Friday, January 1, 2010

An answer too long for the comment section...

This was recently asked in the comment section of a previous post, and I started to answer, then realized what I was writing was a post, not a comment. So...

I have a 7 week old and a 5 month old I would like to switch to Raw feeding - what have you found to be your best source of information - I have read quite a few books - have spent months researching online - but everything seems to contradict each other - no dairy vs make your own yogurt, bones vs. no bones, add rice and barley vs. no need for grains. As someone who is doing it - what resources have you found the most helpful?

First off, thanks for visiting, and commenting!

I completely understand the confusion around trying to figure out what's best for your dogs. The last thing we want to do is to cause harm, but there is so much information out there, and most of it is conflicting. Then you get opinions and comments from friends, family, and dog "professionals", all of which, again, can be conflicting. Now let me state something that may sound odd: I don't think it matters which model you choose to follow. Any model you choose is better than processed kibble. Cooking meat, grains and veggies? Great! Raw ground meat and bones, supplemented with veggie "slop"? Fantastic! Throwing down a 3 pound raw beef roast for a 20 pound dog? Woohoo!

A year ago, I was in the exact same spot you were. And I wish I could tell you I had a blinding moment of enlightenment, where a voice from above proclaimed "Prey Model!!". But yeah, not so much. In reality it was more a process of elimination, with a dash of science thrown in.

Why did I decide on prey model? Well, it's based on the opinion that there is no difference between a wolf and a dog. That what a wolf survives on, a dog can survive on. But wait. I just said "opinion", and it is just that. Sure, it's based on some things like dentition and intestine length, but I'm honest enough to realize that there is a difference between "survive" and "thrive", and that dogs have thrived on diets other than prey model.

I like the simplicity of prey model, since I think anything too complicated is too hard to stick with. I also like the "teeth cleaning" aspect to prey model, which you won't get with any model that forces you to cut up or blend the food. That 3 pound roast? Yep, that's what Kip has been gnawing on for the last few days. I put it down whole, let him have at it for a while, then chuck it back in the fridge. Repeat until it's gone. Easy as pie!

I don't think dogs (or humans) need the "probiotics" that you hear about in supplements and some yogurts, since I firmly believe these would get killed off by the stomach acids. If you're feeding bone, you don't need dairy for calcium. From what I've read, grains, fruits and veggies are for fiber and some nutrients, but again, if you are feeding a variety of meats, I don't think you need any additional supplements, and dogs aren't like us, with a long intestinal track that requires fiber. When's the last time you heard of any predator species getting colon cancer? And I firmly believe dogs do NOT need grains - these are fillers, and not a part of any predator diet.

What is my best resource? At least starting out, it was the Yahoo Group listed over there --->.

A word to the wise though - while helpful, it's not a place to debate different models - it's a place to learn about prey model. If you do join, I suggest lurking for a while, and reading the posts. And be warned that there is a lot of "alternative" advice there, about vaccinations, homeopathy, etc. This blog isn't a place to debate that; suffice it to say I suggest you do some research on those topics as well, and not take any advice given (including mine!) blindly.

The vast majority of food Kip eats is raw meat, with a bit of bone (probably too much, since chicken is cheap), a bit or organ (too little, since it's still a bother to get him to eat it), with veggies, fruit and dairy as treats. Some prey model feeders in that group would be appalled over those last three, but I think as long as they are kept as treats, it’s are fine. Fine as in "may not be beneficial, but won't harm". Kip also gets processed treats and some kibble for training - again, something that would appall some people, but it works for us.

The hardest thing? Taking that first step, and realizing you won't totally screw up your dogs. Realizing that it doesn't take a large company with a bevy of scientists to create a "balanced" food. Realizing that, no matter which model you choose, you have the ability to modify it, change it, or completely switch to another if it's not working for you.

The worst things you can do? Make it too hard. Think too much about it (yeah, I know, it's HARD not to think too much about it!). Be too strict. And wait too long.

So here is my "double dog" dare to you: just do it. Go buy some bone-in chicken breast, and give it to your dogs. Stay away from enhanced/seasoned meats (meat with salt solutions added), and be ready for some loose stools, until they adjust. You can read some past posts about correct amounts, but it really does depend on the individual dog. Start with 2% of their ideal adult body weight. If they start getting to thin, feed more. Too fat, feed less. Add whatever you want to that meat - fruit, veggies, dairy, whatever works for you.

Really, just do it. A year from now, you'll be happy you did!

And Happy New Year to all the doggie people out there - may 2010 be great for both you and your furry companions!
Please note I'm assuming your dogs are fundamentally healthy. If they have any issues, your best bet is to join one of the forums and ask there. And if they have any allergies, then sticking to one food type (like chicken) until you know they can tolerate it before adding anything else is also a good idea.