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Getting your puppy off to the right start

Feed them real raw food

Getting your puppy off to the right start Congratulations on your new bundle! I bet all you’re doing right now is taking lots of pictures and videos! (That’s going to come in very handy.)

Now you’ve got your little bundle home, it’s time to think about what you’re going to feed them. You might have already planned what you’d like to feed them, or you might be undecided and want some more information. That’s where I come in — I’m here to explain all.

There’s lots of information available online nowadays, from Facebook groups to websites. Whilst this is good, it can also all be a little overwhelming. What I’ve found over the years is that you can search for something and you’ll always find something that supports the outcome you desire. This isn’t really helpful.

Over the 12 years I’ve been raw feeding, I’ve weaned a few litters of puppies onto raw and had puppies join us between the ages of 8–12 weeks which weren’t raw weaned but weaned onto raw once they arrived.

There have been an increasing number of first time puppy owners who are doing some serious research on diets and what’s most suitable for their new bundle of joy. Like you, they have reached a point where they needed someone they trust to help them along the way (I’m glad we can help as we love sharing in your raw feeding journey too).


So in no particular order, here are the top 5 most frequency asked questions I receive:

1) What are the upsides to raw feeding?

If I had 3 days I still couldn’t get though them all! But here’s a couple that over the years have really stuck out to me… Kibble is around 7–10% moisture. This keeps it shelf stable. But our puppies (and adults) need around 70% moisture in their diet. This means that feeding kibble will keep your pup/dog in a constant state of dehydration, no matter how much they drink. Don’t think soaking that kibble will help either; it’s better but nowhere near enough. But don’t worry… natural, raw food contains around 70% moisture so we’ve got them covered!

Feeding natural, raw food actually makes house training easier too. How? It’s because their bodies use nearly all of the raw food you feed them which therefore means they have less waste. Because they’re not dehydrated, they also don’t need to pee constantly either. Have I told you that when they do poo, it should be pickable with your hands? (I’m not advising that!) But when you feed kibble, it seems to be that 1 scoop equals 2 scoops out! I actually don’t know how they do it (trust me you will be amazed at the difference).

Another upside to raw feeding is health; right now you’re probably not thinking about your puppy in their senior life stage, but you should be. A dog is for life. It’s a bit like having a child and saying “well, I’m going to feed fast food and sweets for the first 18 years, and just accept the problems that come later on”.

Did you also know that it’s now ‘acceptable’ to call a 7-year-old dog a senior?! The average life span is decreasing and all we have done is accept this. It’s barmy to me. There’s lots of reasons for this but one big one for me is the fact that we feed our pets highly processed kibble which is the equivalent of feeding charcoal sprinkled with a vitamin and mineral premix. You have to ask yourself that if they really put those lovely cuts of meat in their food, why render it down 6 times? Why not leave it in its natural form? Most people report calmer dogs, shiner coats, cleaner teeth, less vets’ bills and little to no eye or ear infections when feeding a raw diet. Healthier senior dogs, longer living pets. Now why wouldn’t you want that?

Another upside is train-ability. A lot of our dog trainers are now learning about the effects that diet can have on behaviour. This includes focus, hyperactivity and that old saying ‘gut feeling’. It’s an actual thing. That’s right, there an axis between the gut and the brain. This means that if your gut or their gut isn’t feeling it, neither are you. Lots of studies are now coming out about the link between depression and your microbiome. It’s honestly fascinating. Diets effect our bacteria in the gut, which directly effect behaviour.

Raw diets help maintain focus; there’s very low carbohydrate in a raw diet. Kibble is very high in carbohydrates (yes, even in the grain free ones). These cause energy spikes and mad half hours. They also make it extremely hard for your puppy to concentrate. I told you I literally could go on forever!


2) What are the downsides to raw feeding?

In my opinion, there aren’t any for the dog. Definitely none that strike me, and I’ve thought about this for a long time. Now for us, yes, you need freezer space and you need to be a little more organised. Raw feeding can be more difficult if you’re going on holiday (camping etc.) but it’s not impossible. These barriers are as tall as you make them. Just make them small and step over them. We’re good at making excuses so let’s just think outside the box. We have chosen to own a carnivore; they need real raw food that’s species appropriate. It’s a bit like trying to raise a child on Smarties — it could be done, but it shouldn’t. Raw feeding is so easy nowadays, there’s literally something for every situation.


3) How much is it going to cost? Isn’t it expensive?

I’m going to be honest — it’s as expensive as you want it to be. There’s so much choice nowadays, the world is your oyster. I would say that with your puppy, work out how much you can comfortably afford to feed and work backwards. Be realistic, but this should be very comparable to any ‘decent’ kibble. We normally say you’re looking at around £1–£1.50 per day for a small-medium sized dog. Definitely feed within your budget but get them the best food you can for that.


4) Where do I start? Each and every person you speak to will have something different to say on this. We have a starter guide here but you don’t need to follow this with your puppy, you could start on any of our completes with veg. Why? Because puppies transition easier than their adult counterparts.

