, cattle, lamb, kangaroo, turkey, chicken and pig. More variety would be even better though, and as time goes on I'll slowly find better sources with better prices. The one thing the ratios don't address, which I think is quite unfortunate, is fat. Dogs need a relatively high fat content in their diet. It doesn't give them heart disease or anything, and is very important for their nutrition. If they are eating red meat that is grass fed then the fat they get from the red meat will satisfy many of their nutritional requirements, but if not you may need to supplement with a good quality fish oil. Also, when feeding lean meals, such as hearts, chicken breasts and tongues, I supplement the meal with extra beef fat I get free from my butcher. The beef at our local butcher comes from only a couple of hours away from vast and very grassy pastures, so the fat gives Knightley his omega 3, 6 and 9 fats and lots of other good stuff besides.
The first couple of weeks
In the first couple of weeks feeding raw (while you are feeding the chicken or turkey), the general rule is to leave out the organs, and in the following weeks slowly introduce them (they are very rich and will give the runs to a dog who isn't at least used to a basic raw diet). Also, it is suggested that you feed a slightly higher ratio of bone to meat, as bone is a constipating agent, and dogs going from kibble to raw often are a bit runny for the first little while. The extra bone helps to make the transfer painless for everyone. From personal experience, instead of 5 out of 14 meals having mixed meat/bone (eg 1/4 of a chicken) which would be the ratio for a dog fully adjusted to eating raw, I would go for at least half the meals having some bone in them.... so maybe 7/14 or even 8-9/14 depending on how your dog was going. After the first week, start feeding less bone and aim for only 5/14.
How much to feed
The other main guideline for whole prey feeding you need to be aware of is how much to feed. The suggested amount is 2-3% of your dog's ideal adult body weight. However, it is best to weigh your dog at the beginning of feeding raw, and see how he has gone at the end of one week and then adjust as needed. For puppies, sometimes you will need to feed more like 4-5% of adult body weight. For overweight dogs, sometimes 1.5% is the way to go. Basically, watch your dog's outline, watch their 'tuck' - you always want to see a nice waist. Be guided by their appearance and weight and that will help you fine tune how much to feed. At first you will have to weigh the food - but I only did for he first four or so weeks. By then I had a pretty good idea of how much to feed, and Knightley is still looking great. If your dog was starting to look a tiny bit large I would just make sure the next several meals are on the smaller side. You are responsible for your dog, so keep a careful watch on his physical condition, looking at his tuck and waist, and feeling for ribs often.
Here is an example menu for a week in Knightley's life. You could use it for a fortnightly menu for a grown dog, as because Knightley is still a puppy he is fed twice a day. The only change I would make is on the day he is fed organ I would make the meal part organ, part meat with bone. Organ can occasionally cause the runs even with seasoned dogs, so I like to feed meat with bone on the same day for its constipation effect (you'll see on my example list that on the days he gets organ, his second meal is meat with bone). If the dog is having just one meal a day, then obviously you'd just serve it with the organ. It can be something small, especially if the dog is small. Be wary of feeding things like chicken necks - they are extremely boney with barely any meat, and are a potential choking hazard for all but the tiniest dogs. If you want a bit of bone to feed alongside organ, you would be better off chopping a thigh in half, or perhaps a wing if the dog is fairly small (again, beware of choking with wings).
When feeding anything at all, feed everything in as large a piece as possible. It gives the dog more physical work - I've known Knightley to take half an hour on a 'difficult' meal. This is a far more natural behaviour than bolting down kibble in 20 seconds! It also gives more exercise than you would think, and gives an outlet for tearing, pulling, crunching and other destructive behaviours like our dog's ancestors did in the wild, and thereby lessen any destructive behaviour the dog may do in the house and garden.
