I should warn you guys that I have inadvertently written you a novel here. As I state at the bottom of this post, I guess I had a lot to say about this. =)
I’m a pretty new poster but have been reading this board for a while (and love it). I know there are at least a few folks who have either been feeding their bulldogs a raw diet or thinking about switching them to one. Accordingly, I thought I would update everyone on my own two bullies’ (Eddie and Alex. Yes, after Van Halen =P) ongoing transition from a combination of kibble and commercial raw to a full diet of non-commercial raw, in case anyone might find it interesting or helpful. When I started, I was over-confident in my pair’s ability to switch with no complications, resulting in the spectacular and horrifying diarrhea fireworks that I then, traumatized, shared in this post:
After doing a ton of reading, I decided to begin anew by starting the dogs on a probiotic and initially feeding them items with heavier bone content, in the hopes that doing so would stabilize my guys’ stools (bone, apparently, is a binding agent, and loose stools may mean that dogs are not consuming enough of it; I should also mention that I follow PMR, rather than BARF guidelines, although I do supplement with fish oil and vitamin E). For two days, I fed them each an 8-ounce chicken back as a morning and evening meal, and lo and behold, things firmed up nicely. Incidentally, people weren’t kidding when they warned me that raw feeders eventually become poop experts. If anyone had told me a month ago that there would come a day when the sight of my dogs’ feces would have the power to make me clap my hands and jump up and down in glee, I would have referred them to a mental health counselor. However, that’s apparently what I do now – get all excited and try to high five my confused (and somewhat appalled) husband. Over dog poop.
Once Eddie and Alex’s digestive systems seemed to have stabilized somewhat, I switched to rotating them through chicken backs and chicken leg quarters. This worked well for the first week, but soon, come bathroom-break time, I found myself standing out in the back yard with two depressed-looking, straining, and mildly constipated bullies. I took this as an indication that I was now feeding too much bone and have since switched to giving each dog one bone-in meal in the morning and one boneless meal (chicken breasts) in the evening. As of now, their stools are just about perfect, so I’ll remain on this schedule until I see a need to tweak again. We’ve started our third week on raw, so I’ve just begun introducing a second meat source in the form of turkey necks. Because Eddie and Alex have responded well to them, I’ll keep alternating those and chicken backs as their morning meals. Next week, if things continue to go well, I’ll start alternating evening meals between boneless chicken and boneless pork.
Interestingly enough, the dogs and I paid a visit to the bulldog vet yesterday to follow up on an eye issue for which Eddie had recently been treated. I have yet to inform him about The Big Diet Experiment, because I’m scared he’ll lecture me about having lost my mind and report me to the SPCA or something. He commented on how much better their coats looked this time and on the fact that Alex’s yeast problems appear to have improved significantly. He then offered, as usual, to express their anal glands and was amazed by how little material he was able to produce (the husband and I, meanwhile, exchanged a look of amazement about the fact that what he did manage to get out did not nearly require the building to be evacuated. The last time the vet did this for our dogs, a vet tech came in and explained that several people had requested he spray air deodorizer around. This time, it didn’t smell AT ALL).
So, thus far, the benefits of raw feeding seem to include fewer allergies and yeast-related problems, improved coat health, and poop that is tiny and odor-free (I’ll admit I did not buy that last one when I heard people talk about it until I experienced it for myself). I’ll also add that I have never seen my dogs this excited about eating (this is not a big deal for Alex the Garbage Disposal, who has always eaten anything we put in front of him. However, it’s huge for Eddie, who is a little princess about food and whom we had to “tough love” into eating commercial raw but who now stampedes towards the food towel every time I open the fridge. On this diet, he has already gained the remainder of the five pounds I have been trying to put on him for years and is now a beautiful 52 pounds).
As for any negatives…I will say that raw feeding takes more planning and preparation than feeding kibble or commercial raw, and that this can be inconvenient (especially if your husband acts like a squicked-out little girl at the thought of handling raw food and likes to watch the feeding but routinely leaves it for you to actually carry out when you come home from class at 8:30 PM). I will also share that the transition to raw can be extremely emotional for some people (i.e., me), because a lack of experience contributes to worrying about any adverse reaction that your dogs may have and quickly concluding that it can mean only one thing: That you are killing them with your ignorance and your wacky ideas.
My other big fear was that the dogs would vacuum their food down whole and die. I’m not kidding, people – I researched and practiced the doggie Heimlich maneuver AND learned the route to the emergency animal hospital closest to my house before gingerly offering each dog their first piece of bone-in chicken. I also burst into tears the first time each dog had to work a little to hork up a chunk of food he hadn’t chewed well enough the first time, not realizing this was normal. The hard-core raw feeders on some of the online bulletin boards and groups I’ve frequented would probably turn their noses up at the way I still hover a bit and the fact that I’ll still often swoop in to manually help a dog if he looks like he’s about to do something stupid with his food. However, I’m definitely beginning to see that, with close supervision and adherence to feeding them appropriate bone-in meats (i.e., nothing small enough to be swallowed whole or large and hard enough to crack teeth), my dogs are actually very safe.
Ultimately, this process has been very much worth it for me and my guys, and I’m very excited to see how they continue to do on it. I apologize for the lengthy post – I guess I had a lot to say about this! =)
Susie, Eddie, and Alex