Being an admin of a raw feeding group comes with a big dose of Deja Vu as new raw feeders ask questions or express frustration about raw feeding. I thought it would be fun to share five things I think raw feeders stress about at the beginning that become a non-issue down the line.
1 – Calculating the 80/10/5/5 of Raw Dog Food
Yes, I know how to calculate the proper ratio of muscle meat, bone, liver, and offal – but is it necessary? At first, it seemed crucial, and I'd sit at my computer calculating the numbers. I even created a calculator in Google Sheets – I'm resourceful that way. And then one day I got tired of balancing per meal and decided to follow my advice and balance over time.
Life as a raw feeder became 100x easier. Today, I feed my dogs based on what I've thawed out, and my goal is to hit all the ingredients during the week. For example…
- Sunday – Green tripe for breakfast, recreational bones for dinner (sudo-fast in this evening)
- Monday – Duck wings and green tripe/organ blend for breakfast, duck necks and organ blend for dinner
- Tuesday – Duck necks and organ blend for breakfast, duck wings for dinner
- Wednesday – Duck wings and green tripe/organ blend for breakfast, duck frames for dinner
- Thursday – Duck necks and organ blend for breakfast, duck wings for dinner
- Friday – Duck wings and green tripe/organ blend for breakfast, duck necks and organ blend for dinner
- Saturday – Green tripe for breakfast, ground emu (no bone) for dinner
I also mix in supplements five days a week, I feed raw eggs three days a week, and I feed a can of sardines (per dog) at least two days a week.
Balancing over time takes little thought, and my dogs are doing great. If I notice that everyone has poop that it too hard or too white (too much bone), I add more muscle meat or organ meat for the next couple of days. If I notice poop that is too soft, then the dogs get more duck necks.
2 – Warming and Cooling Foods
I love the topic of warming and cooling foods. It drives my friend, Katrina, nuts – which makes me love it all the more. I find Chinese medicine fascinating because, for thousands of years, people were treating and curing illnesses – serious ones too – through natural foods and energy. This is why my dogs have two holistic veterinarians; both of them practice Chinese medicine, one practices almost exclusively.
The idea behind warming and cooling foods is that we feed our dogs the foods that match their “temperature.” So, for example, I think Rodrigo is a “hot” dog because he's always hot (even in the winter) and seeks out cool places to rest. So I feed him mostly cooling and neutral foods. My goal is to help alleviate allergy symptoms, which, now that I feed raw, this step isn't necessary. But I still can't help but ask “is it warming or cooling?” when I consider feeding my dogs a new protein. I'm curious.
When I see new raw feeders asking about food energetics (is it warming or cooling?), I want to scream “STOPPP???” While I find this fascinating, I think this belongs in the advanced stages of raw feeding if you think that it applies to your dog. Otherwise, it can end up falling into the category of Biting Off More Than You Can Chew.
Along with this next one…
3 – Balancing Fats in a Raw Diet
I wrote about balancing fats yesterday, and the bottom line is that if you're alternating proteins in your dog's diet – feeding poultry and ruminating animals (beef, bison, buffalo) regularly, then you're naturally balancing fats. But if you have a dog that can only eat limited proteins or if you only have access to limited proteins – then balancing fats may become a step that you should take – but don't stress yourself out about it.
While it's not very logical, I believe that people have been feeding raw for decades without bringing up balancing fats – so I think you can postpone this step while you take the time to learn what you need to do for your dog.
- CLICK HERE to read The Importance of Balanced Fats by animal nutritionist Steve Brown.
4 – Which Raw Bones Are Safe for My Dogs to Eat?
Do you know that I didn't feed my dogs bones (not even raw meaty bones) for more than a year after I transitioned them to raw? I was terrified. And while I understood all the benefits, I decided to wait until I found my courage and my dogs were fine. While I was finding my courage, I learned that no one could tell me what bones to feed my dogs because they don't know my dogs. But they could tell me their experience with feeding bones, and I listened to every story.
Then I ordered rib bones, knuckle bones, neck bones, and I took the dogs outside, and they ate bones. The ones that didn't work (rib bones) I took away, the ones that did work stayed on the menu.
The raw bones that are safe for my dogs are:
- beef knuckle bones
- buffalo knuckle bones
- lamb neck
- duck necks
- beef kneecaps
5 – There Isn't a Raw Food Co-Op Near Me!
When I discovered that there is a local raw food co-op, I was over the moon. I was about to switch back to kibble because I couldn't afford to feed four dogs a raw food diet. Not long after finding my co-op, I created a page on my blog to list all the co-ops in the States that I could find. I add a new one every few months or so.
If you don't have a co-op near you, it's a hiccup if you don't have other sources, but not the end of the world. Here are a few things others are doing to fill the absence:
- Talk to your local pet store manager about bulk orders – some may sell to you at a discount.
- Reach out to your favorite brands about bulk orders to see if they'll sell to you at a discount.
- Reach out to local raw feeders (you can find them in raw feeding groups on Facebook) to ask about sourcing.
- Post ads to local Buy/Sell groups on Facebook.
- Check to see if you're able to buy meat from hunters (in some states, this is illegal).
- Reach out to local farms to see if they sell meat to raw feeders.
- And don't forget meat suppliers (this is where restaurants buy their meat); I know a chef (who is also a raw feeder) who buys in bulk from a local meat supplier at a discount.
That short list should get you started. And if you have any other ways to find affordable sources of raw, please let me know so that I can add it to this list.