Rin-Tin-Tin goes Raw Foodie

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Real Food Liz/Liz Wolfe is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Regarding other affiliate links and affiliate relationships: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. For more information, click here.

Approximately one year ago, we were well into our nesting phase and making that oh-so-unique decision to get a dog. (Sarcasm.) We toyed around with the idea, and when we saw that the local animal shelter was having FREE adoptions, we jumped at the opportunity.

Did I mention the FREE adoptions were for “Extra-large breed dogs?”

Well, we visited the shelter and I promptly fell in love with a tall, sloppy drink of slobbery water. This mixed breed was some kind of Dane-Mastiff-Pit Bull mix. He was waaay too big, Husband said. But all us ladies know, when the Husband looks at us and emphatically says, “No” – it really means – “Go back to the shelter while I’m at work and put in an application.”

We brought Cal home in a rainstorm and immediately set off on a walk to establish the chain of command. After re-attaching my leash arm twice as Cal pulled me through rain puddles like he was charging the first leg of the Iditarod, I had my doubts. But we settled in to our routine, got a Dyson, let him up on the bed, and learned that the surefire way to “loosen up” is to adopt an untrained, fabulously obnoxious, overly enthusiastic 90-lb bundle of joy. I can say without reservation that my dog is the $#it.

This is his water. I don't argue.

We were fully Primal at this point, and as I became “one of those people” who chats with strangers about their “kid” without specifying that I actually mean “dog,” I started to think that we could do better than standard kibble. I’m no genius, but I’m 99.9% sure that wheat isn’t a natural part of a dog’s diet. So we switched to Orijen. I was happy with the ingredients and the improved digestion, but Cal wasn’t much more enthusiastic.

He's got the after-dinner blues.

Even with my Primal devotion, I wasn’t sure about feeding dogs “raw.” Until I asked my friend Beth at Canine Cottage what she feeds her incredibly healthy, youthful dogs. We had a conversation about smart, against-the-grain (literally) nutrition and how it applies to dogs. She visits a holistic vet, doesn’t vaccinate on the traditional schedule (she titers) and has great success with feeding a raw diet to her pooches. Suddenly it made sense to me – crunchy, uniformly chalky beef-flavored nuggets? That may be the furthest thing from a natural diet there is. My dog is extra large, and I know XL dogs are supposed to be doomed to health problems, dysplasia, arthritis, stomach issues and earlier death than their teensy counterparts. Could this be diet-related?

I want to have Cal around for as long as humanly (and canine-ly) possible. If a raw diet will make that happen, I’m on board. So we gave it a whirl.

Majestic Raw, his favorite so far.

Raw food – the good stuff – can be obtained from local butchers (Cal also gets lamb), Majestic Raw, and US Wellness meats has it as well. Like eating whole foods, it may feel more expensive, but we’re looking at the long term here.

Interestingly, it seems that because the raw food is so water-dense, he’s hardly motivated to gulp down water all day as he once was. It seems he’s getting all the water he needs from his food. (Processed foods make me ridiculously thirsty. Must be the same with dogs.)

So ask around – there are vets who’ll say “no way, ” but as with doctors, sometimes the first opinion shouldn’t be the last. The ingredients? All kinds of nasty stuff that dogs love – Tripe, heart, liver, bone, and the kitchen sink. That long ingredient list on the Majestic sleeve makes use of just about every part of the cow, and the pooch makes use of just about everything in there too. His digestion is great (I won’t bore you with the details) and I hope this keeps him with us as long as possible. I supplement his diet with the occasional pastured egg yolk and coconut oil.

Anybody else feed Raw?

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  1. John P. Speno says

    Our kitties eat raw meat. Plain old ground turkey and Primal brand beef and salmon nuggets. I like the idea that if I ever run out of my own food, I could share some of theirs. :-)

  2. says

    Alcott is all about her raw diet…w e switched her over to kibble when she had to stay at my in-laws (yuckkk). We went raw when we were still training her and it made a HUGE difference. Full puppies and happy puppies. I always made her food myself, so I am really interested in trying Cal’s favorite brand.

  3. says

    Not long after I went Paleo I caught myself putting food in the dog’s bowl and thinking, “Hey. I don’t know what’s in this crap either.” I’ve been working on getting her switched over ever since. Your post is a timely reminder that I need to work harder on that so I’ll definitely be looking into this. Plus I’m getting two more puppies in about three weeks and I’d like to get them off on the right foot from the get-go!

  4. says

    Have been feeding our dog a mix w/ raw meat and veggies for a couple of weeks now. Funny results include protecting her food from the cat (who tries to dart in for some liver) and pointing on walks (she only occasionally manifested this behavior in the past). BTW, Cal is gorgeous and one lucky dog!

    • says

      Thanks Adam, for the comment AND the complement! We sure love our big guy..Our big “special” guy. I can’t believe it never occurred to me how unnatural kibble is. I’m so happy to supply the pooch with a more biologically appropriate diet! Also, our boarding lady told us to feel free to supplement with our table scraps…meat, veggies (nothing too seasoned) and the like. I realized…why WOULD I throw that stuff away when some of it would be just great for the dog! And whaddya know – it hasn’t caused him to beg or harass us at the dinner table. (Although he’s gotten up on the counters a few times. Not his fault – I understand the impulse!) BTW, your blog is great!

  5. linda says

    My dog has been eating raw since she was a puppy. I tried all sorts of kibble when I first got her and all of it gave her the runs so bad (TMI!). It didnt even click that she should be eating raw until I met another dog owner in the park who told me she only fed her dog raw meat and some cooked veg. It makes so much sense when you think about what type of creatures they are!

