One of the best decisions I made for Ref was taking the leap and changing his diet. It was a decision I didn’t take lightly and it is something I had been considering for more than 12 months before I took the leap. And let me tell you, it was definitely worth it.
So what was I feeding Ref before the change? From a puppy, I took the vet’s advice and fed him kibble. That way he would get the nutrition he needs to be a healthy dog. But I actually just gave him kibble for one meal. I have always fed Ref twice a day as he got so used to the routine. So kibble was his breakfast and then I cooked up some fresh meat like beef mince, chicken or turkey mince along with a stack of veggies. I’d bag up half a cup of this and freeze it. This would be his dinner every night along with a whole carrot and a Dentastix. I always thought this was a great diet for him. He didn’t get a lot of treats either but when he did, they were usually ones I bought from the supermarket or pet store.
I lost count of the times that the vet told me that Ref needed to lose weight. I tried reducing his dinner portion size but it made no difference. So with this, I had to find a better solution for him. I read a bit about the raw diet but never really knew the best way to take on the raw diet especially since vets always recommend kibble as the main diet option for dogs. I was ready to make the change but where to start was a different story. How did I know how much to feed Ref, what ingredients to do I include and how did I know he was going to get all the nutrients he needs to be a healthy boy. Now that is where a professional comes in to it.
I had a consultation with a pet nutritionist. Yep, a pet nutritionist. They do exist and it was exactly what I needed to go in the right direction. We discussed Ref’s current eating habits, any health problems he has and how we would make changes to his diet. The information I learnt in that hour phone consultation and in the following emails was incredible. So here are some things I learnt:
– Kibble does not clean teeth! Considering I have yet to meet a dog who chews their kibble, it is just not possible for inhaling kibble to clean teeth.
– Ear infections can be caused by too much sugar or grain in their diet.
– Human grade foods are the best option. If you can’t eat it, then neither should your dog.
– Bones, like chicken necks, chicken wings and other raw bones are an important part of a dogs diet.
– There is a list of super foods for dogs that include coconut oil, carrots, sweet potato and kale. Check out these Pretty Fluffy articles here and here for a superfood list and their benefits.
– The leanest cut of human grade meat is kangaroo. This is readily available in Australian supermarkets in mince form and for cheaper than most other minced meats. *Update – Variety is key and you should feed 3-4 different proteins over the course of each week or one a week on rotation over 3-4 weeks.
How I like to see things now is that dogs are just like humans and thrive on the freshest meats, fruit and vegetables. Just think how you feel eating junk food every meal, every day, every week of the year. And then think how awesome you feel when you eat the fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. It is the same for dogs. So I can hear you asking, but what are you feeding Ref exactly? Let’s get to it then.
On the advice of the pet nutritionist, Ref’s diet consists of 35% meat, 30% bone, 10% offal and 25% fruit & vegetables. *Update – I now feed 60% meat, 10% bone, 10% offal and 20% fruit & veggies. It is a variation of the BARF diet which consists of 70% meat, 10% bone, 10% offal and 10% fruit & veggies. The previous 30% bone incorporated the meat value making it closer to the meat/bone ratio I feed now. So what are the options for each of these components?
– Meat: Human grade mince such as kangaroo, chicken, beef or turkey. The key to choosing the best meat is one that contains no more than 5% fat. I go with Kangaroo mince because it has only 2% fat content. *Update – Kangaroo has become to rich of a meat to feed ongoing. I now choose wild caught meat like venison, buffalo, lamb and duck. Though we are looking at expanding our protein range once we have Ref’s allergy test results.
– Bone: bones must not be cooked as they are dangerous for dogs to eat. And these bones don’t have to be those big meaty bones you don’t want hanging around and stinking out the house. Chicken necks, chicken wings and beef brisket are great to choose from. I chose chicken necks as they aren’t too big, they are a soft bone and Ref does actually chew them. If your pug doesn’t chew chicken necks, stay away from them as they can easily choke on them. Always supervise them when eating raw bones. *Update – As pugs are prone to inhaling their food, I no longer feed whole chicken necks, wings or beef brisket but I do feed duck feet as they are less likely to choke on them. This needs to be tailored to each pug and always under supervision.
– Offal: This can be liver, heart, kidney, brain and more. I have gone with chicken liver as it is very cheap and readily available.
– Fruit & vegetables: Choose from fruits like strawberries, apple, pear, blueberries and a whole lot more. Good vegetables to include are carrot, zucchini, green beans, kale, celery, red capsicum, steamed sweet potato and pumpkin. Popping in some fresh herbs like mint and parsley is also great. Check out the Om Nom? app for what fruits and vegetables you can and cannot feed your pug. *Update – I avoid starchy vegetables like sweet potato. Pumpkin is great for soothing upset tummies. We love leafy green veggies like kale and spinach and broccoli. Be sure to puree / process veggies down as much as possible so they can be digested fully and nutrients absorbed.
