(Pictured above: Dr. Harvey’s Paradigm base-mix, pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed ground chuck, organic coconut oil)
“Mommy! There are feathers everywhere!” exclaimed my four-year-old as she ran back inside our house. I rushed out back, scanning our six acre yard for the unlucky chicken, and found a chicken head, chicken feet and a pile of feathers right by the dog door. I immediately knew who the culprit was – Dora, our newly adopted dog. Well, I assumed she killed it, as I had caught her stalking the chickens before, but I wasn’t convinced she actually ate the entire chicken. More likely, our five dogs shared the feast, and most likely, Muttley, our scavenger, greedily devoured the whole chicken. I sighed aloud, “Now what?” I didn’t want to induce vomiting, since the entire chicken was eaten and the risk of the bones tearing holes in their esophagus was too high. I was equally apprehensive in playing the “wait and see” game, but in the end, that is exactly what I did. I was on edge, expecting violent episodes of vomiting, extreme diarrhea and lethargy, and was ready for the clinical signs to start. I waited and waited, but the only thing I witnessed were soft, non-worrisome stools from Muttley. How could this be?
At this point I was already feeding our five dogs homemade meals, but I always thoroughly cooked their proteins, as the dangers of raw meat were ingrained in my head from veterinary school. However, after an entire raw chicken was consumed by our five dogs without illness, I began to second-guess my fears of raw pet food diets. And therein began my journey to a raw diet for my dogs.
I must preface my endorsement of raw pet food diets by explicitly stating that several safety measures must be followed to ensure safety and cleanliness when handling raw meats. In fact, I have specific tools that are solely designated for the dogs’ meal prep, including:
- Metal spoon
- Metal fork
- Glass tupperware container
- Stainless steel food scale
- Stainless steel dog bowls
- Paper towels
- Diluted bleach or 7th Generation brand disinfectant
The ingredients are simple! I use Dr. Harvey’s base-mixes for a nutritionally complete foundation, and for the protein sources, I mainly use chicken livers, thighs and eggs, as well as ground chuck. And in order to help assure raw food safety when handling the protein sources, the following are important to me:
The meat and eggs I use come from higher-end grocery stores that offer pasture-raised, grass-fed choices. It may sound pricey, but I’ve learned to “shop for deals,” even for such specific products! My favorite store these days is Earthfare, where I can find chicken livers for as low as $2.49 a pound, chicken thighs for $2.99 a pound and grass-fed ground chuck for $3.99 a pound. They have weekly sales on their meats and whenever a meat is on sale, I stock up. Also, ask about their bulk discount if you are feeding multiple dogs!
- I wear disposable gloves when cutting and measuring the meat.
- I use a Food Saver to Vacu-seal the meat in for freezer storage, and I freeze two days’ worth of meats in each package.
- I date and rotate the packages so that the meats are frozen for at least three weeks before thawing.
- The meat goes straight from freezer to fridge for thawing.
- Once the meat is semi-thawed, I put it in an airtight glass tupperware container, and place it back into the fridge.
- Occasionally, I will use slightly frozen meats (in particular, chicken) in their meals.
And, of course, my procedure is equally meticulous for the clean-up as it is for the meal-prep itself.
I wash the stainless steel dog bowls in the dishwasher after each feeding. I also spray the bowls with 7th Generation disinfectant before placing them in the dishwasher.
- I use stainless steel water bowls so I can change out their water easily at least twice a day.
- I wash my hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds after any contact with raw meat or any of the materials that have come in contact with the raw meat.
- I prepare our dogs’ meals on a stainless steel counter top so that I can spray 7th Generation disinfectant or a diluted bleach spray after. Remember, when in doubt, follow the instructions on the cleaners’ labels to ensure safe and proper clean-up.
- Bacteria is not killed by the freezing process, it will lie dormant until it is thawed.
- Grocery store meats are labeled to cook thoroughly on package.
- Anytime you are serving raw or under-cooked meat, you are exposing yourself and your family to potentially harmful bacteria.
- If there are any immunocompromised or young children that crawl on the floor or continuously put their hands in their mouth (like young children love to do), I do not suggest raw feeding. In these cases, the risks outweigh the benefits.
- If your dog is immunocompromised, I would also be hesitant to feed a raw diet.
Although this may sound like an long, almost daunting process, I can assure you that once you get into the swing of things, it’s easy! For me, feeding time from start to finish takes about 10 minutes, and that’s serving five dogs! Not having to cook the meat certainly saves time, and one could even argue that the act of cooking the meat results in more possible contamination sources than raw due to additional utensils and surfaces being exposed to it during the process.
After contacting Dr. Harvey’s to share the physical and mental health benefits that I witnessed after switching my dogs’ diets to Paradigm, they have since given me free products from their other lines of food, supplements, treats, and grooming essentials for my honest feedback.
All opinions expressed about Dr. Harvey’s in this and any other article I post may not represent the thoughts or opinions of Dr. Harvey’s or its staff. Dr. Harvey’s products are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.
This post is intended to help you take the best precautions preparing raw diets for your pups, but in no way is intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Yes, I am a veterinarian, but I am not your pets’ veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.
If you have any specific questions or feedback on raw feeding, please leave a comment below.