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Raw Feeding

Bone appetite...

There is no single 'right' way of feeding that will suit all our dogs all the time but there are certainly several 'wrong' ways to feed any dog at any time. What follows is Monica Dixon's personal interpretation of 'raw feeding.' It works for her dogs, so perhaps it will work for yours, too.

As a general rule I wouldn't feed my dogs anything I wasn't prepared to eat myself. That rules out the beaks, feathers, feet and heads of poultry - look out for 'reconstituted chicken' on commercial packaging - or the ears, eyes, muzzles, heads, feet or tails of various ruminants, often described as 'meat derivatives.' Artificial colourings and preservatives are another no-no.

I am okay with offal. Think steak & kidney pie, calves liver & bacon with melting fried onion and fluffy mashed potato... mmmmm. I do draw a line at heart. That's purely personal – it's just a muscle meat after all - but we are talking about dog food here, not Masterchef, so my dogs do have lamb or ox hearts as well as kidney and liver– all raw, all organic.

I have fed my three dogs organic raw food since the day I got them – two at 7½ weeks and my little rescue at 11 months – and they have all thrived on it. I aim to give them a 'balanced diet' over a period of two weeks, adjusting individual quantities to take account of individual needs based on the amount of exercise they are having.

This 'balanced diet' is a combination of very meaty bones, chicken wings and whole chicken carcasses, muscle meat and offal, plus vegetables and fruit as well as grains which not all raw feeding enthusiasts include. I never give them weight-bearing bones which can break their teeth but instead they have beef chuck or rib bones. They used to have breast of lamb too until the resulting flatulence became unbearable.

The vegetables and fruit are pulped with both the pulp and the juice fed to the dogs with their non-bone meals. This is done to break down the cellular structure of the vegetables so the dog can absorb the nutrients better. If you give your dog a whole raw carrot, for example, it will poo recognisable bits of the same carrot.

The grains - oat, barley and rye flakes, but not wheat because one of my dogs is wheat gluten allergic - are given once a week, soaked in boiling water overnight and mixed with honey, goat's yoghurt, goat's milk, dried prunes, dried apricots and dried figs.

To their non-bone meals I add pulped vegetables plus Keeper's Mix, Easy Green, and Garlic & Fenugreek, all from Dorwest Herbs. In addition I use Brewers Yeast from the health food shop, a spoonful of bran to keep them regular, a spoonful of goat's yoghurt and a dribble of organic cold pressed unrefined sunflower oil. Garlic & Fenugreek and Brewers Yeast are both good for deterring external and internal parasites.

One benefit for me of this diet is that their poos are firm and easy to pick up. Another benefit of feeding a varied diet is that their digestions learn to cope with anything. This means that they can happily switch to tinned food or moist package food when we're away from home without any disastrous tummy upsets. Forthglade 'Natural Lifestage' is good.

I don't believe there is any such thing as a 'one-size-fits-all' diet. Basically, whatever suits your dog and you feel comfortable with is the 'correct diet' for you and for them. Raw feeding may sound like a lot of bother to start with but there is a comforting rhythm about preparing it, and I like to know exactly what is going into my dogs. They love it, too!

What puts many beginners off trying a raw diet is uncertainty about how much to feed their dogs so I hope the sample menu, showing what I give to mine, may be helpful. Like me, Beanie puts on weight just thinking about biscuits whereas Pip is a high-octane dog who simply burns up the calories, so I tinker with their quantities as and when the need arises.


Some Feeding Suggestions
Each item = 1 meal

Teasel
Airedale - 21.15 kg.

  • 12 oz porridge, or

  • 12 x chicken wings, or

  • 2 x chicken carcasses

  • 6 oz. pulped veg + 6 oz. either hearts, mince, or mixed liver and kidney

Pip
Border Terrier - 8.85 kg.

  • 8 oz porridge, or

  • 5 x chicken wings, or

  • 1 x chicken carcass, or

  • 4 oz. pulped veg + 4 oz. either hearts, mince or mixed liver and kidney

Beanie
Border Terrier - 7kg.

