Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Feeding Raw

It's been almost 8 years since I switched my dogs from dry dog food (referred to as kibble) to a natural raw diet. My only regret is that I did not switch over sooner - I've always thought that my beloved Rob would have lived longer than his twelve years, had I started while he was still with me. It's been an ongoing learning experience, as we've tried different protein sources, additions, and supplements. Because there is no one right way to feed raw, and because different breeds, and even individual dogs seem to have slightly different needs, we continue to study, discuss and try new things. Because many of my Dal owning friends also feed a raw diet, this is a common topic of discussion. Raw feeding is very popular among show people in many breeds, and Dal breeders/owners/exhibitors are no exception.

Raw feeding is not rocket science, and is no more difficult than feeding the family -once you find your sources. That's been an ongoing problem for me, as just when I am pleased with what I've found, the product is either changed, discontinued or out of stock for some long period of time.

We basically feed raw meaty bones (rmbs), ground meat, ground veggies & fruits, eggs and a few supplements. Our rmbs vary in quality and price, with the chicken backs often being extremely fatty (I do some trimming), and messy to deal with, at least in 40# boxes. They are the more affordable protein source though, are readily available, and the dogs do very well on them. Chicken wings are nicer to deal with but significantly more expensive, although the Grade B wings (parts missing) are a pretty good deal and the dogs like them too. Chicken necks are also fine, though have more cartilege than bone so I do not feed them on a regular basis. Some feed leg quarters which can be affordable, but I prefer to use parts with smaller bones, though occasionally use thighs. Turkey necks are good but vary in size from small thin ones to necks that look like they came from ostrichs. The dogs like them well enough, although some of my dogs tend to urp up bits of undigested vertabrae when eating the big ones, something we never have with chicken, and turkey necks tend to be too lean for everyday feeding. I stay away from turkey backs and wings, although some people feed them, especially to larger breeds.

Ground meat is generally more expensive than the rmbs, and I have often had trouble finding an affordable product. We feed one meal a day of rmbs, and a second of ground meat with veggies, eggs and supplements. At one time we could buy a product consisting of ground turkey necks and backs, which was terrific and well received. The same company did ground chicken backs but that was waaaay too fatty. Both products were reasonably priced, but after a time the quality suffered and the ground turkey mix was quite disgusting. Later we found a source of regular ground turkey that was quite affordable, and after feeding that for 8 months it was no longer available.

A constant problem has been finding affordable variety meat. Because two of my dogs are allergic to beef (makes them itch) and several of the dogs get loose stools from pork, and because ground lamb is so very expensive, we feed more poultry than I would prefer. Canned salmon once a week, canned all meat dog foods, and occasional lamb, beef, or pork (for the dogs that can eat them) are the best I can do.

I was delighted to reconnect with Mark & Ann who were promoting a new operation at a recent dog show. One of the local meat distributers now has a large line of raw pet products, which will provide us with more options. Ground lamb with bone, ground goat, and free range chicken (whole or ground) are part of their offering. The ground turkey backs and necks are supposedly back, and of good quality too. Hooray! I've placed my first order and am hoping their products are indeed as advertised.