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I have a 4-year old female Boxer who must be on a grain-free diet as part of a broader treatment of her persistent ear infection. The problem is grain-free dog food is a heck of a lot more expensive than say, beef.

Are there any important precautions I should be aware of before putting her on a raw diet? Obviously I'll be sure to keep things sanitary and not feed her any kind of especially bacteria-ridden meat like cheap stuff or uncooked chicken. Anything else? I don't want to be surprised by something I did woefully wrong (or didn't do).

Secondly, how much of other things like vegetables should I use to supplement the meat? It just seems like a ton of fat and protein, which I guess is good, but what specifically would she be missing, and how much of it would be necessary to balance her diet?

Lastly, I've been told two different things. The first is to withhold any food for 24 hours before putting her on a raw diet (which really doesn't make sense to me), and the second is to gradually work it into her normal diet before eventually letting it take over (which makes more sense but I've heard more of the former than the latter).

Any help would be much appreciated.

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This is our story. It contains real life examples of the dietary challenges we've faced with our robust red cattle kelpie cross.

It's not intended to take away from the interesting, relevant and important answer provided by @RebeccaRVT. Hygiene is, without question, essential.

Our brown dog was a gift from friends at 8 weeks of age (him not me) and we're still together fifteen and a half years later. He's an awesome dog, but he's not been without complications, especially the last few years.

Three years ago he almost died as a result of post operative effects of major spinal surgery, essentially to save his life, following a vicious dog attack. He didn't eat for ten days following surgery and was forced into a second hospital visit to rehydrate and recover.

His diet after hospital was essentially cooked chicken breast meat - it being literally all he would or could eat without suffering serious digestive problems. To this we slowly introduced cooked vegetables and cooked rice. Eventually his digestion became stable and we began including dry biscuits and other foods. However he lost his ability to digest certain foods such as lamb, pork and pork products.

This stable period ended and during the last twelve months our brown dog has suffered serious digestive issues.

To add to my old mate's complications, he more recently developed incontinence.

To attempt to resolve these issues our vet ran tests at different times over the last twelve months. Each result suggests a dog in good health and in our vet's words "he has the blood and organs of an eight year old animal".

Despite his age he leads an active life. He is vocal, barking to catch our attention and remains interested in everything that happens around him. He still takes long walks and loves meeting with other dogs at the parks where we walk him.

Bouts of constant "jelly poo" diahorrea and the continuing incontinence have presented significant medical and practical challenges.

Having little effective support from our vet - "he's an old dog" - I began my own research and test diets.

For a while we thought we had the problem solved - he was sensitive / allergic to grains.

So we excluded grains from his diet and that appeared to solve the problem. We had a paleo diet dog! (Joke) That is, until the severe bouts of diahorrea returned. (No joke)

Some more research suggested that we may have literally starved our brown dog of the essential fats that cause his canine metabolism to function properly. By cooking all his food we were chemically altering his food and in particular, destroying the naturally occurring fats in meats.

A dog's metabolism relies on naturally occurring fats to trigger proper organ function in his digestive system.

So I hypothesised the following...

Too much acid in the stomach and the pancreas can/will not produce enough bicarbonate and then, most of the enzymes and bile prepared by the liver and pancreas will be ineffective.

Too little acid in the stomach and enzyme production and bile release are not properly triggered.

Perhaps not enough acid was being produced in his stomach.

Our brown dog literally presented symptoms of enzyme deficiency and pancreatitis, however as mentioned above, veterinary tests on his blood, urine and faeces have concluded this is not the case - in fact he presents as a healthy middle aged dog.

We're involved in a continual trial of dietary adjustments.

So after this significant history lesson on a brown dog... what works?

Raw food works. All the time, every time.

No biscuits. Not even grain free biscuits. Maybe small amounts, but by the end of the third day, the return of the jelly poo diahorrea.

In the morning; raw beef mince, raw egg, lightly cooked broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, fresh celery tops, parsley.

