Introducing Our Doberman to a Homemade Raw Food Diet

We introduced our Doberman puppy to a homemade raw food diet at three months old. He is now exclusively fed a raw evening meal and kibbles for breakfast. I prepare Atlas’ homemade raw meal a week in advance, or 8 servings.

Introducing Atlas to a Raw Balanced Meal Plan

The original plan was to start Atlas with raw food when he is at least six months old. Before we introduced Atlas to raw food, we fed him cooked meals by Freshpet VITAL and Nature’s Fresh brands. Even with these prepared cooked meals, Atlas’ stool improved drastically. It firmed up and I can pick it up without leaving any trace on the grass. While I’ve looked into raw feeding before bringing Atlas home, the stool results prompted me to research more into the canine raw feeding world. I have networked with a lot of Doberman owners from all walks of life. I learned a lot from these Doberman owners and how they prepare, transition and feed their dogs a raw food diet.

During this research, I came across two large proponents of canine raw feeding. They are Raw Feeding Advice & Support and The Raw Feeding Community. While both communities are advocates of canine raw feeding, they differ substantially in their ideology.

Prey Model Raw

Advocates of the raw meal diet trend/movement almost always advocate 100% raw or nothing. The Raw Feeding Advice & Support community are proponents of the Prey Model Raw (PMR) ideology. The niche PMR folks take the concept even further. It’s all raw or nothing. Your dog’s meal cannot include vegetables, grains – not even supplements. The PMR folks subscribe to holistically feeding your canine pals 100% raw. They believe that dogs should be able to attain 100% of all their nutritional requirement from raw meat products. Just like the wolf has for thousands of years. Think of it as a canine paleo diet. The PMR model subscribe to a 80:10:5:5 ratio. 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 5% organ other than liver and 5% liver.

No veggies, No fruit, No Supplements without a cause. Everything they need to thrive is found in meat, bone, and organ.

https://www.rawfeedingadviceandsupport.com/prey-model-raw-pmr

Mixing Kibble and Raw

The idea of mixing kibble with raw feeding to firm believers of raw dog diet is a carnal sin and is unacceptable. The common adjectives and catchy buzz phrases used to describe kibbles are

  • full of fillers and junk
  • full of diseased carcass, including euthanized pets with their collars
  • dogs don’t eat burnt up pellets in the wild
  • feeding your dog kibbles = death
  • akin to eating McDonald’s everyday
  • and my favorite, “not species appropriate diet

And then proceeding to cite recalls. Last time I checked, romaine lettuce crops from the Salinas, CA area have been recalled three times over three years. Recalls happens and is a part of life. Cars have recalls, toys have recalls, beers have recalls, “human-grade” canned foods have recalls and the list goes on. And god forbid the amount of meat recalled throughout the decades due to salmonella and E. Coli contamination.

It Does Not Have to Be Mutually Exclusive

Members of The Raw Feeding Community on the other hand, are not as stringent. Adding veggies, grains and supplements are okay. Balancing kibble with raw balance meals is also okay. They subscribe to an 80:10:10 model. That is, the balanced raw meal must consist of 80% muscle meat, 10% organ meat and 10% bones. This is the method I am using to start Atlas with raw dog food meals.

This is the moderate, middle of the road approach to canine raw feeding and this is how we incorporate balanced raw dog food into Atlas’ meal plan. He gets a serving of vet-recommended kibbles in the morning and afternoon. Then Atlas receives a serving of balanced raw dog food meal at night.

The Pro Kibbles Group

Whereas proponents of kibbles, including veterinarians, offer a more systematic and cautious approach based on decades of veterinary medicine and millions of dollar invested in dog food research and trials. While they generally are not opposed to raw balanced meal, they always recommend checking with a vet first. Many kibble proponents also interject the risk of salmonella and E. coli into the raw diet discussion and continue pushing kibbles.

Why Do You Continue to Feed Kibbles to Atlas?