[Meal 1] Pork liver
[Meal 2] Chicken 1/4 & 1 raw egg, fish oil
[Meal 3] Ox tongue
[Meal 4] Lamb heart with added beef fat
[Meal 5] Lamb neck
[Meal 6] Beef kidney with a little chicken gizzard
[Meal 7] Chicken breast with added beef fat
[Meal 8] Turkey drumstick & 1 raw egg, fish oil
[Meal 9] Beef heart
[Meal 10] Ox tongue with added beef fat
[Meal 11] Chicken 1/4
[Meal 12] Lamb heart with added beef fat & 1 raw egg, fish oil
[Meal 13] Lamb neck
[Meal 14] Chicken breast & 1 raw egg, fish oil
Fat and calories
Notice the raw egg. I give that for the added fat and nutrients if he has a lean meal, and also if Knightley has had a full on day. Dogs that use up a lot of energy need more calories obviously, and giving some varied fats every couple of days is a good way to bump up the calories and make sure your dog stays in top condition. Assuming that Knightley makes it as an assistance dog, some days he will use up a fair bit of energy being with me, and I will have to be careful to meet those needs. This is even more important for sports dogs, and high energy working dogs such as sniffer dogs, and even moreso for herding dogs who are sometimes on the go all day. There they need to eat so much, they often can't eat it all in one sitting, and need two separate meals with a significant portion of fat in order to meet their caloric requirement. I don't absolutely need to give the fish oil as Knightley eats grass fed beef and lamb, but it certainly doesn't do him any harm, and can improve other aspects apart from just nutrition. If he wasn't eating grass fed beef/lamb I would be giving him the fish oil every night.
So these are the very basics for feeding raw with a whole prey model. It has been a wonderful voyage of discovery with Knightley and there have been so many benefits along the way.
Benefits from feeding raw
- Great teeth from the cleaning motion of chewing through bones, fat and muscle
- Very stable tummy, total change from before
- Tiny poo - virtually everything eaten is digested, unlike with commercial dog food!
- Amazingly soft and shiny coat
- No doggy smell - at all!
- Peace of mind, knowing what I am feeding my dog
- A more natural diet, eating what dogs and their ancestors have eaten for thousands of years until the very recent invention of kibble and canned food
- An outlet for destructive behaviour such as chewing, ripping and tearing behaviours, leaving your dog less likely to destroy household items and also leaving him a calmer dog
- A slow rate of growth as a puppy, reducing the chance for hip/elbow dysplasia and other conditions that can be worsened by fast growth
Words of advice for those who want to feed raw
- Feed as much red meat as possible - chicken/turkey is to be minimised, this is especially the case for raw feeding cats, as they have a much higher taurine requirement
- Don't ever feed meat that has been 'enhanced' by injection of broth or brine, it is very bad for dogs
- Do not cut up meat up for your dogs (especially don't feed ground raw food!), even when they are 'learning' to eat, but you can make slits in it to encourage your dog, or rub some parmesan cheese or something else enticing into the meat
- If your dog's movements are a bit runny in those first couple of weeks, increase the amount of bone you are feeding, as bone is constipating. You can also try reducing the amount of fat, for instance, remove the skin on the chicken etc. On the other hand, if your dogs movements are dry, lightish and a little crumbly looking you are feeding too much bone!
- Wild meats are great to feed - if you are worried about parasites, freeze for two weeks before feeding
- Some dogs hate the texture of liver, and since it makes up an absolutely essential 5% of a whole prey diet, it has to be fed. Sometimes briefly searing it will work (but it stinks), but most people find feeding it partly or completely frozen works for them. Knightley has no problem eating it all wibbly wobbly!
- Dogs are carnivores, they do not need to eat, nor should they have, vegetables. In fact unless the vegetables are cooked, and indeed many need to be pureed, dogs cannot digest them - a good hint that dogs shouldn't eat them! However, occasionally Knightley will get some leftover rice which he loves.... dogs tend to have less reaction to rice than to other grains
- If your red meats are grass fed there is NO need for supplements! If your dog isn't getting much grass fed red meat, it will need supplementing with a fish oil for Omega-3
- Older dogs that are starting raw after being on kibble for a long time can refuse to eat raw. Flavour the meat, even sear it very briefly, but a healthy dog is ok to go without food for a couple of days - until it realises this is the only food it is going to get. However, if your dog rejects its first meal or two and you are worried, contact your vet
- A lot of vets do not learn much about canine nutrition, or what they have learnt is often sponsored by kibble companies - not to mention they are often rewarded generously for selling certain brands of kibble through their practice. You can find vets who know more about pet nutrition and are not anti raw feeding, but it is harder. Be prepared for most vets to be against feeding raw but do not let that dissuade you
- All my advice here is from personal experience and research and I do believe raw is the best way to feed a dog, but it is your choice alone whether to feed raw. If you act upon my advice and things don't go quite to plan I won't be taking any responsibility for your actions. I will however be happy to answer questions here or on my facebook page about raw feeding or any other dog related matter you may read about on my blog
- More very excellent advice on whole prey feeding can be found on the Yahoo Group "rawfeeding" - I highly recommend it
If you want to see Knightley progressively eating the big turkey leg in the photo above, have a peek at this newer post!