Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First forays into raw feeding

I've been hibernating. The house is in the process of being prepared for sale (packing, painting, storing, staging...), dogs are demanding attention, work is work, and I've been fighting a pretty serious case of the blahs.

I've also been trying out a predominantly raw diet for the dogs. I've heard people extol the virtues of raw feeding: healthy teeth & gums, healthy coat, small poops, no dog-stink, improved energy levels, etc. I want in on the action. I'm intensely curious on how Cohen's condition might improve - she's always been fed high quality kibble (Orijen 6-Fish) and is in pretty dang good shape already. Mega might see more drastic results - she's not exactly in shape, and still smells a little yeasty.

To make matters more complicated, Cohen doesn't do well with chicken. Chicken for dinner normally results in diarrhea the next morning. She seems to have a rather sensitive GI tract. Megatron seems able to eat just about anything without any repercussions. Tinydog's insides are a well oiled machine.

So far I've been switching over pretty lazily. I've been buying premade patties, and supplying the dogs with the occasional bit of whole meat on bone. If I were in a position to jump in headfirst I'd want to source my own meats and provide more whole meals, but for now the patties are going to have to do.

Everything was going well until I gave Cohen a particularly large section of beef neck bones. In the past she's been fine chowing down on a vertebrae and it keeps her occupied for a good hour. I bought some larger sections and tossed one at the dog a few days ago (which she cleaned happily) and the following day Cohen was a mess. She threw up chunks of bone a couple times, had some vicious diarrhea, and was practically comatose until well into the afternoon. She refused a small chunk of raw food, but perked up after I got her to eat some kibble and drink a bit of water. She was feeling pretty sorry for herself. And now of course I'm worried about giving her another neck bone snack.

She's been fine since then, and eats frozen patties happily. We've been doing mostly raw for 2-3 weeks now, and I've yet to see any of those benefits I've been told about. I'll obviously keep up with it for a good few months before I really step back and assess her condition, but I'm a bit worried that I'm going to be experiencing the added effort and cost of the diet without seeing its supposed benefits. Only time will tell!

Does anyone have any stories of the changes they may or may not have seen upon starting their pups on raw? Tips? I would love to hear them.

3 comments:

  1. Commercial raw (patties/medallions/nuggets/ground meat in general) often doesn't do anything for the teeth and gums. Whole prey is much better for that, it's mentally and dentally stimulating. :)

    Cohen may be sensitive to poultry, which is always something you have to be aware of when you feed raw. Elli has multiple protein allergies (anything with wings or by-products of winged critters she cannot tolerate and breaks out into an itchy hivey mess). You may have to go the way of feeding whole fish and whole rabbit to get the dental benefits without the poultry.

    Elli's also thrown up bone before, just be glad she expelled it that way and that it didn't get stuck elsewhere in her digestive tract! Make sure you're watching when she is taking on a bone, remove the chips.

    If you're experiencing diarrhea after gnoshing on beef necks, you're probably feeding too much like you said. I had the same experience with a lamb femur. Make sure that if you're feeding beef necks that she isn't also getting a patty-meal -- that's too much food (my experience!).

    Usually seeing the dental effects is easier once she's finished a bone, lift her gums and peer inside. Oftentimes there is blood around the edges of the teeth (think: flossing). The breath doesn't smell, either. Once meaty bones are the only things she's getting, you'll never see plaque build-up again.

    As for pricing, check here (http://www.dogaware.com/diet/rawgroups.html) to see if there is a co-op in your area. You get group-discounts and bulk discounts on whole prey.

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  2. My first thought is that you can't expect to see any of the tooth cleaning benefits from feeding ground meat. The cleaning action happens not just while chewing on bones, but also when biting through the meat and having the meat fibers, tendons, etc. rub against the teeth, cleaning them. Ground meat won't do the same thing. And, ground raw doesn't provide the mental stimulation that whole raw will provide.

    While I love raw, and my dogs do great on it, and even my cat does wonderful and loves her raw food, I don't think it is a miracle cure. Pallo still gets a bit of a doggy smell. The dogs still have occasional bad breath (and more so when I feed something like elk). But, for my dogs at least, their muscle tone improved immensely and their coats did get softer and shinier. Raw is the only thing that worked in a long battle of trying to get my cat to lose some weight. So, not a miracle cure, but it does have some wonderful benefits sometimes.

    A note about raw poops: for the most part, raw fed dogs will have smaller, less stinky poop. However, depending on what they are being fed, it will have a different consistency, color, and smell day to day. You will never, if feeding a varied raw diet, have poops that look exactly the same every single day like you have with kibble.

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  3. In all honesty, I haven't appreciated a tremendous difference in my dogs between 100% raw fed and 100% high quality kibble. Steve is the only one raw fed at the moment, and the only difference is that I'm having an easier time keeping weight on him. Coat is the same, muscle tone is the same, smell is the same. His poops might be marginally smaller (and they turn white and crumbly), but that's not a huge concern.

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