***** MARCH 2020 UPDATE - we are back to kibble! Raw went amazing for us, and especially for Georgie! Just when we felt really confident about it and had streamlined our meal prepping, our freezer broke and we woke up on meal prep day to over 100 lbs of rotting raw meat and organs. I thought for sure my neighbors would report us to the police for hiding a dead body on our property. To say I was traumatized is an understatement. Since then we have reverted to a kibble rotation of Taste of the Wild Ancient Grains, Farmina Ancestral Grains, Sport Dog Food Herding and Cub formulas, and Kirkland Lamb and Rice kibbles for everyone except Georgie. Georgie is on a rotation of Grain Free Acana Pork & Squash, Beef & Pumpkin, and Turkey & Greens. We still supplement daily with camu camu berry vitamin c powder, salmon oil (Georgie gets pollock oil), green lipped mussel powder, and raw green tripe patties. Weekly snacks include dried fish skins, raw meaty bones, and bully sticks. We have replaced the freezer with a NEW ONE (the original we bought second hand - terrible idea) and although I have no plans of jumping back on the DIY raw food train, I have been stocking up on any good meat/fish deals I find. I use them to make my own treats at home which end being better for training, and much cheaper than store bough treats. I boil cheap chicken or pork, and slice it up and it makes perfect, high-value, soft training treats. Whole frozen raw anchovies from POP Fishing Supply make great tracking treats. Maybe one day I'll give raw another shot, but for now what we do works great for everyone and I've finally stopped having recurring nightmares about my rotting meat experience! *****
Aug 10, 2018 - Well, we finally took the leap and after some significant research and investment (chest freezer and meat grinder), we are now feeding Georgie a 100% homemade BARF diet.
This summer Georgie just didn't have his usual spunk. He seemed a little lazy, was shedding an insane amount even after blowing coat, and he was having diarrhea at least a couple times a week. I reached out to his breeder and she said that while most of her dogs receive 1 raw meal and 1 kibble meal a day, Georgie and his half brother Bax were being fed almost all raw because they were not thriving on the mixed diet. I realized that for Georgie to look and feel his best, I would have to figure out a way to make 100% raw diet happen for him.
We had been feeding Georgie 1 raw food meal (Raw dog Hawaii or 808 Raw Pet Food complete formulas) and 1 kibble meal each day, but feeding 100% commercially made raw food would have been too expensive ($10-$18 per day, depending on brand and protein source). I decided if we were going to make this transition, I would need to start making his dog food at home.
Before anything else, I did some research and read articles from raw food advocates and critics alike. Everything came down to two main reasons why raw food is not recommended - bacterial contamination and nutritional imbalance (some critics also argue that bones are dangerous).
Bacteria in raw food is inevitable. Luckily, dogs have strong digestive tracts and powerful immune systems that help them break down pathogenic bacteria, therefore the chances of a healthy dog getting sick from raw meat is minimal. People, however, are vulnerable to bacteria found in raw food. To avoid cross contamination, It is important to take extreme caution when preparing and storing raw food. For homes with immune compromised family members, a raw diet may not be safe or appropriate. Same goes for dogs with compromised immune systems.
The scariest part of making raw food at home is not knowing if you are providing a nutritionally balanced diet for your dog. I purchased a few books on the subject and still found conflicting information. I decided to go with the standard recommendation of 70% muscle meat, 10% meaty bones, 5% liver, 5% secreting organs, 7% vegetables, and 3% fruit. I try to change up the protein sources and also supplement Georgie's daily meals by including green tripe, kelp powder, krill oil, whole eggs, and milk thistle. It's not an exact science, but I hope that by providing balance over time through the use of varying fresh meat and produce, he will get all the nutrients he needs to be healthy and happy.
Buying bulk ingredients from commercial meat distributors has helped to bring down costs. Having a freezer set aside for the raw food is a must. So far I've just been chopping and mixing everything together, but I plan on trying a new strategy next week that involves grinding each ingredient, measuring and separating them into appropriate portion sizes, and then mixing them together at meal times. Each week I try something new and I am confident that eventually I will narrow my process to a few simple steps that don't consume all my time and money!
Eventually we'd like to switch all our dogs over to a raw diet, but for now every one is happy with what they get and each are thriving on their individual diets.
Here's a sample of the meat portion of food for 1 week (14 lbs for my 100 lb Georgie):
4 lbs ground beef - $2.72/lb
4 lbs Beef Trimmings - $2.51/lb
1 lb Beef Heart - $3.14/lb
3 lbs Chicken Backs = $1.08/lb
0.5 lbs Beef Spleen - $3.40/lb
0.5 lbs Beef Kidney - $3.40/lb
1 lb Chicken Liver - $3.13/lb
Approximate cost (Hawaii is very expensive) is about $35/week for meat ingredients only. In addition to the meat ingredients, I add 1 tsp kelp powder, 1000 mg krill oil, 1 whole egg, and 1000 mg milk thistle to his 7 am meal (he gets 1 lb of food, twice per day - 7 am and 7 pm). A couple days a week I add green lamb tripe, small whole fish or canned sardines (packed in water without salt), fruit, and cooked seasonal vegetables.