Raw Dog Food Diet For Your Shelties

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Transitioning To Raw Dog Food Diet

It’s what every sheltie deserves: Optimal nourishment. 

And a raw diet is what gets them there. It’s honest, unadulterated, natural meat and bones.

It's much easier than you think. You definitely have it much better than I did 30 years ago. You can now buy ground meat with ground bone ready to put in a bowl just like traditional kibble if that makes it easier for you to start, Then as you get more comfortable with the idea of raw food, you can add other meats the you may find at the butcher’s or local dog food groups that buy meats in quantity.

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If you have been feeding your dog the usual kibble fare for a while and want to switch over to raw dog food, do it relatively slowly. My rationale is that, interestingly, I read when a dog is raised on traditional commercial kibble, the stomach acids becomes weaker and it takes time to build the acidity back up to normal so as to digest whole bone easily. 

Feeding meats without the bone may be a good way to go in the beginning weeks. Then move on to ground meats with ground bone and then finally, whole pieces of meat and bone. Do that over the course of a few weeks. It has worked for me when transitioning new dogs I have bought over to raw. 

While some people might disagree, I think baby steps are better than no steps at all. Everyone has to start where they feel comfortable and move slowly in order to see how the dog acclimates.

Be prepared, though. Your vet might feel differently.  Many feel it is unsafe to feed dogs real food.

My understanding is that vets, like MDs, get very little training in nutrition, so I don’t see them as the authority figures on that subject. I respect what they do know, but when it comes to nutrition, not so much.

Recently the American Veterinary Medical Association released a position paper on raw dog food diets. As expected, they are against it. After all the commercial dog food manufacturers donate money to veterinary causes and education, so it doesn’t surprise me on which side of the fence the AVMA landed.

For those of you looking for a vet who will embrace the natural diet as as the best option, you may find holistic vets are more in sync than the traditionally schooled for that issue as well as a variety of other health issues.

raw dog food

Even My Sheltie Thinks I'm Nuts

There are some dogs, strange as it may sound, who initially look aghast at the chicken drumstick or ground veggies the first few times. They are not sure what to do with it. Give them some time to acclimate to the raw dog food.

Remember to keep the bone uncooked, unheated, unmicrowaved and all should be just fine. Vary the type of meat whenever your pocketbook allows. Chicken is cheapest, but “variety is the spice of life.” as my mother used to say. 

You can juice or puree a bunch of veggies and freeze it in small batches for convenience. 

The commercial food advice that the dog must stay on the same food for life can be thrown out the window when your dog is on a raw food diet.

But What If I Just Can't Do It?

Maybe going the DIY way initially will be too overwhelming for you, in which case there is an alternate solution, 

Commercial Frozen Or Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food

OK, maybe it will take a while to get proficient in the raw food way. How about sticking with the nice, easy commercial raw dog food for a while? There are quite a few out there from which to choose.

Commercially prepared frozen raw food can take the heebie jeebies out of managing this newer kind of feeding plan for your sheltie. While they may have some minor draw backs, they are certainly head and shoulders above what the usual bag of commercial kibble offers.

Maybe at some point in the future, you’ll be willing to take the leap of faith that you really can feed your sheltie whole meat and bones. 

But until then, there are more and more companies offering frozen raw, prepared for you with whatever is needed for good health.

You Have Several Options

  • Some DO contain grains, so decide what you want and shop accordingly.
  • There is frozen raw, 
  • freeze-dried raw
  • dehydrated raw. 

My personal preferences are prioritized as: 

Good

  • Dehydrated raw food
  • Freeze Dried Raw Food

Better

  • Commercial Raw Frozen Food

Best

  • Whole meat and bone (As if you didn't already know what I'd think). It adds the dimension of chewing to the meal. Good for keeping teeth clean. But we will leave this to the side and just talk about commercial foods for a moment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against commercially prepared raw meals, I just don’t want to pay extra for the prep and packaging they do.Besides, the teeth stay cleaner on whole pieces of meat and bones. Why I prefer whole or frozen raw dog food over freeze dried or dehydrated:

Most of these different types of raw foods you can find in the better pet stores now. But in case you can’t, you can buy them online. The ones I have tried and liked are as follows:

  • Bravo (frozen raw dog food)
  • Nature's Variety Instinct (frozen raw food)
  • Stella and Chewy's (frozen raw food)
  • Stella and Chewy's (freeze dried raw food)

The hard part is paying for the shipping.

But ya do what ya gotta do to feed your pups well. Because raw dog food benefits are amazing

Raw Dog Food Benefits

Water

Among the many benefits your sheltie will experience is that he will drink much less water. That is because the raw dog food has its own “slow release” water system. I am amazed at how dogs “tank up” on water when on dry commercial food. 

