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This page was last updated June 28, 2007.
Did someone say "Dinner?"
I don't remember exactly when I decided I would feed my
dogs raw food.  But the decision was made long before I
brought Risa home.  I had some friends who were either
long-time raw feeders or switched their dogs from kibble to
raw with good results.  I did a lot of research on raw-feeding
and consulted with my friends.  The diet just made sense to
me.  Dogs are carnivores after all and their teeth just aren't
made for chewing kibble.  They're made for shearing meat
and crushing bone.

There are many advantages to feeding a raw diet.  
Because there are no sugars or starches in meat, raw-fed
dogs rarely have tooth and gum problems.  The crushing of
bone and chewing of sinew help keep tartar from building
up.  You do have to be careful you don't give your dog
bones that are too hard; it's possible they could crack a
tooth.  Because their mouths are so clean, they don't have
'dog breath' either.  Raw-fed dogs also don't have that
doggy smell, even when wet.  Raw meat is also much easier
to digest than grain-based kibbles so the dog's waste is
much smaller and less smelly.  Since the energy in meat is
different than the energy in kibble, raw-fed dogs tend to
have more stable energy instead of the hyper energy some
kibble-fed dogs have.  You also have complete control over
what goes into your dog.  
All that being said, raw-feeding is not for everyone.  Like with any diet, there are risks involved.  Some dogs have
choked on bones.  Others have succumbed to bacterial illnesses.  Despite what pet food companies may tell you,
kibble isn't 100% safe either.  Many dogs have choked on kibble or gotten sick from contaminated food.  No
matter what you choose to feed your dog, be aware of the risks.  Do whatever you feel most comfortable with.

I know some of you are probably thinking "Aren't bones DANGEROUS?  They can splinter and choke your dog."  
It is true that cooked bones are dangerous.  Cooking changes the protein structure of bones causing them to
become brittle and splinter easily.  Raw bones are still soft and pliable and pose less risk to dogs.  Still, you
should always supervise your dog while it's eating, especially when you first start feeding a raw diet.  Many dogs
don't know that they are supposed to crush the bones before eating them and can swallow them whole.  As I
mentioned above, you also need to make sure the bones aren't too hard for your dog to handle.

Our culture seems to be obsessed with bacteria and germs and I know many people are turned off of raw-feeding
because of this fear.  Some dogs do get sick from the bacteria in raw meat, but many times, these are dogs that
already have a compromised immune system or an out of whack gastrointestinal tract.  Dogs are designed to deal
with bacteria.  Their saliva contains an antibacterial enzyme that destroys bacteria in their mouths.  Their stomach
acidity is much higher than ours and they have a short, predatory digestive system.  Food moves though quickly,
not allowing bacteria much time to grow and flourish.  As far as the humans in the household, you should handle
your dogs raw meat the same way you handle yours.  Wash your hands after handling the meat and make sure to
clean any surfaces the food may have come into contact with.  You don't need to go crazy and Lysol the whole
house or anything.  Just clean up like you normally do.

Among raw-feeders, there are basically two factions: BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) and prey-model
feeders.  The main differences between the two are that BARFers believe wolves eat the stomach contents of
their prey and, therefore, supplement their dogs' diets with pureed vegetables.  BARFers also tend to feed a
higher percentage of bone.  Prey-model feeders do not believe wolves eat the stomach contents of their prey
and, therefore, do not feed vegetables as a main part of their dogs' diet.  Prey-model feeders feed based on the
following percentages: 80% meat, 10% bone, 10% organs (at least 5% of organs should be liver).  It doesn't have
to be met every single meal.  Raw-feeding is all about balance over time.  After all, you don't measure out and
perfectly balance all of your meals, do you?

Risa is fed prey-model.  However, she tends to do better with a bit more bone.  That's one of the nice things
about the raw-diet: you can tailor it to your dog.  You get to discover what works and what doesn't.  Some dogs
can handle meals that consist of only muscle meat.  Risa, however, gets soft stools if I don't include bone in her
daily feedings.  It's really easy to tell if you overdid it on something too.  If you gave too much bone, your dog will
likely have 'dust poop' the next day (or be constipated).  So just give him a bit more muscle meat for his next
feeding to balance him out.

If you talk to enough raw feeders, I'm sure you'll come across the following acronyms.
RMB: Raw meaty bone.  Meat-covered edible bone.  RMBs vary based on a dog's size.  For larger dogs, pork
neckbones or ribs make good RMBs but they are not ideal for a Chihuahua!
MM:  Muscle meat.  Any meat without bones.  Beef heart, chicken breast, ground hamburger, etc.
OM:  Organ meat.  Not every organ you can think of counts as organ meat.  Generally, it's the ones that secrete
an enzyme in the body that count as organ meat.  Brains, stomach, liver, kidneys, etc.
Typical weekly menu for Risa:

Monday: Chicken quarter
Tuesday: 1/2 pound pork neck, 1/2
pound of London Broil (beef)
Wednesday: 2 chicken thighs, 1/2
pound of pork rib meat
Thursday: 1/2 pound pork neck, 1/2
can of Jack Mackeral
Friday: Turkey drumstick, 1/2 pound
ground buffalo, 2-4 ounces of beef liver
Saturday: Chicken quarter
Sunday: 1/2 pound pork ribs, 1/2
pound chicken gizzards
I don't claim to be an expert on raw-feeding and there is a lot of information out there about it.  If you're
interested in learning more, I'd recommend the following links:
Raw Dog Ranch        Pack Lunch        Nature's Variety        Going Raw
Raw Meaty Bones     Netrophic           Dog Feeding Info
Most raw-feeders end up buying a separate freezer for their dogs'
meat.  You can certainly feed raw food without a spare freezer but it is
often cheaper if you have the extra space.  That way, you can buy in
bulk and save.

It's also a good idea to have a scale to weigh out their meals,
especially when you just start.  After a while, you may be able to
eyeball it.

The meat most of us feed is the same meat you buy at the grocery
store or butcher's.  There are some companies that manufacture
pre-made raw diets.  Most of these are based on the BARF feeders
philosophy and contain veggies and fruits along with the ground meat,
organs and bones.  They are also more expensive, especially when
feeding a larger dog (like Risa!).  However, I have used them on
occasion to add more variety to Ris' meals.
Risa's freezer.  5.0 cubic feet of space.
Chicken gizzards and 3 Lamb formula medallions (made by
Nature's Variety).
Videos of Risa Eating:
Tilapia fillet and pork ribs:
Turkey drumstick:
Pork shoulder: