I'm often asked what I feed my dogs after people notice their teeth and their shiny, silky coats. I am alway happy to share that they are both fed raw. This is met with a variety of responses depending on people's backgrounds and what their understanding of 'raw' is.
There's this funny idea that raw feeding is taking a steak or some hamburger meat out of your freezer and giving it to your dog.... which is wildly inaccurate. Raw diets require extensive research and an understanding on what is required for your dogs nutritional needs. Each and every dog is different, which means bowls vary depending on dietary constrictions, needs and overall activity levels. Balance is key for the success of a raw diet.
When Kyro first came into my life I was completely clueless when it came to raw diets, let alone good dog food brands vs popular brands. Kyro started off on 'Science Diet: Puppy' which I later found out is a very meh dog food. It was pretty apparent that something wasn't right when he was only 3 months old and couldn't stop itching. He was itching like he had fleas and itching to the point of causing his hair to fall out. I sought out advice from a Primary Vet and was recommended another Science Diet type food. Skeptical of this solution I started seeking out other resources via the Internet.
I ended up finding a dog food brand called 'TimberWolf Platinum', which was immensely more expensive than Science Diet. However, the website I had found it through had excellent reviews (5 stars) on the food. It was grain free and high in protein as well as oils for coat health.
The website I used was Dog Food Advisor. I highly recommend checking out that website if you want thorough break downs for food and are looking to switch up your dogs diet. They cover kibble, canned foods, some raw foods and also dehydrated raw foods.
This switch worked really effectively until Kyro was about 1.5 years old. I started to notice he always seemed bloated, tired and uncomfortable after eating. The amount of kibble that needed to be fed daily for his size certainly was a lot. With this in mind I started to research once again. This time I discovered dehydrated raw food. The idea of a more natural option intrigued me and I switched over to feeding I and Love and You. I had great luck with this brand and Kyro seemed to really like it. After a few months though... I came to discover Kyro had lost interest in the food. He was absolutely crazy about their dog treats, but just really wasn't eating.
Once again.... back to the drawing board. This was when I finally found something that has changed my entire perspective on dog food- raw food. The idea at first was a bit uncomfortable to me. I knew dogs could eat raw meat, but could they sustain off of it? I found a large amount of mixed reviews on the pros and cons of feeding.... finding myself more confused than anything else. I wasn't discouraged though- something in the idea of knowing what went into my dogs bowl really intrigued me.
Continuing my research I discovered an amazing raw feeding group on Facebook. This group is full of experienced raw feeders, education, graphics- pretty much everything you could ever need. Any question you had- they could answer and provide sources/backing for those answers. I was able to delve into a whole new world of feeding and felt like I had a support system to do so. Kyro was 2 at the time I made the switch and it was honestly the best decision I've ever made.
His hair regrew.
His itchy spots resolved.
His coat had a new shine and softness.
His breath no longer smelled, his teeth are sparkling white.
His weight management was better.
His energy levels increased.
He seemed happier.
The results weren't instant, but I noticed them starting after just a few weeks on raw. As time has passed and more and more education is coming out about raw diets- I've been better able to really craft his bowls to his needs. Now with that backstory passed... let's get into what I use to raw feed my boys and some of my favorite brands!
There are a lot of different sources in which you can find top grade meats/organs/bones for your dog (or other animals). The point of feeding raw is to understand where your meats/organs/bones are from. You aren't just feeding some random freezer burned meat you found somewhere. Your dogs should be eating meat you'd feel safe cooking up for yourself. Many feeders establish connections with their local Asian Markets, Butchers, Hunters and Farmers to source their food for a excellent price and freshness.
I get my organs/bones/meats from a amazing company called Reel Raw. I started getting products from them almost a year ago and am in love with the way they run their company. My food is delivered every two weeks to my door. Pre-packaged in easily storable baggies for my freezer. They pre-measure the ground organs, meat and bones for your dogs weight which takes a lot of the work out of feeding. We are always on the go- so saving time means a great deal to me.
I, personally, prefer to prep all my food myself as I add in additional supplements and items I have found to be beneficial to my dogs. This means that every 5 days (used to be 10, but now I have two mouths to feed!) I dethaw baggies and food prep. I invested in some awesome stainless steel bowls from Amazon that work for both serving the food and storing it in the freezer. The bowls aren't all the same size, but I measure everything that goes into their bowls anyway. If you're interested in the bowls they can be found here: Food Prep Bowls.
