I’ve mentioned a few times in my blog posts that we feed our dogs raw, meaning raw meat. Also called a whole prey, or Franken prey, diet. There are other versions of this where people add veggies and fruit. I opted to exclude those for two reasons, 1. Addie won’t eat them, and 2. I was trying to get to the bottom of her allergies. So here’s our story.
I adopted Addie in June of 2017, I had two roommates at the time who agreed they would help me with her if we did actually adopt her. I picked her because she’s part Chow Chow, and I love Chows, they’re so fluffy!! She was considered a senior, and came with a warning that she had medical problems. The pictures of her included one of a kid laying on her, and one with her paws crossed, like a little lady. Growing up, I had a dog who was part Chow named Lady, and she would lay down and cross her paws. So I was immediately drawn to Addie for those reasons, so I didn’t care about whatever the medical problems were. I applied, passed the interview, and the three of us went to meet her. They immediately loved her, but for me, it was not love at first sight. She was so mean and angry when we showed up, and I just saw future problems with her aggression. But we sat down and talked with the family about her, and that’s when we learned she had had a family for six years. She has allergies and because they got so bad the family took her to the vet to put her down. The vet said no, and had the family sign her over. From there she spent a little over a year in the pound. She was eventually put in a foster home with the family we met because the people at the pound were so concerned about her. She was very depressed. She spent a month with this family, and we were one of three families interested in her.
I felt really bad for her, but she was aggressive sounding, and that really concerned me.
Once we were welcomed in the house, she calmed down and was very sweet. When we got in the car, the three of us had a serious heart to heart about this dog, and they both agreed her anger comforted them. She added a sense of protection, and seeing that she calmed down, they just loved her. I was still not convinced, but she was the only dog that peaked my interest. So I agreed, and we took her home. While I was signing the paperwork, the pound gave me the rundown of her allergies, “she will always be on allergy medication, and it’s not cheap”. I agreed to it all, got the feeding instructions from her foster family, put her in the car, and off we went. My anxiety was through the roof! What was I doing? I’m a full time Flight Attendant! I have no business having a dog! But it was too late. She was home with me now. And she wanted nothing to do with us. Both the foster family and the pound told me not to get a bed for her because she just tore them up, she preferred to sleep on a floor mat next to a bed. They also told me to give her WAY more food than she needed, and because of that, she was 20 pounds overweight. My family doesn't free feed, meaning our dogs get a certain amount of food twice a day, if they don’t eat, then they don’t eat. The reason being, the kibble attracts bugs, it’s terrible. So she was immediately on a diet, and we went for long walks. Our first long walk was two miles. She was exhausted half way back and needed to lay down and rest. But we kept at it, we would walk to the pet store and I would buy her a bone, and when we got home she got to have a treat. Eventually, we would get all my steps in for the day and she would still want to go out again.
Three weeks into her living with us, I was tired of her not using the bed I had purchased, so I picked her up and made her lay in her bed. From that day on, she loved her bed, Santa Paws even brought her a new bigger and much more comfortable bed, and she had two to pick from. We had a large thunderstorm roll in, at this time, she still wasn’t following us around or needing our attention, but when this storm hit, she came looking for me. I was getting ready for work in the bathroom and she came in and laid right next to me. That was the day I realized she had anxiety, so I started paying close attention to her behaviors and what was causing her to act that way. I had been told she had ear problems, and getting her bathed once a month seemed to keep that at bay, but she would lick her paws when she was anxious. Or perhaps she was bored being in the house all day while we were gone. So I started researching dogs licking their paws. I read about a yeast in the paws and how once they start licking, they can’t stop. Putting her in the cone of shame helped with that, but to this day she still does it. She will lick so much that she can’t put any weight on that paw. By this time I had taken her off the really expensive allergy medication, Apoquel and put her on Prednisone because it was more affordable, and I could get it at my local Walgreens. I definitely saw more problems with her on the Prednisone vs the Apoquel, but I couldn't afford it. So I kept researching, and looking at ingredients in food, I bought the higher end kibble and included wet food in with the dry food, and I was out of options. I had to consider going back to the Apoquel. That’s when I finally saw something about raw meat for dogs.
