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Raw Food Diet for Dogs
The Fresh Food Diet â" Made Easy
By Silke Böhm, Andrea Höfling, Sabine Hans
Cadmos Publishing LimitedCopyright © 2011 Cadmos Publishing Limited, Richmond, UK
All rights reserved.
Fresh food – crisp and fresh into the food bowl!
The feeding of fresh food to dogs is getting ever more popular. Those of us taking a closer look at the subject of dog food will soon realise that the tinned and dried foods on the market do not necessarily contain ingredients that we're happy to feed to our dogs. Grain usually tops the list of ingredients, which means that grain makes up the highest proportion of the contents. Sometimes the various types of grain are listed separately, making them move to the bottom of the list. This means that grain is not listed as a collective item, but, for example, as corn flour, wheat flour, rice flour or oats. In terms of percentages these amounts now appear smaller, and at first sight proportionally less – a little trick deployed by the pet food industry. When you add the separate types of grain together again, they once again make up the largest amount. What's wrong with that? It's simple: dogs don't need grain as part of a balanced diet. Moreover, grain is often the number one trigger for allergies.
Sure, feeding dried and tinned dog food is a simple affair; a handful or spoonful into the bowl, and all the dog's needs are seemingly catered for. In addition many dogs are able to tolerate the ready-made food quite well.
But if you're dealing with a fussy eater, who doesn't accept the readymade food, or a dog suffering from allergies, you may be at a loss what to do next. A desperate search begins, trawling the world of commercial ready-made dog food, whilst opened food sachets pile up in the larder, and rejected tins make their way from the fridge into the rubbish bin. There comes a point when the human 'tin opener' is able to recite the list of ingredients on the food containers by heart, like the poems once memorised in his or her schooldays, and on top of that there's the worry about your dog's health. When things have got to this stage, the idea of feeding fresh meat comes to you almost automatically.
A big obstacle to feeding fresh foods is the seemingly large effort required. But once you have settled into a routine, the extra effort is actually not that extreme. And seeing a happy dog who is licking their bowl clean until it's shiny is ample compensation in any case. Of course feeding fresh food takes up a little more of your time. But bearing in mind the overwhelming advantages of producing your own dog food, you will be happy to make the effort for your best friend, for incidentally to have a dog is the nicest hobby in the world.
Cost is also an important factor in favour of feeding fresh food. Once you have worked out how to source the food locally, and you feed seasonal fruit and vegetables grown locally or nationally, in due course the cost of feeding your dog will fall drastically. Go forth and lobby your friends and neighbours! If you order collectively via the internet or from your local abattoir, you can reduce the cost further.
The equipment – from dough scraper to food processor
In order to set up a routine as soon as possible, it makes sense to acquire some good equipment.
Vegetables have to be cooked or pureed in order to enable your dog's digestive system to break them down. However, raw pureed vegetables contain more vitamins, and are therefore the preferred option. You can also grate the vegetables by hand on a daily basis. But the shavings achieved by grating are still relatively large, which means that the cells are not opened up completely – which they would have to be, if you want your dog to be able to break them down and absorb the nutrients. Because of this all vegetables should be made into a proper puree.
The acquisition of a good vegetable blender makes the daily feeding routine considerably easier. There is a huge range of food processors on the market – with regard to the price, have a think which household appliances might also be useful for the family's food preparation. Do you bake a lot of cakes? Then perhaps you ought to think about buying a kitchen machine that can also mix pastry and sponge mixtures. Make a note of all the applications you need and ask your electrical appliances retailer for advice. Make sure that the food processor has enough power to puree even raw carrots. Because you are expecting to use the food processor on a daily basis, it should be as easy to clean as possible. For lesser requirements an upright blender can be used. It fits into even the smallest of kitchens, has a pleasing design, and can be cleaned quickly and easily.
To avoid a loss of quality the meat, once bought, should be frozen on the same day. It is best to divide it into daily rations. This way you can take the portion for the next day out of the freezer the night before and let it defrost slowly in the fridge over night. This leaves only the vegetables to be prepared on a daily basis. In case you forget to take the meat out of the fridge, you can warm it up relatively gently by immersing it in warm water.
