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- Tips

    From the For What It's Worth Department, these tips reflect what I've learned about raw feeding from others, personal experience, research, and most importantly, from watching the dogs.  While there are many sources of information, The ones included below and on the References page provide consistently credible information.
    Salmonella and other food-born pathogens are typically not a problem for dogs with healthy immune systems, however, they will really do a number on you and me.
    Use common sense sanitation procedures handling raw food.  Keep a spray bottle of vinegar/water, bleach/water, Pine Sol, or other sanitizing agent handy to clean up when you are finished.    Always think sanitation!

Trust Your Dog

        Trust that your dog knows what to do with raw meat & RMB.  Don't make a big fuss.  Put the food down, stand back, shut up, and [inconspicuously] watch what happens.

Food Bowls

    It turns out that, depending on the dog, the food bowl may play a part in how messy mealtime is.  
    Bowl Size.  Guess what?  From our Lessons Learned Department, some dogs will root around in a small tall bowl if what they are looking for is at the bottom.  Food gets everywhere.  I've found that wide shallow bowls work best - especially if you spread the food around so she can easily get what she wants.  That said, Shasta will still pick up a chicken or turkey neck and drop it on the mat before picking it up again and eating it.  That's just the kind of girl she is.  I've tried, but there is no reasoning with her.
    Bowl Type
        - Plastic.  Plastic bowls are discouraged because they may leech potentially toxic chemicals (controversial, but not worth the risk for my dogs).
        - Ceramic.  A good choice however, they are more fragile than plastic and stainless steel and are more likely to chip or break.  I have a large ceramic water bowl only because Shasta has a water phobia.
        - Stainless steel.  Stainless steel bowls are preferred.  However, these bowls tend to slide around unless you use a placemat of some sort.  I use non-slip shelf liner (Cont-Tact Brand Grip Liner) cut in placemat shape because it keeps the bowl in place and is washable.  I bought a large roll at Costco and cut to placemat size.  Hand wash when needed.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Feeding

    Indoors.  The Golden Girls eat indoors, in my dining room (laminate floor), spaced about 8ft apart.  I've actually fed four house dogs and two fosters inside at the same time.  It took a little training, but they got it.
        CleanupCleanup is an important consideration so feed somewhere that will be easy to clean.  Other than Shasta, my house dogs and fosters have always been very good about getting the food from the bowl to their mouth without dropping any on the floor.  Just in case, however, I spray Pine Sol on the floor, wipe with a damp cloth, and then dry.  Done!
        My feeding routine.  When all bowls are filled on the kitchen counter, the command "places everyone" means they go to their designated eating locations in the house and sit.  I go around and set the non-slip placemats down in front of them all and then return with their food bowls.  They may begin eating only after they make eye contact with me and I give the release command, "free."  When they finish, they go "outside and potty" (dog door) and remain there until all have finished and are out.  While they are out, I pick the food bowls and mats.  The command "inside" means they rush inside (quite the mental image, huh?) for desert - apple slice, piece of cheese, banana chunk, steamed Brussels sprout, or other treat that I make a big deal about.  Hey, it works for me.
        I had to begin feeding one or two foster Goldens in another room (food guarding). Over about a week of gradually moving their bowl, they were at their final eating location with the others.
    Outdoors.  The important thing about outdoor feeding is to be sure that there is no residue left behind that might attract neighborhood rodents and/or insects.  The last thing you want is to be known in the rodent and insect community as one who provides an easy meal.

Thawing & Warming Food

    Never feed frozen meat or RMBs.  Why?  Think about what you are asking the dog's digestive system to process vs. what it evolved to process.
    Thawing.  I typically have two days of food thawing in the refrigerator.  After taking today's food out to warm, I replace it with food from the freezer for two days hence (tomorrow's is already defrosting).
        Meat.  Feed food at prey body temperature (~100F).  Since I freeze food in plastic zip bags, it is important to remove food from the plastic before warming.  This prevents the heat from causing toxic chemicals to leech into the food.  After trying a number of food warming approaches, I've settled on putting meat into a large shallow stainless steel dog food bowl and into the toaster oven set on Warm (~ 100oF).  Remember, you are not trying to cook the meat, only warm it to prey body temperature.
        RMBs.  Since I'm feeding three dogs - and there isn't room in the toaster oven for both meat and RMBs - I warm RMBs in a stainless mixing bowl in warm water. To conserve water (California), I warm a couple of cups of water in a glass container in the microwave and then pour it in the RMB warming bowl.

