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I recently wrote a blog post about my dog Daisy’s experience as I transitioned her to a raw diet. She suffered from a ton of allergies in the form of constant itchiness, eye mucus, and black gunk in her ears. I’ve had her about 5 years now and she’s been on raw for about 4 years and each year her condition is better than the last.
Since that post, I’ve gotten several inquiries from Oahu residents asking how I DIY Daisy’s raw diet recipe without overspending – and believe me, going raw for your dog in Hawaii comes out to a huge chunk of change if you’re not making the meal yourself!
So here’s the recipe I use and hopefully this will help some raw diet dog owners in Oahu (or anywhere in Hawaii) keep their dogs on raw without breaking the bank. If you have some suggestions, I’d love it if you could add it to the comments below so others can learn from your experience, too. Mahalo!
Aloha with love,
About Daisy and her raw diet
Daisy is a pit mix according to the Hawaiian Humane Society and I get stopped and asked all the time if she’s a pure blue pitbull. I don’t think she is and my guess is she’s got a splash of watered-down Sharpei in her because her skin stretches a lot when you pull it away from her body.
Her ideal weight is about 55 pounds and according to raw diet formulas online, she should be eating 2% – 4% of her body weight in one day. That means the total amount of food she eats in one day should weight between 1 to 2 pounds. Since she gets fed twice a day, I try to keep each meal at roughly 0.75 pounds.
In the beginning, I used to weigh her meal everyday, but after a week or so you get used to the amount and begin to eyeball it. Now I eyeball her meal, and increase or decrease based on how she looks. If she looks a little skinny, I’ll add another chunk of meat. If she’s looking pudgy, I’ll keep the meal on the light side. This is because my Mom loves to feed Daisy snacks throughout the day so I need to be flexible as the amount she eats everyday changes.
Sourcing Daisy’s raw meat
The best source of raw meat that I’ve found is Costco (or Sam’s Club). About once every two weeks, I grab their set of 2 whole chickens, which is priced at 99 cents per pound. So for two whole chickens, I pay about $13 dollars.
Occasional we’ll find a good deal for other meats, but I normally stay with chicken since all of the chicken bones are safe for her to eat. I avoid larger animals such as pork and beef, but fish are a great option when they go on sale. My Mom likes to check the grocery stores for salmon bones (they’ve still got a ton of meat on them) because you can get a big tray of them for just a couple of bucks on sale.
Whole fish in general is a great option for a raw dog diet because it’s a whole carcass and has everything you need in the right proportions: muscle, bone, and organs. If you have a source for goat or duck, I’d also consider them since their bones are small and consumable (for a dog the size of Daisy).
Sourcing Daisy’s raw organs
When feeding organs to your dog, you want the organs to contain a large variety: kidney, liver, stomach, brain, heart, lungs, intestines, etc. because each organ is rich in different nutrients. If you’re only feeding one or two organs everyday, eventually your dog will be lacking in a certain nutrient.
My main raw organ source is from 808 Raw Pet Food. They sell their products at select stores (or you can purchase them online) and the closest store to me is Nii Superette in Waipahu. They sell a 2-pound bag ($12 each bag) of beef organ and green tripe blend that contains beef, beef hearts, green tripe, kidneys, lungs, liver, esophagus and fine ground veal bones. Seven types of organs sounds good enough to me!
Every so often our regular grocery stores will sell trays of kidneys, gizzards, livers, etc. and I’ll pick them up if the price is decent. I separate them into small portions, freeze them, then defrost one at a time for Daisy’s meal. Add this to her occasional whole fish carcass, and the tiny bit of organs that come with the whole chickens, and I can stretch this 2-pound bag over 2 to 3 weeks.
This is awesome since her organs are the most expensive ingredient for her meal!
Sourcing Daisy’s raw vegetables
There’s a debate within the raw dog diet world of whether or not you should include fruits and vegetables. I include them because they change up the meal and she likes to eat them. So why not? Her favorites are watery and crunchy vegetables like green bell peppers and the thick white stems in romaine lettuce. These are both cheap at my local Costco so I grab a bag and chop a container of them up and add it to her meal.
Daisy has learned to eat a lot of other vegetables and fruits so I throw in whatever I have available at the time. I’ve added apples, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, and even guava (seedless) and I believe it keeps her meals interesting for her as they’re slightly different each time and give the meal some texture.
In addition to her raw muscle, bone, organs and vegetables, I give Daisy extra supplements with each meal. In her morning meal I add about a tablespoon of dried kelp and Mushroom Matrix powder (the joint and hip mix for her arthritis). You can purchase both from Amazon, but recently I’ve ordered her Mushroom Matrix powder directly from their website.
About Mushroom Matrix: Daisy was diagnosed with arthritis and vets will usually prescribe medicine that will increase glucosamine, which is found in cartilage between joints. Since Daisy’s steroid days, I try to keep her on an all-natural diet as much as possible because I don’t want to mess with her immune system since we’ve made so much progress. My experience with Mushroom Matrix has been great! Daisy doesn’t do that “stiff morning shuffle” anymore and there’s been increase in her energy.