What all goes into my dogs bowls aside from raw meat/bones/organs?
One of my favorite supplement brands is The Honest Kitchen. They make a variety of amazing supplements, foods and treats that are all full of awesome health benefits. Their labels are clear and the instructions for feeding are easy to follow.
Shown above is a supplement I always include in both Dovah and Kyro's meals. Much like humans, probiotics are really important for a dogs gut health. This is something often overlooked and can lead to a variety of digestive problems. What are the benefits of Goats Milk?
Goat milk contains vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, trace elements, enzymes, protein, and fatty acids. Raw goat milk is a source of easily digested probiotics that can help with many chronic diseases. It 5 billion active probiotic cultures and digestive enzymes to promote general health and immune support for cats and dogs of all ages
Diseases that it can help with:
- Liver disease
- Heavy metal poisoning
- Kidney disease
- Kidney stones
- GI disease
- Poor digestion
There are many different brands out there of Goats Milk, but for my lifestyle I prefer the use of this brand. It comes in powder form and is easy to make. It's great for those who have limited storage and only want to make a certain amount of servings at a time.
For those out there that want their dogs to have beautiful coats and skin- this stuff is amazing. Salmon oil is very high in both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are omega-3 fatty acids. Notably, there are the two main types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA. These are plentiful in fish and shellfish. Algae often provides only DHA.
- Short-chain omega-3 fatty acids are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). These are found in plants, such as flaxseed. Though beneficial, ALA omega-3 fatty acids have less potent health benefits than EPA and DHA. You'd have to eat a lot to gain the same benefits as you do from fish.
Proven benefits from EPA and DHA include:
- Improves the coat and skin, making it soft and shiny.
- Reducing inflammation that can lead to conditions such as arthritis.
- Helps to prevent skin allergies.
- Helps with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
- Regulates the immune system.
- Calming overactive immune systems for dogs with allergies or autoimmune diseases.
- Aiding in mental development of fetuses and puppies.
- Improves cognitive function in older dogs.
- Lowers blood pressure and triglycerides.
- Provides support for dogs with kidney disease.
- Fights heart disease.
- Is preventative against cancer.
- Helps promote weight loss in overweight dogs.
- Helps in producing more collagen.
- Useful in the treatment of kidney problems (frequent urination, loss of appetite)
- Appearance of joint problems is lessened.
- Can help to slow cancer cell growth.
- Helps cachexic (the muscle wasting associated with some cancers).
These powerful fatty acids have even been linked to improving the brain development in growing puppies!
This next featured supplement is directed more toward Kyro than Dovah. While Dovah does get a small dose of this, it is purchased more for Kyro. Before Kyro had his surgery I had already started him on this supplement. It is very common for large dogs to suffer from injuries, arthritis and inflammation as they age. Introducing some type of joint supplement can help ease a lot of their pain and keep their joints from wearing out as fast.
Benefits linked to this supplement:
- Features a unique blend of glucosamine hydrochloride, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and rich whole foods and food concentrates to provide joint support in combination with great nutrition
- Glucosamine to support healthy joints and flexibility. Great for mature and older dogs who may be starting to show stiffness, lameness, or arthritic joint pain. Helps improve mobility and joint function
- Omega fatty acids to support intercellular health, for absorption of fat soluble vitamins, and to maintain energy levels
- Dietary fiber to promote a healthy digestive system. Phyto (plant) nutrients to support general health and nutrition
Bone broth! Bone broth is well acknowledged as a nutritional powerhouse for dogs. Not only is it excellent at settling upset stomachs, but it's jam packed with nutrients that support joint health, allergies, immune system and more!
Benefits of Bone Broth:
- Digestive Health
- Joint Health
- Immune System Support
- Appetite Encouragement
- Skin & Coat
- Helps Detox The Liver
What bone broth contains:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B-12
- Vitamin B-6
- Silicon, sulfur
- Hyaluronic acid
- Phosphorus potassium
I purposely buy the Bone Broth that has Turmeric included in it as Turmeric has been proven to be a very powerful anti-inflammatory. It's been a huge help in maintaining/preventing inflammation around Kyro's back.
Benefits of Turmeric:
- Relief from joint pain
- Lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind)
- Support for the liver’s detox processes
- Antioxidant with potential as a cancer preventative
- Allergy relief
This supplement is directed more toward Dovah. Dovah seems to suffer from seasonal allergies (quite possibly grass). He used to be itchy all the time and I couldn't find a way to resolve it. I tried a variety of coat supplements, anti-itch sprays, allergy sprays, allergy supplements, aloe puppy sprays and so on and on- no luck.