We continue to feed kibbles to Atlas because it is a well rounded, well balanced diet and has worked well for Atlas. We know more about human nutritional requirement now than we did a decade or so ago. I feel the same with dog food. I trust the kibble we feed Atlas because Atlas’ veterinarian trusts and recommends it. And no, I’ve heard all angles of veterinarians pushing [insert kibble brand here] in exchange for kickbacks. I’ve watched a “shockumentary” on a popular streaming network that many anti-kibbleheads subscribe to and preach as the holy grail. I think it’s garbage just like the other shockumentary about SeaWorld. I don’t subscribe to any of it and we can end our conspiracy theory speculations right here.

The “Big 4”

House-hold brand name kibble producers have been around for decades and they’ve invested millions of dollars in research and development. That’s a fact. I’ve heard and read all about the “conspiracy theories” regarding the “Big 4.” I take these anecdotes with a grain of salt and so should you.

Kibbles are easy to store and most importantly, we can bring it with us on road trips. If we ever need to board Atlas, his food source will not be an issue. Bringing portioned raw meals is more challenging, although not impossible.

But is Raw Balanced?

A balanced diet for your dog should contain protein (from an animal), vegetables, whole grains, fat, and micro-nutrients (omega 3 fatty acids for skin and brain function; and for large breed puppies and older dogs, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate).

petMD, Amanda Baltazar. “What is a ‘Balanced’ Dog Food?” PetMD, PetMD, LLC., 10 June 2016, https://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_dg_what_is_a_balanced_dog_food.

Basic Balanced Raw Meal Recipe

I created Atlas’ first homemade DIY balanced raw meal using Rodney Habib’s Homemade Balanced Dog Food recipe.

Here is Habib’s original recipe:

  • 14 oz. 90% lean ground beef
  • ½ tsp Carlson cod liver oil or 2 oz. sardines
  • 1 oz. beef liver
  • 2 tsp hempseed oil
  • 1 chicken egg
  • 1 oz. broccoli
  • ½ eggshell
  • ½ tsp. kelp powder
  • 1 oz. red bell pepper
  • 1 oz. spinach
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger

My Basic Balanced Raw Dog Food Recipe

I changed up the recipe a little by making the meal multi-protein. I added ground chicken breast into the list of ingredients. That is, 7 oz. lean ground beef with 7 oz. ground chicken breast. Sometimes I divvy up the protein into 3rd’s: 4.5 oz. beef, 4.5 oz. chicken and 4.5 oz. salmon.

Instead of mixing in cod liver oil, I add 1 raw capelin, containing about 1.2 mg omega-3. I cycle Atlas’ omega-3 supplement with Grizzly Omega Health for Dogs & Cats, Wild Salmon/Pollock Oil Omega-3 Blend in lieu of capelins and cod liver oil. If salmon is part of the protein mix, then I do not add any additional omega-3 supplement to the raw food blend.

For grains, I incorporate ¾ tbsp quinoa into the mix. And I increased the beef liver to 1½ oz.

To fulfill the 10% bone requirement, I toss in a chicken foot. Chicken feet are also a good source for glucosamine and Atlas will chomp down on it thawed or frozen.

Additional Nutritional Supplements

For eggshells / calcium supplement, I add ½ teaspoon of fine powdered eggshell per pound of fresh dog food I prepare. I grind up the overnight counter dried eggshells in a spice grinder. Before mixing everything together, I add Dyne High Calorie Nutritional Supplement for Dogs and Puppies. The amount to add varies on a weekly basis because Atlas is always gaining weight. Going by Dyne’s instruction, I add ¼ tsp per pound of weight. At the time of this writing, that’s 5 tsp per meal. Then an additional ¼ tsp every subsequent week from this writing. I add a scoop of Doc Roy’s GI Synbiotic (probiotic, see instruction for serving size based on dog weight).

And finally, I top off Atlas’ balanced raw dog food diet bowl with 1 oz. of reconstituted powdered goat milk. The milk is pre-frozen in a dog paw ice mold.

Modified Recipe Ingredient List – Makes 1 lb. of Food

First attempt at feeding Atlas raw.
First attempt at feeding Atlas raw.
Atlas' balanced raw dog food, refined.
Atlas’ balanced raw dog food, refined.

