The following is my interview with Dr. Laurie Coger, a veterinarian and Australian shepherd breeder.

I believe a raw diet is the healthiest option for most dogs, and Coger has fed her dogs a raw diet for over 20 years. She even makes sure to place her puppies into homes that will continue feeding them raw.

If you are interested in learning more about natural dog food, Coger shares some of the reasons why she chooses to feed her dogs raw below:

That Mutt: What made you decide to begin feeding your dogs a raw diet?

Dr. Laurie Coger: Like most people, my move to a natural diet resulted from a dog’s health crisis—in my case, autoimmune hemolytic anemia.

Thanks to a mentor and friend, I was introduced to the Volhard diet, one of the first raw feeding plans. And my dog did extremely well on it, living years beyond his prognosis.

Australian shepherd gets fed a raw dog food diet - chicken

From there, I learned more about other feeding plans and natural dog health. I’ve never looked back, rather continue to learn more and strive to feed my dogs in accordance with their biology.

TM: What are some of your dogs’ favorite ‘meals’ or favorite foods?

LC: They love pretty much everything!

What gets grabbed first from the bowl is usually organ meats. And I have found the green tripe that is the “caviar” of green tripe from Darwin’s Raw Foods—they absolutely love it!

TM: As a veterinarian, how do you encourage your clients to feed their dogs a healthier diet?

LC: Many clients seek me out as the only veterinarian in my region that knows about raw diets, or is not going to tell them they are killing their dog with raw foods!

Because I see a lot of clients who are seeking alternative care for their dog, diet changes are one of their expectations, so I have little convincing to do.

For conventional clients, I often mention how getting off inappropriate foods, such as kibble, will help many of the ear infections, skin problems and GI issues they are seeking vet care for.

Not to mention all the other health benefits. For example, they can feed their dog a natural diet, or shell out $600 for dental cleaning and potential extractions every year or so.

TM: How old are your puppies when you begin introducing them to raw food?

Raw fed Aussie puppy gets a taste of raw food!

LC: My Aussies are usually wanting food around 3 to 3.5 weeks of age. They start with a finely ground meat and bone mix, along with some goats’ milk. They get their first chicken necks around six weeks of age.

TM: Is there a certain type of meat you typically start them out with?

LC: I use a finely ground meat and bone mix—typically ground chicken necks, as that’s what I have easily available. I might also add some ground meat—turkey, beef, etc.

After they’ve been eating a bit, I’ll slip in a touch of the tripe, maybe some ground organ meat mix or an egg. I introduce variety early on, but gradually.

TM: You said you only place puppies into homes that will continue feeding them raw food. Why?

LC: Simply put, I believe the healthiest way to feed an animal is to do so in accordance with their biology, not what is convenient for us or uses up by-products from the human food industry.

In my opinion, the human equivalent to commercial dog food is a box of macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. Even if you added a vitamin mineral supplement, as is sprayed on kibble near the end of production, could you be healthy eating that every day, every meal?

Aussie puppy eating raw dog food

Yes, you might survive, but could you thrive? And what health conditions might you develop as you consume far more starches and carbohydrates than your body needs, along with substandard, chemically treated proteins?

The investment I have made in a puppy is huge, in terms of time, money, education and more. A puppy may represent many generations of my dogs, and that puppy exists because of my choices.

I cannot in good conscience let them go to homes that will not continue to provide the level of care I believe is vital for optimal health. This is in the forefront of my mind at the moment, as I am planning a litter likely to be born in early October.

TM: Is there anything else you would like people to know about raw dog food?

LC: There are many ways to feed a raw diet, and I will be sharing my exact feeding plan in an upcoming book and online content.

The most important point to make is that it’s not that difficult! Despite what dog food companies may tell you, you do not need a Ph.D. in animal nutrition to feed your dog! You do not need a veterinary specialist to design your dog’s meals.

Did your parents consult such a specialist for your meals as a child? Do you plan and calculate the nutritional value of each meal before you prepare and eat it? Of course not.

Instead, you choose a variety of foods, which include the necessary nutrients. The body can store and convert many nutrients, allowing for varying intake. The same is true for dogs and other species, allowing for each species’ unique biological aspects.

TM: Thank you, Laurie, for sharing your expertise!

Do any of you currently feed your dog’s raw food?

Let us know in the comments.