This means we can move straight onto a complete. Unless this is your second/third dog, I would highly recommend keeping your puppy on pre-made completes for the first 6 months. Why? Well, most of their growing is done then so getting it right is so important. You don’t need to feed just puppy food; if you feel more comfortable to do so to start with that’s fine, we have a link to all our puppy food here, but puppy food is quite restrictive and usually designed around chicken, which, in my opinion, isn’t enough variety. Therefore, I would suggest getting them started on the puppy food and then after a couple of weeks, open up your options to other products. Take a look at alternatives here. 5) How much do I feed? Here’s a little chart: Between the ages of 8–12 weeks, we recommended feeding between 10–8% of their body weight. Between the ages of 12–16 weeks, we recommend feeding 8–6% of their body weight. Between the ages of 4–6 months, feed 5–6% of their body weight. Between 6–9 months, feed between 4–5% of their body weight. And 9 months +, feed between 3–4% of their body weight. Gradually reduce this down to around 2/3% from around 18months+. Every puppy is an individual and they may need more or less, but this is a handy guide. Keep weighing your puppy. As they gain weight and grow, they may need more; if they seem overly hungry, give them a little more. A tell-tale sign that they’re getting too much food is if they’re going to the toilet (for a number 2) more that 2/3 times a day. When you’re transitioning your puppy, I would settle your pup in first; it’s a big move coming away from their mum and siblings. Each and every puppy will settle differently. What I have found over the years is that your puppy might even leave the food that the breeder has weaned them on to as the move can be traumatic. Don’t worry, your puppy won’t starve. I’ve known puppies not eat for 7/8 days when they moved homes. This was soon all forgotten about after though. With the exception of Frenchies, I would start on chicken and tripe. There are several out there but The Dogs Butcher do a great chicken and tripe puppy. This contains no offal and it’s usually a great starting place if you didn’t want to start on a complete. After a week, you could use our puppy box. This contains everything you need to keep them enjoying their food and it takes the worry out of what to order too!

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Supplements

Pet Supplements

Supplements – it’s quite the buzz word. The question on everyone’s lips is should we be adding them? And if so, which ones?

Firstly, let’s begin by understanding what supplements are. A dietary supplement is a manufactured product intended to supplement the diet when taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet or liquid. A supplement can provide nutrients either extracted from food sources or synthetic.

Whenever someone mentions supplements, it tends to make my spine shiver a little. Why? Because there are so many synthetic supplements trying to replicate natural whole foods.

Additionally, one of the main reasons we want a supplement is because we ultimately hope they will solve the ailment we are giving them for. Sounds obvious, right? Well I’m going bold here – disease and illness are mostly down to a deficiency. Before you all shoot me down, hear me out. Yes, I know genetics and environment play a huge part too. But could we revisit our diet first? Are we offering nose to tail nutrition? What about extras? Digestive enzymes? Have we balanced the omegas? Have we made sure we’re covering all of our micronutrients, not just our macronutrients? Antioxidants? Boosted immunity? I could go on, but for now, back to the subject.

So, that being said, the world of supplements is a BIG business and 2018 had an estimated value of around $636 million, according to an April 2019 report from market research publisher: Packaged Facts. How much?! Well, it’s definitely worth some investment in marketing.

I will say, synthetic supplements are much stronger and the possibility of overdosing is high. It’s easy to look at that tiny pill and want to double up for double the effectiveness. It doesn’t work like that though. Synthetic supplements are not as easily absorbed in comparison to natural wholesome real foods.

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Too much choice?

Too Much Choice?

So you’ve finally decided to feed a fresh, raw diet but the choice is overwhelming. Right here at Stefs, we work with 26 raw manufactures, bringing us a choice of over 1500 products. I’m hearing you, where do I start? If you’re at the very beginning, start with our starter guide. This is our new to raw section. Here we explain how to transition and what to feed. Our job is to help you find everything you need to nourish your pet.

So you may have followed the starter guide or you’ve already transitioned but are looking for something new. There’s a couple of things that can help when deciding what brands you might want to try first. Here are my top tips:

  1. Budget
  2. Packaging
  3. Grade of meat
  4. With or without extras

Let’s look at them in finer detail. They are all as important as each other, but we understand there can be some hurdles. For example, if you only want to feed organic but only have a budget of £2 a day for a Great Dane, that might be a issue. It’s all about finding the best compromises.

Working out your budget

The reason why Stefs Pet Pantry offers so much choice is because each household has different budgets. Some have 15 mouths to feed, some have one. Because of this, we wanted to cater for all. If you’re at the beginning of your journey and you’re trying to work out how much it’s going to cost you, start with what you’re spending now.

It’s easy to say well it’s just a cup of kibble morning and night, forgetting about the extras you add on top. There’s the packs of chicken you grab, those tins from the supermarket, the cheese, the gravy, etc. These little extras don’t seem like a lot but they can add at least £1 a meal without you even realising. Most often, people feed these extras because their dogs don’t like the kibble they’re being fed so people try to make it more appealing.