  • 4 oz. porridge, or

  • 3 x chicken wings, or

  • 1 x chicken carcass, or

  • 2 oz. pulped veg + 2 oz. either hearts, mince or mixed liver and kidney

Click here for Monica's
two-week feeding schedule.

I would also recommend Feeding Dogs The Natural Way, written by homoeopathic vet Christopher Day, MRCVS,Available direct from http://www.alternativevet.org/images/bookfeedingdogsthenaturalway-day.jpg  £10.00 (including p&p. Cheques payable to C. Day)

It is 'An independent, objective and liberating analysis of the modern 'convenience' way of feeding our dogs and the penalties it brings. The simple, natural alternative is presented, which brings surprising and satisfying results in practice, both in health and in well-being of dogs. The author advocates using wholesome ingredients that a species suitable. Cooked or raw, plain or fancy, fresh is best.'

Feedback

From Mandy Smith...
I also really enjoyed Monica Dixon's article on raw feeding as I feed my dogs a raw diet but instead of creating the meal myself  I get my food from Green Dog Deli because they deliver a fresh, veterinary formulated complete raw diet that makes the whole thing really easy. http://www.greendogdeli.com/ (26/11/10)

From Denise Scoffin...
I really enjoyed Monica Dixon's article on raw feeding – I feed all my dogs a raw diet and they look and perform well on it. She has suggested things I haven't tried so very useful too. (22/11/10)

From Christine Bailey...
As Monica says, there are many different ways to feed raw, and it really doesn't have to be complicated. The majority of raw feeders today include very little, if any, grain, and many do not feed fruit or veg; certainly many use no supplements at all.

It's not clear to me from Monica's guidelines if these feed amounts are per meal or per day (though I would hope Teasel the Airedale gets more than 6oz of meat in a day!) so just to simplify it:-most dogs need between two and four percent of their bodyweight per day in food, 2.5 or 3 is a good place to start.

Remember you are trying to replicate the dog's prey. Think of a rabbit, pretty much the perfect doggie mealJ It is apparently roughly 10-12% bone, 10% offal, and the rest muscle meat (not counting the skin – which you can feed if you wish) So that is what you are aiming for. A 20Kg dog would normally need around 500gm food per day. “Food” is meat, edible bone, offal, eggs, fish etc – do not include any vegetables or fruit in the calculations, they are purely extras should you choose to feed them. Sorry, I've gone metricJ but 454gm is 1lb.

The only supplements I would give a normal healthy dog would be salmon oil and Vitamin E alongside it, though this is probably not necessary if you feed fish two or three times a week.

I'm not sure if Chris Day's book – which indeed is the one I started out with – has been updated, as in my 15-year-old copy he relies heavily on grains. I would suggest anyone interested in raw feeding has a good Google, and checks out Tom Lonsdale. The Yahoo Britbarf forum is very good for anyone considering raw feeding, too.

As an aside, it is not necessarily true that feeding raw makes your dog able to eat anything. One of mine is fine on raw, but not on cooked meat. Cooked chicken makes him very poorly but he is fine on raw. The only cooked food he tolerates is fish. (22/11/10)


About the author...
Monica Dixon's family have owned Airedale Terriers for at least three generations on both the English and Swedish sides of her family. She currently has one, nine-year-old Teasel, plus two Border Terriers, ten-year-old Beanie and two-year-old Pip who is a rescue.

She appears to have started dog training aged about four, but it was not until she took early retirement from her job as PRO to The Jockey Club that she was able to have a dog of her own - an Airedale, of course - from the last litter bred by her Mother. One thing led to another and when her Mother died in 1991 she found herself living in a small London house with three of them.

A move back to the country was essential, initially to Surrey and now Hampshire, where she does Obedience, Agility and Heelwork to Music (see Beanie's YouTube clip: 'Crufts 2010 – The Dancing Bean'). She is also a Pets As Therapy volunteer with Teasel and Beanie, making weekly visiting during term time to Treloars College, a unique further education college for severely disabled students, aged between 16-22.

Monica and Beanie won the Kennel Club Small Starters Cup at Discover Dogs 2010.

Published 21 November 2010