The beginning of raw food...and the end. For now.
Updated: Apr 3, 2022
I have started started this blog, for the most part, to share my journey on healthy dog lifestyle. Ever since Josie came into my life 7 years ago, it was an ongoing journey on gathering information how to make her life as best as possible and as long as possible. I always knew that kibble is not the optimal option, but unfortunetly, there where not many options outthere. So, I chose the best option for dry food (in my opinion) and dreamed about the day to give her something better. I did, indeed, promised myself, that when she is older, we will switch to healthier option, so her body would at least get what it needs when it is more demanding, than it is in her youth.
Even when eating dry food, Taste of the wild was (and is for fosters) our choice for many years, doggies received fresh veggies and other "human food" additions. Off course, coconut oil is an oil we swear by and something they got all their lives (with me). I have read fresh veggies help the body absorb better the dry food. So I did that.
Eventually, I did weekends of meat, where they receive dry food over the week and then weekend meals consisted of raw turkey. The turkey was always treated with boiling water, to preserve the vitamins, but kill the bacteria. Later on it was dry food in the morning and raw (grocery store bought) meat in the eveninng. It was not good enough, but it was a beginning.
Fast forward to approx 2 years ago, when raw meat packages and nuggets where available in some dog stores and definitely became more attractive than dry food. I digged into raw food world, educating myself from so so many different sources. Some of them are MYZENOO and ROCKETO DOG FOOD, they became educational guidance daily. I have followed veterinarians, dog food specialist etc. As a celiac myself, who had to learn early on, to sustain my life force and my health, solely on natural things, that was also my approach towards dogs. We visit the vet only if necessary, but most things can be solved with turmeric and other natural remedies (post coming up).
We started from prepared raw food cubes and nuggets, blending them in different proportions. It worked for a while. But I felt it does not have the effect that raw food should have. So it happened, the store that was providing them, went out of business, so it was time to look into other options.
We found seemingly a brilliant option in Germany, with clearly stated ingredients and had nicely portioned, in burger shapes, meat. Sadly, the shipment was twice the price of the product itself and it just seemed like a waste.
Eventually, we found very cost efficient option, of raw meat packages in big proportions, so I started blending my own meals. I followed all the rules of adding bone, intestines, organs, greens, rice etc. Occasional kefir (probiotics) addition and natural vitamin blend from amazon. It seemed to work. BUT it was a daily nightmare, with bloody meat handling, not forgetting to defreeze things, having to get a freezer (thank universe for Facebook marked) etc. Meal preparation took a lot of time and a big mess, a disgusting mess for someone like me, who doesn't eat meat herself, except from occasional fish. But it was all for the kids, so off course - worth it.
4 out of 5 dogs will basically eat whatever you give them, without even sniffing, but Sjuzi, she is a picky one. At first she seemed to enjoy raw meat meals, but soon she was not a fond. She did not like the consistency and that it's cold. She is also very good at knowing what her boy needs and how much of that she needs, so she was a good guidance on what is working what's not. Just like with dry food, she had to be tricked into eating her daily meals, had to be fed by hand. That was a good sign, it's not the right fit.
I knew it was not working for others as well, a dog mom always knows. I stumbled upon a veterinarian in Lithuania, Martynas, from VetForCall , he specialises in pet health, on a pretty much mollecular level. I am really not good in explaining what he is doing, but his goal is to solve EVERYTHING with the right diet. It's all chemistry. Just like in humans, animal bodies start getting sick or fall apart, because of chemical imbalance. If you solve that, everything else is solved by the body. I loved that approach and I started being the super annoying, lot's of questions, client. Turned out - he was also the veterinarian, who was attending LU, when she was rescued! And very well remembers her horrible state and beginning of life. What a small world!
It was him, who introduced me to Urine testing strips, from Amazon. Turns out, to see how healthy your dog is, all you need is a drop of pee. And oh boy it can be surprising!
Till meeting Martynas, my dogs have had shiny healthy coats and seemed like the healthiest dogs in the world. There were some weight issues and some other small issues, but they seemed like local, not food related, problems (yes they were seen by veterinarian about that). All in all, non have been sick in many years. Whenever we visited veterinarian just for a check up, they were all fine. So, I thought I am doing a good job. Turnes out NOT.
I got totally obsessed with urine testing. My poor kiddos where followed by me with a yellow container, for a while, not being able to pee in peace. But it changed my life and perspective on everything. It also showed me high imbalance in the body, which apparently where the reason for the small problems, that we were told not to pay too much attention. I was crushed and felt like the worst mom. We started working on adjusting the diet, but there where just way too many obstacles, so, after learning a lot of shocking truths, I decided to try again, on my own, one last time.