For her dinner, I’ll instead add a spoonful of ground pumpkin meal (also purchased off Amazon) to give it a different flavor than her morning kelp and mushrooms. My Mom also likes to set aside some broth or stew before adding salt, pepper, etc. and I’ll add that to her meal as well. I also have a gigantic bottle of salmon oil and I’ll add a pump or two to her meal sometimes. Needless to say, Daisy loves it all.
Daisy is given snacks throughout the day by my Mom! Instead of regulating it, my Mom gives her some preapproved snacks (fruits, vegetables, boiled eggs, plain chicken, cheese etc.) and I adjust the amount of her meal by how chubby Daisy looks. I try to keep her on the lean side because of her arthritis and so far this system works.
For Daisy, I give very little starch and carbohydrates. This is because I believe starch is what causes so many dog allergies. So all of those store-bought dog treats that resemble kibble or biscuits are a big no-no. Pretty much all “grain-free” or “limited ingredient” treats have starchy fillers like sweet potato, peas, or rice and are avoided.
Instead, I buy Polkadog’s 2-pound bag of dried cod skins or dried haddock skins (which has been sold out for a while). Dried wolf fish skins are also an option I’ve seen online if you can find a good source. It’s expensive (currently $60 for 2 pounds), but it lasts me at least 6 months and I’ve stretched it to a year before if Daisy’s already getting plenty of other treats from my Mom throughout the day.
When I order it, I cut it up into smaller 4 – 5 inch lengths and put it all into a large air-tight container. They’re great as training treats and crunchy enough that she has to chew it several times to soften it enough to swallow. It’s also a good treat to leave out for your family or friends so they don’t feed your dog food you’d rather they not eat.
Daisy does get the occasional processed human food. Popcorn on movie night, a bite of ice cream, ham and turkey during Thanksgiving, chips on Superbowl Sunday, etc. It’s more of a special occasion thing and we want her to have a bite of whatever we’re eating that’s amazing.
How I divide up Daisy’s meals
I like to use the square containers because they fit perfectly side by side in my freezer’s drawers. I cut up the chicken into mouth-sized (Daisy’s mouth) pieces so that she’s forced to chew and break down the bone. Chewing the bone cleans her teeth so you don’t want to cut everything too small. I aim for 2 to 3-inch pieces.
Note: The pieces in the photo below are actually too small (my Mom cut these). You’ll also need a good knife (we use one of those rectangular chopping knives since we have to cut through bone). Be careful!
There are all sorts of different raw diet formulas out there. I generally aim for 80% muscle, 10% bone, 10% organs, a handful of vegetables/fruits and supplements. I fill up each container 90% with the cut-up chicken and fill in the rest of the space with organs. I used to weigh everything to make sure Daisy was getting 0.75 pounds at each meal, but now I’m familiar enough with the process that I just eyeball the amount and give her a little more or a little less based on how chubby or skinny she’s getting.
Calcium, phosphorous, and Daisy’s kidneys
To spice things up, sometimes I add a raw egg with the shell to Daisy’s meal. She loves licking it up and she’ll eat the entire egg shell without a problem. It’s a great source of calcium, which is important in any raw diet – you want to be serving equal or more calcium than phosphorous to protect your dog’s kidneys.
Unfortunately, Daisy has very bad teeth. When we adopted her, she had to have all 10 of her small front teeth pulled out. Since then, she’s had another 2 surgeries to remove her teeth where the roots were exposed. Besides cleaning the teeth she does have, there’s not a lot raw meaty bones can do for her since her roots were already very exposed when I got her. When it comes time for her back teeth to come out (which will probably happen eventually), she’ll have a difficult time breaking down the bones in her raw diet.
When this happens, I’ll stick with the raw eggs and egg shells, and I’ll also eventually add Eggshellent Calcium (ground eggshells) so I can be sure she’s getting enough calcium to level off the phosphorous so her kidneys stay in great shape.
How much does it all cost?
In my experience, with 2 whole chickens from Costco (about $13), a bag and a half (3 pounds) of organs from 808 raw pet food ($18), and a bag of green bell peppers ($5), I can make about 20 – 22 meals for Daisy, which lasts 10 or 11 days. So for 30 days, I’ll spend $108/$3.60 per day/$1.80 per meal. That’s a bargain compared to the $300 per month/$10 per day/$5 per meal I was originally paying for her premade raw patties.
My wallet has certainly been happier since the change. Honestly, the reason it took me so long to commit to a DIY recipe was that I was worried about making a mistake. But now that it’s been about a year, I feel confident about my decision and I see the awesome results in Daisy!
If you have any tips or resources for raw dog diets on Oahu or anywhere in Hawaii, leave a comment below so everyone can learn from you!