I find that dishwasher-proof plastic containers are very useful for this. In contrast to freezer bags they are not only more ecologically sound, but it also makes making portions less time-consuming. In addition you can 'theme' the containers in the freezer, i.e. stack them according to their contents, and thus create a certain order inside your freezer. After feeding the dog the containers can disappear in the dishwasher, to be re-used on a future occasion. Freezer bags, on the other hand, take up less space in the deep-freeze.
You can save yourself the bother of laboriously writing out the content on the label by using a points system. For this purpose adhesive dots available from a stationer's can be helpful. Assign a colour to each type of meat, write it down and attach the list to the fridge door with a magnet. Stick the respective dots on the containers and bags, depending on their content. After a very short time you will no longer have to consult the list, because you'll know it by heart. The big advantage is that the other family members will also find it easy to follow the instructions for feeding the dog.
White: Innards or offal (rumen/omasum)
It's a good idea to have some wall-mounted scales near the sink. When buying scales please make sure that they have a sufficient maximum capacity, depending on the size and weight of the dog. Most kitchen scales available in the high street tend to have a maximum capacity of only two kilograms.
If you don't want to touch the meat, you can use a pair of barbeque tongs for making the meat portions. Latex gloves available from the chemist have also been found to be useful. Any unease regarding the handling of raw meat tends to wear off quite quickly, however.
A liquid soap dispenser (without the soap, of course) is a good device for getting the right amounts of the necessary oils into the food. The soap dispenser should be opaque or kept in a dark cupboard. Many oils lose their beneficial properties due to exposure to sunlight and daylight. Gift labels from the stationers can tell us what's inside. They are decorative and easily changeable when switching to a different type of oil. A sugar dispenser can be used for dispensing powdery substances such as healing earth or grated coconut.
For cleaning the vegetable blender I found a bottle brush, as used in the catering business, most helpful. This way you have no problem cleaning the blender with water and washing up liquid, because often you can't take the blades out of the jar to wash separately.
Vegetable blender: from £ 26.00
Freezer tub: about £ 0.50
Liquid soap dispenser: about £ 4.50
Sugar dispenser: about £ 2.00
Bottle brush: about £ 2.00
Barbeque tongs: about £ 3.50
Dough scraper: about £ 0.50
For big dogs who eat larger portions, according to their size, it might make sense to think about buying a separate 'dog food deep-freeze' which could be put somewhere such as the cellar. You should pay a lot of attention to the energy efficiency rating. Freezers and fridges can be terrible electricity guzzlers – therefore you should make sure to buy one which is A-rated for energy efficiency. Deep-freezes are better than fridge– freezers, because they use up less electricity and have a greater storage capacity.
You may also have to buy a new food bowl, because the portions will be more voluminous compared to dry dog food.
The everyday routine
Take the required portion of frozen meat out of the freezer compartment in the evening and let it defrost slowly in the fridge overnight. Never close the lids on the containers of meat in the fridge or at room temperature so they are completely airtight. Otherwise unhealthy germs can develop which may harm the dog. The best way is to open the container and place the lid loosely on top. An even better option is a ceramic pot with a lid that had its rubber seal removed, so it is no longer airtight. Put the opened container into the ceramic pot which then goes into the fridge. Take the container out of the fridge the next morning and keep it at room temperature. Put the fruit and vegetables next to it allowing them to warm to room temperature as well. At feeding time put the fruit or vegetables into the vegetable blender adding water, oil and other ingredients. Stir the meat into the mixture – and the dog's dinner is ready to be served.
Cut the vegetables roughly into cubes before putting them into the blender. This is the only way to achieve a thick creamy mixture which the dog is able to digest easily. How small or large you cut the meat for the dog is up to the person feeding the dog. You can serve it in small pieces, similar to goulash, or you can feed it in one big chunk, depending on the human's and the dog's preferences.
Some dogs like to 'shake to death' the chunk. However, out of consideration for the person whose job it is to clean up afterwards, the meat should be cut into smaller pieces, even if the dog gets a kick out of it otherwise. If you have a garden, you can relocate the feeding of large chunks of meat outdoors. Here the dog can enjoy the 'shaking the prey to death' routine for as long as they like.
