How much will it cost to feed my dog through SFRAW? (note: the below prices are for current dues paying SFRAW members; membership is $80/yr to shop at the 30% discounted pricing)
How much it costs to feed your pup will depend a lot of how you go about it and what proteins work best for him/her, there are a lot of factors involved and each one will have an influence of the cost – the price per pound will vary significantly based on what flavors/proteins and ingredients your animal best enjoys eating, can not only well-tolerate but, indeed, thrive on.
When switching to raw, we suggest starting with one flavor/protein. Most people choose a lean white meat to such as chicken, turkey or rabbit (select a protein that you know they do well on from past experience/foods). Then, over the course of 4-6 weeks, it is important to work up to feeding a nice variety so that you are easily rotating between 4-5 different flavors/proteins.
Variety is critically important for nutritional balance and health, so you don’t want to feed just one flavor endlessly. We can’t emphasize this enough! Too many people find a thing that works, but then get into a mode of feeding that very same thing endlessly to their animals. This is “red flag” danger-zone raw feeding behavior! It will work for a while, but I guarantee you that, eventually, this way of feeding will catch up and your dog/cat will end up with either food allergies/intolerance or other nutritional imbalance problems. Yes, even with a “balanced” prepared food – the truth is that a “mono” or limited diet is never ideal for us or our carnivore companions. Please do not get complacent or stuck in a rut by feeding the same thing for too long – variety is KEY and the very best way to ensure not only that you are providing your animal with genuine nutritional balance for the long-term but also prevent food intolerances/allergies.
Average cost when”You Make it” through SFRAW: If you decide to make your own food, buy in bulk, portioning out, and packing up meals at home (we can help you put a balanced menu together) – most people will spend around $3.50-$4.50/lb. on average. This is to feed either home-cooked, BARF, Frankenprey or Prey Model Raw; no treats/supplements; no fasting days. This will provide a nice variety of 3-4 proteins: high quality meat, bones, organs, seafood + tripe; a combination of cuts that range in price from $0.50/lb to $6-7/lb.
So, for a 50-lb dog eating the suggested 2% body weight (1-lb/day) you can expect around $120/month. If you add in treats, supplements, splurge items or “extras” you can expect to budget around $150/month.
Again, this is an average and estimate for most dogs this size/average activity level,. Every dog has their own unique metabolism, and individuals may require far more or less than this to maintain an ideal body condition.
Average cost when “We Make It”: Most people start with the SFRAW Grinds, Formulas, or Prey Model Packs (basically, it’s the formula “deconstructed” and plated — so. Nothing ground up — all the various parts & pieces of a balanced meal portioned out into 8 oz or 16 oz sizes) and then move into DIY meals, as they get accustomed to this way of feeding and their dogs get adjusted, too. Of course, A LOT of people continue to feed the SFRAW pre-made options as they don’t have the ability, interest or time in preparing their own dog’s meals at home.
SFRAW Formulas are complete, ready-to-feed/fully prepared and you do not need to add anything at all — everything is included, so all you have to do is defrost and feed. They can range in price from $14/lb (Organic Rabbit/Pheasant) down to $4.50/lb (Salmon/Flounder). Custom Meals and Prey Model Packs are $10/lb. If your dog is not limited by ingredient/food allergies or intolerance, and you can rotate between whichever flavors you’d like based on cost, but still get a nice variety of red meats, poultry and fish — most people average their cost out to around $8/lb using our prepared Formulas and/or Prey Model Packs.
SFRAW Grinds are simply whole duck, whole turkeys, whole chickens, ground up, nothing added. They have a varied but always within a safe range for a balanced ca:ph ratio. They can be used in rotation with our Formulas/prey Model Packs or fed alone in rotation between 3-4 (again, variety is important) with some supplemental additions of your choice. We suggest adding up to 10% seafood or incorporating in another food based source of EFAs and our Seaweed Blend for minerals. The average price for our Grinds is $7/lb.
Our meaty bones range in price from $0.50/lb (some duck and chicken parts) up to $8/lb (goat and a few others). If you are feeding the Formulas or Grinds, you do not need to add in the raw meaty bones, but it is a very nice option to include them. If you are comfortable with feeding consumable raw meaty bones, we strongly encourage feeding as many meals “on the bone” as possible: up to 30-40% of the diet, depending on how much meat the bones provide.
GreenTripe makes some nice ground meals that are under $5/lb. I recommend feeding GreenTripe for up to a 1/3 of the diet to enjoy the many benefits of green tripe and to help keep the overall costs down, too.
Hope this answers your question! If you have any other questions, let us know. Hope you can stop in soon — we’d love to give him some samples and meet you!
While we have written on this topic a number of times before (On Switching Your New Puppy to Raw;BayWoof Featured Article: A Home-Prepared Fresh Food Diet for Your Dog by Kasie Maxwell; BayWoof’s September Nutrition Issue Featured Article: Starting Puppies on a Raw-Food Diet by Kasie Maxwell and How Much To Feed When Switching To Raw ), this post will focus on the key details for switching your healthy adult dog over to a raw diet.
Wondering how to transition your dog to a raw diet? Here’s what you can expect when transitioning to a fresh foods diet through SFRAW.
Supporting YOU: We have a number of different ways to help you with making your pet’s transition over to a raw diet, and offer a lot of support! The best way to get one-on-one expert advice and put together a program with follow-up support is to schedule a consultation with me (you can do so here). I also teach workshops and classes during the Spring and Summer season.
