Monday, February 15, 2016

Rules are Made to be Broken - and I Break Raw Feeding Rules

One of the reasons raw feeding can be so overwhelming to newcomers or those considering a raw diet for their dogs is the "rules."  Depending on which model one follows, these so called rules can be mind boggling.  But they don't have to be, and there are very few hard and fast raw feeding rules.

I feed a mostly prey model raw diet.  I say 'mostly' because there are some PMR (and other forms of raw feeding) rules that I regularly break.

No ground meat.  Yeah.  I'm guilty of breaking this one. On the regular. There are various reasons this is considered a rule.  One is that ground meat has more bacteria, because the surface bacteria is ground in, which is probably true.  But dogs have amazing digestive tracts, meant to digest some pretty disgusting stuff, in a much shorter period of time than that which is needed for bacterial colonization to occur typically.  The other big reason ground meat is sometimes frowned up is that it is not what a dog in the wild would eat, or mentally stimulating enough.  Meh.  My dogs get plenty of mental stimulation.  If left to their own devices, they would regularly feast on deer poop.

Back in the fall, I was presented with the opportunity to pick up 375 pounds of fresh, wild venison, that had already been ground by a processor.  I would have been out of my fool mind to pass that up. 
  1. It was stupid cheap.
  2. It was fresh, wild, "organic" game.
  3. Did I mention it was cheap?
  4. Venison is simply awesome, and my dogs love it, ground or not.
In the photo above, there is a large amount of ground meat pictured.  It is a complete ground lamb mix (meat, bones, organs in the correct proportions) that I purchased from a local farmer/raw dog food supplier.  Lamb can be difficult for me to source, and this was local product, at a good price. I couldn't resist.

99.8% of the tripe I have access to is ground.

Sometimes, when I'm desperate/low on meat, I will buy ground turkey at the grocery store and feed it to my dogs.  Which leads to the next rule I break.

No grocery store meat.  This one is not super common, but is supported by some.  I have yet to find factual evidence supporting that grocery store meat is bad for dogs.  Some say the bacterial load in grocery store meat is higher (than what?) because it is meant to be cooked for human consumption.  Some say it is dipped and/or sprayed with a sanitizing solution prior to packaging. 

My dogs eat plenty of grocery store meat - pork roasts, beef roasts, ground turkey, etc.  In fact, all of the chicken they consume is purchased from the grocery store.  It's "human grade" and if it's good enough for me to eat, it's good enough for them to eat.  Besides, sometimes convenience wins out.

No dairy.  I agree that dogs do not need dairy.  But my particular dogs love cottage cheese and yogurt on occasion, so I feed it to them.  Especially if I notice that container of cottage cheese in the fridge that I never got around to eating that expired four days ago.

Some dog owner regularly feed their dogs yogurt, for the probiotics. 

No dehydrated, premade, commercial, or freeze-dried raw.  This is a huge NO within the whole prey model (WPM) community.  The reasoning behind avoiding dehydrated and/or freeze-dried is that it is not truly raw.  Maybe not, but it's still better than 90% of dog foods on the market.  Premade/commercial raw is often frowned upon because it is typically ground, and subject to high pressure pasteurization, which may or may not kill off the beneficial enzymes that raw meat carries.

I semi regularly feed all of the above mentioned forms of raw.  Just yesterday I purchased some Northwest Naturals and Stella & Chewy's frozen raw foods, to give my dogs some protein variety in the forms of rabbit and pheasant.  My dogs also enjoy The Honest Kitchen, PrimalBravo, Sojos, and Instinct commercial raw foods.

Also, these forms of raw are incredibly convenient for those who want to feed raw, but don't wish to go the homemade route.  Not only that, some raw is better than no raw, and these types of raw allow people to easily add a bit of raw to their dog's diet.

Kibble is complete and balanced, so all meals should be complete and balanced.  I believe some BARF (Bones and raw food) style feeders have this mantra.  (Disclaimer-I don't know much about BARF feeding.) I believe in balance over time.  And over time, my dogs get pretty darn close to 80% meaty meat, 10% bone, 5% liver, and 5% other organ, which is the basic formula for a prey model raw diet.

But...I once went over a week without feeding any bone.  And I once went nearly a month without feeding "other" organ. Click HERE for more info on raw lingo. The dogs had no ill effects, short term or long term.

Feed 2-4% of the dog's weight daily.  I don't break this one, because it works well for me.  But not for everyone.  Some dogs are incredibly active, with high metabolisms, and require more.  Some dogs are easy keepers, and require less.  Bruce and Neeko both stay lean and fit eating approximately 2% of their body weight each day, while Faolan eats about 3% of his body weight daily.  Sometimes they eat less than this amount, sometimes more.  Each dog is different.  Know thy dog.

