We often get asked about Emma’s diet and the reasons behind our decision to feed her a raw diet. We’ve come across many different views on the pros and cons of a raw diet, so we want to share our story and the positive results that we see in Emma.
In an effort not to gross you out by surprise, a quick disclaimer – we do talk about dog poop in this post! We also want to express that we are not nutritional experts by any means. We have done and continue to do our research on raw diets, and advocate for feeding raw, but we also understand that different breeds have different nutritional needs and that a raw diet is not suitable for every dog. The following blog is about our decision and how this has benefitted Emma, written in the hopes of opening up constructive dialogue about dog nutrition.
When we brought Emma home at 8 weeks, we continued to feed the same kibble that the breeders had fed Emma. We had every intention of continuing a kibble diet and did some light research on wet canned foods so that we could spice up the kibble diet from time to time. However, not long after we finished the kibble we received from the breeders and started a new bag of kibble that we started to notice changes in Emma’s digestive health. Emma’s breath was noticeably smelly, she pooped frequently, and her poops were often very loose.
Thinking this was due to the specific brand or type of kibble that we introduced, we went through a bit of a trial and error phase, buying different types of kibble to see if we were able to notice any improvements, but unfortunately, nothing was sitting well with her stomach. We took to Instagram to ask fellow dog owners if they have ever had similar issues, and if they had any specific brands that they could recommend, and that’s where we were first introduced to raw diets. Many dog owners whose dogs have sensitive stomachs mentioned that raw protein had helped with their dogs’ digestive issues, but not only that, many had also pointed out the nutritional benefits and the overall positive effects of going with a raw diet.
Since we hadn’t even considered a raw diet in the past, to be frank, we were very skeptical at first. Our first-few-links-on-Google-research led us to believe that a raw diet would expose us to many risks, such as bacterial risks to both humans and the dogs from the bacteria in raw meat, an unbalanced diet by relying heavily on meats, bones being a potential choking hazard, and the financial implications of an “expensive” raw diet.
We figured that kibble, on the other hand, would have minimum bacterial risks, would be nutritionally balanced (as advertised), would not be much of a choking hazard as bones would be, and all of these risks would be mitigated for a cost-effective price of around $90 CAD per month. On top of all of this, our vets were much more supportive of kibble, so all signs led us to reconsider the raw diet, but we thought we might as well give raw a try.
And boy, was that a fantastic decision! Right off the bat, Emma’s poops were much healthier than before, and with less odour. The frequency of Emma’s poops also decreased, and Emma seemed to be less bothered (and eventually not bothered at all) by her stomach. Her breath had also cleared up and surprisingly was a lot f on the raw diet. But the benefits didn’t stop there! Emma’s coat was noticeably softer and shinier only after a week into the raw diet, she had much healthier skin, cleaner and whiter teeth, and higher energy levels.
Based on the benefits that we saw during our trial run with raw, we decided to delve deeper into the raw diet and figure out how best to optimize Emma’s meals so that we can minimize all of those risks that we initially had in our minds.
For us, bacterial concerns were negligible by virtue of there being cases of bacterial contamination in canned dog foods and kibble as well. In addition, raw meats and fish for human consumption can also have bacterial risks as raw protein for dogs and provided that we source our meats from trusted raw meat distributors, we felt (and continue to feel) safe about the raw diet. Bacterial contamination from handling the food was less of a concern for us. Not only did knowing that the meats were not sterile make us extra careful about washing our hands appropriately, but also both of our years of experience in the food and beverage industry had made food safety practices and procedures second nature to us so we were able to minimize the bacterial concerns about feeding raw.
As for the safety of bones in a raw diet: feed the bones raw! Any form of cooking, whether it be smoking or boiling, can cause the bones to become brittle and can splinter when bit. This in turn can become an even greater choking hazard, as well as potentially cause internal punctures while ingesting. So if you’re feeding bones, keep it consistent with the name and go raw!
Let’s talk about nutrition. Nutritional balance is something that we’re constantly tweaking, but we found that the 80-10-10 ratio is a good rule of thumb. As per the “risk” or concern over a balanced diet with raw, getting the ratios right for your dog specifically is absolutely key.
As of today, Emma’s meals look like this:
- 80% Muscle Meat (chicken, pork or beef)
- 10% Bones (duck neck or chicken feet)
- 10% Offal (beef liver)
- Quail Eggs or Chicken Eggs
- Vegetables* (blend of spinach, apples, broccoli)
- Additional Supplements (rotate between ground eggshells, golden paste, bee pollen, wheatgrass, kelp, mussels powder, blue spirulina, beef bone broth cubes**)
*We blend the spinach, apples and broccoli and freeze them in ice cube moulds. We use 1 vegetable ice cube per meal.
**We cook our own beef bone broth and also freeze them in ice cube moulds. We use 1 beef bone broth ice cube per meal.
As you determine the ratio, you’ll also want to take into consideration some minor adjustments that you might need to make, especially when you first start feeding raw, based on the indications of nutritional imbalance that show up in your dog’s poop.
We can get into more detail in later posts, but certain colours and textures may be indicative of the following, such as (but not limited to):
- White --> indicative of too much bone
- Dark/Black --> Indicative of too much offal
- Loose/No Shape --> Indicative of not enough bone
You’ll want to work around these indications to find the ratio that works for your dog.
Last but certainly not least, the financial implications of feeding raw might be the biggest concern for many. We can’t say that a raw diet is a cheap option, but at the same time, it’s certainly not as much as we had initially thought.
Pricing will naturally depend on your location and the distributors/retailers available, but for us, we use a local raw dog food supplier who delivers right to our door. We order the muscle meat, bones, and offal through this supplier, and they are delivered to us frozen.
Including this delivery fee and with Emma’s meals at 750g~800g per day, the cost comes out to approximately $6 per day.
So you might be wondering what a raw diet might actually look like. Have a look at some of the meals we prepare for Emma below! We, unfortunately, don’t do this for every meal, but we totally would if we had the time!
Overall, for us, switching over to raw has been absolutely wonderful, with fewer health issues for our dog that has a very sensitive stomach. But we can’t sugar-coat the amount of work that goes into a raw diet; it does take time to prep the meals, it does take up a lot of freezer space, and there’s the extra attention that’s required for food safety and food surface cleanliness. We understand that this isn’t an option for everyone, but we just want to say, don’t knock it till you try it!
Regardless of whether you’re feeding kibble, wet foods or a raw diet, our number one safety tip is to make sure that you’re supervising your dog while eating. You don’t need to be a helicopter parent, but dogs and humans alike can choke on almost anything if ingested incorrectly, so stay with them as they eat. Hey, maybe you can even make mealtimes a short training session!
Thanks for reading, and let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or want to know more about something that we touched on above!
-Mick (Emma's Dad)
Bobbi on Jun 19, 2022
Hi there, we are switching our puppy (9weeks) over to raw. How long did it take you to go phase out the kibble? How do you know how much raw to feed? Thanks!