Feeding a Raw Diet

We are learning that a raw diet provides a range of benefits that commercial dog diets can never hope to even closely match. And while we haven't gone to completely raw foods, mainly due to convenience and finding a good source, we have begun giving our dogs one meal of deer or chicken a day.  The advantages are huge.  Not only is it cheaper (deer bones are free and usually have lots of meat on them) and chicken wings/legs are fairly cheap in the freezer section of the grocery store - but there have been other advantages as well.  These advantages include:

  1. No doggy odor (though the bones have an odor until they are eaten that can be quite stinky)
  2. Naturally cleans teeth - no need for toothbrushes, de-scaling jobs, or gum disease
  3. This is the thing I don't understand: The dogs don't howl and act like psychos when we feed them bones, they quietly wait for their dinner!
  4. Smaller, more compact stools - and they are firm, and turn chalky after a couple of days
  5. Fewer vet bills (your dogs are healthier!)
  6. Less cost for dog food 
  7. They eat less meat than you would expect - a couple of chicken legs is a dinner
  8. The bone marrow is extremely rich in nutrients and vitamins and the bone itself is an excellent source of fiber and calcium
  9. Mirrors what a dog would be getting in the wild -  the modern day dog has a digestive tract exactly the same as a wolf
  10. Puppies develop at a more appropriate rate - and quick growth spurts are avoided. 
  11. Rripping and chewing involved in eating raw meaty bones develops the jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles of the dog.
  12. Naturally acidifies the urine (preventing infection and bacteria).
  13. Coats are shinier and healthier. Our Malamutes shed less and the coats do seem to be as dry when shedding.

What don't I like about feeding raw meats?  It's messy.  If I had carpets I would have to feed the dogs in a carpet free area.  They also tend to accumulate blood and fats on their front legs which needs to be washed off with warm soapy water.  We also had to buy a large freezer to store the meat since we don't have a convenient on-going supply.  That's about it.  The advantages outweigh the disadvantages by far. We've noticed many changes and these include:

  • dogs who were previously un-energetic, and sluggish become completely new dogs once the raw diet feeding begins - we discovered this with Riggs who slept most of the time - with only one raw meal a day he is running around the yard like a puppy!
  • allergies dogs previously had on commercial foods, disappear once they start with the raw diet - while our dogs have never had allergies, others have reported this benefit.
  • arthritis has significantly reduced or disappeared in some dogs switched to raw. Holly went back to bunny catching and kept up with the puppies after just a few meals!
  • no more doggy odour is reported by many people.  While Mals rarely have a doggy odor, Gracie did and feeding raw reduced that.
  • Not sure about better weight control - Mulan is gaining weight on the raw foods but maybe because she loves to eat it so much.
  • dogs live longer on a raw diet 
  • Our girls managed their pregnancies better.  We've had problems with inertia in the past, but since giving bitches some raw food during their pregnancies that problem has all but disappeared
  •  teeth are sparkling clean and gums look healthier
  • better weight and survival figures in puppies - we have always given raw hamburger to young puppies to supplement their milk diet - this is just a normal extension of that. 
  • And the oddest thing of all...they are quiet while we get the meat ready to feed them.  This is amazing because with kibble they scream and carry on like crazy.  I'm still trying to figure this out!   (My latest theory is that when you hunt you don't make a lot of noise so maybe something about the raw meat kicks them into "hunt" mode and they are quiet?  Don't know, but it's a welcome break from the din we usually had at dinnertime).

