Grains are also frequently indicted as a problem for dogs, but the real culprits are often the mold mites (such as Tyrophagus putrescentiae) that can be found on food in opened kibble bags. Still, veterinarians generally agree that canines’ short digestive tracts make it harder for them to digest grains; if you feed your dog grains, be sure to cook them. Dr. Pitcairn advises quick-cooking and economical grains, such as rolled oats (which have the highest protein count per calorie of any common grain), cornmeal, millet and bulgur.
Raw veggies can also present dogs with a digestive challenge, and the following should be cooked as well: corn, peas, green beans, broccoli, potatoes and squash.
If you have a juicer, mix leftover carrot, beet, apple, or other fruit or vegetable pulp in with the rest of your dog’s meal.
Finally, chia seeds are a great source of antioxidants, protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and another healthy addition to the raw canine diet now moving into the mainstream. The most digestible form is a gel, which you can make by whisking one cup of cool water with 1 3/4 tablespoons of seeds. Let it stand for three or four minutes, and whisk again. Wait another 10 minutes, whisk again and you’re good to go. The rule of thumb for feeding is one tablespoon of gel for every six ounces of food.
How Much Is Enough?
Lew Olson, who has a PhD in natural health and canine nutrition, breaks down the canine diet by weight in her book, Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs:
• 100 lb. dog: 2 to 3 lbs. daily, or two meals of 1 to 1.5 lbs. each
• 75 lb. dog: 1.5 to 2 lbs. daily, or two meals of 12 to 18 oz. each
• 50 lb. dog: 1 to 1.5 lbs. daily, or two meals of 8 to 12 oz. each
• 25 lb. dog: 8 to 12 oz. daily, or two meals of 4 to 6 oz. each
In other words, many nutritionists who support raw diets suggest that a dog should eat the equivalent of about 15 percent of her body weight each week.
If you’re just starting out with raw food, you may choose to begin by combining homemade fare with a highquality commercial food. Remember that not every dog thrives on a raw diet. If your dog is immune-compromised, for example, it might not be the way to go. And while most healthy dogs’ systems can handle many strains of bacteria, good hygiene is still important when handling raw meat. If you’re concerned about your dog choking, grinding meat and bones to a hamburger-like consistency can eliminate the risk.
The most important task in this transition is to talk with those who have experience and are up-to-date on the research, read up on nutrition, and keep your holistic vet in the loop throughout the process. Fans of raw feeding believe that even a partial transition will give your dog such a spring in her step that you’ll be making the switch faster than you can say RMB.