Ever since adopting my gorgeous German Shepherd Desiree in July from my local animal shelter, Animal Care and Control of New York City, we’ve struggled with various health issues.
For starters, there was her horribly dry, madly shedding hair coat and flaky, scaly scalp, which required frequent moisturizing baths with emollient shampoo (our favorite is TheraNeem Pet Shampoo).
Then there was her sprained forepaw, which necessitated several visits to the vet for cold laser treatments.
Then, after several days of serious lethargy, during which she’d lie down on the sidewalk, utterly exhausted and acting like a geriatric K9, Desiree was diagnosed with pneumonia.
She recovered nicely … then she started showing signs of suffering an allergy to fleas. Not wanting to expose this delicate dog to toxic pesticides, I opted to eradicate the pesky pests with diatomaceous earth (which also kills roaches nontoxically) and liberal topical applications of neem oil.
Was there any malady Desiree didn’t have? She appeared to be having a total immune system breakdown, making her vulnerable to a host of health issues. Every time I tried to make the appointment to have her spayed, some new health issue cropped up to prevent the operation from happening.
Through it all, we struggled with persistent bald patches across what should have been a glorious hair coat, considering that she was eating high-quality kibble mixed with canned food, her meals liberally souped up with loving spoonfuls of Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet alternated with coconut oil.
It seemed that no matter what I did, how much I bathed her, how many high-quality supplements Desiree swallowed, new bald spots were cropping up daily. And at night, poor Desiree itched and scratched herself pitiably, keeping me and my other dogs awake. Aaargh!
By the time I dropped Desiree off at her favorite boarding facility the day before I left for Madrid, I was at my wits’ end. It was time to undertake a different experiment in K9 wellness. So I consulted with Unleash Brooklyn‘s co-owner and nutrition guru Rob Maher, and together we decided to put Desiree on a raw food diet for the duration of her stay.
Rob was happy to undertake the project of Desiree’s ‘dermis; he’s a big proponent of Stella & Chewy’s pathogen-free frozen raw meat patties, which he feeds his own happy, healthy dogs. And so, during the six days Desiree played her heart out at Unleash, she chowed down twice daily on defrosted steak tartare, to her great delight.
Upon my return, the dog I picked up looked nothing like the dog I’d dropped off. There wasn’t a single bald patch anywhere! She was no longer itching or scratching. She was bright-eyed and — please forgive the cliche — bushy-tailed. She also had about five times the energy level she had the day I left her at Unleash.
Nothing else had changed in her routine, so it had to be the raw diet. Until further notice, Desiree will be dining on raw beef. When the store runs out of Stella’s Super Beef Frozen Dinner, we buy a competing brand, the equally excellent Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw (pictured at left).
I’m careful to keep everything in my kitchen sink sanitized with boiling water, and to scrub my hands before and after feeding with spritzes of CleanWell. And for those morning when I wake up to find an empty Tupperware container because I’ve idiotically forgotten to defrost Desiree’s portion, I keep a reserve of Stella & Chewy’s or Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw freeze-dried beef patties, which I soften with a splash of the abovementioned coconut oil and spice with a dash of cinnamon.
I’m in no way knocking grain-free kibble or canned food; for convenience and consistency, they can’t be beat. In fact, my other dogs are thriving on a mix of those two food groups. (I’m sure they’d love to switch to the raw diet, but right now, I’m of the mind that, “If it ain’t broke, …”) All I’m saying here is that each dog is an individual with specific nutritional needs and Desiree seems to need raw food, or her health suffers.
So raw food is what she’ll get. Can’t wait to make that spay appointment!
Dogsters, what’s been your experience with feeding raw? Please share in the comments.