For our members, we offer FREE mentoring sessions with one of our experienced and generous SFRAW Mentors – these take place a few times a month on either Saturdays or Sundays and are available on the Mentor’s schedules, which can vary. This program is really awesome, and is available only to our members.
Of course, if you just stop in, so long as it’s not too busy in here, we would be more than happy to help to give you the basic outline of what you need to do to get started, just so you’re doing things safely, and come up with suggestions for things you can buy to try first. You can just walk-in any day for this 7/days — if I happen to not be here, Jeff is our Operations Manager who works M-F, and he can give you a few suggestions to try some things out. He’s good at the basics. 🙂
For a pup with possible food allergies or intolerances, I typically suggest staying away from chicken and lamb — beef, turkey, pork, duck, rabbit, pheasant, goat, llama would all be good options here — and, if the allergies are severe, I would suggest the Grinds over the Formulas to get started as they have just that one single ingredient and the Formulas have a lot of goodies added.
Methods to Transition (for dogs only – not for kitties! To learn how to transition cats safely, please go here):
Short answer: for healthy dogs over 6 months of age, I suggest a “fasting” method to switch to raw:
Day One: no food or treats, lots of love and favorite activities – if you think they will really suffer skipping a day of food, offering small amounts of goat yogurt, slippery elm gruel or bone broth are OK;
Day Two: yogurt/broth/gruel + 1/2 the expected daily ration of the raw meal;
If all goes, well then by Day Three: 100% the amount of raw food + a bit of the yogurt/broth/gruel.
In my experience, this method is the easiest and least stressful on most dog’s systems. I have been feeding this way since 1989 and I have learned that the slow method of gradually mixing in the old with the new usually is much more difficult on their systems, and prolongs any possible GI upset they may experience with the switch.
Fasting ia a powerful tool that can hep with this transition, but also can be employed every time your pet has digestive upset or just needs a reset or boost to their immune system.
The “Fast-to-Raw” Method is my personal choice and most favorite way to switch to raw! Unless you have a very young puppy, a dog that currently has acid-reflux or regularly experiences “hunger pukes” (vomiting yellow bile); a breed especially at risk for hypoglycemia (tiny breeds) or a dog diagnosed with diabetes/hypoglycemia, fasting is the single best way to move to a new food, in my experience.
Fasting is especially beneficial for any dog experiencing debilitating or challenging chronic health issues, serious acute flares of disease, and for hospice dogs that are very old and frail.
Fasting provides the following benefits:
a. incredibly healing for the gut; allows for the digestive organs to rest and recover from foods that may have been causing inflammation, immune reactions or damage/toxicity;
b. allows for them to metabolize and eliminate residual foods from their system;
c. creates a ready GI system that is genuinely hungry and prepared to digest food;
d. provides a mini-detox for the liver, kidney, spleen and GI tract;
I have found that the “Fasting-to-Raw” method help to limit or minimize GI distress to a few days rather than extending any possible GI symptoms (vomiting/diarrhea, for example) over a few weeks – or even months — with slower methods of switching to raw.
DAY One: NO food or treats; if they beg for food or seem hungry, distract them with extra sessions of play, grooming, love/attention – whatever they enjoy most and feels like a nice reward to that particular dog – but no meals or treats or real food.
Exceptions: useful foods for those not ideally suited to a true fast include small servings of bone broth, small amount of goat milk yogurt/kefir which may be mixed in with slippery elm slurry if GI concerns or honey/blackstrapp molasses if concerned about glucose levels.
DAY Two: Feed 50% the expected daily ration of raw meals for this day – can be mixed in with the yogurt or broth if you used it on day one. Split into two meals or if you have a picky eater, wait to feed until the evening meal only.
Feeding Times: You may be surprised to learn that most dogs actually do BEST on a natural diet when fed just once per day, at night only! If your dog is not enthusiastic about their morning meals, just go ahead and skip breakfast and only feed one evening meal. This is a completely normal and natural appetite and feeding schedule for our carnivore friends. Alternatively, you can feed one mid-day meal + one evening meal; or feed an evening meal + a pre-bedtime snack meal.
DAY Three: Feed the full amount of their daily ration, split between two meals – or for a picky eater, feed once per day only at night — and mixed with any leftover yogurt or broth, if all is going well (2% of the raw food per day based on your pet’s ideal weight)
That’s it! Usually, this works very well for most dogs.
Two Other Methods to Transition To Raw:
The “Cold Turkey” method – just ditching the previous diet and starting the next meal on raw without any transition at all. I have found two categories of dogs that seem to tolerate this method best:
- very ill dogs that are suffering with GI distress and allergies/skin issues form kibbled foods
- dogs that have an excellent, robust constitution and are healthy enough to handle a speedy switch to any new food with limited GI distress
- Donate all kibbled and canned foods to a local shelter; be sure to also donate any commercially produced treats you may have on-hand and/or dietary supplements. These are all possibly problematic foods, and could very much inhibit the health and stability of your dog during the transition.
- Feed one last meal of the old food and for the next meal, start feeding the raw diet of your choice: this can be something like SFRAW Grinds or Formulas (complete and balanced meals you simply defrost and feed); a blend of raw foods you are mixing at home yourself (meat/bones or adequate calcium to balance the phosphors and 5-10% offal + a small amount of other whole foods or ground veggies, pumpkin, herbs, sweet potato, green veggies, greentripe, etc.) It is important to start with just one single protein (most people start with chicken) — feed this one protein for at least a week, maybe two. Add a new protien every week, as tolerated, until you work your way up to 3-4 different proteins – ta da!