– Supplements: I add supplements to Ref’s diet to ensure he is getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs. This includes a vitamin supplement, atlantic kelp powder, coconut crunch and fish oil or coconut oil. *Update – I no longer feed fish oil as it can go rancid very quick and do more damage then good so I choose to provide fish oil through food such as sardines and salmon. Coconut crunch is no longer fed as it is not needed as a filler. A general Superboost supplement is used from Augustine Approved along with a couple of other supplements of theirs like Faith. Turmericle powder is a daily supplement for both but Serina needs it for her joint care and Ref gets it as a general health booster.
So every fortnight I make up Ref’s food based on the above ingredients. I choose a mix of fruit & veg, wash it, put it through the processor along with the chicken liver & herbs so it is nice and fine and mix it through the mince. I bag it up and store it in the freezer in meal size portions. None of this is cooked so it is prepared and into the freezer in half an hour. I also buy the chicken necks in bulk and freeze them.
Every morning, Ref gets one chicken neck and one portion of his fresh food mix. I add his vitamin supplement, atlantic kale (for his teeth) and fish oil (or coconut oil) to his food and mix it through. His dinner consists of one portion of fresh food 5 nights a week with some coconut crunch. The other 2 nights he has half a tin of sardines with the coconut crunch. He also gets a carrot and a kangaroo tendon every night.
I changed Ref over to this diet in November 2014 and at that time he weight 9.9kg. 6 months later and he now weighs 9kg. His coat is shinier and softer than before. He barely passes wind now and when he does, it doesn’t stink the place out. And the biggest change I noticed was his behaviour. He is now much calmer, in particular when we have visitors. He used to be crazy excited and took an hour to calm down when visitors came. Now he is still excited to see people but he calms down in about 5 minutes. These are just the most noticeable benefits of going raw. I am so glad I did and I know Ref is too. He enjoys his food more than before and doesn’t miss the kibble one bit. A healthy pug is a happy pug mum. And that I am.
Please note that I didn’t include measurements and quantities of food as this really needs to be tailored to each dog and their needs. You should definitely seek the advice of a profession like a pet nutritionist or a vet who is open to the raw feeding method. My recommendation for a pet nutritionist is Alla from Foodie Pooch who is based in Melbourne.
What do you feed your pug? If you don’t feed them a raw diet, are you considering changing them? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
***Update – October 5th 2017***
It has been nearly 3 years since I switched Ref over to a biologically appropriate raw food diet. I have learnt so much since then. And I have switched Serina over to a raw diet too. I am still happy that I made the change. Ref’s weight has been kept at a steady amount for quite some time. I have not been able to clear up his itchiness which leads me to believe that it is not food related but we are continuing to work it our for him so he can be itchy free. By feeding Ref raw meaty bones, since he last had his dental clean in January 2016, we have been able to keep his teeth clean and healthy without having to brush them or have another dental clean. And that alone makes me very happy.
Serina is a very happy & healthy girl. If it wasn’t for feeding her a raw diet, I honestly don’t think I would be able to keep her weight below 10kg to help her hips and keep her full. With a raw diet, I can feed her 2.5% of her body weight to keep her full and lean. Just what she needs to help take pressure off her hips. And I have never seen girl who was so excited to get her meals.
Both Ref & Serina’s coats have never looked so good. They are soft and shiny. They also aren’t smelly. I will bath them once every 3 months or so. The last bath they had was 4 months after the previous one and they still weren’t smelly. They just needed a freshen up.
Food choices have changed quite a bit too. I no longer feed chicken, beef or kangaroo as a main source of meat. Chicken and beef can be filled with too many hormones and what not and are also 2 of the most common proteins for dogs to have allergies to. I source high quality wild caught meat as well as other high quality human grade meat. Veggies are not the standard 10% as in the BARF diet as I find to help keep my two lean, they need a little more. But as long as we do not exceed 30% veggies, then we are good though I wouldn’t go for that much either. I am constantly learning and changing up their food as much as I can. I find new things to try like our recent addition of homemade kefir which is an amazing source of probiotic.
I can no longer recommend a specific pet nutritionist as I have not used one since I first used Foodie Pooch. Instead, I do a lot of research myself. I have some go to websites that I like to read and then there are the Facebook groups for raw feeding that I am in and learn a lot from. I definitely recommend that you check out Rodney Habib’s Planet Paws, Dr Karen Becker, Dogs Naturally Magazine and Dr Jean Dodds. On Facebook, one of my favourite pages to follow besides the previously mentioned, is Canine Ascension. There are many other great groups and pages on Facebook but I will save those for another post.
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