Ok Feed in Tucson, my source of Frankie's food, though he's not a horse

I know, I can get up on a soapbox. And, hey, that’s what blogs are for. But I’ve also been known to step down from mine if I find a good reason for doing so.

I’d like to report I’ve made tentative steps towards soapbox descent on the topic of raw feeding.

I argued in a recent post that, with Frankie’s compromised immune system, I wasn’t going to feed him any raw bones or meat that might contain bacteria. And I haven’t changed that stance. But two people who wrote into that post’s comments section suggested a compromise: Commercially prepared raw food that was vetted for food safety.

Rod Burkert of GoPetfriendly.com wrote a guest post on the topic at DoggyBytes.ca, advocating for The Honest Kitchen brand.

It sounded appealing in some ways, but I once tried dehydrated food on Frankie, a brand  (I don’t recall which it was) suggested by a holistic vet. Neither of us was very pleased with it. It took too long — about 10 minutes — to reconstitute; Frankie was tapping his paws impatiently waiting for breakfast. And when it was done, Frankie didn’t like it. I don’t know whether it was the smell, or the texture, but he took a couple of mouthfuls and walked away.

So I had my reservations about trying Honest Kitchen.

But Robert, who blogs at Jealous of Angeles, had another suggestion:

There are options like Stella & Chewy’s that is pre-made and pathogen free! You will not get all the benefits of RAW since you do need to get the RAW meaty bones with them….but that definitely would be a more trusting route.

The name Stelly & Chewy’s was familiar because, I realized, I give Frankie the company’s Carnivore Kisses — freeze-dried chicken and bison — for treats. No question; he’s extremely fond of them.

The clincher, however, was when I went to my favorite pet store, OK Feed, to buy Frankie his usual high-grade kibble and a probiotic. I noticed bags of Stella & Chewy’s  raw food patties near the checkout counter. Reading the feeding instructions, I saw they don’t require the addition of water because they are freeze dried, not dehydrated. According to Stella & Chewy’s website:

When you freeze-dry a product, it starts out frozen. The ice crystals turn directly into water vapor, skipping the liquid stage. Through this process, practically all the nutritional value of the raw meat and produce is retained. In contrast, dehydrating a product requires high temperatures to evaporate the water. Since dehydrating is similar to cooking, many of the vital nutrients are lost.

That makes sense. And the Chewy’s Chicken Dinner I decided on contained the probiotics that I was planning to buy separately for Frankie.

So I’m going to try it. As recommended with all dietary changes, I’ll be taking it slowly, topping my usual kibble with the raw food patties mixed with my standard cooked meat toppings.

I’ll report back, I promise.

12 thoughts on “Reconsidering Raw”

  1. Hi there – new to your blog and was intrigued by this entry – please do reconsider raw food. Both my dogs are on it, started my now 11 year old Golden Retriever when she was 6 months old – she had life-threatening colitis, nothing helped, then I tried an organic raw diet (had never heard of that before) and within 2 weeks she was good as gold – more than enough to convince me.

    I don’t know what the supply is like where you live but I buy my raw food frozen at our local pet food store (they specialise in raw diets) and it is so simple – all the meat, bones, offal, oils, etc. in one package. I am not a fan of the freeze-dried or dehydrated stuff as it looses some of its goodness in the process but if that’s all that is available to you, it is still a million times better than any kibble.

    good luck

  2. So glad you found a product that will work for you! We looked at the Stella & Chewy freeze dried patties as well (before @DoggyBytes told us about The Honest Kitchen). We came away thinking the patties would work great for small dogs – but Buster, our GSD, could go through a pack a day! Also, with our travel schedule, trekking around the country with a frozen food product just wasn’t feasible.

    And just an FYI, the Force product we get from The Honest Kitchen takes about 2-3 minutes to re-hydrate. Not long enough for Ty & Buster to start tapping their paws, but long enough to teach them who controls the food!

    Hope this works well for you AND that you get an added benefit of cleaner teeth for Frankie!

    1. Rod, I can see why the patties wouldn’t work for large dogs. But just to clarify, the Stella & Chewy’s patties I bought aren’t frozen — though that variety is available too — but freeze-dried so that they don’t have to be refrigerated/kept in a freezer.

      I’m afraid this isn’t going to do anything to help Frankie’s teeth, however. Nothing but the bones — which I still won’t give him — will do that. I’m hoping that the diet will help with some digestive problems he’s had in past, however.

      Kathryn, welcome. And glad to hear that the raw diet has been working for your dogs. The frozen variety is available at my local pet food store but… baby steps. I’m feeling pretty confident that freeze dried retains nutrients for the reasons cited.

  3. Sounds like the Stella and Chewy’s is a good compromise. I suppose that the freeze dry process must kill any bacteria lurking in the meat. Jersey tried the Honest Kitchen dehydrated RAW for a few and she didn’t like it, probably the texture. The dehydrated cat food wasn’t a hit for my Mom’s cats, either. Oh well, different strokes for different follks!

