10.31.2011

Tasty Tuesday - Raw Diets Part II



Hi, everyone!  It's me, Phoebe ... back on this Tasty Tuesday for a blog hop kindly hosted by our friends Sugar the Golden Retriever and Kolchak the Puggle, to talk to you about the way Mom feeds us.  It is called a Prey Model Raw Diet.  Mom's gonna take it from here ... because honestly, I don't prepare the meals around here ... I just eat them.  Ok, Mom, it's all yours!

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Thanks, Phoebs!  Well, first of all, for anyone who missed our Tasty Tuesday post two weeks ago, you might want to start HERE.  This post is the second in a who-knows-how-many-part series pertaining to raw diets for dogs and cats.  How many more posts we do on this subject will depend primarily on what type of response we get.  From the few emails and comments that we got on the first post, it appears there is some interest in the subject, and since it is something I have been doing for some time and know something about, I figured it might be helpful to some people.  

What I probably won't do, though, is post a lot of pictures of the raw food itself, or of the dogs and cats consuming it.  I do have some, and could take some more, but since I know that a lot of people are squeamish about raw meat, I'll probably do more telling than showing.

The first thing I want to do is correct an error I made in the previous post (in the calendar section).  In the Thursday section of the menu for the dogs, it stated that the Thursday meal was comprised of nothing but some kind of kidney.  The fact is, some people with dogs who have cast iron stomachs can probably feed a meal of nothing but organ meat and not have any  issues.  MY dogs, however, are not those dogs, and probably most people's dogs are not (and if you have a Husky, Malamute, GSD, or any Nordic breed, you can almost guarantee that you don't, and you probably already know this!).  Therefore, when I feed organ meat, which is stool loosening, I always feed it with something containing edible bone (such as a Cornish hen drumstick) or something else that acts the same way in the body (such as a chicken foot, which, by the way, happens to be a great source of naturally-occurring glucosamine.)  I also listed some ground meat in those calendars, and while the calendars I posted were really intended just to show the type of variety that is possible, I did used to feed ground meat occasionally, but I don't anymore.  There have been too many issues recently with cooked ground meat for me to feel comfortable feeding it raw.  The only exception to this is certain ground products from raw feeding suppliers that are known for their high standards of quality and safety.  In general, however, if you want to feed ground meat, I'd suggest you grind it yourself, but it is honestly not necessary in the majority of cases.  

Here are some commonly asked questions about raw feeding: 

WHAT IS IT: 

Well, the short(ish) answer can be found in the previous post.  But it's worth noting that the way *I* define raw feeding may not be the way another raw feeder defines it.  There are definite subgroups within the raw feeding community.  Some feed BARF (an acronym that stands for either Bones And Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, depending upon whom you ask), and which calls for pulped raw veggies and fruits in addition to the meat and bones, and which generally doesn't contain organ meat.  There are also those who feed whole prey -  (whole rabbits, for example).  This, for the record, happens to be where I draw the line.  What other people do is what they do, and I make no judgments, but my own personal comfort level (and my love for bunnies, guinea pigs, and other small furries) does not allow me to feed this way. The raw feeding method that makes the most sense for me is prey model raw, which is also sometimes called Franken-prey, because in this style of raw feeding, we are essentially "building" a prey animal from various sources.  Some chicken, some beef, some lamb, a little of this, a little of that, all of which, together, makes a balanced raw diet.  And then, of course, there are the ever more numerous commercially available raw options, but that is a post for another day. 

On this note, though, there are those people (I call them the raw purists) who believe that feeding raw means eliminating 100% of all commercial foods from their dog or cat's diet, even when those commercial foods are raw foods.  Again, I make no judgments, but neither do I draw nearly such a hard line in the sands of my own raw feeding methodology.  I try to be very selective about what commercial treats or foods my dogs and cats eat, and they don't eat them much, or often, but they do eat them, and I'm also not going to get all bent out of shape over letting the dogs have a random ingredients-unknown cookie from the bank or the dry cleaners, or even the occasional french fry or pizza crust.  My point being that everyone's comfort levels are a bit different, and that's ok.  Feeding raw doesn't mean you have to eliminate absolutely everything other than raw meat, bones, and organs from their diet ... unless, of course, you want to or other dietary restrictions such as illnesses or allergies dictate that you must.  

IT SOUNDS GROSS AND DIFFICULT AND UNNECESSARY, AND OH, YEAH, GROSS!  SO WHY DO PEOPLE DO IT?:

Ah, the million dollar question! Without a simple answer, of course.  Talk to ten raw feeders and chances are you'll get at least seven or eight different reasons for why that person chooses to feed a raw diet to his or her companion carnivores.  Some people have dogs with severe allergies or other chronic conditions, have tried countless commercial foods with no abatement in the symptoms and their dogs have been "cured" by a raw diet.  Others lost pets in the mass pet food recalls of 2007, or know someone who did, and this prompted them to seek out another way of feeding their pets that allowed them more quality control.  The reasons can be myriad, but for myself it's a combination of reasons.  I've seen what a raw diet has done for my own animals, and I'm 100% convinced that it's the best thing I can do for them diet and nutrition wise.  