The “Slow and Careful” method: I rarely advocate for this, but occasionally there are some dogs (and people) that feel very strongly that their animals are so sensitive to changes in their diet that the only way they can get them to a raw food diet is by mixing with the old food over time and phasing out the kibble over a period of days or weeks.
Like I said, I rarely promote this method – have never needed to use it with any dogs under my own care (even very old, debilitated, hospice dogs). But, it is also important to me to allow for animals and people to do what they feel is best — and some dogs, do, indeed seem to best tolerate this method for a successful switch.
That being said, I’d personally prefer, in these cases, to have the kibble eliminated completely and switch to a home-cooked diet first, and then move to raw eventually. I think even small amounts of kibble is incredibly harmful/damaging; a taxing stress/hard on their bodies, that it’s worth removing entirely, to provide them with real, fresh foods, as soon as possible.
A balanced cooked home-prepared diet is going to be far healthier than kibble, and I think this makes for a nice transition food for many people or dogs with concerns over switching to 100% raw right away.
So many options! There are other ways to go about it, too – here are some links to a few other great guides you can also follow:
As you can see, there is not a single “right” method to make this transition, each of these techniques can get you to where you want to be – eventually feeding a balanced, varied raw diet that is:
- well-tolerated and genuinely enjoyed by your dog
- after a few months’ time, they are not just tolerating, but thriving on the diet– this would be verified by improvements in their overall health, skin/coat, digestion, mobility, behavior, immunity, and energy.
My advice is to simply choose whichever method resonates with you/seems practical/doable, and makes the most sense from your personal perspective, AND, most critically, what you think will work BEST for your dog! YOUR individual dog’s reaction to the nutrition you are offering them is the ultimate deciding factor for which fresh foods diet you choose and what method of switching them over is ideal.
Q: We have our 15-year-old cat that is beginning to show several signs of anxiety or dementia. Our vet wants to give her Xanax, to which we are opposed. I would like to try defusing essential oils through the house to see if it works. Does anyone know of a practitioner that could help us with what to use that might be specific for what is going on my girl? Thank you. Carrie
A: Hi Carrie,
I am so sorry to hear about your middle-aged kitty experiencing dementia and anxiety. I hope I can provide some suggestions that may provide some relief to her and to your household/family!
I am so glad you asked about the use of essential oils with your cat. Because of the dire and very serious consequences that can occur in cats exposed to essential oils, my position is that they are never safe to use — even diffused, even the therapeutic grade, even EOs lower in the most toxic/potentially lethal chemical compounds (ketones, phenols, and monoterpenes). And for dementia and anxiety, EOs would not be my first choice anyhow — there are some other options that I think may be more effective, and would certainly be safer. Here is a short answer about the issue regarding cats and EOs:
Why Cats and Essential Oils Are Not Suitable by Dr. Khan, DVM, PhD, DABVT (Veterinary Toxicologist), National Animal Poison Control Center, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois
Generally, essential oils and hydrosols* have terpenes (along with other things) in them (terpenes are hydrocarbons of plant origin). Terpenes are rapidly absorbed orally and dermally and are metabolized in the liver. The metabolites of terpenes are conjugated with glucuronic acid (glucuronidation) and glycine depending on the type of terpene and animal species involved. The conjugated metabolites are usually more water soluble and are easily excreted through the kidney and feces.
Why Cats Can’t Metabolize Essential Oils: Cats are known to be deficient in their ability to eliminate compounds through hepatic glucuronidation (they lack enzyme glucuronyl tranferases). Glucuronidation is an important detoxification mechanism present in most animals except cats. Lack of this important detoxification mechanism in cats may result in slower elimination and thus build-up of the toxic metabolites in the body causing toxicity.
Below please find my suggestions on alternative options to help your aging cat:
1) Pheromones Feliway products are a safe to use pheromone diffuser and/or spray that can be very helpful for a lot of mood & behavior issues in felines. Feliway is 100% safe to use and you can easily buy it from SFRAW, online or even in many local pet supply stores. It’s a good first thing to try.
2) Flower Essences can make a big difference and are 100% safe & easy to use — simply add drops to their water, food, treats, by mouth (if you can), or spray frequently – if they are not stressed by the spray action. Giving 2-4 drops 4-6 times a day will provide the best results. I can gladly make a blend for her current state next time you come in or you can make your own (mix up to/no more than seven in a bottle with a little distilled/filtered water and either a bit of Vodka, brandy or vegetable glycerin to preserve). Learn more about the different remedies here.
3) Herbal Remedies: the main downside of this modality is that your cat may not want to ingest herbal compounds and, unlike energetic medicines (flower essences, homoepathy, etc) they must be consumed/metabolized to work. I’d offer some of them to her and see if she is willing to take one on her own or when added to food. She will know what is good for her, and it is best to allow for her to choose/guide you about which herbs she needs (or not). Some blends that would be useful in this case include: Ginko Biloba, Turmeric (information for use in cats here); Animal Essentials Senior Support or Animal Essentials Tranquility Blend; Standard Process Neurotrophin PMG.
Some helpful dietary supplements & nutritional changes to her current species appropriate, fresh raw, carbohydrate-grain-sugar free diet to consider would be:
- Increasing the amount of EFAs in her diet either by adding more beneficial fatty foods or by supplementing with high quality EFAs: there is a good product specifically for cats here and here. Adding a high quality, organic, cold-pressed Coconut Oil may be of benefit; Standard Process Calamari Oil would be another choice.
