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Feeding your dog a raw diet – my interview with a vet and breeder

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?

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.

Raw fed Aussie puppy gets a taste of raw food!

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.

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scott wollins

Tuesday 27th of September 2016

My dog has Mega-Esophagus - which made it impossible to feed him dog food - for last 3 years - twice a day - he gets 15 raw meatballs nearly frozen - hard-boiled egg cut in half - whole potatoes cut from can - sliced bananas - and some peanut butter for desert - this diet has kept him alive and everyone comments on how beautiful his coat is - my other dog - she gets Acana kibble but I add raw meat, raw egg and potatoes...

Clemencia

Friday 19th of September 2014

That is exacly what I do. I freeze them. I have a friend that buys the same chicken and her dog is going through the same thing. I really don't know what happens.

Clemencia

Wednesday 17th of September 2014

Hi! Thanks for your comments. I buy chicken tighs at costco with no antibiotics and no hormones. I will search in the internet for frozen carcass. Thanks. They never had such episodes and it has been a month since we moved here. I used to feed them raw chicken with the bone, sometimes thighs, necks and carcass. 2 times a week plain yoghurt, 2 times a week ricotta cheese and 2 times a week eggs. Added Berte's greens , fish oil and vitamin E. They were in great shape. Until I find where to buy the chicken I will have to give them kibble.....thank you very much, I would have never thought that chicken was frozen twice before you bought it!!!

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 18th of September 2014

I often buy chicken thighs from Costco (with bone in) as well and have never had a problem. I do usually freeze them at home for easy storage purposes. Maybe that makes a difference.

Clemencia

Tuesday 16th of September 2014

Hi, I just moved to Massachusets and I have been feeding my ESS raw chicken for 2 years. They have been with diarrhea for one month and my vet says it is salmonella in raw chicken. They had been tretad with metronidazole and while they are in treatment the stools are great but after a couple of days they have diarrhea again when I feed them with raw chicken. I really don't want to give them kibble becuase they have been healthy and in good conditions but I am desperate and don't know what to do now. Can someone give me some advice? Thanks

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 16th of September 2014

Is the chicken enhanced with anything? I know if it has a lot of sodium or other "flavoring" it can give dogs an upset tummy. Did they have any issues prior to this? I assume you give them some bones with the meat for some meals?

Tony

Tuesday 16th of September 2014

You are getting bad chicken. Find a chicken bulk meat provider that has frozen chicken carcass. What happens is all stores buy this bulk frozen chicken, thaw it out, and let it sit. Thats ok if you cook it to 165 deg. but raw it is bad. All chicken does not have salmonella, it is improper handling of the meat that gives it that.

Elize vdM

Wednesday 10th of September 2014

I switched our dogs over to raw food around middle August, and they love it. I'm just worried about overfeeding, as our Labrador (9yrs-not active) is a glutton and will eat until he is full, where the other two, a German ShepherdX (6yrs - active) and a Jack Russell (8yrs-not so active) will stop as soon as they have had enough.

I am currently feeding them bone with meat in the morning (beef, chicken, pork, organs, etc. but only one type at a time) and in the evening they get bonemeal (finely ground meat and bone) mixed with one of your recipe's veg, oil, etc. mix. in the evening. Both I work out at 2-3% per dogs' weight, and prepack for the week. I was just wondering whether I should give them bone-meat every day? The Jack Russell I definitely have to cut down to a little less than 2% of body weight as she has put on weight, and I might have to do the same for the Labrador.

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 10th of September 2014

I think if you ask different raw feeders, you'll get different responses for your question about bones. I tend to feed meat with bone every other day, and it's usually a chicken quarter since that seems to be easiest.

As far as over or under-feeding, I just look at the actual dog, like you are doing. If he seems to be gaining too much, I feed a little less. If he's thin, I feed more. I've figured out that my dog needs about 24 ounces per day to maintain his ideal weight (68 pounds).