I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.
We feed primarily according to Dr. Ian Billinghurst in his book, Grow Your Pups With Bones. Our typical feeding schedule is as follows:
So during one week, we feed 9 RMB meals and 5 veggie meals. A 4 lb. batch of veggie mix (one week's worth) consists of the following:
- 2.5 lbs. Vegetables (pulped/mashed)
- 1 lb. Ground lean meat
- 1/2 cup nonfat, plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese (or 2-3 raw, whole eggs including shells)
- 2 T. Garlic powder
- 2-3 T. Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (with bits floating in it)*
I mix this up on the weekends. I run the veggies through the meat grinder (weight is the pulped amount, and then mix in the meat etc. I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop the mixture into muffin tins (1 measuring cup per muffin) and put them in the freezer until they're solid. The "muffins" are then popped out of the tins (soak the bottom of the tin in a bit of hot water for about 30 seconds to loosen) and stored in freezer bags. On Sunday morning, I pull out the appropriate number of muffins for Monday's veggie meal for each dog and place them in storage containers, which are then placed in the fridge to thaw. On Monday morning I take out Tuesday's muffins, etc. (You may be able to do this the night before, depending on the temperature of your fridge.)
You can grind/puree the offal and add it to the veggie mix. This helps dogs who like offal but not veggies, or who like veggies but not offal. My dogs will eat anything I put in front of them, so I usually just throw some offal onto their veggie meal once or twice a week. They also get cooked liver as treats and bait.
When I supplement, I add to the veggie meal. I used to add to the veggie mixture, but I'm not supplementing every day now - usually 2 or 3 times per week - so I just add them right before I feed. I don't add every supplement every time, and they used to pick out the B-50 (you really have to hide it well!) until I switched to capsules, which I open and mix into the meal. Supplements consist of:
- 1/4 t. kelp powder
- 1/4 t. alfalfa powder
- 1 T. flax seed oil or 2 T. freshly-ground organic flax seeds
- 1 B-50 capsule
- 400 IU Vitamin E
- 1/8 t. Vitamin C powder**
If I haven't made veggie mix ahead of time and don't have the time in the morning, I'll feed a dairy meal or a meat meal (full week's amount). Then for the rest of that week, I'll make a veggie only mix, feed that 3x a week and feed the other (dairy/meat) the other day. For example:
The key to this diet is "variety over time" - three to four weeks. While I feed the right amounts weekly, I vary the veggies and offal I use to get a good variety over time. I try not to use the same veggies for at least three batches (for example, this week I used carrots, parsnips, celery, summer squash and zucchini - so I won't use those veggies again for the next two batches).
RAW MEATY BONES
Raw meaty bones can be any off-cut from the butcher. Chicken backs/necks/wings/leg quarters, turkey backs/necks, beef ribs/oxtails/necks, lamb flaps(riblets)/necks, pork ribs/necks. The ideal ratio is 50 percent meat, 50 percent bone. Beef long bones (legs) don't have enough meat for a meal, but are good for recreational chewing once or twice a week (if you do a fast day, you could give one of these at the regular meal time.) These are not to be eaten, and can sometimes damage teeth. Be sure all edible bones are from young animals - these are not as hard and are easier to digest.
The basis for our diet is chicken backs - sometimes with the neck attached, depending on where we get them. We also feed a lot of chicken wings - although our dogs eat these a lot faster than the backs and don't chew them much at all. In the weeks where we feed chicken leg quarters as the RMB (rarely), we don't feed any extra meat or cottage cheese, because the leg quarters are higher in meat than the ideal RMB. Chicken backs sometimes come with a lot of extra fat - we cut this off for the dogs that need to lose weight, and leave it on for the ones that need to maintain/gain.
If you are nervous about feeding your dog bones, you can grind the RMBs. Chicken wings, backs, and necks and turkey necks are usually softer and easier to grind. The important thing is that the raw meaty bones make up the majority of the diet - 60-80 percent. Dogs do not do well on a meat-only diet, as this upsets the calcium/phosphorus ratio. You must include raw bones of some type, ground or whole.
Dogs lack the enzyme cellulase, which is used to break down plant cell walls (cellulose), so they cannot digest raw vegetables on their own. If you feed a dog a whole raw carrot, you will usually get chunks of raw carrots in the stool. Vegetables must be broken down into "mush" so that your dog can digest them. You can use a juicer, grinder, food processor or blender - or a combination - to achieve this. The idea is to mimic what you would find in the stomach cavity of a ruminant in the wild.