  6. Kaye says

    I’ve been feeding my American Bulldog a raw diet for a year and he is truly thriving on it! An added benefit I’ve found is that his poops disintegrate within a couple of days so I don’t have to stress about cleaning the yard unless I have specific plans to be out there (especially nice in the winter). I was able to get connected with a raw food group in western Washington for discounted sources of meat, organs, bones, etc. which made feeding raw no more expensive than a high-end bagged food. I usually mix and match raw chicken backs, ground beef/tripe mixture, venison bones, fish about once a week, an egg once or twice a week, and organ meat once or twice a week. He also likes the goop from the juicer and fresh orange wedges – go figure.

    • says

      As with so many aspects of this life, you’ve got to get creative to keep it affordable :) I LOVE American bulldogs…I bet yours is one happy guy!

  7. says

    Hey I just found your blog via Pinterest and have been enjoying it :) I’m not Paleo/Primal per say, but it’s the closest thing to my overall lifestyle so I lurk around…hope you don’t mind. Just wanted to add that I’ve been feeding my Boxer a raw diet for about 5 years (she just turned 6). We’ve only used a pre-made food a few times though. Have you ever tried a whole prey model for your pup? It’s easier than it sounds, and you get the benefits of bone chewing for teeth cleaning. My dog eats mostly whole chickens (1 chicken every 2-3 days), but she does get fish, beef, and pork as well. I have estimated that it costs between $50-$60/month to feed my 53lb pup this way, which I think is pretty affordable! Anywhoo, I wanted to mention that because I believe the chewing/crunching has a lot of value that you don’t get with the patties. Just a thought! Thanks for talking about raw feeding, I find the whole idea is still very taboo to most people.

    • says

      I’m learning more about that now! I did buy some whole chickens for the pup, but “chickened out” at the last minute. (Haha.) I just didn’t see how those little bones could NOT get stuck! And I wondered if I needed to gut it at all, or just feed the whole darn thing (including head, feet and beak). Yet I know how important chewing is, so I want to do it – and do it right. Feel free to leave more advice if you stop by again, I’d love to hear it :)

  8. says

    Hi Liz! It can be a little scary at first. We started with chicken quarters (leg+thigh), which are a manageable size. Generally the rule though is that you want to feed things at least the size of the head, so for your adult dog I might take a cleaver and cut a chicken in half at first- just so it’s not as intimidating, but it’s still larger than a quarter. You are already over the first hurdle though which is to get a dog to recognize raw meat as food. He might take right to it, it’s kind of unpredictable. Re: the bones…there is a lot of negativity surrounding the whole raw bone issue…a lot of scare tactics…it’s hard to get your mind around it at first. But actually most of the bone digestion occurs in the stomach, they basically crunch the bones but it’s not like a full chew. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself cringing. Here are some other pointers I have gathered from extensive research that I hope will help you on your journey :) #1- Never ever ever give a dog a cooked bone- not a tbone to clean or a rib rack. This terrifies me! If my raw fed dog ever got ahold of a cooked bone I would FREAK OUT. These are likely the dogs that end up at the vet giving raw feeders a bad name…oh and their owners are the ones who tell me I’m going to kill my dog. Raw bones are soft and pliable, cooked bones splinter. #2 Never microwave bones (as in, defrost on counter, fridge, or hot water) #3 Dogs will only consume (eat entirely) the bones of small prey or smaller non weight bearing bones of larger animals, i.e. your dog will not be able to consume the femur of a cow, but raw soup bones (marrow bones) make great chew toys. #4 I avoid butcher cut bone-in meats because the bones are unnaturally sharp, it’s just a personal preference (like pork neck bones or bone-in chops) #5 I don’t feed chicken or turkey necks (or beak/head…but mine don’t usually have those haha)…again a personal preference, as I feel they aren’t that nutritionally sound and are good choking hazards. #6 Don’t forget the organs #7 Dogs can eat meat a little past the date as well as freezerburned meat. #8 Whole prey eating is slow…it takes my dog at minimum 20 minutes to eat, and I always always supervise her even after all this time. She eats what she wants then leaves the rest, which I pick up and feed the next day (mine only eats once a day). I hope those are helpful bullet points, I’m happy to answer any questions you have or forward you to a source. I’m wondering if you can see this video I posted on facebook of my dog eating, it’s set to “public,” but let me know if you can’t access it. Turn up the sound for a little wild animal kingdom effect :P http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10101816411084474&set=vb.5302846&type=2&theater

    • says

      That video wasn’t scary at all! I expected some primal predator fest…ripping and such. I guess that’s the hunt and not the actual meal! This is SO helpful. I’m going to work on transitioning over to this style. Unfortunately the pooch is with the in-laws for a few months while we get ready to move (aah, military life!) but that gives me plenty of time to get this going! Thank you SO much for all the detail, it has been immensely helpful!!!

      • says

        Oh good! I’m glad you weren’t creeped out by it haha! To be honest I’ve never witnessed any dog but my own eating raw, so I don’t know if it’s just her personality or if all raw fed dogs eat like that. In general she is not super food motivated, and has a very “soft mouth.” Literally she could eat a piece of steak off a baby’s nose. I’ve never met another dog like that, and since she has been raw fed most of her life I don’t know if the slow/non-gulpy eating is a raw thing or a Millie thing. The best way to describe it is methodical. It’s sort of fascinating to watch, her routine is very specific. It will be interesting to see if your pup is any different! I know what you mean though, you kind of expect it to be a little more like Shark Week than Mr. Rogers Neighborhood lol. Good luck with your move and the switch, feel free to email me anytime!

  9. Casey Kilareski says

    I had a question about how much to feed. Do you feed your pup once a day? And she eats 1 whole chicken every 3 days… but how much “extra” pork and what not do you feed him/her? I have a newly adopted “son” in which I am hoping to convert to a raw diet. Is this something that needs to be done gradually? How should I approach this?


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