Saturday, February 28, 2009

... in for a pound.

Proponents of prey model raw diets suggest a diet of 80% meat, 10% organ and 10% bone - the theory being that is the proportion in "real" whole prey.

Chicken generally forms a high percentage of the diet for a lot of raw fed dogs - it's cheap, and readily available. However, chicken is really high in bone percent. Here are the numbers, according to the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory

Back 44%
Breasts 20%
Thigh 21%
Drumstick 33%
Wing 46%
Whole 31%

Once your dog is on a raw diet, you want to average this out - so you would generally feed 1 or 2 boneless meals for every chicken-with-bone meal. But note the backs and wings. Over 40% bone! That might be a bit too high to feed, even followed by 3 boneless meals. Again, if you have a bigger dog, you can feed a breast with the wings or back attached - but for smaller dogs, this might be too big of a meal.

This is something to keep in mind when buying whole chickens. Depending on the price per pound, breasts or legs might work out to be a better price than whole. If you think about price per serving, vs. price per pound, this makes more sense.

For example, those whole chickens I bought. They were ~$6 each, and I cut each into 12 portions, or 6 days worth of food, which works out to ~$1 per day. But, if I take out the wings and back, then each chicken provides 8 portions, at ~$1.50 per day. I can get packs of legs (3 legs and thighs) for under $4 each, which provide 6 potions, at ~$1.33 per day. The good thing about whole, though, is you get the breast meat, which is generally quite expensive, and has a better meat/bone ratio than the legs.

One option for the "bony" chicken parts, is to feed along with organ meat. I might give that a try, but I still need to incorporate more "meaty" meat in Kip's diet. And that is generally where costs increase. I need to keep an eye out for sales - and buy a freezer!

Friday, February 27, 2009

In for a penny...

So, is raw more expensive? Well, it depends on the kibble you are feeding, and how cheap you can get meat for in your area. I'm Canadian, so prices here tend to be more expensive than for my neighbours to the south. Ultimately, you need to do your own cost comparison. And there are many ideas to cut the cost of raw - tell friends and family that you will take freezer-burned or unwanted meat, make connections with hunters to take excess meat of their hands, let your butcher or meat manager at the supermarket know that you will take expired meat, etc.

Since I'm a "left" brain, I did the following calculations:

Premium kibble:
Amount fed per day: 0.33 pounds
Weight per bag: 13.50 pounds
Days per bag: 41.14
Cost per bag: $41.80
Cost per day: $1.02
Raw (guidelines are 2%-4% of ideal adult body weight):
Kip's weight: 22 .pounds
Cost per day: $1.02 (to keep the same as kibble)

Percent of body weight: 2% .
Pounds per day: 0.44
Cost per pound: $2.31 .

Percent of body weight: 4% .
Pounds per day: 0.88
Cost per pound: $1.15.

So, depending on the percent it will take to maintain a healthy body weight for Kip, I need to keep the cost of the meat between $1.15 and $2.31 a pound.

I'm starting Kip off on about a half a pound a day - somewhere between 2% and 2.5% of his body weight. This might be a bit low, since smaller dogs generally need a higher percentage, but we'll start there and see how it goes. So, if I can find meat for ~$2 a pound, I'm staying within the budget.

So far, this is what I've bought:

Chicken legs & back: $1.47/lb, $6.87 total, 18 portions
Whole chicken:$1.99/lb, $20.55 total, 36 portions
Beef heart: $1.47/lb, $2.78 total, 7 portions
Beef kidneys: $1.49/lb, $1.87 total, 4 portions
Beef liver: $1.69/lb, $2.18 total, 4 portions
Pork roast: $1.99/lb, $6.17 total, 12 portions

Total cost: $40.42
Number of portions: 81
Number of days: 40.5
Cost per day: $0.998

I'm right on track, with the dollar-per-day cost. Yippee!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

All you need is love...

and a good knife.

A few other things come in handy as well- like a scale, a knife sharpener, plastic "ziploc" freezer bags, and tape and markers for labeling. Whole meats tend to be cheaper per pound, and with the right equipment, it isn't hard to cut them down to portion size. The size of each depends, of course, on your dog. With Kip, to start at least, I'll be feeding twice a day, so each portion should be around 4 ounces.

