Monday, July 30, 2012

Why I decided to raw-feed my dog

When we adopted the dog I wasn't sure what kind of food was best for him, canned or kibble, so I did an Internet search to find out. To my surprise I quickly discovered the answer was neither - dogs are not built to metabolize grain, which is often the main ingredient in kibble. In fact, I learned that the grains in kibble are linked to allergies in dogs. The meat products used in both kibble and wet food turned out to be questionable, too. Add in all the message board chatter about the huge pet food recall of a year or two ago and it was enough to scare me off feeding commercial pet food altogether!

Now that I knew I wanted to make my own food, the question became should I feed cooked, or go raw? Raw seemed to be the more biologically appropriate choice, but if feeding raw should I do B.A.R.F. (Bones and Raw Food) or Prey Model (raw feeding that tries to approximate the diet of wolves in the wild)?

The questions seemed endless, but several books, multiple Internet articles and many online conversations later I knew I wanted to go with a loose interpretation of the B.A.R.F. method, feeding meaty raw bones with some fresh veggies and a little yogurt for probiotics. Although most raw feeders advocate feeding whole pieces of meat on the bone I was worried about the dog dragging chicken parts around the house and exposing my kids to bacteria, so I decided grinding would be the better way to go.

This past Saturday was "D" day - I cleared the decks in the kitchen, set up the grinder and got down to the somewhat messy business of making my own raw dog food.

Here is how I did it:

Wanting to keep my costs to a minimum, I chose to buy whole chickens on sale and cut them down myself rather than buy the more convenient, but pricier packs of chicken quarters.

It took a little bit of work to cube two whole birds, but it went surprisingly quickly. I used everything, even the giblets and backs. After all that chopping and hacking I took special care to disinfect my entire work area and my utensils!

Once the chickens were cubed and bagged for freezing I made up the paste of non-meat ingredients. I used hard boiled eggs (shell and all), canned puree of pumpkin, steamed broccoli, peas and carrots and some Greek yogurt along with a generous splash of olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

Next, I made up a test batch, mixing one part puree with three parts of the ground meat and bone mixture. I bagged the test batch in small bags containing enough food for a full day and stored it in the freezer along with the extra cubed chicken and remaining veggie puree.

This week I'll be monitoring my dog's consumption of my test batch so I can make any necessary modifications to my recipe before producing a larger quantity next week. Since dogs need a variety of protein sources I'll be rotating between my home made dog food, canned mackerel (for fatty acids) and recreational beefy bones for chewing fun.

I'm also planning to make a modified version of this recipe for Luna, our kitten, and puzzling out a recipe to satisfy my sisters passel of seven picky felines.

If feeding raw feels right to you, it might just make all the difference in the world to the health and well being of your pet, just be sure to do solid research, have your pet checked out by your vet, and if possible talk to a canine nutritionist before making the switch.

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