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This blog post was originally published in March 2019; it has been updated with new information. Enjoy!
I fast my dogs because I don't think that it's healthy for their gut to always be processing food. I believe that their system needs a break and time to reset and a regular fast by feeding once a day or not feeding once a week is a great way to strengthen their gut and immune system.
I fast my dogs once or twice weekly, one day is a true fast (no food for 20-24 hours) and the second fast is a milk-fast when I feed them raw goat's milk (with kefir or egg) in the morning and evening (sometimes the evening meal is bone broth). Sometimes I'll feed them a heavier meal the night before the fast, but not always.
- 5 Benefits of Fasting Raw Fed Dogs
- Adding Milk to My Dogs' Raw Meals
- Rodney Habib, Canine Cancer, and Vegetables
- Which is Best for Dogs – Kefir or Raw Goat’s Milk?
Fasting Day Meals for Raw Fed Dogs
When I started, I would fast the dogs (a milk fast) on the weekend because although a weekday is easier, if Johan is home for the day, he'll feed the dogs because he's worried that the dogs are starving. Picture me rolling my eyes. Our dogs are not hungry.
TRUE FAST DAYS
On the true fast days, days with no food, the dogs don't get anything. No food, no treats, and the dogs are fine.
I didn't originally do a full fast because Sydney used to have hunger pukes and I worried about this happening with a fast. After we lost Sydney to cancer in 2020, I added the second full fast in hopes to reduce the chance of another cancer diagnosis (I failed) while improving my dogs' gut health and more.
- 10 oz – raw goat's milk and or kefir (sometimes I mix the two together)
- 1 pasture raised raw egg
- a pinch of chia seeds (great for fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, protein, minerals, and antioxidants)
- a pinch of spirulina/chlorella (supports skin health, cell health, and a source of antioxidants)
- 10 oz – raw goat's milk and or kefir
And that's it. I came up with the amounts on my own; this isn't from a book or someone on Facebook. This is just what works for my dogs after some trial and error. And after breakfast (and on true fasting days) the dogs sleep, they play, they walk, they do everything like a normal day. At first, they used to look at me like “is that it
During the times of the year when the dogs are more active (playing, walking, etc.) I may add another meal of raw goat's milk (not as much milk as breakfast) or a raw meaty bone midday. Year round, they get a light dinner of raw goat's milk or bone broth (if I have it).
Sourcing for Raw Goat's Milk
I get my raw goat's milk from a local creamery. I get the kefir from Answers Pet Food (although I plan to start making my own). The eggs come from friends who are raising chickens or a local store that sells eggs from a local farm. And the raw meaty bones come from a local raw food co-op or I give my dogs air-dried chews from Real Dog Box (a subscription service).
Benefits of Raw Goat's Milk and Kefir for Dogs
Raw goat's milk is milk that hasn't been pasteurized, it comes straight from the goat. You may have read that dogs can't have milk because they're lactose intolerant, well, raw goat's milk has less lactose than cow's milk and, because it hasn't been pasteurized, it has all of the healthy bacteria that support gut health.
Raw goat's milk…
- supports gut health (because of all of that healthy bacteria)
- allows our dogs to better absorb nutrients from their meals
- is a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids
- supports immune system heath; because 70-80% of the immune system lives in the gut, raw goat's milk can also help dogs that have allergies
My favorite thing about raw goat's milk (and kefir) is that if one of my dogs is being picky or is recovering from an illness, they'll enjoy the milk and I know that the milk is helping them.
What if a Dog is Lactose Intolerant?
Although raw goat's milk is better tolerated by dogs, there are dogs that don't produce enough of the digestive enzyme to tolerate milk products. If after feeding raw goat's milk, your dog has loose stool, diarrhea, gas, vomiting, or any other sign of illness, STOP feeding raw goat's milk.
I have a dog that was diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) in 2019. This means that his pancreas isn't producing the digestive enzymes necessary to absorb nutrients. I add an animal enzyme supplement to each of his meals that pre-digests the food, allowing his system to absorb nutrients. When feeding him raw goat's milk, I mix a few teaspoons of the supplement into the milk, whisk it thoroughly, and let it sit for 20 minutes before feeding.
If you have a dog that is lactose intolerant and they don't do well on raw goat's milk, ask your vet if a pancreatic enzyme supplement would help.
What if a Dog is Prone to Pancreatitis?
Rodrigo had periodic bouts of pancreatitis, but I never knew. He's always had gut issues, which calmed a lot when I transitioned him to raw, but they didn't completely go away. A vet explained that he mostly likely had low-grade pancreatitis flare-ups for years until his pancreas stopped producing digestive enzymes.
I share this to explain that I don't know much about pancreatitis.
If you have a dog that is prone to pancreatitis, a veterinarian may warn you away from feeding raw goat's milk because it's higher in fat. However, some veterinarians say that it's fine and the fat they're most concerned with is cooked fat.
So, while a straight fast may be fine, you'll have to do your homework when it comes to a raw goat's milk fast. There are low fat and fat free goat's milk options for pets, but I do not recommend them because they have been processed and don't bring the same benefits to the bowl as raw goat's milk.
Sources for Raw Goat's Milk and Kefir
I purchase my raw goat's milk from a local creamery through a raw food co-op, but there are several quality sources:
- St John's Creamery (Lake Stevens, WA)
- Primal Pets (several recipes)
- Raw Paws Pet Food (they also offered powdered goat's milk)
- Bones & Co
- OC Raw
- Steve's Real Food
- Open Farm (raw goat's milk and kefir)
- The Honest Kitchen (dehydrated)
- Answers Pet Food (raw goat's milk and kefir)
Getting Started on Fasting
You don't have to do what I do; there are many ways to fast your dog. This is just what has been working for my dogs. If you're interested in fasting, definitely do your homework and ask others about their experiences. Two groups that will give you a lot of resources include:
But one warning I'll share is that we shouldn't fast a puppy. A growing dog needs all their nutrients to support their bones, muscles, and more. And fasting a puppy, even a modified milk fast, isn't recommended. We have mixed breed dogs so it's challenging to predict when their growth will stop, so I only fast my dogs once my vet gives me the go ahead.