While commercial foods have their place, they have their limitations too. Some of the known problems with commercial foods are:

  • a dog's food should never be cooked. It should be fed in a raw natural state like nature intended. Cooking a dog's food ruins most of the nutritional value (plus raw meat probably tastes better to the dog) and kibble has to be cooked to be made into kibble.
  • dogs should have access to raw meaty bones. These clean their teeth, work and develop their neck and jaw muscles, and the chewing action prepares their stomach for the incoming food mass. Chewing bones also slows down the eating process considerably, making it far harder for a dog to over eat. No, we have never had a dog crack a tooth on a raw bone, nor have we had them choke on a sharp bone, even though some of the splinters can appear to be quite sharp - when they've barfed them up, they are smooth - probably because they are digested better.
  • dog foods have as their main ingredient cereals - the main ingredient your dog should be eating is meat. And it is these very cereals that cause a range of problems such as allergies.
  • commercial dog foods are laden with preservatives, colors (dyes), and salt. They have additives to make the food taste better so that the dogs will overeat. The reason they do this is so they can use lower grade meats, by-products (chicken feet and feathers for example).
  • the vast majority of commercial dog foods have far too many carbohydrates in them. High levels of carbohydrates are linked to over-eating, diabetes, weight gain, and numerous other problems. Dogs should eat a diet with only a small amount of carbs.
  • Vets probably recommend a commercial diet because of financial inducements and a lack of independent learning. We've had vets recommend foods we knew the dogs would never eat (Science Diet's canned special diet food - none of our dogs except Theodore who is our Mikey and will touch it - I have cases of the stuff in the basement). While it doesn't hurt the dog under normal circumstances, an ill dog NEEDS good nutrition and a raw diet provides this. When they won't eat anything else - Tuna, Salmon, and raw meat will be eaten. When Superman is "in love" with a girl in season, he'll turn his nose up at kibble but eat the raw meat.  That becomes important because often he'll stop eating for up to a week when he's "in love".
  • Even Riggs, who is on a special kidney diet that requires a limitation of protein and bone meal can eat raw.  This I find surprising, but he has actually improved eating an occasional raw piece of deer neck or leg  (Mostly he is on Proplan's KIdney diet food). 

One of the biggest myths ever is that raw chicken bones are not good for your dog. They are soft enough so that they bend easily, and break well for the dog to digest - but only if they are RAW. Cooked chicken bones (cooked any kind of bones) are dangerous - they splinter and can pierce the intestine or stomach.  NEVER feed COOKED bones.  Most of the prepared bones you find in stores are smoked and processed differently than just cooking them like you do when you BBQ a steak. 

Make sure you freeze any meat you will not be feeding immediately to inhibit the growth of bacteria.  Some bacteria are dangerous for dogs, but not typically Salmonella or eColi which they are quite resistant to (they lick butts and eat poop!).  I avoid pork mainly because of tricknosis but you can use it if you freeze it for a month prior to using to kill bacteria.  (Trich is rare in the U.S.).  Wash bowls after use.

Some people are worried about their dog choking on bones. While such incidents are very rare (far more incidents occur with dogs choking on bagged dog foods), instead offer larger meaty bones, or if available, whole carcasses, such as whole chickens or rabbits.  We've also noticed they eat LESS when the food is raw.  While they may want a whole dish of kibble, a couple of chicken legs satisfies their hungar better.  Also, dogs are less likely to bloat on a raw diet.  That is because the food does not swell and cause gas.  Once Pod ate a huge deer neck (this was when we were trying to figure out how much to feed raw) and when it became too much, she just barfed up the excess (maybe that's why they call it a barf diet? LOL).

 Here are some recommendations of what to feed:

* raw meaty bones and/or whole carcasses - chicken, deer, elk, lamb, pork, whole raw fish such as salmon or mackeral (soft boned fish), beef, rabbit
* whole raw eggs in their shells (I let the dogs crack the shells)
* organ meat
* fresh vegetables (carrots, green beans, broccoli, etc. are good.  Not as good:  potatoes (linked to arthritis), Lettuce (irritates stomach).  Never give any food poisionous to dogs (grapes, raisins).

I am not an expert on "raw feeding" but much information can be obtained by scouring the Internet.  The reason we still give kibble for one meal is because we feel there are vitamins and minerals included in the proper proportions.  This may or may not be true, but at this point we just don't feel comfortable going to an ALL raw diet (not to mention it is difficult to find reasonably priced sources).  But if you can do it, even for a few meals here and there I think you'll find your Malamute will benefit from eating a higher protein, meat based diet.  I was skeptical at first, but I'm sold now.