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Two of my dogs are on a diet and are eating less raw dog food for a few months. Rodrigo and Zoey should weigh about 60 lbs (at the most), yet they're both dancing around 63 lbs, which is too much weight for me. The average person wouldn't be able to tell, but I can tell and although 3 lbs isn't a lot for my big dogs, it'll make a difference on their joints and their overall health. So, they're on a diet.
When the dogs are on a diet, it adds another couple of steps to daily meal prep:
- I have to remind myself to lower their meals by a couple of ounces.
- I have to make additional adjustments based on the day's treats/snacks.
And as I was preparing dinner the other day, I began thinking of other reasons why I'd decrease the amount of raw dog food I feed to my dogs and was surprised that there are several reasons.
1 – Even Raw Fed Dogs Can Gain Weight
Every winter, at least one of my dogs packs on some winter pounds, and this year it was Rodrigo, who is less active as he gets older, and Zoey, who was a coach potato this winter. No judgment because I was sitting there with her.
I own a pet scale – yeah, I'm THAT type of dog mom – and weigh my dogs two or three times a month, jotting down the date and times in my notebook. Taking the dog to the vet turned into a stressful trip and when I found an affordable pet scale (for big dogs, even) on Amazon back in 2017, the angels began singing because my problems were solved. Yeah, my very first-world problems.
Why it's Important to Weigh Raw Fed Dogs Regularly
Keeping an eye on my dog's weight helps me avoid over/underfeeding, lets me know when to shake up their exercise regimen, and, like picking up poop, weighing my dogs regularly gives me a heads up of any health issues. Like when I suspected that Rodrigo had exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI).
Dieting a Raw Fed Dog Without Sacrificing Nutrients
When I first received advice to diet Sydney, I was told to slowly decrease her meals over a few weeks and add cooked green beans to the meal so that she feels full and to add more fiber to the diet. The veterinarian also advised me NOT to get impatient and decrease her meal by 50% and replace what was lost with green beans because
- she'll be miserable
- the nutrient deficiency will derail our weightloss
- she won't feel up to much exercise
So, when my dogs are on a diet, I decrease the ounces in their bowl by one ounce the first week and two ounces the following week. I won't go below 2.5 ounces of what my dogs are used to eating unless I'm over-feeding them in the first place. Talking to you, Prednisone.
Diet is only part of the equation.
I also increase my dogs' exercise beyond playing outside. I take my dogs outside several times a day, but they aren't always getting exercise. Rodrigo has slowed down a bit this past year and plays for short periods. And Zoey hunts, which requires the initial jog to her hunting grounds, and lots of sniffing and slow stalking. She chases an animal once or twice a year, so my girl isn't burning a ton of calories on the regular.
Separating Rodrigo and Zoey from the pack by taking them on walks and walking the perimeter of the property (more hills) a few times helps to trim the waistline quickly.
2 – Treats Count as Food Too!!!
I don't give out a lot of treats but when I do, it's raining goodness in our home. I used to act as if a treat here or there didn't matter and, for Scout and Apollo, they don't. But I've learned that it's important to pay attention to what my dogs are eating during the day when I'm putting together their evening meal.
I don't count calories or worry about the nutrients that treats bring to the diet; instead, I take one ounce of food away for chews (think Real Dog Box). I take up to five ounces away for raw meaty bones, depending on the size. If I'm training with treats, I adjust the meal based on how many treats were used; if it's just a handful, I don't bother adjusting the meal, but if it's a whole bag, then dinner is going to be light.
3 – Vomiting Dogs Don't Feel Like Eating
I'm not a veterinarian and what I'm sharing is not for a sick dog. If your dog is vomiting, please call your veterinarian.
Thank heavens we don't have to deal with vomit very often with our dogs; knock on wood. But the other day, Scout kindly went to a corner on the tile, and up came his dinner. Uggg, picking up warm puke is ugggggg. But I did it and cleaned up and gave Scout's gut time to settle down for a couple of hours. And then I made him a bland meal baked chicken and scrambled eggs with digestive enzymes to make it easier on the gut. He wolfed it down.