I do have one more thing to add – is there something you could give up? That coffee from the coffee shop on the way to work? That could save you £2 a day. That’s nearly the cost of an average day’s meal.

Packaging

Let’s look at our budget range. There’s no fancy packaging. They are usually either meat and bone with the bone being higher than 10%, normally more like 20% + and no offal. There’s also the ones that make the 80-10-10’s but again, just be aware, some are much higher bone than 10%. They’re not using free-range or organic, and may use imported meats. This is all reflected in the price, with prices starting from 65p a lb.

It’s a little fuzzy and lines get blurred between the mid-range and premium. The reason why I say this is because some are making a mid-range product, packaged in premium packaging. Or some are creating a premium product for a mid-range price. There’s also a couple of different options. They usually come in either 80-10-10 or complete with veg (I will explain more a bit future down).

Grade of meat

A lot of manufacturers are now looking for better cuts of meat. They are paying more and competing with the human food chain. Years ago it consisted of scraps and waste. Now we realise our dogs need lean muscle meat. It’s just as important as feeding nose to tail. I would say mid ranges start at £2.75 per kg (roughly looking at £1.23 per lb).

In my opinion, premium ranges should be saved for those using premium cuts, with organic, free range, grass fed meat. They might be more convenient too. So for example, they might be already portioned up into easy to use packaging. They’re usually easily spotted as they have added all the information on the packaging so you have it all to hand. Again they are usually either 80-10-10 or completes with extras.

If you’d like to feed organic using only non-plastic packaging, you need to be looking in the mid-range to premium range. I will say don’t overstretch yourself, but feed the best you can. A lot of people will treat their pets to a premium meal once month. That’s amazing.

With or without extras

Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty so you can understand what you are buying beyond the price, packaging and origin. What is the difference between 80-10-10 and completes with veg? Especially when most 80-10-10’s say they’re complete.

80-10-10

80-10-10 is a breakdown of what some raw feeders consider complete. It consists of 80% muscle meat, 10% edible bone and 10% offal which is usually broken down into 5% liver and 5% other secreting offal like kidney. This breakdown is said to originate from feeding a prey animal. This doesn’t contain any extras or veggies.

There’s so much information out there now and some people heavily believe that’s all dogs need (including a variety of proteins). Now some say that’s not enough. People will add eggs with shell 2 days a week and oily fish 2 or 3 days a week. Like I’ve said about most suppliers making an 80-10-10, I personally believe it is giving a false representation. Phew, when did nutrition become so complicated? When it became commercialised. The whole idea of complete and balanced has come out of a pet food marketing idea, scaring us into believing everything your dog needs is in one bag.

I can only speak for myself, but I’ve never eaten a ‘complete and balanced’ meal in my life. Although I’m going to guess neither have you. If you would like to learn more about balance over time and what you can be adding, take a look at Diving Deeper. In that blog I go though more of the extras you can add. I’ve also written To Veg Or Not To Veg. Check that one out and you’ll find out the reasons why I recommend adding veggies into your dog’s diet.

Complete with extras

So what makes the ‘complete with extras’ list? And why are they different? Our governing body is called FEDIAF. It writes strict guidelines for our pet food companies to adhere to. To call something complete, they have to have it independently tested against these guidelines. It’s far from perfect, but we won’t get into that today!

Strictly speaking, calling something complete should mean it’s more than just meat, bone and offal. The Pet Food Manufacturing Association is a great UK website you can check out. It has quite a few raw manufacture members who are coming together with a wider pool of pet industry manufactures to bring a better tomorrow.

I would say if you’re not going to add the extras in at home, look for something that has everything in. My recommendations would be Cotswold Raw, Nurture them Naturally, Nutriment, Natural Instinct, Luna & Me, Poppy’s Picnic, Benyfit Natural, Natures Menu, True Instinct and Paleo Plus. These all contain extras, meaning there’s less to worry about at home. Spoon and feed.

There are also some cool cupboard essentials I would like to introduce you to including SmartBarf or Dorwest Keepers Mix. These are amazing supplements, providing lots of extras you simply don’t get in just meat, bone and offal. I would always recommend feeding fresh first but sometimes life isn’t that easy.

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What is the power of food?

Does food affect your pet's health?

Does food affect your pet’s health?

You must have been hiding under a rock if you haven’t seen or heard the health benefits sweeping the nation relating to fresh food. But yet the only medical professionals still advising that fresh foods are damaging, are vets. All other health professionals are recommending that we eat less junk, highly processed, sugary foods.

Now the most popular way to feed our pets is with kibble. Why? Mainly because we believe our pets are receiving the correct nutrition from that bag. I’m sure 99.9% of people will have, at some point, fed kibble. This includes me, and yes I was hooked on the kibble claims too. In my opinion, their marketing is second to none. Really, there’s no expense spared on that.

Looking back at kibble, it was first produced in 1954! Yes, less than 70 years ago. Kibble didn’t really gain momentum until the 1960’s -70’s. Crazy, really. What we’ve seen is this industry is dominated by 4 big players who make anything from human chocolate bars to toothpaste. They are Mars, Nestle, Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive. These four companies own and produce the vast majority of pet food.