Use anything except onions and the green parts of potatoes. For the most part, I avoid the nightshade family - potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes - because they tend to aggravate arthritis. (I don't have anyone with arthritis yet, but why push it?) Sweet potatoes are not part of the nightshade family, and we include them regularly. Some people will give a baked sweet potato by itself for a veggie meal - we tried this and ended up with bright orange poop all over the back yard! Cruciferous vegetables and cabbages can cause gas in some dogs - cauliflower was a bad one for us. Again, variety over time is the key. I usually try for two above-ground and two below-ground veggies per mix. Canned pure pumpkin (not the pie mix) helps relieve diarrhea and constipation, can be used as a low-cal filler if you're trying to drop weight on a dog, and is great for coats. If you have a dog that has a yeast problem, avoid root vegetables and winter squash.
Use any lean ground muscle meat. We usually use ground turkey as our main meat, because it's inexpensive. For dogs we're trying to put some weight on, we use a fattier ground beef. Fish is also excellent for dogs, and is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Use any fresh fish - you can feed the whole thing - or canned fish, but watch the salt content. Linus is allergic to fish so we don't feed it, and use flax seed oil for the omega-3s.
Dairy is not really a requirement for dogs, and some of them don't do well with it at all. Ours haven't had problems, so we include non-fat, plain yogurt (make sure it contains live lactobacillis acidopholus, or "good bacteria") and cottage cheese. (The cottage cheese is really for protein, since we can't feed eggs due to Linus' allergies. If your dogs can eat eggs, we highly recommend them in place of the cottage cheese.) If your dogs can't eat yogurt, you can get a probiotic (l. acidopholus or another "good bacteria") at the health food store. Make sure it has been refrigerated. Probiotics are especially important if your dog is taking antibiotics, which destroy both bad and good bacteria. Give 2-3 hours after you give the antibiotic, and continue for several days after the dog is off antibiotics.
We will add fruit into our veggie mix, pulping it the same as the veggies. Any fruit will do, again variety is the key. We also give dried fruits as treats, although these sometimes tend to come out the same way they went in. If your dog has a yeast problem or cancer, avoid fruits.
Any organ meats will do - beef, chicken, turkey, lamb liver, kidney, heart, etc. Heart is considered a muscle meat as well as an organ meat. Green tripe is especially good, but hard to find (this is not the nice, clean white tripe you find in the grocery store). Brains can be fed but there is some concern about "mad cow" disease - it just depends on your comfort level. We use mostly chicken and calf livers.
Dogs do not have a nutritional requirement for grains, and may have trouble digesting them. Grains cause allergies in many dogs. However, there are some dogs that thrive with grains included in the diet, and suffer when they are removed. We do not currently feed grains, except the occasional treat. If you do want to feed grains, try whole oats soaked overnight in yogurt, or cooked brown rice.
How Much Do I Feed?
This is the question that plagued me when we first started feeding this diet. Most advice was along the lines of, if your dog is skinny, feed more, it he's fat, feed less. I finally found a couple of recommendations to start at 2-3 percent of your dog's ideal body weight, so that's what we did. Hugo lost on that amount, so he is up to about 3 percent now. Nettie is losing, but slowly, and Linus - who needs to lose a few pounds - is maintaining. Every dog is different, and you just need to watch them to be sure they're not losing or gaining too much.
So, let's start with 2 percent of your dog's ideal body weight. For example, Linus' ideal body weight is 65 lbs. To figure out the amounts to feed, do the following calculations:
65 Weight in lbs.
1.3 total amount of food to feed daily, in lbs.
9.1 total amount of food to feed weekly, in lbs.
You can then multiply this weekly amount by the percentage of each food group you want to feed (i.e., x .7 for RMBs, x .05 for Offal, etc.), and divide that amount by the number of times per week you'll feed each group:
6.37 amount of RMBs to feed weekly, in lbs.
.71 amount of RMBs to feed per meal, in lbs.
Another option is to feed the same amount of food at each meal, and feed each food group a certain number of times per 10 meals. For example, feeding twice a day at .65 lbs. per meal, over 10 meals you would feed RMBs 7 times and veggie/meat/offal 3 times. The veggie mix would then be 50% veggies, 25% meat and 25% offal.
There are some raw feeders who feed little to no vegetables. We have actually greatly reduced the amount of vegetables we feed since this page was originally written, feeding them usually only twice a week now. I am not comfortable going completely no-veggie, because my dogs seem to need them, and I think they provide a variety of nutrients that aren't available elsewhere. It's possible that if you're feeding green tripe, the nutrients would be found there.
The important thing to keep in mind is that variety is the key to this diet. Chicken is our main source of RMBs, but we try to also feed lamb, pork, beef, and turkey regularly. These meats and bones all have different nutrient ratios, and feeding one RMB (or one veggie, or one type of offal, etc.) to the exclusion of all others can lead to nutritional problems.
If you have questions about our diet, please feel free to E-mail us. For further reading and information, surf the BARF webring (below), or visit our Links page.
*Apple Cider Vinegar can upset the acidic balance of the stomach - start with a small amount and work up.
**An excess of Vitamin C can cause diarrhea. Start with a small amount and watch for loose stools. Increase to bowel tolerance.