TEN FEET TALL AND BULLET-PROOF:

There is a group of individuals (and again I'll call them the purists, with no judgment, implied or otherwise, attached to this label), who will claim that feeding your dogs or cats a raw diet will, in essence, make them ten feet tall and bullet-proof.  They'll tell you that your dogs will never have doggy breath, they'll never get fleas or ticks, they'll never need to go to the vet, and yes, they'll even tell you that their $hit (er, poop) won't stink.  So how true (or not) are these claims?  

From where I'm sitting, no, feeding your dog or cat a raw diet will not make them invincible.  In fact, as distressing as this knowledge is, there is nothing that will.  Genetics will still play a part in the overall health of the animal, and a raw diet can only do so much.  What a well-thought-out, properly executed, balanced raw diet WILL do, I believe, is give each individual animal the best opportunity to be the healthiest he or she can possibly be, given genetics and prior history.  

BUT what I can also tell you is that even though I live in Florida where fleas are practically a fact of life, I have not had to administer Comfortis, Advantage, or other flea control in so long that I literally can't remember when I last had to give it.  And for what it's worth, the poop of raw fed dogs and cats IS essentially odorless, as well as very small and firm, which means it's easy to pick up on walks or to scoop out of the litterbox.  The reason for this, incidentally, is because unlike many commercial foods, a raw diet doesn't contain fillers or unnecessary ingredients.  It is, instead, exactly what our companion carnivores, however civilized they might otherwise seem, were intended to eat, and as a result, more of what they're taking in is actually being utilized by the body.  Correspondingly, there is far less waste.  I'll also tell you that as far as I'm concerned, a raw diet saved Finn's life.  He was one sick little kitten when he arrived on the scene, and he remained so for some time afterward, but it was when he basically transitioned himself to a raw diet (after nabbing a roughly twelve ounce piece of beef off the counter one night that I was cutting into chunks for the other cats), that he started making strides toward health.  I don't think he'll ever be as strong and vigorous health-wise as the other two cats, and he's unfortunately not ten feet tall and bullet proof, though HE certainly thinks he is, but I do fervently believe that raw has helped him be the healthiest he can be. 

WHAT WILL I TELL MY VET:

Ok, let's say you have a passing interest in a raw diet, but you're unsure about having to tell your vet what you're feeding at Fido or Fluffy's next appointment.  A valid concern, because many vets are not on board with raw diets, particularly those that are "home made."  The reason for this, honestly, is probably because, as vets, they've seen some pretty crazy stuff over the years, including, I'd imagine, some sick or malnourished dogs or cats whose owners were feeding "a raw diet" that consisted of some raw hamburger and nothing else, or something equally ridiculous.  This is where I'm going to remind you that ALL RAW DIETS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.  Raw feeding is not particularly complicated, and in fact a lot of it is common sense.  IF you follow the general guidelines, feed a decent amount of variety, keep your eye on the recommended percentages, which again are 80% muscle meat, 10% edible bone, 5% liver and 5% kidney or other secreting organ, and use your common sense, there is absolutely no reason why you can't successfully feed your dogs or cats a raw diet.  

One thing I implore you not to do as it relates to this topic, is to lie or be less than forthcoming with your vet about what it is that you are feeding, whether it's a raw diet or kibble or canned food or whatever.  The truth is, your dog or cat's vet plays a key role in keeping them healthy, and in order for them to be able to do their job effectively, they have to know the truth about what kind of care, and what kind of diet, the animal is getting at home.  If you don't have a vet you can be honest with, who will listen to you and respect your opinions, even if they don't always agree with them, then, in my opinion, you probably ought to find another vet.  I've had some amazing vets over the years, and I've also had a few that were less than stellar.  I worked really hard to find not just one, but two, (one Western and one holistic) vets I really, genuinely like and trust, and who are willing to listen to me, talk things over with me, and be true partners in the health care of my animals.  Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't, and generally I'll heed their advice.  Fortunately, they're both fully on board with the diet I'm feeding, and feel that my animals' overall excellent health (Finn's issues and Tucker's mild hypothyroidism notwithstanding) is testament to the fact that the methodology behind the diet I'm feeding is sound, and that it's working.  And if at any time it seems that it's NOT working, then I want them to tell me, and I'll reevaluate what I'm doing.  What I'm certainly NOT ever going to do, and what I beg YOU not to do, is lie to them about it.  And actually, you'd be surprised at how many raw feeding vets there are out there. Frequently looked at as a fringe movement, even a cult, in the past, raw feeding gets more mainstream all the time.  

WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE RAW MEAT "COOTIES?" WON'T I GET SICK?