In the evening; lightly cooked chicken breast fillet, lightly cooked broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, fresh celery tops.

Hygiene works.

Wash your hands before (and after) handling the dog food. Clean the food bowl. Clean the water bowl. If possible, use fresh meat or alternatively keep all meat frozen until required. If using frozen meat, use a microwave to defrost but not cook the meat. Frozen veges make meal preparation easier too.

Also never starve your dog or place them on "fast" unless it is medically advised and supervised by veterinary professionals. Our dogs rely on us for food and it is unfair to be inconsistent in food supply. We transition changes over periods of at least one week. Patience is required.

Hope our experience might help you work out a solution that is good for your dog.

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    Just to add to this account, I have a dog (a young dog) who also cannot digest dry / biscuit based food of any kind, with similar results if he does. He had begun to get stomach ulcers as well as the 'jelly'. I tried a wet / tinned food diet with only one protein source and that fixed it. You often see in accounts of people who turned to raw feeding that they had difficulties with kibbled foods : very rarely does the raw feeder try a top quality wet/tinned food diet, which personally I find easier and more convenient than raw food, particularly when travelling with my dog. – Victoria Aug 16 '16 at 16:08
  • Very interesting. Your conclusions were more or less what I suspected. Thanks for the answer. :) – Jace Cotton Aug 20 '16 at 0:33
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Most of us in the vet industry do not approve of raw diets mostly because of issues with listeria, salmonella and bones. We often call it the "BARF" diet (bones and raw food). We even put warnings on the pets file who are on raw to make sure they do not lick our faces, take extra caution with feces and to minimize contact for our pregnant staff.

AHAA standards on raw meat can be found here: https://www.aaha.org/professional/resources/raw_protein_diet.aspx

Past proponents of raw food diets believed that this was the healthiest food choice for pets. It was also assumed that feeding such a diet would cause no harm to other animals or to humans. There have subsequently been multiple studies showing both these premises to be false. Based on overwhelming scientific evidence, AAHA does not advocate or endorse feeding pets any raw or dehydrated nonsterilized foods, including treats that are of animal origin.

Homemade raw food diets are unsafe because retail meats for human consumption can be contaminated with pathogens. Studies that have been done on both commercially available and homemade raw protein diets have found a high percentage (30–50 percent) of them contaminated with pathogenic organisms, and up to 30 percent of the dogs fed such diets may shed pathogenic organisms in their stool. Many of the pathogens found in raw protein diets can be transmitted to the human population by contact with the food itself, pet, or environmental surfaces. A disturbing number of these organisms have also been shown to be resistant to multiple antimicrobials.

Raw protein diets are now demonstrated to be a health risk for several groups, including:

  • The pets consuming the diet

  • Other animals in contact with these pets or their feces

  • Human family members

  • The public

People at highest risk of serious disease from the enteric pathogens found in raw diets include those that are very young, old, or immune-compromised. These are the very groups that are the focus of most animal-assisted intervention (AAI) programs. It is especially important that therapy pets involved in AAI not be fed raw protein diets.

AAHA is committed to the human community, the veterinary medical profession, our AAHA hospitals, and the patients we serve in recommending the best known medical practices using evidence-based medicine. We value the relationships between our pets and their families, along with the positive impact that they have on the larger population, such as in AAI programs. Feeding a raw protein diet no longer concerns only each individual pet, but has become a larger community health issue; for this reason, AAHA can no longer support or advocate the feeding of raw protein diets to pets.

If you want to make your pets diet please cook it and follow recipes to make sure that it is balanced (most home-made diets lack in many nutrients). We always recommend Hilary's blend as she provides recipes as well as the vitamin/mineral to prevent deficiencies.

http://www.completeandbalanced.com/index.html

You can pick this book with the supplements up at any vet hospital (they can order it in too).

As for transitioning, don't fast for 24 hours - mix in old food with new food adding more of the new and less of the old for a span of 7 days.

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