So my research moved to understanding this raw food concept. Was it safe for them? How does it work? Why do we feed “dog food”, and how do I start? So first and foremost, yes, it’s safe for them. Just think of all the dogs running around in the wild, how do they eat? What do they eat? They’re eating whatever they kill, and they can’t cook it. The biggest issue about switching your dog to raw meat, you have to do a very slow introduction because their PH levels need time to adapt to the raw food. There’s a lot of sceptics out there, namely veterinarians, the lectures I’ve gotten have been wonderful (sarcasm). But anyone who has personally seen the transformation of this dog, is a believer I did the right thing. I found Facebook groups, there’s a great Netflix documentary called Pet Fooled, I spoke to people who had made the switch, and still I was hesitant. I looked at all the ways to feed raw, there’s Whole Prey, which is literally a whole animal. There’s Franken Prey, which is multiple different animals, and then there’s Complete’s, which is a ground up raw patty that contains everything your dog needs. Whichever way you opt to feed your dog, it has to meet the 80/10/10 rule, 80%
muscle meat, 10% bone, 10% organs (5% of which must be liver, and the other 5% needs to be non-secreting organs). So being a city girl, and being completely shy of asking for liver, kidney, testicles, or whatever I could find, I opted to go with complete’s. And I completely skipped the part about the slow introduction, (not on purpose, I just didn’t see that part until much later). I tested it out with some raw beef and when she didn’t get sick, I just gave her the defrosted patty. Oh, in addition to adhering to the 80/10/10, you also have to take into consideration your dog's activity level, and their goal weight. So Addie is fed at 2.5% of her ideal weight, which is 55 pounds. I'm currently considering lowering that to 2%, because farm life and old age has made her lazy. After months and months of researching, I finally did it. She had been with us for about eight months, and was doing well. Within the first week of making the switch, she was a different dog. Feeding her was hilarious, she started doing a happy trot to her food. When she was done eating, she pranced around the house and gave loves to whoever fed her (she doesn’t give kisses to this day, but she does sniff your face, occasionally she will lick her lips, and make you think she kissed you, she’s a brat like that). She just became so overwhelmingly happy! I kept her on her medication for a little while longer, just to give her system time to cleanse from the kibble, and then we stopped with the pills. I kept them on hand in case any issues came up. But nothing. Not a thing. At least while we lived in the city. Yes, she still licks her paws, but it’s usually when a thunderstorm rolls through, or there’s very loud noises that stress her out. Or if I have been gone for too long.
What I did see were positive changes, she started spending time with us, she was more and more excited to see us, she slept in our beds, she started demanding that I go to bed when she was ready to sleep. She made life silly, she was so happy. At some point, Addie became very protective of me, so much so, that she started snipping at people who came too close to me, or came too close to my bedroom. I started having to jump in front of her to calm her down. I know it was her anxiety, she was finally happy, and she had a home, and her people gave her the best food she had ever had! It took a while to get her to realize she was safe with us, but it took me much longer to trust her. Finally, when Chris came into our lives, we started visiting Michigan, and if I thought she was happy eating raw meat, I had no clue what happiness looked like until we got out of the car. She had land galore! We walked through the woods, without a leash, and she could stay outside and roll, or run. She was a very happy girl. Then we introduced our dogs to each other. I'm pretty positive Addie wasn’t a fan of Rebel, he was big and hyper, but she learned pretty fast that he came with the guy who had all the land. So she tolerated him, and now, she loves him. He has been very good for her. Unfortunately for Rebel, he was still on kibble, and it was making him sick, constantly. He would eat, then vomit, a lot. He didn’t want to eat his food, and had to go back and forth with being free fed, to not being free fed. He was so confused. When I would feed Addie, he would stare at her food and drool, and then I would have to babysit him and cheer him on so he would eat all his kibble. Chris saw it, and we both felt bad for Rebel. But I was feeding Addie completes, and they’re not cheap. Chris had a hard time swallowing the chunk of change the completes would cost him just for Rebel. He saw that I was struggling to pay for them, but it was easy, I didn't have to think about it. So after about a year of him doing his own research, he said “ok, but I don’t want to buy the stuff you're buying for Addie, I cannot afford that”. I agreed, and we went on the hunt for all the items we needed to get started. Rebel had a hard time adjusting to the new food, each new protein made him sick for the first day, then he was completely fine after. I read that, that was completely normal, so it made me feel better. Once our introduction to raw was complete, we discovered Rebel is really allergic to certain proteins, and they’re the more affordable ones! In addition to that, he just so happens to also be a very picky eater, UGH! He will actually pick out certain meat he doesn’t want to eat, and if I grind it up and try to hide it, he will pick the little pieces out. But he’s happy, he looks great, he’s excited to eat, and the best part, he doesn’t get sick nearly as often!! He does occasionally get an upset stomach, but I’m pretty sure he’s picked up something he shouldn’t have eaten in those cases, or maybe he over ate that day.
I recently took the dogs for their annual vet appointment, and the vet was AMAZING!! I tend to prepare myself to be berated about the diet I have the dogs on, but this time I had a vet who commended me on how amazing the dogs looked, and listened to all the work I put in to fixing their food, and all the options I have considered/tried. He even went as far to say that he really wanted to feed his dog raw, but didn’t have the time to make the meals, and after seeing my dogs, was even more sold on the benefits. It was the BEST vet appointment I have experienced since making the switch. So now the dogs are over the moon with joy when it’s time to eat, we’ve discovered Rebel is the one with the actual food allergies, and Addie has anxiety and a chronic ear problem. The dogs complete each other, and while Addie still doesn’t love to play, she gives in occasionally to Rebel. I’m thrilled we’re off all medications, and have finally found an amazing vet, and Chris loves to watch Rebel’s excitement over the food, which has started to drive me crazy. All in all, making the switch has made our four legged fur babies very happy and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Even though we occasionally threaten, we will put them back on the kibble when we’re too tired to make the meals.