For a moment there, I got their PH and other parameters on a perfect level. Sadly, after-all, it turned badly, since I never knew what kind of blend of meat I am getting from our meat source. Even following all the rules and guides, in the end, Josie got an allergic ear inflammation, LU became covered in dandruff, they had eye discharge, not typical to them. Finally, they all started shedding horribly, which - they never shed! This is where I said goodbye to experimenting with raw food....
My advice on raw feeding your dog - don't do it. Not on your own.
Here are some reasons why.
Yes, raw dog food is the best option for a healthy, long living, happy dog, there is absolutely no doubt in that! But my advice is - don't do it on your own. What I have learned clearly from all of this experience, is that every dog is very individual. Alone in my pack, some dogs are more carnivores according to their blood type and some could survive on a meat free diet. While dry or any other industrial food is not optimal version, it is designed to fit general needs. Raw on the other hand - is very very delicate game of proportions. It will take time to figure out which ingredients and in what amounts, are best for your dog. Done wrongly, it can do way more harm, than eating kibble.
No, pure raw meat is not enough. Dogs do need veggies, greens and starch (like rice or buckwehat) added. Probiotics as well. Everyone keeps talking how dogs are wild animals, but NOPE they are not! They have not been for ages, they have been domesticated and have lived both on meat, but also on berries, corn and other products that human provided. Their DNR is not a wolf anymore and to assume that, is harmful.
All raw meat prepared "full" meals, still have vitamins and minerals added, why? Because it is not enough of what they blend in. Non of those meals write how much, proportionally, there is lean meat, how much internal organs etc. Rarely they have bones in them, or sometimes they have too much. More often they have way too much fat containing parts of body, instead of muscle. Not to even mention, the source of meat, is not always as advertised. Just like with everything, it's marketing. Raw dog food companies appeal to your emotions and promise optimal health, while in fact, they can not guarantee it, as their combination of food is also prepared for, more or less, general consumption and not individually for your dog.
No, blending raw and dry food is not an option. When Josie was young and I talked to veterinarian about that, she already then clearly stated, that raw is digested by different stomach acid, then dry food. In a longer term, that would mess up the whole body balance. If there is no other option, at least there should be a long time between dry and raw food intake.
Giving raw meat, also means a bigger bacteria risk, not only for dogs, but also for you. All the surfaces you prepare meal on, or store the meals, should be disinfected daily, even multiple times a day. Their food dishes and eating area also has to be disinfected after each meal. Just be prepared that it takes a lot of work, not only to prepare the right meal, but also store it and clean up afterwards. Something that not many talk about.
Costs can be significally higher than dry food. Just be aware of that. AND, very important, your treats have to change as well. If you give your dog raw food, industrial dry treats are not a good addition to your dogs diet. Everything should be changed to raw, which is not easy. Keeping frozen chicken hearts in your pocket, is just not the same :)
All in all...
YES, I am all for not using kibble or other industrial food! After everything I know about it, it is not something I could go back to, at least not as for the option for the rest of their lives. I would know, I am poisoning them with "fast food".
BUT - UNLESS you have the option of going to a meat market and getting all the ingredients yourself, blending them daily, according to specifically your dogs needs, with all the extra super foods to add and full on knowledge on what is essential - feeding raw will not necessary mean it's good for your dog. I would suggest to start from blood and urine analysis, then work on meal plan with a specialist and monitor, with further blood or at least urine tests, the effects on the body. ONCE you find the right balance in your dogs food, the right source to get the food and once you get into a routine, it will be easy and definitely healthy. But it takes time and work, it's not enough to buy something advertised and assume it works. Not from our own experience at least.
Very common signs that it might not be working - dogs eating excessively grass, dandruff, bad breath, no change in weight in a overweight dog, eye discharge. The right raw food will be absorbed by the body almost fully, without putting on weight or needing to be removed from the body, meaning minimal amount of stool (almost rabbit like). It's very important to remember.
It is indeed much easier if you have just one dog, specially small dog. Us, well, we are a pack of 5 dogs, that are very different in genetics, shapes and food preferences. I was really trying, but all my discoveries will definitely changed my world. Now I know better. Now I know that I don't know anything :)
I know a lot of dogs living happy life on raw food. I know Myzenoo is doing wonderful job in preparing meals and having so many great recipes. But I dived in way too deep into the raw food behind the curtain scene, to comfortably continue to suggest it for everyone. A simple urine strip test is my reminder, that it's a much more complicated subject.
There is still indeed a lot of things I want and can write about. As I said before, this space is based on our experience and only on it. Our raw journey up until now, did not succeed. So, it's the end of it - for now. Every day though, something new comes out, something new becomes available. So I am excited about what the future holds.
What are we eating now? Well, that comes in the next post :)
I'm leaving you with some examples of the meals we went through, over the last couple years.