This, honestly, is a sticking point for many people.  You hear all the reports about deadly salmonella and pretty soon that innocent chicken breast starts looking like less and less like dinner and more and more like a weapon of mass destruction.  And yes, I know all about biological/germ warfare, and I'm not meaning to make light of it, or of the very real, well, reality, that improper handling of any raw food has the potential to lead to serious illness.  But what I can also tell you is that in the many years I've been feeding a raw diet (first BARF, then prey model, and also some commercial raw stuff thrown in now and then), I've never once been ill in any way that I could trace to the fact that my dogs (and now my cats) eat a raw diet.  Tucker is eight years old going on nine, and my experiences with raw feeding predate his arrival.  Go back, in fact, all the way  to 1992, when I got Dakotah, my Malamute mix, about whom I've occasionally written on this blog.  That's a lot of years of raw feeding, and I'm still here and going strong, knock wood.  

Having said this, however, if someone in your house is immuno-compromised, you might want to give some serious consideration, and consult a doctor, before starting a raw diet, out of consideration for those individuals.  Some people like to wear gloves (I have some vegetarian friends who raw feed who do this) because they are grossed out by touching the raw meat, but I personally don't.  I do employ some basic precautions, but neither do I don a bio-hazard suit before preparing meals for the fur monsters.  And while I've had food poisoning from takeout Chinese, I've never had it from handling raw meat, either the stuff I've fed to the dogs and cats or that which I've handled prior to cooking it for myself.

Which leads me to the point that I think a lot of people who are a bit reluctant to handle all that raw meat sometimes forget.  Which is that unless you are a vegetarian/vegan, you handle raw meat all the time, prior to cooking or grilling it.  And so long as you don't go around  licking the raw chicken or asking Fido for a kiss after he's eaten his raw meal, the chances of you contracting a food-borne illness because you feed your dogs or cats a raw diet are, in my opinion and experience, actually pretty slim.  

Ok, I think this'll have to be it for this week.  Next week we'll delve deeper into the exactly what, exactly how much, and other pertinent questions pertaining to actually transitioning your dog or cat to a raw diet, as well as executing it properly.  Or, will there even be a next week?  You decide.  Are there any questions about raw feeding that you'd like answered?  And to my fellow raw feeders, is there anything I'm forgetting to cover that you think is really important?  



10 comments:

Old Kitty said...

What amazing information about raw diets for woofies. Wow!! Thank you!! I think it's so important to really research each pet's individual dietary needs. I'll never forget watching a programme where this person brought in a very sick and emaciated pet lizard to a vets - said she fed it cat/dog food thinking it was ok. Turns out this particular lizard was a herbivore and only ate bright coloured flowers and leaves. Poor lizard suffered all because of its owner's ignorance. Luckily the owner learned her lesson just in time too! sorry, a little off topic here but I just think research and being well informed is so important when the life and well being of others depend on you.

Phoebe - you look as adorable as ever!! Take care
x

Admiral Hestorb said...

I read every line. I may consider this for my next little one but Admiral is too old now and too many things wrong.

Remington said...

Great information, my friend! Thank you!

Madi and Mom said...

Hi Phoebe I hopped over from Sugar's Tasty Tuesday to say hi...thank Mom for the very interesting post...we did not know all of this.
Madi and Mom

Two Pitties in the City said...

We've been doing some raw, and now we're realizing how kibble is especially bad for our pooches as they are prone to kidney problems. We started going on a raw and vegetable diet we get at our amazing pet store. Plus, we've been learning a lot more about goats milk and how amazing that is for them.
PS. Levi adoptions can be made on the New Leash rescue site. Unfortunately, someone has been hacking the front page of the site, but the donations portion is safe and if you get the error message you can back out and get back in. They are also working on another option as they are working on unhacking the site (it makes me so sad that someone has to hack a dog rescue site!)

Tucker The Crestie said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

A&E, would love the goat's milk info - very interesting. I have known of people who have livestock guardian dogs who give goat's milk occasionally but thought it was mainly because it was in such abundant supply.

Also, I will try again to check out the site and donate - if not, maybe I can send it directly to you?

tubby3pug said...

Great information. I have fed raw on and off. Ideally I would LOVE to feed prey model raw, husband is less convinced. Plus as I was feeding high quality meats it was very very pricey. So now we feed grain free kibble, honest kitchen, home cooked and some raw. Someday when I have a bit more money and time I hope to go back to completely raw

Sagira said...

Wow, sure is a lot of useful information jam packed in this one. :)

Spitty-the-Kitty said...

This is really interesting. I think my Human is probably not going to do this right now, but she might in the future. One thing she has done is try to get me to like commercial food (like Wellness or Royal Canin) that has less (or sometimes no) grain. I am SUCH a stubborn & picky eater (not to mention naturally quite lean) that she does give in and give me my favorites sometimes. Well, nobody's perfect--I mean, i fshe were, she's feed me my favorites ALL the time!

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

I wonder if that took you as long to write as it took me to find the time to read! What a great post. I hope you're going to write more.