To go into a little more depth about this topic, watch this short video:

Clean Teeth

Other benefits include better dental hygiene. Feeding whole chunks of animal parts like chicken thighs with the bone in, and recreational bones like lamb shank bones, pork neck bones or beef knuckle bones will keep the teeth clean. No need to brush your sheltie’s teeth.

Do avoid the large beef shank bones though, as they are so hard as to possibly cause broken teeth.

And by the way, if you’ve checked on the price for a full dental cleaning for your sheltie, you’ll suddenly feel as if buying meat for this diet is a real bargain.

Remember, however, that ground meat will not give you this benefit of clean teeth. The sheltie must be able to crunch and gnaw at its food to scrape the teeth naturally.

Clean Ears

I can’t remember the last time I had to really clean any one of my dogs' ears. They are usually pristine. Just another one of many raw dog food benefits.

Healthy Skin

My dogs rarely have skin issues. Their coats remain in good condition and rarely need flea/tick or fungus treatment. If they do have a rare problem (as when we first moved here to Delaware), it is taken care of with brief use of medication and then we are done. I do not use flea or tick medication on a routine basis.

I have not seen incessant licking of their paws, hot spots or flakey skin.

In order to be able to digest things like whole bone, the digestive juices (acid) increases to handle the load. This lowers the pH a little which is helpful for maintaining acidic urine to keep the bacteria from causing a urinary tract infection.

Shall We Talk About Waste Now?

OK, it isn’t exactly great dinner conversation, but I do have to inject this topic into the discussion at some point. What canines eat eventually makes it out the south end. All of us are familiar with the typical, large, mushy, stinky… well, downright disgusting poop most of them have. I forget how bad it is until I’m exposed to it again. Phew!

When your sheltie switches to a raw dog food diet, after the initial adjustment, the stool becomes small and dry with much less odor. Picking up after him in the backyard may never be fun, but it is much better. And if they eat a pound of meat with bone and only one tenth of that comes out as poop, I figure they’ve gotten some good nutrition.

It also can stimulate those anal glands to prevent getting clogged up because they have to work a little at defecating. (This is a natural thing for a canine to do.) Not one of the more obvious benefits to you, but your pup will thank you for it.

Sometimes the poop is a white color with the extra minerals from the bone that they don’t need, sometimes a darker black color from the fresh blood in the meat (especially when fed the organ meats like kidney or heart).

On an everyday basis this ranks pretty high up on the raw dog food benefits.

Do be aware that veggies and organ meats are what make the stool softer and the bone and raw meat make it harder. So giving 100% beef liver dinner, wouldn’t necessarily be the best thing for your dog’s bowels that day.

Lean  And Healthy Weight

My dogs maintain a healthy weight easily. Occasionally when one of the dogs is underweight I increase the total amount of food they eat and add a little extra carbs until they gain a little and eventually move back to the 75% meat and bones and 25% veggie. Remember a dog needs primarily a protein rich diet. The traditional commercial kibble foods fall short of that. But it's one of the many raw dog food benefits.

Going DIY With A Raw Food Diet

A raw home made dog food diet must include bone that can be consumed. While some meals may be meat only (like a beef kidney/beef and rice dinner for example), the overall diet must have meat with bone soft enough for the sheltie to crush and swallow.

This would be a “raw meaty bone” for dinner, gone in a few minutes:

Add a variety of meats to a home made diet:

  • Chicken thighs or drumsticks with the bone and skin on.
  • Rabbit with bone
  • Beef kidney
  • Pork neck bones
  • Beef heart
  • Chicken necks (with the skin off.... too much fat to meat ratio with the skin on), backs, livers
  • Ground beef

Part of a home made dog food diet includes bones for recreational chewing:

  • lamb shank bones
  • beef knuckle bones

Finding a local butcher or slaughter house is a godsend. You can get all sorts of stuff that the normal grocery stores don't carry anymore. More and more of them are becoming familiar with the “crazy people” that buy for a raw food diet. You are not alone.

You can buy the main bulk of the chicken you need from one of the warehouse grocery stores. The price is usually around 99 cents / lb. That is a better price than some dry commercial foods.

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Sheltie Puppies & Adult Eating Whole Raw Chicken Parts

How Much To Feed

General rule of thumb is about 2-4% of your ADULT Sheltie’s IDEAL weight, depending on how active and the age is. Not what she weighs now, but what she should weigh. Because Shetland Sheepdogs have a very wide range of sizes / heights, the typical 25lb average may not apply to your pup.