- Antioxidants and supplements such as: Sam-E, CoEnzymeQ10, choline/phosphatidylcholine, and B-vitamins are known to be helpful.
- Feeding more “grounding” foods such as beef, elk, venison, turkey, lamb, bison; cooked root vegetables, seaweeds/salty foods, egg yolks & cheese. Making stews and offering some pureed cooked meals may also help bring her to balance during this period of confusion/upset.
- Try CBD oil or tincture. CBD oil has been incredibly helpful for some animals — get 18:1 or 20:1 CBD oil that you purchase from a dispensary. Yes, you will need a medical cannabis card to make this purchase legally for your animal. I am not a fan of the OTC products available online or in pet stores/vet hospitals recently; I think these are a waste of money, possibly unsafe, and not nearly as effective as the regulated products found in a dispensary. It is important to purchase safe, clean, medical-grade products. A high quality local brand is Treat Well, for example — she makes nice ones for animal use and can advise you on which product you should use. Whatever one you buy, do be sure it is xylitol free and safe for use in cats (no artificial sweeteners or preservatives added, for example).
- Add a little catnip to her routine — she can eat it or roll in it. It can help to balance her mood and reduces anxiety.
- Consider probiotics specifically tailored for the feline gut and/or for improving behavior/cognitive function. For example, we just started carrying a product from Custom Probiotics which has a very good reputation and has some promising results for positively influencing both GI health and behavior in humans, and we are hopeful this will prove beneficial for our animal companions, as well. My partner tried it out for himself, and our cat, usually having no real interest in our supplements at all — went absolutely CRAZY for this particular probiotic. He was doing anything he could to get just a little taste! His highly unusual, very dramatic response to this particular product, and the good information I have heard about this product was a determining factor for me to bring this on as one of the select supplements we offer at SFRAW. We are learning more and more about how the gut microflora has an influence on our brain functioning/health and behavior (the “Gut-Brain-Immune Axis” – more here). You can learn a lot about the general and species specific use of protiotics in cats here. This is a great website and they suggest some excellent products.
Obviously, these are all only useful if she is willing to take them willingly! I would offer them to her individually — she may surprise you with her interest in specific formulas or supplements.
Lastly, sound and light can have a big impact on biology & mood – especially in animals! Music therapy may be very helpful for her; not sure if you had thought of this yet. You can purchase/download or stream music to play softly for her during the day and at night before bedtime, that is used for meditation, or to promote sleep and relaxation in pets and babies/children. Classical music or music that has been arranged and developed for dementia and anxiety (in people) can be used for cats or dogs with similar concerns. Music therapy may be very good for her – worth trying and low investment/no real risk.
Fluorescent lighting may be giving her some trouble. Animals are sensitive to the high pitched sound these bulbs make and the blue spectrum lighting can cause some serious disruptions to sleep cycles (much like us – but I think animals are even more sensitive to this). If you can swap out florescent bulbs with incandescent (warm not cool) or natural light, this may be very helpful for her. I like the Salt Lamps for early am and pm lighting – safer than candlelight but has a similar calming effect. You may want to look into therapeutic UV lighting that people use for Seasonal Mood Disorders – she could really benefit from UV lighting (unless she gets to go outside a lot already and gets direct exposure to natural sunshine, daily). Light can have dramatic influences on her hormones, and may be causing disruptions to her sleep/activity cycle – blue light from electronics and artificial lighting may even be causing her anxiety. Do what you can for this – I know it may not be an easy fix, but certainly worth exploring.
If she does not get to go outside/spend time having direct “paw-to-soil” contact to the earth – an earthing or grounding mat is something to consider. This can help with adrenal issues, dementia and anxiety quite a bit – but they can be really expensive. I have heard some cases where this has really helped dogs and cats suffering from age related cognitive dysfunction and anxiety. But simply spending time outdoors on natural surfaces (touching the earth/natural substrates – not concrete, decks, or patios) every day (safely, of course) is the better – and way cheaper! — solution, when possible.
Homeopathy and Traditional Chinese Medicine can both also be very useful here. I’d recommend working with one of the following veterinarians:
Alternatives for Animals (highly recommended by other SFRAW members and also offer a discount for your first visit if you are a SFRAW member!)
Dr. Barbara Fishelson, DVM (Barbara does house-calls & phone consultations)
Dr Cheryl Schwartz (the original, a true pioneer for TCM use in veterinary medicine)
Homeopathic Veterinary Housecalls, Cecille O’Brien Greenleaf VMD Portola Valley, California (she is excellent!) email@example.com (650) 533-0074
Mt. Madonna Veterinary Clinic in Watsonville (SFRAW members, and worth the distance! Gwen & George are wonderful!)
The Western Dragon – Dr. Sara (Dr. Sara – I think she may be closer to you?)
Please let me know if you have any other questions. These are some rather broad and general recommendations – each individual symptom picture is unique and your cat may respond better to different things. If you want to talk more set-up a Consultation with me and I’d be more than happy to do whatever I can to provide you with more specific suggestions for her, as well as guidance and support that you may need.
I hope this helps!
The below information was taken directly from the USDA’s The Big Thaw — Safe Defrosting Methods for Consumers document, and edited/modified by SFRAW to be relevant and useful for raw feeders.
Uh, oh! You’re home and forgot to thaw something for dinner. You grab a package of meat or chicken and use hot water to thaw it fast. But is this safe? What if you remembered to take food out of the freezer, but forgot and left the package on the counter all day while you were at work?