Are they adding the most nourishing foods? Or are they simply using waste products to maximise profits? When was the last time you read the label? Can you actually identify what’s in your pet’s food? Let’s take a look together…

A review of kibble

A 12kg bag of kibble (RRP) is £24, that’s £2 per kg. But what are we getting for our money?

The actual price per bag isn’t expensive and the convenience and ease of feeding is also good. The TV adverts are brilliant and the dogs are super cute on them. Hang on though, what do they actually contain? I’m going to review the ingredients in one brand of kibble food.

So, without prejudice, I’ve randomly chosen Bakers. It’s one of the most popular dog foods in the UK. It’s owned by Nestle.

Here are Bakers’ ingredients in its adult formula:
• Wholegrain Cereals 55% (including min. 4% Wheat, 4% Maize)
• Meat and Animal Derivatives 15% (including min 7% Beef)
• Derivatives of Vegetable Origin
• Oils and Fats
• Vegetable Protein Extracts
• Glycerol
• Vegetables (0, 3% Dried Pea and 0, 3% Dried Carrot)
• Minerals
• Propylene Glycol

I’m not going to go into every individual ingredient but if you’re interested, visit All About Dog Food.

I’m looking at it by what I can identify and what is suitable for my dog. “Terms like ‘cereals’, ‘meat and animal derivatives’, ‘derivatives of vegetable origin’ and so on are so ambiguous that together they could account for virtually any ingredient imaginable. Broad umbrella terms like these are generally used to either mask less popular ingredients or to allow the manufacturer to alter the recipe depending on ingredient prices – which may help keep prices down but can also play havoc on dogs with sensitive digestion.” This quote is taken from All About Dog Food.

Also, did you know there are additional ingredients which aren’t even listed? And they are well within their rights to do this!

How is that possible? Well here’s an example – ‘Z’ company buys a meat meal. That meat meal is heavily preserved, let’s say with a human synthesised preservative like Ethoxyquin. Now, providing the manufacture doesn’t add any more, they don’t have to declare it as part of the ingredients list. So on and so forth.

So we can’t always take what’s on the pack as the only ingredients. Worryingly, I’m sure our own food works in the same way. Is now the right time to mention about storage mites? Moulds? Shelf life? Oxidation? Rancid oils? Well I want you to continue reading so I won’t say anymore, but you’re getting all of these completely free. Aren’t you lucky?

Working out how much carbohydrate is in your dog’s food

Let’s take a look at the typical analysis of Bakers Adult:
Protein 21%, Crude Fibre 3%, Crude Oils and Fats 10%, Crude Ash 8%.

Have you noticed there’s no carbohydrate on this list? They don’t have to list one nor do they have to list the moisture content. Now looking back to the ingredients; we can see there are grains listed so they’re not saying it’s grain free, but let’s see how many carbohydrates are in this particular food.

Firstly, we need to know the moisture content. On average, dry kibble is 7% moisture but at most it’s 10%. Let’s use 10% in this calculation.

We need to add all the components together: 21 + 3 + 10 + 8 + 10 (for moisture) = 52.
The overall analysis must equal 100.
100 – 52 = 48. That means the carbohydrate content is 48%.

This can be applied to all foods and it’s a quick and simple way to work out a very good estimate. Be sure to try it for yourself.

There are a few things I’d like to mention before I move on and talk about fresh feeding, which is what I consider my whole world to revolve around. If you really, really can’t bring yourself to do anything, I believe in you and I believe you can, even if it’s a small change. Here are some tips for when you’re next shopping for your dog’s kibble.

  1. Buy the smallest bag you can.
  2. Keep the kibble in the bag and try not to leave it open to the air.
  3. Try to look for something without fish oils; these should be added at the time. Fish oils are likely to go rancid before anything else.
  4. Add as much fresh food as you can.

Adding fresh ingredients to your dog’s food

Adding fresh food to your dog’s bowl is a relatively new concept.Does food affect your pet's health?

But if just 20% of fresh food in your dog’s meal, 3 times a week, can do this, can you image what real, fresh, nourishing, wholesome, living whole food ingredients could do? The possibilities are endless. It’s never too late to start either. When I transitioned Skye, she was 9 years old. You can teach old dogs new tricks and it is possible. You can make a difference, and here’s why.

There are 3 pillars of health: nutrition, the immune system and the physical frame. The principle of holistic healthcare relies on keeping each pillar strong so they support your pet’s health, like foundations to a house.

So nutrition does play a part. A huge part. Since our invention of kibble, why haven’t our pets become longer living, healthier pets? Let’s take Golden Retrievers for one example. Their life expectancy is 10-12 years, but only a couple of decades ago, they had a life expectancy of 16-17 years. I think you’re starting to build up a picture now…

From the moment we first view that puppy or those eyes in the rescue centre, we are immediately in love. At no point do we think about losing them so early. We dream of all the things we’re going to do and the memories we’re going to make. This is why anyone who is feeding kibble isn’t thinking they are hindering their pup.