I stumbled upon this supplement when I was refilling one of my other supplements. I had heard that honey can help dogs with allergies and figured I would give it a go. Just two days with this in his food and his itching has 100% stopped. No more little belly rashes, no more itching whatsoever.
Please note: honey must be fed in moderation as it is a sugar.
Benefits of coconut:
- Clears up skin conditions such as eczema, flea allergies, contact dermatitis and itchy skin
- Reduces allergic reactions and improves skin health
- Makes coats sleek and glossy- gets rid of doggy odor
- Prevents and treats yeast and fungal infections, including candida
- Protects against fleas, ticks and mites
- Improves digestion and nutrient absorption
- Aids healing of digestive disorders like inflammatory bowel syndrome and colitis
- Reduces or eliminates bad breath in dogs
- Expels or kills parasites
- Contains powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal agents that prevent infection and disease
- May reduce risk of cancer
- Regulates and balances insulin and can help prevent or control diabetes
- Promotes normal thyroid function
- Increases energy and helps reduce weight
- Helps build strong bones
- Eases inflammation and can help with arthritis discomfort
- Promotes good nerve and brain function and prevents dementia
- Improves oral health and can be used to clean teeth
Benefits of honey:
- Seasonal allergies
- Gastrointestinal Problems: such as gastritis, IBD, colitis, and so on.
A supplement I was using even when Kyro was on kibble... Green Juju Kitchen. I love this stuff. It's extra special to me that this is made here in Washington state. This company is so passionate about what they do it's genuinely inspiring.
What is in the amazing Green Juju?
- Dandelion greens
- Buffalo bone broth
- Coconut oil
This stuff seriously packs a powerful little punch. It's easy to add to any diet and the owners of this company are immensely passionate about their own pets as well as those they cater to.
There are a few other ingredients that rotate throughout Kyro and Dovah's diet such as whole mackerel and eggs with shell. Both are excellent for coat and skin health. Eggshell is also a great source of Calcium. Shell can be fed whole, crushed or ground into a fine paste depending on your animals preference. I also really like the supplements from Kin + Kind. Not only do they make great supplements- they also make awesome dog skin products.
Important notes regarding raw feeding:
As I stated in my starting post... there are some misconceptions and myths about raw out there. Balance and meeting the nutrients needed for your animal is a must. If you don't want to invest the time, or effort in feeding these diets properly- I highly recommend against it. As with any diet- you can do far more harm than good if you are not feeding it properly.
There are a couple 'simple' rules to be followed for raw feeding. When feeding raw you should be feeding at least 2-3% of your dogs body weight daily. I feed a little less than 2% for Kyro as we're maintaining a lean weight to reduce stress on his back and knees. Dovah gets a little closer to 4% as he's growing so quickly. The boys will get an increase in food depending on what activities we've been doing/have planned. It should also be broken down into a 80/10/10 make up. This stands for 80% meat, 10% bone, 10% organ. The 10% organ splits into 5% liver and 5% other organ meat.
Raw bones are another thing that there is a great deal of misunderstanding out there. While raw bones are excellent for cleaning teeth and maintaining oral health- you have to feed the right kind of bones. Any weight bearing bones of large animals are a big no-no. While these are popular in stores to sell for dogs they are very dense... this means there is the risk of causing damage to teeth. Bones cut by a bone saw are also something to avoid as they can have sharp edges. Marrow bones are another that should be avoided. They are great to be used in Bone Broth, but the cut makes them a risk for a dog getting their lower jaws stuck. These bones also tend to be made from weight bearing bones and therefore are dense. You should also always supervise your dog when eating bones to ensure they don't decide to shallow a piece that could cause problems. If you're uncomfortable with feeding whole bones you can seek out a butcher or company they provides them pre-ground into your food.
There are a couple different raw diets out there that both are great for your dogs, but are different styles based on owners preference. I'm adding some educational links below for those interesting in reading a little more in-depth on topics related to raw feeding.
I could go on and on about this topic, but tried to condense it into something easier to read. This is a very light touch on what I feed my dogs personally and should not be exactly what you replicate for your own dog. As I stated above- each and every dog is different and has different dietary needs. Tailoring your dogs diets to it's needs are extremely important.
Please do extensive research before considering any changes to your dogs diet.