Neither of these situations is considered safe, and these methods of thawing may lead to foodborne illness. Raw or cooked meat, poultry or egg products, as any perishable foods, must be kept at a safe temperature during “the big thaw.” They are safe indefinitely while frozen. However, as soon as they begin to thaw and become warmer than 40 °F, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.
Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 °F — temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.
When thawing frozen food, it’s best to plan ahead and thaw in the refrigerator where it will remain at a safe, constant temperature — at 40 °F or below.
There are two SFRAW-recommended safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator or in cold water.
Refrigerator Thawing (for everyday feeding)
Cold Water Thawing (the only SFRAW approved quick way to defrost in urgent situations)
Note: Microwave Thawing is never recommended by SFRAW
Planning ahead is the key to this method because of the lengthy time involved. A large frozen item like a turkey requires at least a day (24 hours) for every 5 pounds of weight. Even small amounts of frozen food — such as a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts — require a full day to thaw. When thawing foods in the refrigerator, there are variables to take into account. Some areas of the appliance may keep food colder than other areas. Food will take longer to thaw in a refrigerator set at 35 °F than one set at 40 °F.
Our suggestion on how to store and manage your pet’s frozen meals for easy and safe feeding:
We suggest using a seperate bin or bowl that will prevent leaks from occurring to defrost your pet’s food in. We suggest maintaining three day’s worth of meals in your refrigerator for your pet, ongoing:
1) a day’s worth of food which is fully defrosted and that you are currently feeding;
2) a day’s worth of food that is ready to feed the next day/partially defrosted;
3) a day’s worth of food that you just pulled from the freezer/fully frozen and just starting to defrost.
Simply pull a meal from the freezer every time you finish feeding a currently using/fully defrosted meal, so you always have three days worth of food in various states of defrosting and ready to go without having to scramble.
IMPORTANT: After you defrost any frozen raw foods you have 2 days to feed this to your pet. When defrosting large bags or cases of things to pack-up into meals at home, you can safely re-freeze after portioning out these foods for future meals, but you should get it back into the freezer within one day of defrosting these ingredients.
TIP: If you forget to defrost a meal, and have an urgent situation due to your adorable hungry-hungry-hippo nipping at your heals or giving you that, “I’m starving!” look, here are some suggestions on how to handle:
1) Fasting opportunity! Healthy adult dogs can safely fast, with just access to clean water, for up to three days. Dogs that fast generally experience an improvement in their overall health; seizing the opportunity to work in a day of fasting here and there will prove beneficial for your dog! Cats that are overweight should never be fasted due to the possible risk of Feline Hepatic Lipidosis. However, healthy, svelte adult kitties may be safely fasted for up to 24-hours, generally, with a rather beneficial outcome and imporvement in their overall energy, digestion, and health.
Indeed, many people intentionally schedule in regular weekly fasting days as part of their feeding schedule – some people even feed according to a method called, “fast and gorge” — which is not for everyone but it is a perfectly fine way to feed your raw fed dog.
The benefits of fasting are well documented and fasting is an excellent “reboot”, recovery, and effective appetite reset for your animal’s system, and even a time-honored and very well proven natural method for healing during illness. Instead of food, spend extra time engaging with your pet doing favorite activities such as grooming, training, snuggling, playing, sunbathing, spending time in nature, or going for relaxing hikes/walks.
2) The incredible edible egg to the rescue! Either raw or cooked, and egg or two makes for a nice quick and easy meal. Drizzle with a tiny bit of healthy fat, if you’d like: a bit of pastured unsalted butter or ghee, coconut oil, pastured lard and a sprinkling of fresh or dried culinary herbs (if you want, totally optional!) makes for a delicious, nutrient dense meal. Eggs are a real saving grace for many people when nothing has been defrosted or the cupboard is bare. Truly pastured eggs have a ridiculously long shelf life, and are a great little meal in a pinch. Yes, you can feed the shell, too. Just realize that the shell is not an adequate source of calcium, unless it has been properly dried and pulverized. In its raw form, eggshells are safe and perfectly edible, but will pass through mostly undigested.
3) Fast fish meals! Individually frozen whole sardines, mackerel, anchovies, mussels, oysters or these species of canned seafood in water, olive oil, or even tomato (as a special treat). These foods make an easy quick meal for your dog (we do not suggest feeding seafood to cats). Just don’t overdo it — these are healthy, but somewhat rich, offerings. If your dog is not accustomed to eating whole fish or a meal of fish, it is best to start slowly with a small amount. Vomited fish or seafood is — as you can imagine — really gross to clean up/deal with! To avoid this smelly catastrophe, we suggest offering a small amount to see how they do first with fish fed alone as a meal. You can even divide it up into a few meals for the day until you get something defrosted.
4) Plain yogurt, raw goat milk, goat milk kefir or goat milk whey. These functional foods are kept in your refigerator for days/weeks and are totally fine to feed alone as a snack or even as a meal, in a pinch. You can find raw goat milk whey in a powdered format that can be rehydrated and served as a meal/snack.
Alternatively, (optional, not necessary) you may choose to add some extras to the raw dairy meal. For example, sprinkle a bit of organic cinnimon, add a touch of organic blackstrap molasses, a little drizzle of raw local honey, whip in a pastured egg yolk, organic turmeric powder/black pepper, organic slippery elm bark powder (for a boost in nutrients) or a bit of powdered organic ginger. Your animal will enjoy the benefits of the probiotics and enzymes found in raw milk. Yogurt, whey, and kefir all are protien rich foods. This is a great choice for any animal when you are out of food or forgot to defrost — they are also wonderful to add to any meal as part of the regular routine/menu.