People often consider raw (fresh) feeding to be expensive. To that I would say you need to look at more than just the cost per bag. I don’t have the answer of cost to life but I do know that one in two dogs get cancer, and there’s a huge list of commonly treated issues by vets which includes lumps, eye and ear infections, itchy skin and irritations to name a few.

If this is you, why not explore a real, wholesome, nourishing, whole food diet? Food should nourish every cell so it can thrive, not just survive. Thirsty to learn more?

We’re here to help

Why not check out our starter guide? We have tailored it to be suitable for every individual. After all, we are all different. We also have a Facebook page where you can find a wealth of information. In addition, once you have joined the club, we have a private customer group were you can hang out with like minded people who are all learning to do better.

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To Veg Or Not To Veg?

Should You Be Feeding Your Dog Vegetables?

Should you be feeding your dog vegetables?

Well, firstly, I’m going to take you on my journey – when I started raw feeding 12+ years ago, we always fed meat, bone, offal and blended fruit/veggies. The fruit and vegetables accounted for roughly 20% of my dogs’ diets. I also made special infusions and spent hours and hours researching. Then, along came a pre-made meal (with veggies) which was going to save me a lot of time. And I can’t tell you the hours I saved when we switched. But then along came a new ‘fad’ which said you shouldn’t be feeding your dog vegetables.

This therefore led me to use more of a DIY approach. Why? I hear you say. Well, because of this new wave coming across the raw feeding communities, people were saying dogs don’t need vegetables. They are even harmful. Because of this, we started DIY-ing without the veggies, so we followed a basic 80-10-10 method. 

Fast forward several years and with new research always developing, I have decided they do need some amount of plant matter. There are a couple of reasons why I believe dogs need vegetables which I’m going to discuss in sub-sections below. 

So let’s take a closer look at each sub-section and then you can make your own mind up. Don’t just follow the majority because that’s ‘the way’ in a Facebook group. It’s actually really worrying how many times I see this. Do those people actually know what they are talking about? I have attached a video below; don’t just take my word for it, do your own research too.

Soluble Fibre

Vegetables have plenty of fibre which can either be soluble or insoluble. I’m actually only interested in the soluble fibre right now which can be found in fruit and vegetables such as apples, broccoli, sweet potato and seeds such as flaxseeds. The soluble form of fibre means ‘soluble in water’. This type of fibre can help soothe the gut as it passes though, and it’s well known for helping to maintain regular bowl movements too. It can even help with leaky gut syndrome. Not to mention there’s also the fact that the fibre from the veggies can feed and even create positive effects on the microbiome.

Antioxidants

Vegetables are packed full of antioxidants that are simply not found in meat, bone and offal. Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals, thereby leading to chain reactions that may damage the cells of organisms. This means that by eating more veggies, you can slow down both yours and your dog’s ageing process and ultimately become more resistant to illness and disease.

Microbiome

This is probably one of the hottest topics right now and it’s not just a buzz word! The microbiome is an ecosystem in the pet’s digestive tract. It contains billions of microbes and other microorganisms — including both desirable and undesirable bacteria unique to each pet. Vegetable fibres feed these bacteria. We just need to be careful not to feed the bad ones too. It’s important to be proactive and use both pre and probiotics.

What’s more, there’s a new way to feed veggies and that’s by fermenting them. What about the amylase debate? Well, there’s so much information out there but that doesn’t always mean it’s correct. Okay that might be a little unfair; it’s correct at the time but science is always publishing something new and then others try to disprove it. Things change very quickly and I’m sure I’ll have to continuously update this page as we learn more. But let’s just start with stating there are three enzymes that help to break down the macronutrients in the food:

• Protease breaks down protein
• Lipase digests fat
• Amylase processes carbohydrates

In the video below, you can check out what Dr. Karen Becker has to say about amylase. The video is around 20 minutes long so put the kettle on and grab yourself a comfy seat. As Dr. Becker says, dogs don’t produce amylase in their saliva but they produce a significant amount from their pancreas. This would allow them to survive in the wild on plant matter if needs be, which let’s face it, there could be periods of drought within the hunting seasons. Now I know our dogs no longer need to worry about this but it’s useful information which most people don’t know about.

Final thoughts

All the above factors contribute to health and longevity. After all, didn’t we all start out with the hope that our dogs will live longer, healthier lives, free from disease and illness? We don’t often see any changes in puppies but usually the biggest changes are in our golden oldies.

So ask yourself this – why are you not feeding your dog vegetables?

Here are the most common responses: due to yeast intolerance, there are high sugar levels in certain fruit and vegetables, my dogs don’t like them or they don’t need them.

I’m hoping with what I have addressed above and with the video below, you might take another look. There’s also lots that can be done with a yeasty dog too, so don’t just rule it out completely.

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Bone Broth Recipe

Bone Broth Recipe

Most raw feeders will have heard of bone broth I’m sure. There are many recipes out there so I’m just going to suggest three: plain, supercharged and fibre. What you actually add in your bone broth recipe is completely up to you. Or if time isn’t on your side, we can deal with that too. We stock two brands of pre-made bone broth: Scottish Canine and Alexander’s Natural so it really couldn’t be any easier.

