Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Raw Diet - Six Months Later

I haven't really blogged much about Bernie's raw diet and I know some owners out there are curious about it. I also want to document my experience with it so far.
Two weeks worth of Bernie's food

My choice to switch to a raw diet was a personal one, motivated by Bernie almost dying after a bladder surgery to remove a sizable bladder stone comprised of stuff that came from struvite crystals. Switching any animal to a raw diet can be highly controversial, especially given there isn't a lot of research out there substantiating the diet, pros and cons. When prescription medications and kibbles failed me I had to turn to something controversial in hopes it would work to save my dog.

There are lots of ways to start feeding raw. Some people use something called "prey model" which consists of mostly whole cuts of meat or small animal carcasses (sometimes complete with fur/feathers) and very little vegetation.  Some people prefer the BARF diet.  Some people make up their own diet as a combination of both of these.  I opted for something more scientific and hired a canine nutritionist to formulate the diet for me since I don't know the nutritional requirements of canines.  I also didn't know the balance of vitamins needed to keep a urine acidic and to prevent it from forming crystals.  Thankfully, the nutritionist knew exactly what I needed and she had done special formulations before.

Bernie's diet consists of a specifically measured mixture of meat (chicken, ground beef and beef liver), egg, yogurt, kale, apples, blueberries, bananas, carrots, steamed yams, and zucchini.  She also gets daily supplements added to this mixture.  She is given whole chicken wings to munch on on occasion and I can supplement her diet with some other fresh meats sometimes as I get them.  I did give her some pork neck bones a month ago to help clean her teeth since her diet was formulated to be relatively low in ash (thus, bone) to keep an acidic diet.

Preparing this diet can be time consuming.  I've got sort of a system down and every two weeks I fill up 14 jars with a days worth of food.  It takes me about 1.5-2 hours each time depending on how much prep work I'm doing for the next go round.  The dogs love it because I give them any leftover banana, apple, etc. that is more than what I need at that time and less than what I need for next time.  Yesterday they were getting the leftover steamed yams and a bit of the skin.  Byron had his first yams and loved them.  Bernie eats just about anything I throw at her and I let her lick the mixing bowls clean.

To prepare everything I first grind all the veggies and fruits together in the Cuisinart, add in the safflower oil to that and set the mixture aside.  Then I mix together the proteins.  The chicken breast is chopped up in the cuisinart and mixed into the beef.  I learned my Kitchenaid mixer comes in quite handy for this.  I can mix up everything in that and it handles it nicely.  I set aside the protein mixture.  I then scoop in the protein into each jar, make sure everything is even (about 2.5 scoops) and then add on a scoop of the veggie/fruit mixture.  I freeze 12 jars and leave 2 jars out in the fridge for Bernie to eat the following two days.  Each morning when we feed her we put another jar in the fridge to defrost for the following days breakfast.  She gets fed once a day.  If I give her chicken wings she gets those at night.

Everything is cleaned and sanitized carefully after the prep work is done.  I love that my dishwasher has a sanitize feature on it so it basically will autoclave everything.  I spray down my countertops, Cuisinart and Kitchenaid mixer with Lysol.  I wipe down the handles of the fridge and dishwasher too in case I happened to touch them while prepping. 

The diet overall is a lot of work.  I have to shop for her food items, I have to keep tabs on the supplements and order them again when we get low.  We did have to purchase an upright freezer to help contain the meat in bulk that I purchased.  It has all been worthwhile and I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

Basil is not currently on the raw diet that was formulated for him yet but I do hope to switch both Basil and Byron to raw eventually when I can figure out a system to make enough food for all three dogs.  Basil and Byron are on a high-quality kibble that is like raw food.  I may eventually switch them over to something like Honest Kitchen or what Nature's Variety makes, a pre-formulated raw food product for dogs if you don't want to make your own.

It worked for me and opened my eyes to how close-minded I'd been.  It made me realize that just because you don't believe in something doesn't mean it isn't the best option for a person or an animal.  I didn't agree with raw feeding before I made the decision to switch.  Now, I think it is a personal choice that someone has to make for themselves and their animal.


  1. Thanks for the update. I want to feed Maisy more raw food, but I also want it to be nutritionally balanced. I've been looking at purchasing Monica Segal's books since they give instructions on how to formulate a diet yourself.

  2. I've heard good things about Monica Segal too and if you don't have specific health issues that is probably a good option. Let me know how you like her books! I'd love to hear about it.

  3. Excellent; well-written and VERY interesting. What's especially interesting to me is that HUMANS could do very well eating most of the same foods ( kale, yams, blueberries, eggs, apples, meat for example) that you are feeding Bernie.
    I'm glad the diet is working so well for Bernie.
    Your pups certainly have a very dedicated and loving mom.


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