5) Bone broth. This can be heated up and served warm to your pet any time. Bone broth makes for a nourishing, light, healing meal. If you have it in your freezer, you can quickly and easily heat it up from its frozen state and have a meal or nutritional snack in a few minutes for your animal. Just be sure you use a home-made broth or prepared broth that is suitable for dogs and cats — that means no onion and low-salt or salt-free.
After thawing in the refrigerator, items such as ground meat, stew meat, poultry, seafood, should remain safe and good quality for an additional day or two before using; red meat cuts (such as beef, pork or lamb roasts, chops and steaks) up to 3 days. Be aware that all bone-in cuts “go bad” far more quickly than boneless meats. For this reason, we mantain our standard reccomendation to “feed within 2-days” for all defrosted foods being fed raw to your dogs and cats.
Food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without any issued for safety, although there may be some loss of quality when it comes to taste/texture after defrosted the second time around (depending on the freshness and handling of the original product).
TIP: The liquid and blood that pools up and leaks off your defrosted raw foods is source of water-soluble nutrients including TAURINE — an essential and necessary amino-acid for cats. We suggest allowing your animals to drink/lick this defrosted liquid, or to mix this liquid in with their meals so they are not missing out on these nutrients lost during defrosting.
QUICK METHOD: Cold Water Thawing
This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention. The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Also, the meat tissue may absorb water, resulting in a watery product. The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw is ideal and recommended by the USDA/FDA. For our pets, we feel ok with allowing it to defrost in cold water until ready to feed (a few hours or even overnight) *when the ambient temperature is low. If you are doing this during a heat wave, yes, please do change the water every 30-minutes. The idea is that the water needs to stay cool/cold – so check it often and decide if you need to refresh the cold water or not. Usually, living in San Francisco, we are able to let it defrost without needing to refresh the water. The frozen food acts as big ice cube and the bigger it is, the colder the water will stay. Small packages of meat, poultry or seafood — about a pound — may thaw in an hour or less. A 3-to 4-pound package may take 2 to 3 hours. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound. If thawed completely, the food must be placed in the refrigerator or portioned out to re-freeze immediately.
The USDA/FDA suggest foods thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing; but we find this is not necessary for our raw fed dogs/cats. It is important to refreeze after portioning within a day or so, however.
What about? Cooking Without Thawing
[For those of you that feed cooked meals] When there is not enough time to thaw frozen foods, or you’re simply in a hurry, just remember: it is safe to cook foods from the frozen state. The cooking will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry.
Lastly, whenever we discuss raw feeding meat to dogs and cats, it is important to remember that the health risk of bacteria from the raw meats is largely (if not exclusively) to US (the humans) not so much to our little carnivores. YES, it is true that dogs in particular and cats (in some respects) are biologically designed to handle bacteria loads in their foods without ever becoming ill — bacteria counts that would most likely pose a risk to humans are not generally an issue for most healthy raw fed pets. SFRAW makes great efforts to source only the freshest, most carefully/expertly raised, processed and handled meats/ingredients — IMO, careful sourcing from producers you know and trust and from a properly and carefully managed supply chain is the NUMBER ONE step anyone can do to secure the safety of the foods we procure. Unfortunately, careful sourcing and handling from birth to market are measures of safety that are often overlooked when you read safe food handling guidelines.
So, while dogs DO lick their butts, some eat poop and most will happily consume rotten carrion; and cats can handle some level of bacteria well, too – it is still important to handle raw meat properly in your home kitchen. I hear too often of people “pushing it” and wondering why their pet is experiencing low-grade digestive issues — once they stop leaving the food out too long, or using the same meal/food for more than 2 days, or defrosting improperly, the issues typically vanish. Perhaps a less careful method of handling would be fine for one individual dog/cat, but not suitable for another — perhaps it was ok when an individual dog/cat was younger, but not ok now that they are older -? You really never know when a pet’s immune system is stressed, and they become are more susceptible to infections; the immune system is completely dynamic. If they are very young/old, chronically ill, or new to eating raw foods — they are not as well adapted to handling bacteria loads as a long-time healthy raw fed animal may be. So, it is better to maintain safe food handling practices to ensure you don’t pose unnecessary health hazards to you our anyone in your family! Just make your food handling methods a habit – be mindful or temperatures, wash your hands and keep things clean – and enjoy in good health!
Member Christine Emery, has been feeding raw since 2008 and joined SFRAW January of 2013. She does herding and agility, plus mud and obstacle races with Hogan, her 4 year old Naturally Reared/Raw Fed (+ natural ears) Beauceron.
Her family also includes, Sammy 13 year old Havanese, and Elliott 11 year old Catalina Macaw. She feeds a mostly prey model style diet, with the addition of supplements such as our “Vitality Blend”, probiotics as necessary, and the occasional piece of fruit, nuts, seeds, etc. Her dogs are completely healthy, enjoy exceptional vitality and balanced bodies, minds & temperaments thanks to their 100% raw diets. She is committed to purchasing exclusively truly pastured, grass-finished and/or organic ingredients and foods for herself and her animals – becasue it is so much healthier and tastes better, too!
Hogan is a beautiful ambassador for Natural Rearing/Raw Feeding and has accomplished so much by the age of 4 years including these amazing current titles:
- AKC Agility Excellent Standard
- AKC Agility Excellent Jumpers
- AKC Herding Started Sheep Master
- AKC Canine Good Citizen
- ASCA Started Sheep
- ASCA Started Cattle
WOW! Go Hogan!!! We are in awe and so impressed by Christine & Hogan’s beautiful realtionship. Christine uses force-free handling/training techniques – and it has seriously paid off with how well they work together to achieve such amazing results! What a team!
