A few years ago, and after much research, we made the decision to feed our dogs a raw diet. For those of you who know me, this may sound odd coming from the girl who is completely skeeved by raw meat - I don't even like to touch it if I'm making dinner. Yet, I happily fish raw chicken livers from containers with my fingers to watch our pups slurp them down like oysters on the half-shell. Every Friday night, I shove 40 pounds of organic chicken leg quarters - bone and all - down the chute of our commercial meat grinder while replaying the wood chipper scene from "Fargo" over and over in my head... It's given a whole new meaning to "date night".
The shelves of our pantry are no longer lined with Milk Bone boxes - instead, they boast such items as dehydrated duck feet, lamb lung, bison heart "meat cookies" and beef trachea. We visit the organic produce shop weekly and stock up on sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, carrots, broccoli and other sundry veggies that we ourselves never actually consume - believe me when I say that our dogs eat WAY better than we do - a fact that is never lost on me as I wait for my frozen Eggo waffle to pop up from the toaster each morning. This way of life takes some careful planning and a good bit of work and I spend far more time figuring out the proper rotation of proteins and nutrients for the dogs than I'd ever spend on a menu for us.
I could list a bunch of statistics that purport raw feeding as a superior diet for dogs and cats in light of health, longevity, etc., but I could equally cite articles that are vehemently opposed for reasons of contamination, nutritional imbalance and impracticality. After over 20 years in veterinary medicine, I could state a case for each.
Instead, I'm simply going to tell you what I DO know based on my own personal experience:
- Our pack has no allergies of the dermatological sort that often plague our pets, such as skin or ear issues. Their coats are lustrous and shed neither too little nor too much.
- None of our raw-fed dogs has ever needed a dental cleaning.
- We are GI issue-free - the occasional upset can usually be chalked up to a "dietary indiscretion" such as ornamental grass from the backyard, or other "not-meant-to-be-eaten" paraphernalia.
- Our dogs have excellent musculature and maintain a healthy weight - 2 factors that are so important in the prevention of orthopedic problems and to overall health. I'm not saying that a raw-fed dog will never tear an ACL or develop shoulder instability or any of the other musculoskeletal ailments that are so common - I'm saying that I believe proper weight and muscle balance play a huge role in avoiding those things, and that the raw diet is helpful in achieving both of those goals.
I hope that 15 or more years from now, I can also tell you that feeding raw has prevented cancer from attacking our pups, and that they lived for many years disease-free, joyously gulping their rations of gag-worthy organs... I don't know that yet, but I'd be a liar if I said that the idea didn't play a big part in our decision to feed a homemade raw diet. So many factors are beyond our control - this is one of the few things that we CAN do, and I sincerely hope and pray that it makes a difference.
COMING SOON - some of our favorite recipes for healthy treats and food from our kitchen to yours!