I often get asked what Chester and Gretel eat. It’s been a series of transitions for us but I settled on a diet of raw food for them.
Did you miss the posts on why and how Chester and Gretel transitioned their food from junk kibble? You can catch up here:
I started out feeding Chester some crap grocery store brand of kibble when he was a puppy. I chose something a little better when when he got older. Later, after I adopted Gretel, I switched to grain-free kibble. Then I switched to a high-quality grain free kibble with freeze-dried meat pieces. When that wasn’t enough for me, I started adding more freeze-dried meat pieces to that food. Then I transitioned to feeding them frozen, prepared raw food. This blog post is about how I made that last transition.
A Better Diet = A Healthier Dog = More Quality Time Together
Unless your dog has health issues that don’t allow it, I think that a raw diet is best. According to Thomas Sandberg, founder and CEO of Long Living Pets Research in Oakley, Utah, “I believe beyond any doubt that feeding a simple diet of raw meats, edible bones, and organ meats will promote a rock solid immune system. The immune system is a dog’s ultimate defense against diseases and premature aging. The result is a long healthy life way past what is the expected lifespan of most breeds fed commercial dog food.” I believe that a food that is less processed and closer to a carnivore diet is better for Chester and Gretel.
Feeding raw is not for everyone though. I understand that. I’m not one of those people who passionately berates people for not choosing to do it. My passion is encouraging people to take a look what they are currently feeding their pet and commit to making one small change to improve it. To me, every little step toward better nutrition makes a positive difference in their health.
For tips and suggestions for making those small changes, check out my previous articles in our “food journey” series. They will also help paint a bigger picture of how and why I transitioned Chester and Gretel to what they eat today.
How We Made the Transition to Raw Dog Food
I had been hearing all of the benefits of feeding your dog a raw diet – healthy skin, shiny coat, increased energy, cleaner teeth, a longer life, and more – and I wanted in. Or rather, I wanted Chester and Gretel in. I thought I could be doing better with their diet to make my already healthy dogs even healthier. That’s when I decided to make the switch to raw.
I’d seen some evidence of improved heath after switching a dog to raw food so I knew the claims were real. Unfortunately, I saw “raw feeding” go wrong too. I’ve seen dogs that were not fed a balanced raw diet go from healthy to emaciated and loosing hair and teeth. Getting the balance right is so important. I knew I didn’t have the time or patience to do hours of nutritional research, go buy all of the ingredients, and make Chester and Gretel’s raw meals at home myself. Kudos to those that do but I knew I needed easy and convenient if I was going to make this switch.
Before I made the switch to raw, I was feeding Chester and Gretel grain-free kibble with freeze dried bits – Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Kibble – topped with extra freeze-dried bits – Instinct Raw Boost Mixers – to increase the protein. I am a huge fan of the Nature’s Variety Instinct line (I’m such a fan they agreed to send me food I could photograph for this food journey series) because they make a high-quality food for every “feeding stage” you are at.
Like me, Nature’s Variety believes that improving your pet’s diet is about taking that one small step forward and they make transitions super easy. I think being able to stick with a single brand I trust, and one that offers that “next step” in improving my pet’s diet when I am ready, is awesome. When I was ready to start incorporating raw food into Chester and Gretel’s diet, I decided on Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Medallions.
I am lucky that Chester and Gretel have iron guts so the transition to a richer, more calorie-dense food was not hard. Still, I knew that any time you switch dogs’ food, you should make the change slowly.
I looked on the back of the package of the Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw for serving suggestions, cut that amount in half since I was only feeding them raw for one meal, thawed a couple of days worth of medallions in the fridge, and plopped them in the bowl when it was time. According to the package, Chester and Gretel needed 2 – 3 medallions at each meal so I would thaw out about 12 medallions – enough for two meals each – and put them in a covered Tupperware container in the fridge.
Chester and Gretel eat two meals a day so I started feeding them Instinct Raw Medallions a couple of evenings a week. There is some controversy but I heard it’s best not to give your dog kibble and raw meat in the same meal because the foods digest at different rates so I gave it to them in a separate meal. Each week or so I added another raw dinner and after a few weeks they were eating raw for all of their dinners. Then I started feeding them the raw food for a few breakfasts too in the same way – a few at first and then I added another until they were eating raw food for all of their meals. I think the full transition took 2 months.
Everyone’s transition period is a little different. Its easy but it’s based on your preference, how your dog’s stomach is handling the raw food, and how much of their old food you still have on hand. For another example of how to make the transition, and a chart listing the benefits she saw, check out my friend’s article on how she made the switch to raw food for her dogs.
I’d heard a lot of horror stores about how careful you need to be with washing your hands and cleanup when you handle raw food. The medallions pretty much eliminated any of my concern. Because they were frozen when I placed then in the container for thawing, barely any residue got on my hands. All I had to do was wash my hands after. When I transferred them from the container to the dog’s dishes, I just used a spoon so I wasn’t even handling them. I think all of the cleanup hoopla is for when you are preparing your dog’s raw meals on your own.
I didn’t see the outward benefits raw food is supposed to bring like cleaner teeth, shinier coat, and better breath when I was feeding Chester and Gretel one meal of raw and one of kibble. I knew they were better off inside for it though. It just made sense. They say that processed foods should not be a significant portion of a human’s diet and that too much processed food can cause health issues. Why would that be different for my dogs?
I saw a difference when I started feeding them raw at both meals though. Chester was 8 at the time and starting to slow down. He gained so much energy after switching to raw he was like a puppy again. My hubby and I joked that maybe we should put him back on kibble because now he was bugging us all of the time to play. Ha, ha. Chester started growing hair back on his bald chest. It was also true that Chester and Gretel’s poops were smaller because there wasn’t any of filler and “extras” found in kibble in their diet anymore… so yay 🙂 I was sold on a raw diet and I never went back.
I’m not a super fanatic about feeding Chester and Gretel raw treats though. Although most of their dog treats are freeze dried meat, I do give them “dog candy” (what I call treats that are healthy and super tasty but have some other ingredients besides just meat in them) sometimes.
How Do You Feed Raw Dog Food When You Camp or Travel?
Well, I almost never go back from feeding frozen raw.
I often get the question. “How do you feed Chester and Gretel raw when you are camping or traveling?”
I’ve found it a challenge to feed raw when I travel and have tried many ways to deal with it. If we are just going car camping overnight, I can put two or three meals worth of already thawed raw on ice in the cooler and it keeps well (make sure the container is water tight so water doesn’t get in and mix with the meat… and the meat doesn’t mix with your cooler water).
If the trip is a day or two longer, I do the same but also put the frozen medallions in the cooler in a separate container. The frozen ones stay cooler longer because they have to thaw and they are ready to use by the second or third day.
That method doesn’t work for us if we are traveling in the heat, are on longer road trips or are out hiking though. It’s hard to keep consistent ice in the cooler in the case of high temperatures and longer travel and I’m not even going to try to carry a cooler on a hike. In those cases, I go back to feeding them freeze-dried raw nuggets but I put a little water in the dish to make sure they get some moisture with them.
What kind of food does your dog eat now? What is one small change to their diet you can make to improve their health (if you already feed raw, you can add a new supplement)?