Q: hello smart raw feeders- my beloved dog had a big health scare this weekend. he had a blockage in his gut and needed to have 30 inches of his intestines removed. the vet has put him on a diet of baby food for a week.
my question is how should i handle his diet moving forward now that his intestines are compromised? i wonder if this will affect the peristaltic action in the future and make digestion more difficult? i winder if i should stay away from bones now and feed only ground with perhaps extra calcium supplementation? also what probiotics if any would you recommend when the course of antibiotcs are over to restore his gut flora?
A: I am so sorry to hear about your pup’s emergency surgery and removal of the this vital organ (well, part of). I hope he will recover as soon as possible without any complications. He may or may not have residual issues from this event, but it’s great you are reaching out to do whatever you can to support his recovery and help him heal faster. Hopefully, he can heal up quickly and be back to normal soon!
I’d highly recommend the following supplements during this period of recovery:
1) L-Glutamine (best in the powdered supplement format). This amino-acid reduces rates of infection, reduces inflammation, improves gut barrier function, and improves immune function. It is an amino-acid that repairs the lining of the gut so it’s a great choice for this scenario.
Daily dosages for dogs: 1-25 lbs=250 mg; 25-50 lbs=500 mg; 50-100 lbs=1,00 mg; cats: 125 mg. Best if fed in water or broth before meals and at bedtime, but may be added to food.
2) SeaCure is a nice supplement to promote/speed healing; it is an especially easy to absorb protein. I recommend it in cases such as this.
3) Probiotics! Please do not make the mistake of waiting to give probiotics after the antibiotic treatment is completed — you can, and should, start probiotics right away. In fact, it is the best way to counter the side-effects of taking antibiotics (more here – see references he provides – I do not suggest your dog take resistant starch at this time). You should start giving probiotics the first day of oral antibiotic treatment and continue them for at least an additional 2 weeks after the completion of antibiotic therapy. It has not been proven but it has been suggested to take probiotics and antibiotics at least 2 hours apart to reduce the possibility of the antibiotic killing the probiotic organisms. However, I have found that giving probiotics 10 minutes after the dose of antibiotics is the MOST effective way to reduce digestive upset, vomiting, inappetence and diarrhea in dogs and cats. Timing really can make a big difference here to curtail these unpleasant symptoms, and while it may seem counter-intuitive, a probiotic “chaser” given 10 minutes after the antibiotic, can be incredibly effective.
As for which probiotic product to choose: MegaSporeBiotic, Primal
Defense (we carry both) or PrescriptAssist probiotics are all very stable, high quality choices for dogs and cats (and people!) that have chronic or mild issues with allergies or auto-immunity resulting in skin or gut problems, or for those that have never taken antibiotics or probiotics before.
However, if your animal has taken probiotics in the past without a dramatic improvement in their symptoms, I’d recommend one of the following products, which are expensive but very good:
The diet during this healing period should include lean, yet nutrient dense, easy to assimilate, high protein/meats from truly pastured animals. Sourcing is important here as high quality truly pastured meats are higher in beneficial fat/omega-3s, CLA, carotene, vita A/E/D — and larger quantities of all of these nutrients are needed/very helpful during this healing period.
Also important now is the inclusion of adequate levels of zinc to speed healing and support the immune system — which you can provide through the diet by simply feeding zinc rich foods such as (listed in order of zinc content and also digestibility): fresh/frozen raw, steamed/sautéed or canned oysters; braised calf, beef or lamb liver; raw organic tahini; freshly ground raw organic pumpkin seeds/pumpkin seed butter.
My suggestion would be to make stews or cooked meals using beef, bison, venison or lamb muscle meat (ground or stew meat) + bit of liver and spleen. Do not feed many vegetables right now and certainly no grains or legumes at all — those will be hard on his system and increase inflammation. For calcium you can choose one of the following supplements: 1/4 TBS of Now Bone Meal powder, 1 tsp. of Seaweed Calcium or 1/2 tsp. of eggshell powder added to every lb of food. This is a necessary balancing supplement (not optional) – it can be added either before or after cooking – the minerals hold up to the heat of cooking ok.
Servings of bone broth made from these same meats (bones, tendons, ligaments, feet, heads, skin) will also be very healing; remember no onion and little to no salt (if you do use salt, be sure to use a natural salt, not regular table salt, please). Feeding additional gelatin – I like Great Lakes Beef Gelatin – would be helpful, too.
Ginger and a small amount of garlic will support healing/reduce the chance for infection, too. You can season to taste with culinary herbs such as parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, chervil, cumin, turmeric, chamomile, mint — all will be beneficial for a variety of reasons. Just use what you have/can easily find, and what he seems to like best. Organic, of course!
Bromelain in conjunction with quercetin is an excellent supplement to help speed up healing of the gut; as is Slippery Elm Bark Powder or Marshmallow Root Powder mixed with a bit of raw honey and raw, organic fresh tahini or raw/organic fresh pumpkin seed butter (whatever he likes best – you can make/roll into little balls to eat as treats) — these will sooth an inflamed GI tract and reduce digestive upset.