This is what a chicken looks like, portioned in ~4 ounce pieces. I know from previous dissections that each drumstick and thigh will weigh between 3 and 4 ounces - so those are one portion each. Cut off the wings, cut off the back, cut the back into two, and each breast into two. Viola - one chicken is now 12 pieces. I have been buying whole chickens for years for myself, so this isn't new to me. But believe me when I tell you - with a little practice, it is very easy to portion a chicken. And, the bigger the dog, the easier it is - as you will need fewer cuts.

A poor picture, but this is 3 whole chickens, all bagged and ready for the freezer. I separate each portion into it's own small freezer bag, then group all the different types into a large freezer bag, labeled with the meat and type. So here, there are separate bags for backs, wings, breasts, thighs and drumsticks. This way, I can remove each portion individually to thaw in the fridge, and I don't have to hunt though the freezer to find the piece I want.

I cut up 3 chickens, one pork roast, one beef heart, and some liver and kidneys in one session. From start to finish, it took less than two hours, including clean-up, to prepare one month's worth of meals. Not a bad use of my time, in my opinion!

A note about food safety. We are dealing with raw meat here. I have worked with microorganisms for the last 15 years, and I tend to be a bit lax about them - but not to the point of stupidity. The one thing you don't see in these pictures - the sink full of hot soapy water with a cup of bleach added. This is used to wipe down everything - including the markers and knife sharpener. Everything washable gets washed in this water (as I don't have a dishwasher). And I do not use "antibacterial" dish washing detergent. EVERY soap and detergent is antibacterial, and the chemicals added to the ones marketed as "antibacterial" have the potential to increase bacterial resistance. This is something I will not be a part of. There are fantastic cleaners that will not add to bacterial resistance - bleach being the best (as well as being cheap and readily available). Vinegar is another. And good old soap, water and air work great too. So, be smart, and be safe.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You want me to eat what????

Kip's first exposure to beef kidneys.

Silly dog. This is what he is thinking: "I don't know what it is, but it is not food, and thus shall not remain in the food bowl"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

We survived!

We survived Kip's first raw chicken meal. No vomiting, no emergency trips to the vet for lodged bones (yes, I worry to much), and firm poop this morning (oh dear, another poop report. I am turning into the crazy dog lady).


Friday, February 20, 2009

The first supper

I finally bought some chicken, and Kip's "output" is back to normal - so I figured we'd try this raw thing.

This is a ~4 oz piece of chicken back - very meaty, but some bones as well.

The first impression: "WTF?"
"What am I supposed to do with this?"
"Maybe if I try this side?"
"Or this side?"
"Mom, don't just hold it - do something with it!!"
"Ooooohhhh, I have to bite it! Why didn't you say so in the first place??"

And because I couldn't resist - if you listen closely, you can hear the crunching!

And for dessert? A nap on the couch. Now doesn't that look like a satisfied dog?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The tooth, the whole tooth, and nothing but the tooth

One thing that raw is supposed to benefit is dental health. Yes, you can take your dog to the vet every year or so for dental work - but that costs money, and requires anesthesia. Since I'm frugal (okay, cheap) and all surgery comes with a risk, I'd rather have Kip eat food that cleans his teeth naturally - and without resorting to those "teeth cleaning" dog treats that are so prevalent in the pet stores. I'm not too sure how those are supposed to work anyway, since any that I have bought for Kip last on average 2.845 minutes before being consumed.

Any group of raw feeders will rave on about how clean their dog's teeth are. And, I hope to join those ravers given time. But, I am aware that memory is a selective thing. So I decided to get some proof, in the form of "before" pictures. That way, I have something to actually compare to, and to either support or disprove a raw diet's effect on the Kipperdog's canines.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Put three raw feeders in a room...

and you'll get 17 different opinions on how to do it correctly.

Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration. But if there are a lot of debates around commercial food, there are just as many debates about homemade.

The big one - BARF vs. "whole prey" model.

BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, and was developed mostly by one person, Dr. Ian Billinghurst. It specifies a diet of ~60-80% meat and bones, and the rest fruits, vegetables and dairy products such as cottage cheese. The theory, as far as I know, is that the fruits, etc. provide vitamins, minerals and probiotics that are either required or beneficial to the dog.

This diet can get quite complicated, at least to start, in my opinion.

And complicated diets can sell a lot of "cookbooks". Do a search on any on-line book store, and you will get hundreds, if not thousands of results.

