It’s been a little over a year now since I made the decision to switch Bella to raw. And as far as her health goes, it has been absolutely the best decision I could have made.
If there’s such a thing as a problem dog child, Bella has been mine. Right out of the shoot, Bella came to me with an ear infection. She’s had nothing but seasonal and food allergies since around the age of one – so constant dandruff, itching, scratching and several rashes. She’s an anxious personality, which has birthed many sores on her legs from chewing and licking incessantly. And, thanks to an insecure and uneducated ex-boyfriend, she was never socialized properly, and was, in fact, attacked several times as a young puppy. This has led to mild dog aggression due to the fact that she legitimately doesn’t know how to meet and interact with other dogs. When my ex and I parted ways a couple of years ago, I made it my mission to give Bella the best life she could possibly have. The first thing I did was amend her diet. And we are currently working with a trainer on learning how to socialize and reteaching Bella the basic fundamentals of dog training.
Prior to the raw diet, poor Bella had sampled nearly every expensive food brand there is – from grain and gluten free, to holistic, to organic. We tried every meat formula there is: beef, chicken, white fish, salmon. They all seemed great at first – her symptoms would go away for a spell [the hot spots, the dandruff, the rashes, the lethargy], but we wouldn’t even get through one 30 lb bag of dog food before her irritations would pop back up again. It seemed like the food was masking Bella’s symptoms instead of doing away with them. And when the most expensive kibble on the market couldn’t alleviate the issues, I decided to start researching raw.
When we initially started the raw diet, I got my food through a distributor on the east coast called ReelRaw. What I love about this company, and the reason I ultimately ended up going with them, is that for an additional cost they will pre-measure all of the meat for you [instead of buying it in bulk and weighing it out yourself]. Being a total rookie to raw feeding, I had no clue what a balanced raw meal should look like, nor how much food per day I should be feeding Bella. And I definitely didn’t know how to introduce her to the diet. This company did it all for me, and it was a completely seamless transition from kibble to raw [**this is not an ad – I just truly love and recommend this company for anybody who is new to raw feeding and wants the same smooth switch].
The hardest thing about switching Bella to raw was coming to terms with the fact that feeding her a meat only diet is completely well-rounded [to those who are unaware, the premise of the raw diet is that you’re essentially feeding your dog what he would eat in the wild – similar to the Paleo diet for humans, where the only acceptable food is natural food]. In the wild, dogs really only eat meat and bones, but many people who feed their dogs raw will add fruits and veggies. Because kibble contains these things, there’s a belief that dogs should be consuming them raw.
Raw food aficionados refer to this is Prey Model vs. BARF [Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food]. The Prey Model goes by the notion that dogs should only consume meat and meaty bones; the BARF model follows a kibble-like diet where dogs receive fruit and vegetables in addition to the meat. Over the course of the past year, I have tried both on Bella. Initially we stuck to meat only so she could get accustomed to the new food regimen. After a month or two, I started adding leftover fruit/veg to her meals, as well as raw goat’s milk to help with digestion. For a while we ordered juiced greens from Green JuJu, as I had heard a theory that dogs cannot absorb the nutrients from these foods unless they are in a crushed up, mushed up, juicy form [jury’s still out on this one]. But my problem child is sensitive and all of these additives just aggravate Bella’s system, so recently I have done away with the fruits, veggies and goat’s milk and kept her solely on meaty bones and ground meat mixtures.
Recently I’ve been testing the Traditional Chinese Medicine theory that certain foods can have heating and cooling effects on the body. While this has historically been used for humans, more and more people have been testing this practice on their dogs [to read more about this, here’s two articles I found to be extremely helpful: TCM 1, TCM 2]. Since Bella shows signs of a dog that runs on the hotter end of the spectrum, I have been focusing on feeding her cooling foods. I have removed chicken, lamb and turkey from her diet, and have kept her food consumption to mainly duck and rabbit varietals. It’s only been a couple of weeks since we made the switch, so it is a little bit too soon to tell, but her dandruff and skin allergies already seem to have minimized even further. Something else to keep in mind if you’re considering transitioning your pet to raw [generally speaking, starting your pet with chicken is the best – despite the fact that the meat may aggravate your pup’s system, it’s the lightest meat and the easiest for them to digest, thus making the transition to raw much smoother].
I know that this diet regimen is not for every one or every dog, but I am just happy that I have found something that has provided some relief for Bella. Now that I have experienced the health improvement from feeding raw, I will probably never go back. It is an expensive diet, and taking on the meal prep can be time consuming, but it has been worth all of the pain to see my dog so happy and energetic. Bella may be five years old, but she’s definitely going on two.
**PLEASE NOTE: THE ABOVE ARE MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES WITH FEEDING MY DOG RAW. THIS DOES NOT MAKE ME AN EXPERT, NOR DO I CLAIM TO BE. IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING MOVING YOUR PET TO RAW, CONSULT YOUR VET, OR DO YOUR RESEARCH! THE INTERNET CAN AND DOES HOUSE ALL SORTS OF WEIRD AND WACKY INFORMATION, BUT MOST OF WHAT I’VE FOUND ON RAW FEEDING HAS BEEN EXTREMELY HELPFUL. FORUMS AND FACEBOOK GROUPS ARE ALSO A GREAT WAY TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY FEEDING THEIR DOGS RAW, AND MOST RAW FOOD DISTRIBUTORS HAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS – YOU CAN ALWAYS CONTACT THEM IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS. I AM ALSO HAPPY TO HELP WITH ANY INQUIRIES. AGAIN, I AM NOT AN EXPERT, BUT I WILL HELP IN ANY WAY THAT I CAN.**