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Opinion: Raw/Homemade Dog Food… And Our Dogs First Giveaway!

Posted April 15, 2013 by Tara Power in Ramp Reviews

“When fresh-fed dogs are compared to those fed a premium pellet, fresh-fed dogs were found to be significantly healthier, immunologically speaking” – ANTECH, 2003

We love our dogs, don’t we? These hairy, drooly creatures who give us their unconditional love deserve the best cuddles, the best toys and, most importantly, the best food. We’ve all heard the saying ‘You are what you eat’. Well, our dogs are what they eat, too.

Love him or hate him, Cesar Milan makes a valid point when he stresses the importance of ‘exercise, discipline and affection’, in that order, to ensure a happy, well-adjusted dog. But where is the mention of food? Food is such a vital part of any living being’s health and well-being that surely we dog owners should follow the mantra ‘food, exercise, discipline, affection’?

Like most dog owners, I started my young boxer on dry pellets. She’s a dog, the bag had the words ‘dog food’ on it, seemed about right. It took me a few weeks of shopping around for the right food that she could enjoy and yet didn’t cause a stomach upset before I stopped and thought ‘What if I were to live on this dry stuff every day for the rest of my life?’.

Virtually all dog foods claim to contain the perfect balance of every type of essential this-and-that your dog needs. Yet there seems to be no existing ready-meal that contains a human’s RDA of practically every nutrient that is suitable for everyday consumption. The closest thing to this would have to be protein powders, yet even the most experienced body builder will agree that real food is better for the body than a protein shake any day. How then, is it possible for these companies to have come up with the perfect everyday food for dogs? The answer is, of course, that they haven’t.

The vast majority of commercial dog foods have a meat content far inferior to what dogs naturally require. Dogs require a high level of meat, so dog food which is composed mostly of grain is just not healthy for them on a daily basis. According to some 70 veterinary research articles gathered by Dr Fiona MacMillan (2008), commercial dog food has been linked to cancer, kidney failure, cystitis and dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs, along with many other illnesses. With so many beloved dogs succumbing to cancer, is this not ringing the alarm bells we need to hear in order to question what we’re fueling their little bodies with? Many veterinary schools are funded by pet food companies and, in turn, taught pet nutrition by them. To me, that’s as good as McDonald’s funding primary schools and teaching kids all about the burger pyramid. In other words, for all the amazing work vets do, you don’t necessarily have to take their advice when it comes to the food they recommend, especially if it goes against your instinct. That’s absolutely not to say that vets are willingly misleading you into feeding your dog rubbish. But I would question anyone’s opinion if they recommended processed food over fresh, no matter what their profession.

I went with my gut when my boxer was about 4 months old. After weeks of watching her ignore her food and suffer several stomach upsets, I was advised to feed her plain cooked chicken and rice. Even though this is still not an ideal everyday meal for a dog, I watched in amazement as she wolfed the lot down. It felt so good to cook proper ingredients and allow her to enjoy the taste of real food without any preservatives, excess salt or diseased meat. I continued my research and eventually cut the rice out altogether as many dogs are allergic to grain and gradually replaced the cooked meat with raw along with some fresh vegetables.

You may be concerned about harmful bacteria in raw meat and what it can do to your beloved dog. Provided your dog has no underlying health issues, you don’t need to worry about feeding her fresh, raw meat as dogs have a higher concentration of stomach acid, allowing faster digestion and killing bacteria.

If you’re thinking about switching your dog’s food from store-bought to homemade, you want to take it slowly. I made the mistake of feeding my girl a bowl full of raw meat when she was used to cooked food and was promptly rewarded with a wet pile of diarrhoea on my cream carpet. If this happens to your dog, please don’t let it put you off a raw diet altogether as they simply need their stomach to adjust to new food. Start slowly with say, 90% their usual food with 10% raw food and gradually work more of the raw food in.

All you need to do is look at a bowl full of dry pellets next to a bowl full of fresh meat and mixed veg to see which one is healthier.

Of course, nothing should be taken to the extreme. Although their bodies are optimised for eating meat, dogs have omnivorous tendencies so feeding them 100% meat and nothing else isn’t ideal either. Incorporating vegetables such as peas, carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli (avoid anything in the onion family) which dogs happily wolf down only makes their food more balanced and healthy. All you need to do is look at (and maybe even taste?) a bowl full of dry pellets next to a bowl full of fresh meat and mixed veg to see which one is clearly healthier.

While many dog owners have the best intentions for their pet, the cost of moving from kibble to fresh food may be a concern. Having made the switch myself, I can say that depending on where you shop, the cost will be in and around the same, although it depends how much your dog eats and weighs. A tray of chicken thighs in Aldi is €2.79 and they always have special offers on their vegetables ,which are already dirt cheap to begin with. Their bags of frozen mixed vegetables are even more convenient without being any less healthy.