Feel around where the ribs should be. If you have to press really hard to feel the ribs, the sheltie is overweight. If you can play a tune on the ribs, it is underweight. So guess a few pounds higher or lower than what s/he weighs now to figure out the ideal weight. Let’s say your Sheltie's ideal weight is about 30 lbs.

2% calculates this way: 

30 lbs x 0.02 = 0.6 lbs or 0.6 lbs x 16 oz = about 10 oz per day

4% calculates this way;

30 lbs x 0.04 = 1.2 lbs or 1.2 lbs x 16 oz = about 19.2 oz per day

So this sheltie should get fed anywhere between 10 oz and 19 oz per day.

PLEASE, just approximate. Don’t spend the day carving chunks of meat to be exact!!! A little more a little less will not kill them. If you think I weigh each and every chicken thigh I feed, you are mistaken. I approximate.

It's easy once you let go of the idea of absolute precision.

Evaluate Your Home Made Dog Food Plan

As you go along, continue to feel your Sheltie’s ribs periodically and adjust the amount fed based on how the weight is at the time. If you think this is a difficult part of a home made dog food diet, consider that you should be doing this REGARDLESS of what you feed them. Never blindly give your dog the same amount of food day in and day out without evaluating the effectiveness of what you are doing.

If you are local to Newark, DE you can buy and pick up custom made raw dog food from me. Check out this page where you can sign in, and choose what you would like. If you have already had appointments at Yankee for grooming or other services, you already have an account (your email address) and you can click the "Forgot your password?" link to reset the password to whatever you would like.

Carbohydrates For Dogs

I feed mostly raw meaty bones, and I feel small amounts of carbohydrates in the form of crushed veggies and starches makes sense to keep my shelties in good weight.

Why did I decide to add carbs to the diet? 

Because I have found that some of my guys are a little too lean on a strictly meat and bones diet. I also figured some extra whole food vitamins and minerals would be a bonus.

I do not feed carbs based on the erroneous story that wolves eat the stomach contents of their prey. Because they don't. How do I know this?

First, research shows wild canines DO NOT eat the stomach contents of their prey

Second, I’ve given my shelties whole butchered rabbit to see what they ate. They rip the stomach open and SHAKE OUT ALL THE VEGETABLE MATTER, and then eat the stomach itself.

Oh, joy! What fun to clean up after THAT experiment!

Generally speaking, opinions on carbohydrates for dogs are almost as hotly contested as the raw food diet itself. I have found a place comfortable for me. You need to do the same.

Some people think canines eat vegetative matter because of the "Green Tripe"  that many raw food diet advocates feed them. But "Green" doesn't mean the tripe has the grass still in it.

Green means "unprocessed" in contrast to tripe for human consumption which is bleached (dead) white.

The stomach lining is initially a green color due to the chlorophyll residue from the grass. Green tripe is the actual stomach and intestine of the animal, not what was in it. (though there may be a little of the grass left during cleaning).

So when you are thinking about carbs , don't consider Green Tripe. It isn't a carb, it's a protein.

How To Prepare Carbohydrates For Dogs

Carbs consist of foods such as rice, beans, vegetables and fruit. I have read that canines are unable to digest the cell wall of vegetables and therefore can’t get the nutrients from the juice. And sure enough, if I feed them whole raw carrots, they present me with carrot poop the next day. 

Carbohydrates for dogs has to be provided in a way the Shelties can utilize.

In the past I have used my juicer to extract the juice and then mix the pulp back in (because the pups seem to like the substance with the juice). They still poop carrot pulp, but I know they’ve gotten the juice nutrients.

Does that mean they never get whole veggies? Nope. For some reason my dogs love to crunch whole vegetables. So just for fun they get some. Carrot poop really isn’t so bad. 

I now have moved on to using the super duper HUGE Vitamix blender that holds 1.5 gallons. With it I add whole veggie and enough water to process the veggie into a puree. I freeze relatively small containers so I can make a big batch at one time and then defrost a container every few days. 

The grains / seed such as rice and quinoa I cook and leave whole.

Veggies/grains I feed:

  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Celery
  • Peas
  • White rice
  • Quinoa

I give them about 25% of their meal as a veggie most days but not all days. 

Carbs I Avoid Unless I Plan To Fumigate After The Dogs Have Dinner:

  • Beets (OMG! What a stench!!)
  • Broccoli (not much juice anyway)
  • Beans (kinda gassy)
  • Cabbage (belch, belch!) And of course each dog has their own preferences. So try one type of vegetable at a time to see what they may or may not like. It's one small part of the raw food diet that you can transition into at your leisure.

So my friend, it's time to take the plunge. Try the raw dog food plan. Come on! You know you want to!

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