Rawsome

A wise director of a global pet food manufacturer once said to me “The best diet for a dog is a properly formulated raw diet, but the worst diet for a dog is a wrongly formulated raw diet“.

I have to take deep breaths and count to ten when people say stuff like “If you can’t feed a dog properly you shouldn’t have a dog. Chicken necks all the way.

I hear this surprisingly often, and a sole diet of chicken necks is arguably worse than feeding a cheap dry food.

Feeding raw isn’t about giving your dog raw meat every day, it’s about feeding a variety of meats, organs, bones, and fresh foods. A dog has a variety of nutritional needs so a raw diet must cover the whole nutritional spectrum.

If you want to feed raw, and credit to you if you can, then make sure you research thoroughly. I won’t cover raw feeding in depth here as I don’t believe I could cover all the bases, but thankfully there’s a wealth of information on the web and in books.

Make sure you research well, and keep in mind a simple and always overlooked principle – variety.

Where do I start?

Have a browse of The Raw Feeding Community as an excellent starting point, and have a go at some of the many raw dog food recipes on Google, YouTube, et al.

It may seem daunting, but there’s a huge and rapidly growing community out there. Who knows, you’ll probably learn a fair bit about your own nutritional needs as well!

Considerations

Dogs are geared to digest raw meats, even rank meats, and they’re better equipped to tackle bacteria. It’s still worth being sensible with your meat sources and shelf lives.

It may sound like common sense, but wash your hands after handling raw meats. Another good tip is don’t let your dog lick you after eating raw meats. My dog tries, but I politely inform her I will not be licked with raw chicken tongue.

Raw bones are soft, but can still cause choking. Feed appropriately sized bones dependent on the size of your dog, and make sure you’re with them while the eat.

This is especially necessary if your dog’s a gulper. If you have more than one dog they may attempt to swallow the bones quickly from threat of the competition.

No time, have money

Pet food ranges in price considerably. Cheap foods are cheap for a reason, usually because they’re made of GMO grains, by-products from grains, with a token meat content from poor quality sources, rendering plants, and 4-D animals (Dead, Dying, Disabled, Diseased). Doesn’t sound good does it, but this accounts for the majority of pet foods on the shelves.

Fortunately a select number of more “ethical” manufacturers sell better quality foods, but they’re few and far between.

Most dry foods are high in carbs, ranging from 40 to 50%, and given all carbs impact blood sugar this isn’t a good thing. It’s been proven high carbohydrate foods are damaging to dogs, but manufacturers don’t want you aware of this – well, duh, their foods are high in carbs (and carbs are cheap).

Recent years have shown the development of some excellent alternatives. They’re pricier, but in some cases you get what you pay for.

Enter Freeze Dried and Air Dried Raw Diets. A much more natural, species appropriate raw diet, with the convenience of dry food. Rawsome!

Freeze Dried

Back in World War 2 (and possibly World War 1), soldiers carried freeze dried foods because they wouldn’t spoil. The reason for this is moisture has been removed – moisture causes food to go off.

Skip to the present day and freeze-dried dog foods are emerging. This technique offers two excellent benefits:

  1. Nutrition stays intact. No cooking is involved.
  2. Shelf life is greatly extended, which means the food will keep as long as dry food does (or longer).

This means we can offer our dogs a highly nutritious properly formulated raw diet with the convenience of dry food. All you need to do is soak it in water for a few minutes before feeding. No real knowledge of raw feeding required.

So what’s the catch?

If you look at the cost per kilo it appears much more expensive than dry food. In truth it isn’t as expensive as it would seem as your dog would need to eat less to absorb the nutrition they need, and it’s far less damaging than the high carbohydrate dry foods we discussed earlier.

Have a look at K9 Natural and Frontier Pets (in Australia).

Air Dried

Air dried is similar to freeze dried, but the food is dried in… well, air. Warm air.

The nutritional value is still largely retained, although not quite as well as freeze dried. It’s still very good, and far better than processed dry foods.

The benefit with air dried is you can poor it into the bowl as you would a dry food. You don’t need to reconstitute it with water like you do freeze dried.

Have a look at ZiwiPeak, Balanced Life (in Australia), and Sunday Pets Raw Chow (in Australia).

Help, I’m on a budget

Let me get one thing out of the way – most dry foods are highly processed convenience foods and not as nutritious as the packaging says. They’re high in carbs (aka sugar) and bulked up with fillers. If you feed a dry food then at least take time to read the ingredients and get an understanding of it.