What it all boils down to is that raw feeding is not one size fits all.  What works for one dog may not work for another.  I am incredibly fortunate in that none of my dogs have protein allergies, all have cast iron guts, and can eat the same meals.  I have access to good sources.  As long as the diet is balanced, and the dog is not suffering from health problems or nutritional deficiencies, feed whatever form or combination of forms works best for you and your dogs.  All raw, half and half, or occasional raw. 


  1. Wow if grocery store meat is a no no then I am really doing my dogs no good. I don't have a co-op, our meat market butchers must be smoking crack for the prices they want to charge for scrap and I don't know any hunters to get meat from. My dogs eat Sam's Club food, our chicken treats are made from their breast they sell and my dogs are healthy.

    Since I don't plan on dropping my dogs off in the country to fend for themselves, I don't see any reason not to feed ground. I cut their food up into bite size pieces. This still gives them the chewing experience but it slows them down.

    Another thing that I get slammed about is the fact that Carma will not eat total raw. I can't throw meat and stuff in a bowl and expect her to eat it. She likes her food rare. Many have told me I should go ahead and feed kibble if I am browning the outside of the meat. The browning itself is causing the meat to lose ALL the nutrients. Bull hockey! The meat is still raw and bleeding in the middle but the inside is slightly warm.Carma insist that it has ground flax seed as a coating or sprinkled on it. She likes the nutty flavor.
    Many people would probably feed raw more if they weren't told they were going to make their dogs sick if they don't do everything exactly by someone else's standards.
    Wonderful article that I agree with.
    Carma Poodale's ma, Bunny

  2. I feel like this was an informative read!

    Some people say feed your dog what you yourselves have seen them thrive on, especially since different owners' dogs live in different environments, have different lifestyles and the dogs themselves have individual needs too.

    I don't have a dog of my own, but that makes sense to me.

  3. "Know thy dog" - Amen to that!

    I also believe in balance over time. The pups' poop is a solid indicator of what needs to be added: whitish poop - too much bone. Blackish poop - too much blood/liver.

    I feed ground raw from an online raw distributor, but also get the liver, other organs, and raw meaty bones from them. Every now & then I also buy raw meaty bones from the grocery store when they're on sale (turkey necks). In my humble opinion, I'd be pretty stupid if I passed up on that deal. That being said, I make sure to only buy grocery store meat that says "no artificial ingredients/minimally processed" on the package.

    Whenever I happen to be low on raw food from the online distributor, I buy organic, ground meat from the grocery store and also feed freeze-dried or dehydrated raw food until our new shipment arrives (I currently have a bag of Grandma Lucy's Rabbit Recipe in the pantry. It smells amazing!!).

    I personally eat greek, plain yogurt for breakfast every morning (& mix in fresh fruit, chia seeds, and granola), and the pups always get to lick the spoon I use to scoop it out of the container with. They love it!!

    I think that mealtime should be kept interesting & fun for the pups, and doesn't need to be super rigid. We just went for their annual wellness screens at the vet's and had all kinds of tests done, to include a complete blood count. The CBC showed everything within a normal range (white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets) and all parasite tests came back negative :-))

    Long live a healthy, non-kibble diet!!

  4. we didn't know this cos our mom is not smart enuf to do it....we wish she was. maybe you could just come over and feed us and our mom would pay how far do you live from us??? stella rose

  5. Great post! I think one of the reasons people are turned off from raw feeding is how incredibly fanatic people can get about it. I don't feed solely raw, but I break all the rules.

  6. I feed ground to the cats.. I buy grocery store chicken, and I grind it up and freeze it and feed it to them. I'd love to do frankenprey but I have cats that don't eat the parts unless it is part of the whole.

    I also buy grocery store ground if I'm running out of premade..

    is the bacterial load higher, probably.. but cats are obligate carnivores with a higher tolerance for that sort of thing.

    I WISH I had a better source for meat that wasn't two to four times more expensive than what I am buying now... but I don't. Where I am my options are limited, so I do what I can with what I have, and I believe it is head and shoulders above my next available option which is big pet food canned food.

  7. I'm a rule breaker too. :-) I don't feed our pups raw, but I do rotate their kibble, either we do same brand different protein or different brand same protien. I do this about every 4-6 months, I also rotate between fish and coconut oil, sometimes they get raw goats milk, sometimes they get an egg in with their kibbles, we also do glucosamine, the occasional raw chicken, or maybe mix some canned wet food into their meals. I just try to keep things fun and interesting for them. :-)


Thanks for the howls!!