When I went to the BlogPaws conference, I recognized a brand representative in the audience of our presentation about working with brands. Since I recognized her, I referenced her and her company, Darwin’s Natural Pet Food, multiple times in our presentation. I kind of felt guilty calling on her so frequently, so I stopped by her area in the exhibition hall to apologize. In our time talking, I mentioned that Yoda is essentially a fart wearing a dog suit, in a joking way, and she optimistically exclaimed that a raw diet using Darwin’s would probably reduce the green cloud. I grabbed her information because, let’s be honest, fewer farts equals a happier household, but I was apprehensive. I had three really important questions on my mind that I needed to think about before agreeing to make the switch.
We received food and compensation from Darwin's Pet Food in exchange for an honest assessment of our views and experience. We only share products that we've tried and love and our opinions are our own.
The top three questions that came to mind when considering feeding my dog a raw diet were:
Is a raw diet safe?
Is a raw diet hard to maintain?
Is a raw diet going to be expensive?
Here are the answers to the questions I’ve come up with after asking questions, doing research, and also taking the plunge with the help of the team at Darwin’s Natural Pet Food.
Is a raw diet safe?
Let’s talk about meat.
I’m gonna let that statement just hang out for a second, mostly because it makes me giggle.
Okay, here’s what I mean. When was the last time you walked up and down the dog food aisles at your local pet supply store? Last time I went, there were seemingly millions of different brands and options. Flipping the bags and reading ingredients led me to ask the age old question “where’s the beef? A la an old school Wendy’s commercial featuring a cranky old lady.
What I was really searching for was clear labeling indicating that meat was the main ingredient. Sometimes it was easy to find this information, most of the time it wasn’t. I’m not a veterinarian, and I’m not an animal nutritionist, but I do know that a dog’s food source should be comprised of ingredients on a list that I can read out loud. Meat meal versus by-products, or any other items that claim to be meat, but may not be meat make me nervous. Especially in light of the tons of recalls we’ve seen lately from big-name dog food brands that claim to be healthy.
“Safety” when it comes to dog food, and feeding raw, can be connected to a few areas. Is it ‘safe,’ in that the food I give my dog won’t negatively impact their health (upset stomach, loose poo, etc.)? The other piece I considered is, is it ‘safe’ for me, since I’ll be handling raw meats. Lastly, is it going to be ‘safe’ in relation to being a balanced diet?
Whether or not a raw diet is safe is a “meaty” subject (see what I did there?). Let’s break the answers down.
First, every dog is different in how they process any food. It is important to gradually introduce a new food to your dog to help them get used to it. If done correctly a raw diet can not only be safe, but can have significant health benefits for dogs. For example, if a dog is overweight (which Yoda is) or suffers from allergies (also a big old yes for the Yodatado, which is Yoda in potato form). A raw diet can help. A raw diet can also help improve energy levels, a dog’s teeth, and their coat.
It is important that you listen to your dog. They can’t talk, but they will tell you how they’re feeling if you read the signs. Keep a journal that can help you track their energy levels, how frequently they itch, if they have allergies, and what their bowel movements are like. These clues can help you to figure out which proteins are best for your dog, although I think rotating them is helpful for most dogs, and how the transition to raw is impacting them. These clues can also help you to be sure you’re not transitioning too quickly.
In relation to safety for us humans, for us it was pretty simple since we have been using Darwin’s Natural Pet Food and haven’t been crafting our own blends and recipes like some raw feeders. Our food is delivered in packages that are sealed and immediately frozen once made by the brand. It is shipped frozen and is stored frozen. We were given a plastic container with a tight plastic cover that we can store opened pouches, which means the meat never touches anything other than the plastic container, Yoda’s bowl, and a fork. I wash each dog’s bowl after each meal anyway, because they’re super gross, so safety for me as a human really is a non-issue. Even if you were making food, I doubt you’d slather raw meats over your countertop with nary a cleaning supply used after the fact. I clean counters after I handle meat to prepare for meals for my husband and me, why would it be any different for dog food?
Safety, in relation to being a balanced diet, is a bit more grey. If you’re making your own blends of food, I highly recommend using resources like Keep the Tail Wagging that shares a huge amount of information about recipes and sources of ingredients (the link provided will take you to a post she's written about Raw Feeding for novices). The person behind the blog, Kimberly Morris Gauthier is wrapping up a new book that will also have recipes that I’m looking forward to reading.
If you elect to use a company like, Darwin’s Natural Pet Food, the food is already considered balanced. It has a blend of organ meats, other meats, like duck necks, for example, and organic vegetables. All blends are grain free.
Even though the blends are balanced, our friend at The Lazy Raw Feeder wrote a great post about other fruits and veggies you can add to their food if you would like. Fun fact, Aimee from The Lazy Raw Feeder is the person I kept calling on in our presentation and she works for Darwin’s Natural Pet Food, which means she is super knowledgeable and helpful!
I do highly recommend that you add a pre & probiotic to your dog's daily regiment if you don't already use one. We have had success with a blend from Tomlyn. We have also used Dr. Mercola (amazon affiliate link below). This will help your dog adjust to a raw food (or any new food) among many other health benefits.
Is a raw diet hard to maintain?
Well, you’re right. It’s not going to be as simple as driving to the local grocery store and grabbing a bag of kibble. Sometimes, things that are better take more planning and effort. I liken this to us humans going to McDonald’s because it’s convenient instead of going to the local farmer’s market and making a meal at home that’s healthy. One may take less time at the onset, but will most likely make you feel crummy in the end.
Even so, I can tell you that it’s not something that has to take over your life. I can get up right now, walk to my fridge, and open the freezer door. Inside is a month’s worth of food that simply needs to be defrosted for Yoda. That’s it. As long as I don’t forget to order more for the following month, feeding him raw is taking little to no extra work than if I scooped something out of a bag.
Some people make recipes for their dogs, and share information about prep days. It’s a decision they’ve made that probably developed with time, and experience. I highly doubt many raw feeders woke up one morning, decided to feed raw, and allowed it to take over their lives. Which also means, the time and energy they are choosing to spend is a willing decision, not a burden.
Is a raw diet going to be expensive?
Have you heard of the term ROI (Return on Investment)? From a business perspective, companies are evaluating what they get back compared to what they put in. The quality of a dog’s food is also an example of an investment with an anticipated return. In this case, if you put crap in a dog, you’re going to get crap in return. Literally, they poop more and it’s stinkier. Feeding a raw diet that is healthy and balanced means your dog will be healthier (and they’ll also poop less).
I know this seems like I’m skirting around the answer to the question, but I think the concept of ROI is important for your consideration. The raw food we have received from Darwin’s Natural Pet Food is more costly than a bag of kibble from the local pet supply store. But, we are feeding a bit less, and there aren’t any grains taking up unnecessary space. At a little more than $30 a week for Darwin’s Natural Pet Food, that is $2.20 a meal, which is beyond reasonable, considering it’s a balanced meal that includes organic vegetables.
So, there you have it. The answers to the top three questions about feeding your dog raw food. We have thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to learn more about the benefits of feeding raw. The customer service at Darwin’s Natural Pet Food has been beyond compare, and they have helped the process to be as smooth as it could possibly be. What questions do you have that we can help answer?