Safely Prepare a Raw, Homemade Diet

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(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:

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  1. Scissors
  2. Metal spoon
  3. Metal fork
  4. Glass Tuber-ware container 
  5. Stainless steel food scale
  6. Stainless steel dog bowls
  7. Paper towels
  8. 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:

  1. 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!
  2. I wear disposable gloves when cutting and measuring the meat.
  3. 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. 
  4. I date and rotate the packages so that the meats are frozen for at least two weeks before thawing.
  5. The meat goes straight from freezer to fridge for thawing.  
  6. Once the meat is semi-thawed, I put it in an airtight glass Tuberware container, and place it back into the fridge.
  7. 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.

  1. 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. 
  2. I use stainless steel water bowls so I can change out their water easily at least twice a day.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.

Caveats:

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  1. Bacteria is not killed by the freezing process, it will lie dormant until it is thawed.
  2. Grocery store meats are labeled to cook thoroughly on package.  
  3. Anytime you are serving raw or under-cooked meat, you are exposing yourself and your family to potentially harmful bacteria.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.

Disclaimer:

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.

17 Comments

  1. I have been feeding raw for almost 2 years now, loosely following the B.A.R.F. model. I lightly steam veggies such as kale, spinach, broccoli, mustard and turnip greens, etc. I also feed small amounts of fresh fruit, such as apples, bananas and oranges, plus berries when in season. For probiotics, I make sauerkraut for the pups, and give them kefir. They also get coconut oil and other supplements.

    One day I spread some coconut oil into Xena, my schnauzer’s, coat and Lucy, my bully mix, followed her around half the day licking her!

    I did want to mention that I have read on a chart of yin and yang foods for dogs to not feed frozen or extremely cold foods, as it is bad for their digestion.
    I am glad you have started on this journey, and hope we might be able to support each other on the way.

    Amy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your feedback! Do you eat as healthy as your pup? Your meals sound delicious.

      I have dabbled in yin-yang—thank you for bringing up this point. How I understood it was that there were 5 energies of foods (cold, cool, neutral, warm and hot) and these energies had less to do with the actual temperature of the food and more to do with the effect the food has on the body. Yin-yang does suggest that the foods they consider to be in the cold category have more healing properties for inflammation and the warming foods aid in digestion. Could this be what you are referring to?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. What I have is a very simple chart for the foods to feed in either hot or cold seasons. It doesn’t address anything else. And, yes it is the food’s energies, but also has something to say about the preparation. Here is a good link that talks about just that. https://www.dogster.com/dog-food/the-best-dog-food-for-keeping-your-dog-cool-in-the-summer

      And while I eat healthier than I ever did, I am sure my dogs eat healthier! (They don’t get a choice, LOL.)

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Thank you! That’s a very informative link.

      Yes, they may not get a choice, but I’m sure they aren’t complaining! I wish I had a chef to cook my meals, clean the dishes etc. and I wouldn’t complain either…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting concept and one I have not thought about yet…I always make my own dog food with fresh meat and rice as most dogs here prefer rice…Saangchai is one such dog…A good post and a subject I will be looking at so thank you 😀Thank you for the follow 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will, thank you I have always thougt that you shouldn’t feed raw meat to dogs although I haven’t looked into it and your post has made me question that and I will look into it and if need be will come to you. And thank you for liking my waste not want not posts which are turning into more than I initially thought it is a massive topic and I am continually learning something new 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes—raw eggs are a superfood! Full of protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Adding a couple eggs a day (depending on the size of your pup) can be part of a balanced meal. Just be sure to take the safety precautions when handling raw eggs.

      Also, check out my ‘Benefits of Pastured-Raised Chickens’ article.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have been feeding raw for 13 yrs, . I really don’t get your thought on the protein you feed. I have always read and been taught that variety is important and feeding muscle and organ meat is important. Chicken is at the bottom of my list of protein.
    What I will never understand is how vets are taught raw is bad and yet yrs ago when dogs were sick, tgey would suggest raw hamburger.
    And what exactly are they taught about their digestion system… ugh.
    I fit in veggies, egg, bone, organ meat and tripe over the course of the week, doesn’t need to be dumped on them every feeding.
    My dogs are very active and do many dog sports, so healthy nutrition is very important.
    My vet laughs because I never come in for normal/usual issues like most pets. The only issues my oldies have are caused by bad genetics/poor breeding. 😣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I 100% agree that variety is best. Chicken livers, chicken thighs, ground beef chuck and eggs are my main sources that I rotate.

      One reason I chose these proteins is that I know that my source (Earthfare), works with farmers that are humane to their livestock and chickens from birth to slaughter. I want to feel good about my protein sources, so that factory farming isn’t involved. I do not want to have farm animals suffer for the benefit of my dogs. Not to say that where you acquire your protein isn’t humane, this is just a simple method I use to ensure the proteins I use are humane.

      And then added in with those proteins I rotate organic olive oil, organic coconut oil and Dr. Harvey’s Salmon oil.

      Dr. Harvey’s base-mixes fulfill the other requirements I feel are important. Their ‘Paradigm’ pre-mix (which is ketogenic) contains low glycemic vegetables (Broccoli, Green Beans, Red and Green bell peppers, cabbage, pumpkin, celery), also bone broth, kelp and alfalfa, turmeric, spirulina etc. etc. etc.

      Dr. Harvey’s ‘Raw Vibrance’ base-mix contains vegetables (broccoli, green beans, squash, celery, cabbage, spinach, pumpkin, beets), also Raw Goat’s milk powder, bone meal, shiitake mushrooms, green lipped muscle powder, eggshell membrane, etc. etc. etc.

      I personally feel I have all my bases covered and my dogs have been thriving ever since. Prior to my discovery of Dr. Harvey’s Paradigm, I had been feeding what I was taught was best for joint issues, a prescription diet for joint health. Check out my ‘ Anxiety? Try this…’ post on my blog, it goes into detail of my journey into fresh, homemade diets.

      I am thankful for your feedback and I hope I explained my thought process well.

      Like

  4. I am always happy when I learn one more veterinarian has opened their mind to other ways of feeding besides the poison that’s called Science Diet. In my opinion, dogs and cats are the only animals, contained by humans, that are fed completely incorrectly. Zoos and other animal habitats do extensive research into species-appropriate Foods. Dog and cat owners are content to throw them Brown processed dry gruel. That’s crazy! Bravo on your step forward! I wish I had a vet near me that was as open-minded as you. Best Wishes Always

    Like

    1. Hi Julie,

      No, I do not. The two base mixes that I use of Dr. Harvey’s (Paradigm and Raw Vibrance) have a bone broth/bone meal included as one of the ingredients.

      To be truthful, that will be another mental hurdle for me, as I never gave them real meat bones of any source in fear of broken teeth, the bones splintering, or a piece of the bone getting stuck in their esophagus/stomach. I actually asked Earthfare the other day if they have any raw bones that I can buy, and they said they can get me cow femur bones. I’m excited, yet a little worried still, to try them. Although, this is more for dental health.

      Like

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