Raw Diet Distress

When people switch their pets to a healthy raw diet they often learn a few other things as well. The first thing that I realized was that I really needed to stop wasting money at the Vet’s Office. Trust me, I love my Vet and don’t hesitate to go when needed but after every bout of diarrhea or vomiting spell I was carting Moose off to the vet, but yet everytime I left the Vet I was pissed. I left with anti-diarrhea meds, a bag of “bland science-death” and of course a wet can of science death to administer those pills. OH, and that scratch needs some antibiotic cream. UGH!

What I have come to realize is that when we as humans have these reactions we generally say, “yikes, I wont eat ____ for a while” or, “Man, I sure can’t drink the way I used to!” We dont run to our doctor stating, ahh I threw up yesterday one time but I feel better today.

When you start feeding raw you put together the dots; feeding your dog or cat an appropriate diet it is much easier to pin point ailments. Here are a few issues that I have experienced or someone I know has experienced which may appear to be a serious issue but is likely nothing. This is not to replace veterinary care but just to allow you to understand what is going on inside your dog’s body.

Throwing Up:

First thing to understand is that there is vomiting and there is regurgitation. Regurgitation generally occurs shortly after eating, and takes little effort to bring up. Generally comes without warning the dog will open its mouth and plop out the last meal. Which has not yet started to digest. Regurgitation can happen for several reasons; ate too much, ate too fast, too much fat or the meat just didn’t sit well in the stomach. When Moose regurgitates it is generally when he gets worked up too soon after a meal, when he spits it up it looks basically like a mound of the mushy food he just ate, digestion has not begun. I allow Moose the chance to re-eat the regurgitated food and if he turns it away I clean it up and will fast that meal. He generally does not turn down the chance to eat it again – and the second time it usually stays down. Vomiting is generally more labour intensive, the dog wretches to bring up the irritation. Vomiting is the bodies way of saying “I don’t want this in here”, and this is a good thing. This tells you that your dog’s body is responding accordingly, better out than in.  Vomiting can occur for many reasons some diet related reasons are: eating foreign objects, illness, or hunger- hunger can occur when feeding on a rigid schedule. So if you normally feed at 8:15 and 5:15, you may want to consider making meals more unpredictable, or trading up for bigger food less often. The body is conditioned to receiving food at this time that stomach acids start preparing for a meal but the meal doesn’t come so the body must expel the access gastric juices. In hunger vomits it is not unusual to see pieces of undigested bone that missed the last “train” out. Also vomiting can occur when dogs have recently switched to a raw diet and are not used to digesting bones.

Gulping

This is when a dog or cat tries to consume the meal without chewing or attempting to chew. Moose will ‘gulp’ thawed ground meats in one lick of his tongue- so I choose to feed him from frozen and larger more complicated meals. Complicated meals such as large flanks or briskets, whole turkeys, whole chickens etc; create a more stimulating meal. Making them think about how to eat it. Not only that but they take longer as they adjust angles, use feet and adjust from front teeth to back teeth- they receive a good work out for their teeth, gums, jaws and surrounding muscles.  When dogs begin the action of chewing and starting to eat they begin to salivate which aids pieces of meat and bones to the stomach where the gastric juices have started to accumulate. This helps for easier digestion as the body is now prepared for food as opposed to all of sudden just receiving a pound of meat.

Diarrhea

With any bouts of diarrhea that last more than a few days and are persistent I would consider a fecal exam to rule out parasites, especially if the diarrhea is coupled with other symptoms. However, it is a perfectly normal bodily function that occurs for a lot of the same reasons as throwing-up. For some dogs enjoying a raw diet they need about 10% bone content other dogs may need bone in meals everyday. Bone helps bind stools together, kinda like breadcrumbs in a meatball- okay gross but you get the idea. Some dogs need more than the 10% bone for stool management and some dogs are good with the 10% mark. If you notice that stools are white, dry and crumbly then you are feeding TOO MUCH bone, if stools are dark and loose then feed MORE bone. If you are new to a raw diet it is important to know that certain proteins can be “rich” for newbie stomachs, some offenders are: beef, lamb and organ cuts. To avoid explosive poops introduce new meats slowly 3/4 chicken and 1/4 beef, then the next time 50-50 and so on. Also, I keep some raw chicken feet on hand if I feed an big meaty meal like beef heart. If your dog has a bad bout of diarrhea you can fast him to give his GI track a break, or offer some low sodium broth with water to keep them hydrated.