Our 3 month old Doberman puppy is successfully on a partial raw food diet using the above recipe. Since Atlas is continuously growing, the recipe will continue to evolve based on Atlas’ weight and age.

Later on, I will introduce Atlas to additional raw protein sources. These additional protein include lean pork (tenderloins), duck, lamb, bison and venison. I will also explore other bone sources, including duck feet, ox tail, poultry heads (chicken and duck) and poultry necks. I am looking into adding dehydrated organic green-lipped mussels from Peach and Stella’s to Atlas’ collection of treats.

Atlas goes absolutely bonkers for their dehydrated quail hatchlings. If I place a quail hatchling on our coffee table and then take it away, he would pick up the scent and lick the spot where the quail chick was!

At $1.00 per quail chick, I only reward him with these tasty little morsels if he has done something extraordinary. Like mastered a new trick (consistently ringing the doggy bell to let himself out to potty, for example).

Sourcing Ingredients

One of the challenge when incorporating a raw dog food diet into your Doberman’s meal plan is cost and sourcing. Here, I share where I source raw meat and supplements. I also list down the tools and appliances used to prepare Atlas’ raw food.

Raw Ingredients

I source my 90/10 lean ground beef from the local Sam’s Club. I place an order for a bulk box of 78~82 lbs at $3.08/lb. (market price as of this writing). a day before for pickup. Each bulk box contains 8 large ~8 lb. chubs and costs between $240 and $253. That comes out to about $24/week

At the current feeding rate, each bulk box of 90/10 lean ground beef lasts about 10 weeks (taking his weekly weight increase into consideration). If I were to feed Atlas a 100% raw food diet, a bulk box would roughly last a little over a month. Every other raw proteins is sourced at local Asian supermarkets, such as 99 Ranch, Seafood City, H-Mart and S-Mart. I find that they cost significantly less in Asian supermarkets compared to your regular supermarket chains, like Vons.

I source frozen raw capelins at the local Asian supermarket, about $5.98 per package of 16.

Raw dog food ingredient, capelins.

Chicken feet are also readily available in Asian supermarkets at $1.59/lb.

Raw dog food ingredient, chicken feet.

I source organ meat, such as beef liver, also at Asian markets. They are usually $2.79/lb.

Fresh quail eggs by the carton of 18 eggs, also in Asian supermarkets at $4 a carton.

Supplements

I source all of my supplements through Amazon Prime.

Tools and Appliances

I use a digital scale to precisely measure the weight of ingredients. A food processor is necessary to chop veggies and create a meal that is homogeneously mixed. Below are the digital scale and food processor I purchased specifically to prepare Atlas’ raw meals.

We have a metal meat grinder attachment for our Kitchenaid stand mixer on standby. I will use it to grind up tough muscle meats such as beef tongue and heart for future meal preps.

Meal Prep

I prepare 8 servings, i.e. ~8 lbs, in advance. I use ½ Sam’s Club bulk 90/10 ground beef chub (about 4 lbs.) and 4 lbs of chicken breast. Basically about a week’s worth of meals.

Meal prepping Atlas' raw dog food, a week in advance.

The prepared raw meals are stored in stackable freezer friendly food storage containers. Two servings per container. Each serving is thawed in the refrigerator 24 hour before serving. Right before feeding, I prepare Atlas’ bowl and allow the meal to sit on the counter for 30 minutes. This allows the chill to slightly wear off.

Each container contains about 1 lb. of raw dog food.
Each food storage container contains about 1½ lb. of raw dog food, divided into two ¾ lb. patties.
Prepared raw dog food frozen until ready to use.

How Much Raw Dog Food Should I Feed My Puppy?

Well, the answer to that question really depends on who you ask. I’ve seen a whole gamut of recommended feeding guideline based on body weight percentage, ranging from 3%, 5% and as high as 8%-10% per day. The correct approach is to determine your puppy’s daily caloric needs. Then using this information, calculate your puppy’s daily serving size based on total calories made available from the raw food. At the time of this writing, Atlas should be eating about 2 lbs. of raw food per day. But since he’s eating kibbles for his breakfast and lunch meal, we give him ¾ lb. of raw dog food at night, about 7 hours after his last meal.

