I'm kind of in a funk this week, so I decided to write a post that reflects my current mood. Raw feeding is a huge part of my life – I feed my dogs a raw diet, I write about raw feeding, I Admin a group about raw feeding, I teach workshops on raw feeding. But raw feeding comes with its headaches too, and I thought I'd share a few of the things that bug the bejeebus out of me.
1 – When the Dogs Won't Eat
My dogs love meal time. Whenever I collect all the dog dishes, they slowly trickle in and watch me as I work. But now and then one of my dogs won't eat, and a small part of me feels a pang because “crap, are you sick?” Fortunately, I haven't had a sick dog in nearly two years, and if one of my dogs won't eat, it's usually because…
They are self-selecting. Rodrigo and Scout are good about telling me which proteins they can and cannot eat. Scout won't eat chicken or guinea hen; Rodrigo won't eat the Xkaliber blend from GreenTripe.com. All of these proteins have lead to diarrhea in the past, and the dogs remember. I now know not to feed my dogs proteins they can't eat, and if I'm feeding Xkaliber, for example, Rodrigo gets something else.
They are missing the crunch. I recently learned that my dogs love whole raw. They started with duck frames last month and have been enjoying whole raw since. Their predilection for whole saves me a lot of time because I no longer have to grind 100s of pounds of raw. Instead, they eat a 50/50 whole/ground diet of raw dog food.
They are missing a supplement. Sometimes Scout won't eat his food because he likes goats milk added. My dogs usually get goats milk, it's a natural probiotic and digestive supplement, after dinner, however, sometimes Scout wants it for breakfast too. I order 7 gallons at a time, so we have plenty – I give him some goats milk.
They have an upset tummy which mostly happens with Rodrigo and Scout; my girls have an iron gut. When one of my boys isn't' feeling great, I replace their meal with slightly warmed bone broth or feed them a meal of goats milk. 1/2 cut of either is perfect – providing them with great nutrients while being easy on the tummy.
2 – When the Dogs Have Diarrhea Anyway
I have “mastered” the raw food diet for my dogs in that I know exactly what I can feed each dog, but sometimes they get the sh%&s anyway. And the worst is when I find it in the yard (I clean their yard every day to every other day) and can't tell who it is. I stand there, staring accusingly at the diarrhea, and then look at each dog as if the way they're sitting to standing will reveal who had the runs.
Thankfully, I know my dogs well enough to know that if it's a single circle of diarrhea, then it's Scout. If it's a trail of diarrhea, then it's Rodrigo. The girls get the runs like once a year, maybe.
After four years of feeding raw, I know how to treat diarrhea naturally in dogs. If it's just one instance, then I add Olewo carrots to their next meal (Scout doesn't like pumpkin). If it's more than one poop, then I add a paste by FullBucket to shut it down.
3 – Being Too Tired to Make Raw Dog Food
I've made meal prep pretty easy. All I have to do is thaw the food, add everything to the dish and keep it at the right weight, and feed the dogs. The only problem is that only I can do all of this because now I have added more whole raw and I haven't shown my significant other what he needs to do to feed the dogs (although it's not complicated).
There are mornings when I'm too tired or days when I'm not feeling well, and the last thing I want to do is feed raw. And I will admit to fantasizing about the east of feeding kibble soaked in bone broth, but I didn't cave simply because I didn't want to go backward and I didn't want to risk the damage this change would do to Rodrigo's gut.
Anyway, no matter how tired I am, I get up and make their food because I know it's important. But it sure sucks when you feel like crap so whenever I feel a cold coming on, I make sure I have plenty of freeze-dried raw (Steve's Real Food and Vital Essentials Raw) and dehydrated food (NRG) on hand.
4 – Explaining Raw Feeding to a Kibble Devotee
I love talking about raw feeding. I have a blog about it, a YouTube channel, a Facebook page and group, and I'm writing a book about raw feeding for dogs. But there are days when I don't want to explain raw feeding – again. We know how these discussions go:
- What's raw?
- I feed my dogs a diet of raw meat, bones, and organs.
- You feed it raw?
- Yes. That's how their ancestors ate their food.
- But isn't that dangerous? What about the bacteria.
- Dogs are biologically able to stomach the bacteria because they have antibacterial agents in their saliva, their gut is inhospitable to bacteria, and they process food quickly, so the bacteria doesn't have time to colonize.
- But you cook it first, right?
- No, I feed everything raw.
- Even the bones?
- Yes, cooked bones are very dangerous for dogs; raw bones are softer, and they can chew them into smaller pieces that pass through their stool.
And so on and so on. Most days, I love having these discussions with anyone who is interested. I find that most people are open to the idea because they have a dog, have had a dog, or know of a dog that could benefit from a raw food diet. But then there are the people who will ask you gazillion questions, and when you're finished, they tell you “well, obviously kibble is better, or there wouldn't be so much of it in the stores.”
When I'm in a funk, like this week, and don't have the patience for the questions and subsequent kibble praise, I smile and say my elevator pitch:
“Raw feeding is a diet of raw meat, bones, organs, and other ingredients that are fed in an attempt to replicate what many people have learned is a species appropriate diet for dogs.”
5 – Feeling Overwhelmed by the Constant Flow of Information
Earlier this year I felt discouraged when I learned that we had to start balancing the fats in our dogs' raw diets. It turns out that I do this naturally because I switch proteins weekly – Yayyy me. But this was a great reminder that learning to feed a raw food diet to dogs is a marathon, not a sprint. I will never know everything about raw feeding, and that's not my goal. I want to learn how to raise my dogs naturally, and that will change as we learn new information. The trick is to take it all in, see how it applies to my dogs, and make an adjustment if I need to. What I've found is that I never have to make sweeping changes to my dogs' diet unless I think it will benefit them – not all the information out there is for all dogs.
But damn, I can feel overwhelmed sometimes. For instance, I just experienced seeing a bone in my dogs' poop, and part of me wanted to panic. The other part remembered the many poop pics with a bone that I've seen in raw feeding groups, and I knew that it was normal to occasionally see bones in poop.