    1. Yeah, it’s funny, there’s a lot of “my dog loved it so yours must too” sentiment around — not to mention the widespread notion that all dogs are vacuum cleaners. There are as many picky dogs, I’d venture, as picky (they’d say selective) humans.

  4. Regarding the bacteria/pathogens. Some people follow a deep freeze protocol which often kills bacteria. If you get a freezer and freeze the food for 2 weeks at 0°, that will kill most pathogens. That is the recommended protocol for feeding foods like pork or salmon in order to avoid trichnosis and fluke poisoning.

    Regarding the bones and teeth, I can’t feed my Sol raw meaty bones bones because of the high phosphorus content, but for his teeth, I do occasionally give him smoked knuckle bones. Seems to do alright. The best method to keep dog teeth clean is to brush them, and not just once a month, but every day.

    1. Thanks for this, Melissa. Yes, brushing is definitely on my agenda — in fact, that’s how the whole raw feeding discussion got started. Brushing Frankie’s teeth was my New Year’s resolution, which led to a guest post about the periodontal benefits of raw meaty bones, which led to my denouncing raw feeding, and then changing my mind today!

  5. I hope Frankie enjoys his Stella & Chewy’s – what dinner did you get for him? Mine enjoyed the Lamb in the frozen format. However, I like the freeze dried options too as it makes it very convenient to feed without using a freezer or refrigerator! Those are GREAT options for emergency food storage (remember those emergency supplies we are all supposed to have in our basements?) and for traveling with while still maintaining the RAW diet when refrigerators and freezers are not an option. Best to you and Frankie!

  6. This is great news Edie! =)

    As you know, I’m a very firm advocate of raw, but the subject certainly is a polarizing one.

    It is difficult to find peer reviewed studies regarding raw feeding because most of the studies are done by the pet food manufacturers and it clearly is not in their best interest to study and/or report on raw pet food diets in a favourable way. Anecdotal evidence abounds up the ying yang however LOL.

    My 14 1/2 year old Border Collie “Sweety” has been eating a raw food diet since 2004 except for a 2 year period from fall 2006 until fall 2008. We went on a mini vacation and left our dogs at a kennel that we thought we could be comfortable with. Upon our return we had to take Sweety to the vet immediately where she was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. We, nor the vet could ever pin down the cause. However, the vet did convince me, reluctantly to take Sweety off raw and put her on the vet’s “medical” kibble, Medi-Cal. I was never comfortable with that and moved her back to raw in the fall of 2008. We haven’t looked back since.

    Sweety is slowing down with age, she doesn’t bounce of the walls like she when she was younger, but she moves pretty quick when it’s time to eat and she still LOVES to go out for walks.

    Hope Frankie is enjoying his new menu! =)

    How old is Frankie?

    1. Frankie’s about 11 years old. By the time he was diagnosed with diabetes, two years ago, I distrusted vet-prescribed food enough to take my own path. I ended up feeding him a combination of high-quality kibble and cooked fresh food suggested by a holistic vet. This past fall, Frankie suffered from two bouts of mysterious intestinal distress, luckily unrelated to his diabetes, so I added the probiotics that the vet prescribed.

      So far, the transition to Stella & Chewy’s is going smoothly. I’m still mixing it with his kibble and cooked chicken, but he sure does seem to like the smell!

  7. How about a quick scratch behind the ears for the humans who are proving a discussion can be dedicated, but polite.? Edie is right about die-hard supporters of doggie diet regimes — the zealotry of some advocates reminds me a lot of the ‘I’m right and everyone who disagrees with me is wrong (as well as being a bad person)’ stance of some advocates of unconventional human diets. Full disclosure: I am a mostly vegetarian who has spent time as a vegan and eating gluten-free. So I am not exactly a supporter of the standard American diet. But I can’t help thinking that an occasional hot fudge sundae (or, given the season, cocoa with extra marshmallows) would mellow everyone out. Yet another good thing to tally on behalf of dogs: they don’t stand around arguing what should be for dinner! Although mine certainly argue for dinner if it’s late.
    This next may make me a broken record (do CDs break?), but I really think it’s important to remind anyone who might be considering a switch to a raw diet (or any other dramatic dietary change) to trust your dog’s opinion of the new food. Try it out (in small quantities), even offer it (alongside regular food) for a few days if your dog is initially uninterested. But never, ever bribe your dog to eat a new (or for that matter, a familiar) food. Dogs have died from eating tainted food that loving and well-intentioned owners tricked them into swallowing by topping it with yummy gravy or mixing it with human-food scraps. I’d rather be politically incorrect about raw vs cooked — or for that matter, throw out a pricey bag of food — than lose one of my pack.

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