Plain bone broth recipe

Firstly, we’ll start with the base. To make an original bone broth, you will need some key ingredients:

Ingredients

  1. Bones. Organic (if possible), grass fed and antibiotic free. Weight bearing bones, like marrow bones, make for a great broth. Necks, trotters, legs and shoulders are also good. Choose as you wish; if your dog has an allergy to chicken, choose beef bones instead.
  2. Water. I like to use distilled or filtered. This is actually quite important because tap water can contain a lot of chlorine and bacteria, heavy metals and pesticides. Just like selecting the right bones, it’s important to get the water right too.
  3. Lastly (it’s heavily argued about but I’m keeping it in), add either organic apple cider vinegar (with the mother) or freshly squeezed lemon juice. Either a good glug of ACV or 1/2 of the lemon juice will do.

Method

You now have your key ingredients. Next, you’ll need your crock pot or slower cooker at the ready. First, add your bones. Cover these with your water (so that there’s 2 finger depths of water above the bones). Now add your ACV or lemon. The best medical broth takes around 40 hours but if you’re wanting a quick, tasty broth, it can be ready within 4 hours. We recommend leaving it as long as possible. The broth wants to be on a low heat so that it slowly simmers for a long time. The best things in life come to those who wait!

Once you’re happy with your broth, there’s a couple of key points to note. Cooked bones are NEVER to be fed. EVER. Strain the broth and bones though a sieve. You can sort though any meat that has fallen off the bones; these provide an extra tasty treat for your dog! Collect the golden broth and leave on the side to cool. Throw the bones in the bin and remove so your pup doesn’t raid the bin. Once cooled, the fat will rise to the top. Carefully take the fat layer off the top and either freezer it for later (you could lightly cook some veggies in a knob of fat for a birthday treat) or bin it.

At this point I would either put it in the fridge and use within the next 7 days or portion it up into ice cube trays and freeze so you can use it as and when you like! Remember, there’s simply hundreds of recipes online and you really can add in whatever you’d like.

Supercharged bone broth recipe

There’s a couple of ways to do this. Either make the original broth and then add the liquid back in the crock pot or slow cooker and add in your extra ingredients, or simply add them at the start. So what might we use to supercharge the broth? It’s only your imagination that will stop you! I’ll name some of the ingredients I would regularly include, but I’ll let you become your dog’s own personal, in-house, sous chef!

• Garlic.
• Turmeric (freshly grated – lovely!).
• Mushrooms – there’s some cancer busting shrooms out there but please DON’T go down to the woods today! There’s plenty available now like shiitake, oyster, king oyster, portobello, to name a few.
• Lime.
• Lemongrass.
• Herbs, such as basil, thyme, parsley, bay and mint. Again there’s loads you could include but please do some research as there are some which are unsuitable.
• There’s loads of veggies you could add. Just avoid the the onion family including chives, with the exception of garlic.

This has to be one of my favourite things to do because the possibilities are endless. Have fun!

Fibre bone broth recipe

Now for fibre bone broth; it’s something that’s really useful, especially if your pup suffers from anal gland issues (but just go easy with this one as it’s very effective!). This recipe needs a little bone broth (1 cup, roughly 250ml) mixed with 4 tablespoons of psyllium husk. Mix them together; you will get a rubbery texture. Feed this and only this. It will act as a meal replacement. Serving suggestions will depend on how big your dog is, so start with roughly 1-2 tablespoons per 10kg.

We look forward to hearing about your bone broth creations and what you added into them!

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Feeling Fussy

So must of us will experience a fussy eater at some point in time. They could refuse something they have eaten for months, or turn their nose up at something the first time it’s offered, which means we usually don’t offer it again. Perhaps they’ve gone off food after being poorly, or what about a classic case of visiting a friend’s house who feeds kibble and your dog snaffles it all up, but once they’re home, they’re refusing their raw food?

Let’s work through these situations one by one. I’ll help you understand why your dog is doing this, and offer solutions. Firstly, and it’s important to remember this in every situation, ask yourself ‘am I over-feeding?’. This is probably the most common reason for refusing food. We can all get a little carried away, especially if we weigh by eye. It’s easy to overfeed like this, even that extra 20g can make the difference.

When we have a dog that can self-regulate, it’s important to listen to them. Some dogs are just plain piglets! No matter how much you feed them, they wont ever refuse it. If you own a four-legged friend like this, you probably can’t believe there’s dogs out there that would refuse when full or when they don’t need anymore energy!

I’ve owned both. In some ways, it’s a blessing when you own a piglet, although it can be a royal pain in the butt too. They usually gain weight more easily. Pups that self-regulate are usually better at self-managing their weight. After all, they are listening to their own bodies and to the energy they need. Some people choose to feed 6 out of 7 days, or have a rest day once a month. There’s lots of benefits to these rest days.