When one of our dogs vomits, it's because (1) this doesn't feel good in my stomach so it needs to go, or (2) I'm sick and I don't want to eat more because it'll come up too.
If a dog is sick, then I won't feed them, I schedule a veterinarian appointment, and, if they'll take it, I'll feed them Rx clay or similar product mixed with raw goat's milk or bone broth.
4 – I Feed Less When Fasting My Dogs
Sometimes, when I share that I fast my dogs, someone reacts as if I'm starving my dogs. Fasting is not the same as starving. There are many benefits to fasting ourselves (I do intermittent fasting) and our dogs.
I fast my dogs once or twice a week. I started with once a week several years ago and I moved up to twice weekly after Scout was diagnosed with cancer.
Fast 1 – Raw Goat's Milk Fast
I feed the dogs raw goat's milk in both meals (sometimes adding a raw egg to the morning and adding a dollop of kefir to both meals if I have it). I started doing this modified fast because Sydney, who passed away in 2020, used to get hunger pukes and I didn't think she could do a real fast and I felt guilty feeding her and not feeding the others. And then I learned from Billy and a few others about the benefits of a milk fast. Many dogs were fed only raw goat's milk for thirty days to boost their health and calm or eliminate health issues.
The Milk Cure is something developed for humans by the doctor who founded the Mayo Clinic, Dr. JR Crewe. And while I understand that this wasn't developed for dogs, many things that we as humans do to heal ourselves (i.e. eating fresh food) can be used with our dogs as well. And, over the years, I've seen a raw goat's milk diet recommended for dogs for the following benefits:
- supports digestive health by helping the gut relax and reset, and adding more beneficial bacteria to the gut.
- supports nutrient absorption by, again, allowing the gut to relax and reset instead of constantly being in a state of digesting food.
- and by supporting the gut, raw goat's milk also boosts the immune system; a large chuck of the immune system resides in the gut, so if the gut is healthy, the immune system will follow.
- supports liver and kidney health; many dogs were on a liver protocol of a popular raw food brand that produces fermented foods and pet parents witness liver and kidney values normalizing on this diet.
And this is the shortlist. Check out this article over on RealMilk.com to learn more about the benefits of drinking raw milk.
Fast 2 – No Food for 20-24 Hours
Last year, I started doing a true fast with my dogs. After losing Sydney to cancer, I decided to step up my feeding protocol, and thank God I did because Scout was diagnosed with cancer in February. I have to go to work on Thursdays, which works out as a great fasting day. I've also found that when I'm really sick, that makes for a great fasting day too. The dogs will just sleep with me all day.
On these days, I feed the dogs their regular meal the evening before and they don't eat again until the following afternoon/evening.
5 – I Didn't Thaw Enough Food
And, lastly, I may feed less food if I didn't thaw out enough food. Hey, it happens. I screw up. But it's not the end of the world. If I'm running low on thawed food, I can usually make up the difference by adding a raw egg, duck feet, canned oysters, or canned sardines. All of these will make up the difference, but there have been a handful of times when even with all of these foods and some pureed vegetables, the meal falls short. When this happens, I start thawing something both for a midday snack and for the evening meal. The fastest way to thaw is to soak a container in lukewarm water in the kitchen sink. This cuts down thawing time rapidly for me.
My Final Thoughts on Feeding Less Food to Dogs
It's easy to feel guilty about cutting back food, especially when you have a hungry dog staring at you or following you around the house. And, YES, this happens. When Scout was on prednisone back in February, he was insatiable but I stood strong and didn't give in to his puppy eyes because I didn't want him to gain a ton of weight. But the guilt is real in any case, but I've learned that my dogs are just fine. They're just as happy, just as active, and just as fun on their fasting day as any other day.
I haven't tried feeding them raw goat's milk for a week or a month, but I'd like to give it a shot to see if there is a difference. Especially with Rodrigo's digestive health. I may give this a try in August or September.