The difference between true diarrhea and loose stool is that diarrhea is difficult for the animal to hold in (frequent 3am potty breaks) and is kinda explosive (yuck) and often happens a few times … Moose very rarely has true diarrhea but does have a loose poop from time to time.  Raw diets really are a dog to dog basis- know thy dog.

What to do about diarrhea? Well, if it is true diarrhea and persists over more than 3+ days I personally would go to a vet to ensure no blockage or parasites. However when Moose has some digestive upset (aka upset tummy haha) I will fast him a meal or two (depending on how severe) offer some low sodium chicken broth or some Slippery Elm Bark, and it generally subsides the next day. Also depending on the situation I may not offer all solutions at the same time, sometimes not messing with the system allows them to figure it out on their own.

Less Poop! 

This is a good thing! A Great thing, actually. Makes everything easier potty training, pooping and scooping, and much healthier for your dog! Oh, and if you have a cat then you will never smell the kitty litter again. I always say to people who insist on feeding commercial dog food that if they look at how much kibble goes in compared to how much goes out… its pretty equal, and sometimes more than what went in! You gotta wonder, what nutrients did they actually get? Because a meat, organ and bone based diet is species appropriate to dogs, the food is more available to their bodies. Allowing them to absorb more nutrients and thus less waste.

Drinking Less

I notice that both Moose and my cat very rarely visit their water bowls now, where as before I couldn’t fill it fast enough, and used to be empty in no time. Now, I find myself refreshing the water and changing it out rather than filling an empty one. Because a raw diet is a large precent water, so the body stays hydrated from the inside out. Moose drinks mostly after exercise, oh and of course ice cubes.

My Dog isn’t Finishing his Raw Meals

Dogs on a raw diet are more likely to self regulate than dogs fed a processed diet. This means that they feel satisfied with the amount they have eaten, as long they are eating a well varied diet and are not too thin then they are likely self regulating. I have heard of dogs who will eat a large meal 1 day then refuse a meal the next day and so on. Again, this is a dog by dog basis not all dogs eat and react the same. If your dog is refusing food continually you can try searing in a screaming hot pan to add some smell. Also, check teeth and gums. A dog or cat experiencing oral pain may refuse to eat certain cuts.

My Dog wont Eat Fish

Yes, neither will Moose, welcome to the “if it swims in the sea its not for me” club. So, will they be lacking something in the diet? Well, not neccessarily. We use a fish oil supplement for the omega 3’s and essential fatty acids. Fish is not supposed to be a large portion of the diet anyway it doesn’t offer that much nutritionally so I wouldn’t allow fish to be my animals staple- not when it could be beef or pork.

Blood In Poop

Often times new dogs whose bodies aren’t fully adjusted to the raw diet will pass bone fragments in their stools. Now, those bones have to pass through and generally do without any issues, however it is possible it has irritated something on the way out. Bright red blood (like in fresh cuts) can generally be attributed to irritation. If you are seeing consistent dark reddish brown colour (digested blood) then you should inquire with your Vet. If you notice a clear mucousy sac around the poop, the body creates this to help pass the waste, nothing to be alarmed about- just the body working 🙂

My Dog is now Starving

I have known a few dogs who once making the switch become ravenous for food! Waking their owners early in the morning or demanding to be fed at odd times. I may offer a small snack before bed to help keep the stomach satisfied until morning. Another option is to feed in 3 meals- spread out the food over the day. And lastly, feeding a bigger cut that is difficult to chew, like a whole chicken. This will make the dog think he has eaten more than he has and keep him satisfied longer.

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