So long as he heals and starts to feel better and elimination becomes normal again, in about a week or two, you can start to feed less cooked foods/more raw. Usually by 3-4 weeks after this surgery, you should certainly be able to return to his normal raw diet — even including raw meaty bones, if this was normal before. I had a senior Great Dane that needed emergency “bloat” GDV + gastropexy surgery once. Even with some initial unusual/unexplained complications during the first 24-hours afterwards, he was back on raw meaty bones and his normal diet in under two weeks — despite his age, he recovered very quickly with homeopathy and TCM — you will just have to see how your dog does and let his progress guide you. Just remember to proceed slowly as it’s better to be conservative and cautious, rather than bold/daring, in these situations. 🙂
This last part is not specific to your situation, necessarily, but I think it is important to provide this information, as it is related to the topic being discussed, and I hope it may possibly prevent an animal from going through this traumatic and life-threatening crisis. I hope the below information may be of benefit to others:
BE AWARE OF THIS RISK
Please be aware that if he is taking a NSAID (pain/arthritis medication: list of drugs in this class used in veterinary medicine can be found here) or corticosteroids (for allergies or other autoimmune diseases – list of commonly used drugs can be found here) for any reason, one of the most common side-effects of these drugs (no matter what diet he is eating) are gastrointestinal including the very serious issue of bleeding, intestinal blockage, and perforation. Whenever I have a consultation to discuss diet/nutrition, I always ask about medications the animal is taking, as these types of drugs carry this risk as a common side-effect. If they are planning to continue the drugs, this informs my suggestions for putting together a safe diet for that individual.
So, if your dog is taking either of these types of commonly prescribed drugs, I would reconsider the feeding of whole raw meaty bones while on these medicines, simply because he will be at a higher risk for these possible side-effects. It may be safer to feed ground meaty bones instead, but the risk remains — even when they eat kibble, canned or cooked purees/baby food. It’s just a side-effect that comes along with these drugs. Of course I know people who are aware of the risk, and yet have decided that the benefits of feeding whole meaty bones outweighs the risk. It’s just important to me that people know so they can make informed decisions.
Alternatively, (of course, it is my recommendation:) you can just completely reconsider using these drugs and move to the use of safer medical options/treatments to manage inflammation/pain or chronic illnesses. A skilled and experienced holistic veterinarian will be able to better manage whatever chronic health issues your animal may have through the use of alternative modalities – chiropractic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, homeopathy, herbs, etc. This way, you can not only eliminate the risk of the side-effects of using these drugs, but also continue to feed raw meaty bones for the many health benefits they provide!
Hope this helps and that your god boy is on the mend — with many happy, healthy days of meaty bone meals ahead! 🙂
Occasionally, we have (rightfully) concerned raw feeders send us photos or bring us in samples of worrisome bits of plastic-looking material that they found in their pet’s food.
While it has only happened a few times in all the years we have been selling and making raw foods, we take each and every one of these concerns very seriously. Thankfully, this has happened only twice with our own food, and a few other times with other products that we sell. Fortunately, the mystery object was immediately and very easily identified as either fish scales, part of an animal’s organs, or pin-feather quills – all 100% edible and perfectly safe to feed.
Question: Hi Kasie, I wanted to ask you about something I found in the EcoPawz food. I’ve noticed it a few times and was wondering if it’s plastic? I had a photo of one next to a dime, but couldn’t find it now. The few times I saw it, it looked like a flattened straw. There could possibly be times when I missed it and fed it to the dogs. Anyway, it felt like plastic to me, and I didn’t know what part of an animal it could be if it wasn’t. Please let me know if you have an idea of what it could be. Thanks so much! Christine
Answer: Hi Christine, Thank you for asking. Yes, I DO know what that is! Rest assured, these odd looking bits are not plastic! These are just feather quills/shafts – also referred to sometimes as pin feathers – 100% natural and a part of the turkey, duck or chickens (any bird); they are just a natural part of the bird that is found in the skin. Totally edible and completely safe to feed. No worries! Cheers, Kasie
At SFRAW, we put an enormous amount of effort and care into each and every product that we provide to our dear members. As the founder, I genuinely love, admire, and an inspired by the obvious concern SFRAW members have for their animals well-being. The intention and work they put into ensuring they are feeding the safest, healthiest foods to their beloved animals is, after all, a shared interest, important responsibility, and common goal we all have as part of this wonderful community. I am humbled to know that all the work and research we do to provide the very best possible for our members, is not only relied upon, but also appreciated by our most conscientious and observant members.
We had some bits presented to us yesterday, and it was definitively determined, with the help of meticulously and carefully reviewing the product in question with our production staff, to be a sardine fish scales. The sardines we have right now are a bit bigger than in the past, and the scales looked like this (top is of the fresh scale, bottom of the one brought in to us):
We encourage people to inspect all food & treats that you provide to your animal before feeding – examining edible items upon serving and smell for freshness. Be sure anything you give to your animals looks and smells as expected/normal, to make sure it is safe to eat.
If you see anything questionable – please, take the time to report this to the manufacturer/butcher/producer where you got the food. Give them a chance to examine your findings – it may be something problematic, or you may be surprised to learn about odd bits that look a lot like plastic, but are really just edible parts of your animal companion’s fresh raw natural meals!
Ever noticed unusual colors like green or rainbow tint to your raw or frozen meat? We were once delivered a few bags of green tinted beef cuts, but it’s been many years since that happened. Thankfully, we learned that it was not a safety or quality issue in that case – we contacted the producer to determine the cause, and they were even kind enough to replace the product to ensure we were comfortable feeding it to our animals. Learn more about the different colors that may be found in your raw/frozen meat & poultry and what they may indicate/if they are safe to eat or not here.