Even more cost effective than supermarket meat is the wholesale meat provided by Dogs First, a Wicklow-based dog food company that delivers raw, human-grade meat to your door in most areas of Ireland. For convenience, they also deliver their pre-made dog food chubs composed of 85% raw meat, vegetables and offal anywhere in Ireland. This eliminates all the effort of preparing the dog food yourself and is ideal for beginners who are thinking about making the switch. These chubs work out cheaper than the highly-recommended Orijen dry food, which funnily enough, is praised for its meat and offal content. As for the really cheap dog food on supermarket shelves, this contains virtually no meat content so a fair price comparison isn’t even possible.

This article is in no way intended to point the finger at dog owners who feed their pooches commercial dog food. Some dogs are on prescription food, some are set in their ways or are just plain stubborn when it comes to food; there are always exceptions. However, since becoming a dog owner again and discussing the topic of food with other dog owners, it became glaringly obvious that a huge amount of us don’t really think about what we feed our pets simply because we’ve been brought up in a society where real food = human food and brown balls from a bag = dog food. Real food doesn’t just belong to humans; it belongs to every living being on this planet, including our dogs.


If you’re thinking about switching your dog’s diet to raw, now’s the perfect opportunity to try it out by entering our DOGS FIRST giveaway!

All you have to do is send a cute or funny photo of your beloved dog to competitions@ramp.ie, using the subject line ‘Dogs First’ and including your name (and your dog’s!), address and a contact phone number, by SUNDAY, 21ST OF APRIL. We’ll create a gallery of pooches, readers vote on their favourite, and the winner will be awarded with a box of Dogs First mixed chubs delivered to their door, anywhere in Ireland! As always, our terms and conditions can be found here, and good luck!

About the Author

Tara Power

  • http://www.facebook.com/bev.truss.9 Bev Truss

    Brill comp!!! Right wheres the camera!

  • Claricias

    Couldn’t agree more. How would a human like it having to eat a diet similar to dry toast day in day out?

  • Lisa D

    It’s a great point. My poor little fella was itching and scratching and the vet said it could be a food allergy – when we looked at his food, it was mostly grains – wheat. Even switching to a new brand and to a nut that was more meat and fish based was better for him. But in an ideal world I’d LOVE to make him people food :)

    • http://twitter.com/powertara Tara Power

      If he has red itchy paws Lisa, that’s usually a sign of a food allergy :) If you’re curious give it a try! I gave my babies some finely chopped stewing beef last night with some veg, only about €3 in Lidl if you want to see if he likes it!

  • http://www.ramp.ie/ Lisa McInerney

    Question, Tara. We just read here that raw chicken bones are fine for dogs, and that only the cooked ones are brittle enough to splinter.

    You mentioned using chicken thighs in the article – do you feed them to your two, bones and all?

    • http://twitter.com/Sarklor Ciaran O’Brien

      I’ve seen what happens a doggy who gets his paws on a cooked chicken bone, it’s not pretty. :(
      I’d be happier playing it safe and leaving the chicken out. Then again, whenever I’m home visiting the parents I end up giving half my steak to the dog…

      • http://www.ramp.ie/ Lisa McInerney

        I know – the idea of it gives me the heebie-jeebies. I hear what you’re saying, Tara, but I guess we’ve been told for so long to never give chicken bones to dogs that even the idea of giving them safe, raw bones creeps me out a bit.

        One of mine is actually a wolf cross, and she has a habit of taking her food out of the bowl and bringing it into a corner to gnaw in her own time. I’m going to try the raw food diet; now all I have to do is figure out how to stop Dog 1 (Nero) from gobbling Dog 2′s (Angua) newly delicious food when she’s hiding in a corner somewhere, delicately picking around it like the fucking dowager countess.

        Weirdest thing? She’s the fat one.

        • http://twitter.com/Sarklor Ciaran O’Brien

          Angua? Good name.
          I also nick my dog’s cooked liver when I’m visiting, because I’m a sucker for a good piece of liver. :(

          • http://www.ramp.ie/ Lisa McInerney

            Steak for liver. It’s a fair swap.

        • http://twitter.com/powertara Tara Power

          Her eating habits are ideal for a raw food diet then, you can just give her a quarter (or half) a chicken and she’ll happily munch the lot I bet! My dogs are used to eating out of their bowls so I grind everything up for them. If you start them off on something like the bone from a shoulder/leg of lamb, you’ll see how much they enjoy it and then chicken bones will seem like nothing!

    • http://twitter.com/powertara Tara Power

      I buy thighs purely because they’re cheaper than chicken breasts, and feed them the meat and skin, then keep the bones for them to gnaw on. If I had a powerful enough meat grinder I would just dump the whole thighs in and feed them the whole thing, either or is fine really! And yes, cooked bones are a HUGE no no!

  • Conor Brady

    Thanks Tara for the nod. There’s no link to my site in the article folks so just thought I’d mention that for anyone thinking about setting off feeding fresh food to their dogs then here’s a little ten minute piece with everything you need! http://www.dogsfirst.ie/raw-faq/everything-about-raw-dog-food/. Fresh is best. Don’t let them sell you otherwise!

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