Then there is the "whole prey" model. The theory here is Mother Nature knows what she is doing, and provides everything a wolf (and therefore a dog) needs in it's appropriate prey. Being as most of us either do not have access to whole prey, or are unwilling to have a deer carcass in the back yard for a few weeks for the dog to gnaw on (what would the neighbours think??!!), it can be summed up as 80% meat, 10% bone, and 10% organ (5% of which should be liver).

It's less complicated, but there are still things to work out - do you try to balance those proportions every meal? Every day? A few days? A week? How much fish is too much? How many raw eggs are too many?

So, what do I think? Wolves are carnivores, but they are also opportunistic scavengers. So, they will not pass up ripe fruit if they find it in the wild. However - just because they eat it, doesn't mean they require it. And wolves definitely do not eat any dairy products.

I know, I know. Dogs are not really wolves. But, they are. Their dentition, their guts, etc. - as much as the outward appearance has changed, the innards are the same.

So, I'm a "whole prey" model proponent - and not just because it's easier. To me, it makes biological sense. However, there are "whole prey" people out there that are adamant that dogs should eat NO fruit/veggies, etc. I don't go that far. Kip loves apples and pears. Does that mean he has one every day? No. But if I'm eating one, I'm going to continue to give him a piece. Same with carrots, green beans, etc. I look at them as treats. And, they are not bad for him - simply "not required", the same way chocolate isn't "required" for healthy humans (mentally healthy though... that's a different story!).

And why this post? To let you know, and to reinforce it in myself, that there are MANY ways to feed your dog. And, as long as your dog is healthy, there is NO wrong way. There is a way that is right for me and my dog; that doesn't mean your way is wrong. If you ask my advice, I'll give it, but I will NEVER tell you what you are doing is wrong!

Now go give your dog a chicken wing :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Poop Report

If you spend any time around people who feed raw, eventually, the talk will turn to poop. I understand that what comes out of your dog is indicative of what went it, and what happened to it on the trip from one end of the dog to the other, but...

Or should that be "butt"?

I really don't want to talk a lot about poop. It really isn't my favourite topic. Really.


I've screwed up already. Sigh.

I still have a half a bag left of kibble, which I don't want to throw away. So, I thought I'd slowly transition Kip to raw, by feeding kibble for breakfast, and raw for supper. Similar to how you would transition from one kibble to the other. Sounds good, right?

Except, I ignored the advice about how to start feeding raw - you start with chicken. Bland, boring, beige chicken.


I got a couple of beef steaks on sale this week. So that's what he has been eating for supper for the past 2 days. Since I haven't actually started feeding raw yet, that's okay, right??


Poor Kip had diarrhea last night. Not bad. Not uncontrollable. Not in the house, fortunately.

He's fine now.


Back to kibble for a while - until I can go get some chicken parts!

Monday, February 16, 2009

In the beginning...

I am going to do it.

I've read, I've researched, I've thought, I've listened, I've weighed pros and cons, and, I've finally decided.

No more kibble for Kip. Well, no more once this bag is gone. We are going raw. Okay, okay, Kip is going raw. I still prefer my meat a little more well done.

I'm scared of screwing up.

I'm scared of harming Kip.

I'm scared of becoming a crazy dog lady.

But, I'm tired of researching dog foods, and debating protein levels, and to rotate or not to rotate, and if grains are good, bad or just ugly. And then finding one I like, paying through the nose for it - and hoping it's not part of a recall or lawsuit before the bag is finished.

I'm tired of not trusting the food I am giving my dog.

Dogs have existed on raw food and table scraps for thousands of years. They have existed on kibble for ~50 years. And I do realize the advancements science has made into canine nutrition. But... there seems to be more and more dogs out there with food and allergy issues. Can we attribute all of those to processed dog food? No. But there has to be some link between them. Do I think everyone should feed raw? No. I think everyone should do what they think is best for their dog, and, more importantly, what they can afford to do.

I fed Kip Iams for the first year of his life. I then switched to a higher grade food- and saw a remarkable improvement in his coat condition. I see this as just another step in trying to make sure Kip is as healthy as can be.

There may be issues. Schnauzers are known for two things - bad teeth, and being prone to pancreatitis. I hope that feeding raw will keep his teeth healthy, and that, as long as I watch the fat levels, pancreatitis won't be a problem.

This blog will, in part I hope, prevent me from going any further down the "crazy dog lady" path. That way, interested parties can follow our raw adventures - and those that think I'm already too far down the "crazy dog lady" road can choose to point and laugh instead ;-)