Calcium & Raw Meaty Bones (RMB)

    Calcium.  Calcium is NOT an optional supplement; it is absolutely required in a raw (and cooked) meat diet.
    Dogs need calcium in their diet to balance the phosphorous in meat.  Without adequate calcium intake, the dog's body will draw on it own calcium stores as needed.  Think bone loss; sever bone loss over time if calcium is consistently missing from meals. 
    Other than RMBs, calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are the best calcium sources for your dog.  Buy at drug, grocery, health food store, or on-line.  Serve at 900mg per pound of meat (more here).
  • When not feeding RMBs, I use powdered eggshells because they are 95% calcium carbonate.    The Golden Girls get raw egg 3 days a week so I have an ready source of eggshells.  Serve at 1/2 tsp / lb meat.
    Dairy Calcium.  No, dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.) does not provide the appropriate calcium dogs need to balance the phosphorous.
    RMB.  The choice of RMBs is important. Soft, neck bones are the best choice; chicken and turkey necks are the most commonly fed.  These bones are the most easily consumed and digested.
    In addition to providing needed calcium, feeding RMBs provides an added benefit: it promotes good dental care.  Crushing these soft bones helps prevent tartar buildup on teeth.  So, consider feeding RMBs at least a few times a week and calcium supplement on off days.
    See more RMB tips elsewhere on this page.
    Vitamin D3.  This vitamin helps with calcium uptake.  More info here.

Salmon Oil

    Salmon oil and EPA fish oil provide the omega-3 fatty acids your dog needs and that is not adequately supplied in a raw diet.  More here and here.  I feed Grizzly but there are other products out there.  Read the label and stick with products that do not have extra ingredients.
    Cod liver oil is NOT the same as fish oil.  It offers less omega-3 fatty acid and is high in Vitamins A and D, which may cause kidney problems is certain dogs.  More here and here.


    Dogs do not process vegetables well because the trip through their digestive system is so fast that there is no time to ferment the veggies (like humans).  Feeding lots of veggies results in gas and large smelly poop.  Yuck!
    However, I feed a very small amount of pureed and previously frozen veggies at about 1 tsp/day to help bind the powdered herbs I feed.  I use lower glycemic veggies such as zucchini, dark leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, etc. There are dehydrated veggie mixes available that might seem expensive, but you feed very little at each meal. 
    Shop at your local privately owned pet food store because the owners likely know more about the products than clerks at big box pet stores.  For example, I live near Sacramento in Citrus Height, CA.   I found a family-owned shop, Animal Nutrition Center, in nearby Roseville whose owners are also raw feeders.


    Many people defeat the whole purpose of feeding a healthy raw diet by using unhealthy treats.  Be careful; read ingredients.  If you treat frequently throughout the day, be sure to adjust meals accordingly or else you will have a fat dog.
    I treat infrequently - but praise often - and use Orijen Six Fish  or ZiwiPeak Venison & Fish kibble as treats.  It smells fishy (dogs love it) and it is healthy.

Feeding Puppies

    Tips for feeding puppies a raw diet are here and here.

Feeding Frequency

    Once a Day.  Until recently I fed once a day - in the morning.  My rationale was that the dog has all day to burn off the calories consumed and that I only do one meal prep & cleanup. 
    In JUN2016. Raven, the senior Flat-Coated Retriever, began vomiting in the mornings about 0600.  The 2-3 tablespoons of liquid was clear with white foam but recently the liquid was yellow (bile).  My research  found that, while this symptom can occur in dogs of any age, it is more common in senior dogs - especially dogs fed only once a day.  That would be Raven.  I now withhold about 1/3 of meat from the a.m. meal and serve it as a p.m. snack 8-10 hours later.  This seems to be working.

    Recall what you have learned about how carnivores (bear, wolf, etc.) eat.  When they find a meal, they eat until they are full or the food is consumed.  Why? One reason is because they do not know when their next meal will appear.  In fact, they may not eat again for a day or two.  So going 24 hours without eating again is not uncommon.
    The catch is that wild carnivores will hunt again when they are hungry - unlike our dogs who must wait for us to feed them on our schedule.

    Twice a Day.  Most people prefer to feed twice a day.  Unless you are managing a medical condition and the veterinarian presents a compelling reason to feed smaller meals more often, twice-a-day feeding is probably unnecessary.  The most important consideration when feeding multiple meals throughout the day is to not overfeed.  That is, if you determined that 1 cup of meat per day will maintain the dog's ideal target weight, be sure not to exceed that amount for the day.
    Split Meals.  Some people feed meat at one meal and RMB at the other.  For a healthy dog, why would one do that?  Let the dog's digestive system process all the food at one time and then rest for the remainder of the day.  
    Also,  like us, how healthy is it to eat a late meal and then sleep for eight hours - doing nothing to burn off those calories?
    Raw Meal & Kibble.  If you are feeding both raw food and kibble, feed them at separate meals and feed the kibble in the morning.  Why? Because it takes kibble so much longer to digest than real food (12-16 hours  for kibble versus 4-6 hours for raw1).  This way the dog is more likely to have digested the real food before going to sleep for the night.

1. Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog,
by Kerry Brown, D.V.M. and Wendy Volhard 

Small Dog Considerations

    Meat.  Cut and package meat small enough to be easily consumed.  Grinding is unnecessary.
    RMB.  Depending on the individual dog, chicken necks may have to be cut in half.  If the neck is too large, the dog will figure that out and crush it until she feels that it is small enough to swallow.  Most of the dogs (retrievers) I've fed simply swallow chicken necks whole.  Shasta will crush some of the larger necks before swallowing.  Simply pay attention to how the dog deals with RMBs and adjust accordingly.

Senior Dog Considerations

    Meat.  I don't change the way I prepare meat for senior dogs.  
    RMB.  The concern is to prevent tooth fracturing in senior dogs by making sure the RMBs are not too hard (yes, 'hard' is relative).  I cut hen (not Tom) turkey necks into thirds and cut off meat at the thick end, if needed, to make the bone easier to crush.  How? a knife around the neck once - at a joint - and then snap/break with your hands.  When preparing to freeze turkey necks I determine if some are too thick for the girls, I cut the thick ends off
and grind them before freezing.
    I have recently started grinding chicken leg quarters for all my dogs (two are 12; one is 16-ish).  I don't want to risk a cracked tooth and inevitable dental surgery.  They still get all other chicken bones intact.

Ground vs. Chunk Meat & RMB

    Think about how dogs and other carnivores eat prey animals.  Their teeth have evolved to tear and cut/shear meat and bones.  When they get meat and bones to a size that they can swallow, that's what they do.  Gulp!  Gone!  They cannot grind or chew their food because their jaw doesn't work that way (watch them).  So, they are swallowing chunks of food and crushed RMBs.  Chunks!  
    Meat: Chunk.  When you cut and package meat, cut to a chunk size appropriate for the dog.
    Meat: Ground.  If you buy large steaks or roasts at a market, the butcher may grind it for you.  Personally, I avoid feeding ground meat unless I grind it and, therefore, know precisely what is in it (recall the 2012 Pink Slime expose).  Besides, ground is typically more expensive than whole meat.
    RMB: Whole.  Unless the dog has a swallowing problem, feed whole chicken necks. 
    I've found that when I tried feeding whole turkey necks, the dogs were more likely to try to take them outside to eat rather than eat at their bowl.  When I cut turkey necks into thirds the dogs eat them at their bowl.  Good dog!
    RMB: Ground.  A friend with a Standard Poodle has swallowing problem so I grind all RMBs for that dog.  Crushing RMBs provides good jaw strengthening exercise for the dog so I intend to continue feeding my dogs RMBs.  My now deceased 15 1/2 yo Golden, Daisy,  was still crushing RMBs until the day she died.

Meat Grinder

    I have two grinders: a KitchenAid for grinding small amounts of meat and a larger 1hp. American Eagle that I use for large quantities of meat, whole chickens (for a friend) and some RMB (see Note below).  There are many grinders to choose from if you choose to or need to grind.  Ask raw feeders who grind. 
    Note: If you plan on grinding bones such as chicken legs & turkey necks be sure to get a grinder powerful enough for the job.

Complete and Balanced...Over Time

    Definition.  As used by pet food manufacturers, this means that a product meets Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) dietary guidelines. Manufactured products must meet these requirements because people feed the same product every day year around.  Exciting, huh?
    Raw Feeding Reality. Unless you feed exactly the same meal every day, you need not be concerned with this.  When you feed a variety of meals, each meal will likely not be complete and balanced.  However, over time - a week or so - meals should contain enough variety to provide appropriate nutrition for your dog.  This is the same principle that you and I use to obtain our proper nutrition - over time.

What About Traveling?

With Raw-Fed Dog
    Raw-Fed show dog owners solve this in a number of ways.
  •     Pack enough frozen food in a cooler to last a couple of days (short trip). 
  •     Go to grocery store each day and buy fresh food.
  •     Stay at hotel with small refrigerator to store food for a few days; grocery shop when needed.
  •     Bring raw freeze-dried and/or raw dehydrated food (or buy along the way).
Dog Sitter in your Home
    My dog sitter is also a raw feeder (I found her though a local raw fed dog food buying co-op).  I have daily meals sorted & labeled in refrigerator (and freezer for extended trip).
    Provide written feeding instructions.  If you have a feeding routine, it will be helpful to share that routine with your dog sitter.
    If dog sitter is not comfortable feeding raw - provide raw frozen, freeze-dried, and/or dehydrated raw.   
    I've included a copy of my Dog and House Care manual on Downloads page.

    Provide easily served raw frozen (assuming available freezer), freeze-dried, and/or dehydrated for the length of the stay. 
    Provide written feeding instructions.

Dog & Home Emergency Instructions

    These instructions, posted on my refrigerator, pertain to both my home and the dogs.  Download here.

Administering Pills

    Bury pills in cream cheese & administer to dogs. Leave some on your finger for dog to focus on licking off and not notice that she just swallowed a pill.  Ha!
    Peanut butter is not advised if it contains Xylitol - toxic to dogs.