Our high caliber athletes need to be fed a high caliber quality “raw” meat paleo diet also called the BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) diet. However, there’s a LOT more than just throwing your dog some chicken chunks or raw ground beef at the grocery store! We get a lot of requests from people asking how to feed your dog raw and the benefits of doing so. I’m not the greatest writer in the world and if I leave out some gaps in this brief once over, please feel free to post questions if you have any.
If you feed kibble, take a look at the ingredient label on your dog food bag, what does it have in it? Do you understand what all the ingredients are and their purpose? What is the protein/fat ratio? How much moisture does it contain? Vitamins? Bone meal? If you buy it at your local big chain grocery store, it’s most likely cheap junk with a bunch of fiber filler. Grocery stores need at least a 40% markup on cost so they can make a profit. The markup on good dog food is not a lot, especially for a high quality kibble. You should be able to find good quality kibble at your local vet or bulk feed store. There are a lot of excellent brands to chose from. Expect to pay $40-60 for 40# bag. For an active working dog we look for a protein/fat ratio of 30/20 +/-2%
Kibble is for People
Use THIS LINK for a starter to check on the quality of you pet food. How many stars does your favorite kibble have?
Now, let’s think about kibble from an outside point of view and ask yourself some of these questions. How good is it really for your dog? How do you know? How many times per day do you feed your dog? Does your dog finish it’s kibble or pick at it? How many times do you have to tell your dog not to beg for your food at the dinner table? What do wolves eat in the wild? Do you leave kibble sit out all day for the dog to chose when he/she wants to eat it? The truth is, kibble was made for humans. To make it easy for them to feed their pets.
Dogs come from wolves, latest research in the field has discovered they were domesticated within one human lifetime and are programmed into our genetic code dating back over 100,000 years ago. Dogs ARE a part of human genetics, we’re programmed to work together from birth. When wolves hunt together to take down big game, watch what they eat first. They go for the heart, lungs, stomach, and liver. The good parts. They then eat the skeletal muscles and fat, bones, some hide, and intestines last.
Kibble is really hard on a working dog. It has a lot of fiber, which tears at the intestinal lining when the dog is running hard for an extended period of time. We call these semi-bloody stools and diarrhea stress poops or stress diarrhea. With the speed and distances we run the dogs will not excel on kibble alone. We also feed once per day, usually two hours after exercise so that they run on an empty stomach. Running a dog with food in the gut is NOT GOOD, they could vomit while running and get it into the lungs. The stomach also turns during intense exercise which can cause bloat, in horses it’s called colic.
Here are some guidelines for feeding a raw diet for your best friend.
- You need a large freezer for making and storing a blended mix
- Prepare to get dirty, sometimes very smelly
- 5 gallon buckets are your friend!
- You’ll need a mixer or you can mix with your hands
- Sharp knives, saw, or hatchet
Raw Food Diet for Sled Dogs – Recipe
This is what we are currently feeding our 20 sled dogs on a daily basis. It is mixed and fed as a thick stew. Meat has a lot of water in it so they will drink less.
- 25lbs raw ground beef
- 6lbs raw beef fat
- 6lbs raw chicken fat
- 3lbs raw ground liver
- 2.5 coffee cans of high quality kibble (for fiber)
- 5 cups of dehydrated egg
- 3 cups of black strap molasses
- 2 cups of vegetable oil
- 2 cups of bone meal
- 1 cup of of zinc powder
- 7.5 gallons of water
This mix produces about 10 gallons of feed. The average dog in our kennel gets about 8 cups of this stew and it’s heated up in a 100 qt cooker which helps keep their core warm in cold conditions. Freezer pending…this mix changes in the summer, with less fat or changing the main protein source to chicken or turkey as beef is expensive and not necessary during light training months. We have also fed tripe, beaver, venison, rabbit, squirrel, fish, and horse. There are many options and we usually don’t turn down free meat if we can get it. Some mix in rice for carbohydrates too.
This could also be mixed up without the water and frozen for future use. If you have a high energy active dog it could last you up to a month.
You must be very careful about feeding too much fat! It can over work the pancreas and your dog will get very sick and could possibly die in extreme cases.
Changes you will see in your pet:
- increased energy and vigor
- better musculature and figure
- a better coat
- less water consumption
- less poop in the yard
Dogs have a very short digestive tract, they are not affected by bacteria and mold as much as humans are. If the meat smells rotten or old to the point of gagging, don’t feed it. Chances are it is! Along with this fact, raw vegetables are not going to supplement them very much other than providing some fiber. You don’t need to worry about “human grade” sanitation practices or finding human grade meat. It’s extremely expensive. However, make sure you clean up good after you are done and wash your hands!
Raw Bones for Teeth Cleaning
Without fibrous things to chew on dogs can develop tartar buildup on their teeth potentially leading to gum disease or tooth loss. We feed a lot of animal carcasses which help clean teeth and keep good weight on the dogs. Never feed your dog cooked bones from the pet store, they are dry and brittle and could kill your pet! Raw bones are the best for them.
Here is a short video of our dogs crunching on meaty bones.
I am by no means a nutritional expert nor am I asking you to agree with me 100%, however I can put you in touch with those that are. Take the parts that you need and go for it! Mushing is one of the sports where the longer you’re in it, the less you know. We’re always learning new things too. Good luck!
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Interesting article about raw meat. I didn't know much about it. Thanks for sharing!
We've been using this mix for the last few years. It seems a pretty common denominator with other mushers.