Refer to Dog Food Advisor (US), my website Pet Food Reviews (Australia), or Pet Food Ratings (US) for info on most dry dog (and cat) foods.

There are great (and cheap) ways to supplement a dry food diet to greatly improve the health of your pet, such as supplements from the pet store or fresh foods from the supermarket.

3 Simple Supplements

Well respected Wellness Vet Dr. Karen Becker recommends the following 3 supplements to a dry diet:

  1. Sustainably sourced Krill oil as an excellent source of marine omega 3 fatty acids.
  2. Digestive enzymes to help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and absorb nutrients.
  3. Probiotics as beneficial “good” gut bacteria to help maintain gastrointestinal health.

Supermarket Bargains, Fresh Meats, Fresh Foods

Lots of pet products are poor quality with inflated prices. “Pet grade” meat is illegal to sell as human food for the simple reason it’s worse quality. So why not buy “Human grade” meats? It can work out cheaper!

If your local supermarket is like mine you’ll always find meat and meat products reduced for quick sale, so when you’re doing the weekly shop why not look for meaty bargains your dog would love?

All of these are cheap and great for dogs – chicken necks & framesliverskidneyshearts, meaty bones, brisket bones.

Breast meats and prime cuts are also great, especially when they’re yellow stickered at 50% off.

The occasional tin of tuna or sardines (in springwater) is another cheap option, and I often find these much cheaper than the lesser quality equivalents in the pet food aisle.

The meat and fish counter at my local supermarket is currently selling basa fillets at AUD $5.50/kilo. I bought 5 fillets for $4, so a cheap healthy dinner last night for myself, my two dogs, and my cat.

Your local butcher might stock green tripe which is astoundingly nutritious if you can hack the smell.

We often hear “grains are bad” for dogs, but it’s not strictly true. Cheap grains cooked at high temps into a grain heavy kibble are definitely bad, but home cooking your dog ricebarleyoats, along with a mince such as turkey, chicken, beef, or kangaroo is a great idea. Throwing in some veg wouldn’t go amiss either. All of these ingredients are cheap, and it doesn’t take long to cook up a batch for the week.

Supplementing a dry food with any of the above will greatly improve the ongoing health of your dog, and it doesn’t need to be expensive.

To Cook or not to Cook?

Dogs can stomach raw meats, but use caution. Bones should always be fed raw.

Generally I offer my dogs any red meats raw, but other meats such as pork, or fish I’ll cook or boil. I feed chicken necks and frames raw, but generally with chicken breast I’ll boil it and cut it into squares as excellent nutritious treats.

For the more adventurous you could buy an air drier and make chicken or beef jerky treats which keep for ages.

Variety

Dogs are often fed a monotonous diet, a misconception led by corporate marketing. Over the last 20+ years we’ve seen an alarming increase in unhealthy pets, from itchy skin to cancer.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – variety is as important for our pets as it is for us.

Feeding Strategies

There’s a mega-spectrum when it comes to feeding a dog. It depends on budget, but also lifestyle, situation, and where you live.

Feeding a brand of dry food to a dog every day of their life is a huge misconception which arose from corporate marketing. Manufacturers want you to feed their product all the time. This is about profit not your pet. Variety is as important for our dogs as it is for us.

Keep that word in mind – variety.

If you can feed a carefully considered raw diet that’s awesome, but if dry food on a budget  is your only option then don’t feel dismayed – I’ll give you cost-effective tips!

I’m an advocated for varied homemade raw/fresh diets, but as someone who works all the hours under the sun I appreciate the convenience of feeding dry food. I always feel slightly guilty feeding dry food, even ones I know are pretty good, so I mix it up with all the fresh tidbits and meats as and when I can.

Remember, you can only do your best, and seeing as you’ve found this website you’re on the right path.

Let’s begin…

If you’re on a budget and supermarket dry food is your only feasible option, then here’s some quick tips on supplements and fresh foods to greatly improve the health of your dog:

 Strategy #1 – Help, I’m on a budget 

For those of us who’re time poor due to a busy work life there are ways to feed a dog a natural diet without all the efforts of studying raw and making all your dog food.

This strategy covers emerging freeze dried and air dried foods which offer you a formulated raw diet with the convenience of regular dry food:

 Strategy #2 – No time, have money

Raw feeding is a huge topic and needs research. It’s not about giving your dog a chicken breast every day. This strategy offers guidance, tips, and a starting point for those who wish to feed their dog the way nature intended:

 Strategy #3 – Rawsome