I personally like rest days. I don’t set my clock for them; they’re usually when I forget to get food out so I call it a rest day. It stimulates appetite, helps to heal the gut and allows the organs to rest, because processing food is hard work. I’ve even read it can help fight certain types of cancer, and can improve memory. Crazy, I know. Now I’ve had many a conversation about why some people can’t offer rest days, but even just feeding bone broth for one meal as a meal replacement will do a similar job.

So how much should you feed? Go on any raw feeding Facebook page or group and you will see it’s usually between 2-3% of their ideal body weight. Now I hear myself saying that to people too; it’s an easy option for working it out. But there’s also another way. It’s a fairly new concept in the raw feeding world, although it’s been around for donkey’s years and it’s how everyone calculates their own food intake – by calories. If you hate maths, don’t worry, I’ve tagged a website that will work it out for you. https://www.pfma.org.uk/dog-calorie-calculator-nrc-method This is just a guide and is formulated using NRC, but it’s a good place to start.

Each protein has its own unique genetic make-up, and that’s why The Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA) calorie calculator is a really good tool to use because you can work out the required amount of calories based on the specific protein you’re feeding. Some manufacturers also use this and the information is available on their website, Kiezebrink for example. Not all manufacturers do this but it’s easy to work out using the link.

So have a go; you’ll be surprised how much the results vary between proteins, especially when you’d usually just feed say 2.5% of their body weight. Let’s say, for example, that’s 250g per day, but when you’ve used the calorie counter, it shows your dog only needs 220g when feeding a certain protein but 275g when feeding another. Now this ‘may’ work out for those offering a rest day, although more commonly, we end up over-feeding.

At around 6-9 months old (although it can be up to 18 months in larger breeds), puppies are turning into adolescents. If I had a penny for every time a puppy went off their food at this age, I would be able to afford another dachshund. It’s completely normal and nothing to panic about. It can be a super stressful time as their bodies are going though many changes. And It’s always around the same time as when you think you have everything sussed and they go and test every boundary possible!

Keep up with routines and the best advice I can give you is, for the first 24 hours, do a ‘rest day’. Make sure fresh water is available all day. Keep the treats to a minimum (if you can resist). On day 2, start with 1/4 of the normal portions. Divide this into two for breakfast and tea. Feed after exercise. It’s a bit like us, sometimes we need to work up an appetite. Resist adding tasty toppers as you are just making a rod for your own back.

Usually a change in brand is useful too. Texture and temperature play a role in how appealing something is. Some like it straight from the freezer, although we really don’t recommend that (with the exception of snow breeds). Personally I don’t know enough about that and would recommend you contact a breed specialist (we can put you in touch, if needs be).

So why don’t we recommend feeding straight from the freezer or fridge? It’s actually the total opposite temperature to how they would eat it in the wild. If a dingo, wolf or domestic dog was hunting, they would kill and eat their prey immediately. In cats I often say mouse temperature as it’s a lot more appealing for them. Now I’m not for one second suggesting you let them loose to hunt each meal, but simply leave on the side for 1/2 hour – 1 hour before serving.

Textures can be so important. I’ve seen it time and time again where dogs have lost their food lust yet when offered chunks and a bone they eat it with such enjoyment like it’s their first meal. I know a lot of the time actual DIY chunks are not just scary but unpractical. There are a couple of chunky minces which are great but there’s also Utterly Rawsome, an 80-10-10 in a chunks and bone format. Ready made. Bingo! A lot of people have tried this and within a few meals, with some added variety, their dogs go back to eating everything.

“Tried it, they left it, so wont feed it again”. I hear this a lot with fish or veggies, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t give up. There’s a couple of things to remember (which makes this difficult): your dogs are so in tune with their needs so don’t EVER force anything. They still have the ability to self-select which is why hiding things in nice things is a big no no. This subject alone is MASSIVE, and I would direct you to people like Dr Isla Fishburn or Caroline Ingraham.

Fish is a good example of something that a lot of dogs turn their nose up to. I would suggest starting off with canned sardines in oil, never in brine. Sometimes it’s about looking outside the box for the solution. They can be like children and want fast food, rather than that salad.

Poorly dogs can often be the most difficult to transition back, especially when they have the association of the food making them poorly (even if it’s nothing to do with that). Firstly, I would introduce some bone broth which will help heal that gut. You can also supercharge the broth by adding some real healing veggies, herbs and spices. You can then offer some light, white meat protein in the broth. Trim the fat and gently poach in the broth. You can add warm broth onto the raw food. This will help to stimulate your dog’s appetite and make the actual food more appealing.

Remember, a poorly puppy always does better with a 24-48 hour break from food. Fresh clean water must be available at all times. After this time, they wont be ready to eat full portions but would probably nibble on smaller portions throughout the day. If you remember back to when you felt poorly, the last thing you’ll have wanted was a full dinner and a pudding! So go easy; slow and steady wins this race.

Now what about if you visit a friend or a family member but they kibble feed, your sneaky pup gets in that bowl and has a field day and when you get home they no longer want what’s on offer? This is classic spoilt brat syndrome. It’s a real thing! Don’t worry too much, and before you rush out and buy something else, cut back on normal portions.