Effect on Atlas’ Stool and Digestion

As mentioned earlier, our Doberman puppy’s best stool form come from eating raw food diet. The texture is firm, darker and cleanly breaks apart. It does not smear or smudge when picked up and it leaves minimal residue behind. Atlas’ stool from eating a raw balanced meal doesn’t stink as bad either. I’ve also noticed that Atlas also doesn’t need to defecate as often when compared to eating kibbles.

When Atlas was on a strict kibble diet, his bathroom interval was predictable. It was about 3~4 hours after his last meal and at least 4 times a day total. Under a partial kibble and raw balanced meal diet, Atlas only has to go three times at most per day. Usually just once in the morning before I leave for work and once at night, just right before his bedtime.

Are Raw Dog Food Digested Faster Than Kibbles?

Contrary to popular belief, raw dog food doesn’t pass through Atlas’ gastrointestinal system faster simply because it’s raw and unprocessed. The common myth tossed around the anti-kibble community, without any scientific merit, is that kibbles take longer to digest. Why? The reasoning is kibbles are full of toxic chemicals, “fillers” and processed ingredients. Kibbles are man-made, therefore isn’t a specie appropriate food. The result is the gastrointestinal system of a dog fed kibbles need to work overtime and longer to break down the processed and fillers. Some community even claim it takes up to 24 hours for a dog to digest kibble!

Raw Dog Food on the Other Hand, is in its Purest Form (Therefore Digests Faster)

This myth of a catchphrase gets repeated and regurgitated over and over without any scientific proof to suggest otherwise. Start-up alternate dog food companies capitalize on this catchphrase in their marketing campaigns in conjunction to other trendy feel-good catch phrases, such as “restaurant-quality,” “human grade,” “vegan” and “super foods.”

In fact from my multiple non-scientific observations, kibbles pass through Atlas between 3-4 hours after his last meal. It’s the same result with different kibble brands; Purina Pro PLAN Large Breed Puppy, Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Puppy (Atlas’ food at the ranch) and Taste of the Wild Ancient Stream. Raw on the other hand, takes nearly twice as long, between 7-9 hours. Sometimes I would see pieces of bones in Atlas’ stool at 12 PM from a chicken foot he ingested at 7 PM the evening prior! That’s 17 hours! If Atlas’ raw meal doesn’t contain bones, it still would take him a minimum of 7 hours before he defecates.

100% raw vs. 50% kibble + 50% raw vs. 100% kibble

The proof is in the pooping and here are the results. In addition to healthier looking stool, Atlas’ coat has gotten shinier

100% Raw Food Diet

In an experiment, when Atlas enjoys a 100% raw meal throughout the day, he defecates only twice. Once in the morning and once in the evening – right before his evening meal or immediately after. His stools are solid, darker in color, easy to pick up and cleanly breaks apart.

Doberman puppy stool from eating 100% raw dog food.
50% Kibbles + 50% Raw Food Diet

When Atlas is fed a partial kibble partial raw food diet, he defecates between 3-4 times a day. His stool is half firm and darker in color while the second half is a softer level of firmness. The darker, firmer stool is from eating raw while the lighter softer stool is from eating kibbles. In this photo, the stool from eating raw came from his evening meal the night prior. The stool from eating kibble was from his breakfast, 3-4 hours earlier. In case anyone is wondering why the different colored stools came out at the same time.

Doberman puppy stool from eating 50% raw dog food and 50% kibbles.
100% Kibble Diet

When Atlas is fed a 100% kibble diet, Atlas defecates 4-5 times a day. His stool is soft-firm, lighter in color, stinks pretty bad, semi-cleanly breaks apart with some smears and smudging.

Doberman puppy stool from eating 100% kibbles.

While every dog process food differently, these stool results have been consistent with Atlas. The texture and firmness and the amount of time he defecates a day is contingent to the food he’s eating.

Is your Doberman on a raw food diet? If so, what are you feeding your Doberman? How long has your Doberman been on a raw diet and are you supplementing the diet with kibbles?

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