Many dogs don't like eating vegetables on their own. In this case the meat can be pureed together with the vegetables. This way, even the fussiest of dogs won't manage to separate out the meat and leave the greens behind. Reservations on the grounds that the dog won't have anything to chew on any more can be neglected. The teeth cleaning and calming effects of gnawing can be achieved through the serving of bone. Another way to 'clean' a dog's teeth is by having them chew rawhide chews, windpipes and rumen sticks. Older dogs who don't enjoy their chewing as much as they used to, or animals who only rarely or never get bones to chew on at all have to be taken to the vet regularly in order to get the tartar removed from their teeth. It is also advisable to brush the teeth of such dogs. Special dogs' toothbrushes are available from the vet's surgery.
Some dogs don't like raw meat. In this case you can blanch the meat. You should feed the stock as well, because it contains valuable nutrients. You have to be careful not to serve the dog food that is too hot. In order to convert the dog to eating raw meat, you can gradually reduce the boiling time, until you reach a point where you basically offer them the meat raw. This is a gentle way to introduce a dog to raw food.
If your dog is getting several meals per day, the dog food that has been prepared in advance can be stored in a bowl. Make sure that the container is not sealed completely airtight. Covering the bowl with a saucer will allow some air inside, preventing the development of harmful germs. Don't worry about bad smells. Fresh meat does not smell unpleasant.
Changing to a raw food diet
Some dogs reject raw food at first. As mentioned before, in order to get them used to the new food, the meat can be boiled or fried for a short time, or steamed. With every meal the meat is offered in a slightly more raw state, until it can be fed completely raw.
In some dogs changing the diet to raw foods can lead to slight detox effects. This can occur immediately or a little later. The detox effect can manifest itself through diarrhoea or constipation, slimy faeces, vomiting, but also through itching and skin problems. Normally the dog will quickly get used to the new diet. If the detox symptoms continue for longer, you must consult a vet in order to exclude other causes. Support the process of changing to a new diet by strengthening the dog's immune system, by feeding them a spring diet (see chapter 'Treating everyday complaints') and by enriching the food with a lot of good herbs.
Changing to the new food regime should be completed within two to three days. During this brief adjustment phase you should make sure that there is a gap of at least twelve hours between feeding dry dog food and fresh food, because the digestion times are very different.
In the case of tinned food, this time gap doesn't necessarily have to be adhered to. Healthy, stable dogs are usually able to cope with a change in their diet from one day to another. In the initial stages you should give your dog vegetables that can be digested easily and don't vary the menu too much, giving him a chance to get used to this new 'firework of tastes'. Please bear in mind that you don't have to offer balanced meals on a daily basis. It is much more important that the diet is balanced over a longer period of time.
At the beginning you should avoid feeding bones to your dog, because their digestive system has to get used to the fresh food diet first. In order to make sure they get enough calcium you can either feed dried eggshells or calcium citrate.
It is possible that the dog's 'winds' will become a little more intensive in the changeover phase. You'll just have to live through that. Once the dog has got used to the fresh food diet, they usually disappear completely. If the smell is bothering you, mix a little ground caraway seed into the food. Fennel and aniseed also support the digestive process. In addition the dog's breath will also smell more neutral.
The right proportions
It is usually said that a dog's daily food re-quirement is about two to three percent of their body weight. The following guideline can be applied – according to this calculation a dog weighing ten kilograms should get 200 to 300 grams, a dog weighing 40 kilograms should get 800 to 1,200 grams.
Of course this also depends on the type of dog. If he is an energetic runner, or a hectic little tyke, he will certainly need more than a dog who spends the majority of the day asleep in his basket. You'll notice very quickly whether your dog needs more or less food, because you can spot any physical change very quickly in a dog who is on a raw meat diet. Don't worry; after a very short time you will have worked out the proportional amounts that are right for your dog perfectly. Although the kitchen scales are indispensible at the beginning, you will soon be able to manage to get the correct amounts by rule of thumb.
The recommended proportions of meat and vegetables can vary. For example depending on who you ask the recommended amount of meat ranges from 30 to 70 percent, with the remainder consisting of fruit and vegetables. The dog's power output, age, growth and health status also have to be taken into account for this. A lactating bitch or a busy working dog will have different needs from those of a family dog who is not particularly active. In due course every dog owner will be able to determine the proportions of meat, fruit and vegetables that are best for his or her charge.
Excerpted from Raw Food Diet for Dogs by Silke Böhm, Andrea Höfling, Sabine Hans. Copyright © 2011 Cadmos Publishing Limited, Richmond, UK. Excerpted by permission of Cadmos Publishing Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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