I’ve even been known to make a meatball; roll the meat up into a ball and hey presto. Keep it interesting. My dogs love it when I offer some mental stimulation when it comes to dinner times. Don’t rush out and buy everything, but a Kong is certainly something we recommend in every home. Mine also love it when I throw it out in the garden and they can hunt for it. Sounds daft but they love working for it. Don’t forget you can also use all the hints, tips and tricks from all of the above.

If at any stage you are really struggling, why not try Different Dog? Different Dog is a lightly cooked alternative to raw. We stock it as it’s really special. It’s all hand cooked and is completely balanced to FEDIAF. It’s just like you have cooked it at home. We’ve found that because you can warm it, it makes it super appealing even to the fussiest of eaters. There’s always something for everyone. So don’t give up, shake it up.

There’s one more thing I want to say before signing off; I haven’t talked about digestive enzymes and that gut feeling. It’s not coincidence that it’s called a gut feeling. We are lucky now that we are learning so much on a daily basis, and studies show that the brain and gut are linked. The gut-brain axis refers to the physical and chemical connections between your gut and brain. But that’s a post in itself so keep your eyes peeled as that one is so interesting…

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Poorly Puppies

So whilst im writing this, my puppy (ok might be stretching the truth, she’s 9YO) is currently in the vets in a critical condition. This got me thinking about after care, what do we do? What do we feed? As usual i’m already preplanning what I will be feeding when she gets home. It’s keeping my mind busy to think about after care, while i feel hopeless right now. But i realise that it could be helpful for others too.

When we have a sick pet, theres a few things to consider. Firstly, while we have a poorly puppy, they need to receive fodder that is highly digestable. They need to be using all their energy on healing not extracting the nutrients from their food. So we need to think about feeding something thats easy to digest whilst giving maximum nourishment. Their body will be demanding more nutrients for healing, replenishing and repair.

Following on from digestibly we need to look at nutrient rich foods. Striking the balance between the two. Which brings me on to what i will be offering my girl when she gets home. They are usually on much smaller meals when they come home, which means we need to maximise the power of every mouthful. Our dogs need moisture, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. With proteins; including offal (covering many of the vitamins and minerals needed) and fatty acids giving us maximum nourishment.

After our pups have surgery even for normal procedures, they can be all out of sorts. Theres a couple of things i like to do and have ready for when they come home. If its a planned procedure then you can be prepared. If like Tinkerbell who was rushed in, it was my second thought after i left her whilst she had surgery, i needed to get prepared. This lead my onto getting them bones out. Its most defiantly one of the first things ill be offering her is some homemade bone broth.

Ill cover the recipe on another blog, its super simple to make you just need a bit of time. Bone broth is super hydrating, easy absorbed as its liquid, and great to get anyones appetite started again. I love that you can tailor the bone broth to suit your pet too. So if there’s any intolerances you can just change the protein source and hey presto its suitable for all. Im making her goat bone broth, i always like to use novel proteins for bone broth, its just my preference. I used goat bones (weight baring bones) glug of organic apple cider vinegar and distilled water. All in a slow cooker for 40 hours.

Tinkerbell enjoying the sunshine

This liquid diet is so packing a punch (some agree, some disagree, all i know is whenever they are under the weather i offer bone broth and they feel a-lot better much quicker.) While its so very gentle on the gut and so hydrating with it only being fluids. You can supercharge the broth too, but thats for another post. Like i said im keeping it simple. The first 24 hours she will just be offered bone broth, after 24hours, if she’s feeling up to it, ill start to introduce some ‘light’ food. Im sure you will have heard of the ‘good old’ chicken and rice diet from the vets. I personally wont be offering the rice part, but will be offering everything lightly cooked. The reason for this is she’s just had major surgery within her gut. Im a huge advocate of good bacteria, as well as some harmonious bad. After all its about the balance. But whilst she’s under gone such huge surgery i want to ensure anything is handled and prepared and lightly cooked for her body. She’s eaten raw all her life, so im sure she wont mind some tasty home prepared food from me.

So what will i be lightly cooking for her? Well it will be either chicken, turkey or white fish. Providing your pup can tolerate one of these, i would start here. I will be trimming any fat. Muscle meat is the easiest to digest. Its often believed to be green tripe, whilst im not against offering tripe it isn’t my first choice. Similarly to a transition from kibble to raw tripe isn’t the easiest to digest. Its actually lean muscle meat. I will time this with some bone broth to start with. Poaching the chicken/turkey or white fish within a small amount broth. My general rule of feeding will be little and often. Shes under 5kg so will be offering around 1 level tablespoon every couple of hours.

This is will carefully monitored over the next few days. After the op she’s just had ill closely have to monitor stools. What i chose to feed her will depend on these too. But theres a few things i might want to keep in while such events are happening. There are many foods that can help relieve an upset stomach. Herbs and spices like ginger, chamomile, mint and tree barks powder have natural stomach-soothing properties, while fruits like papaya and pineapple contain natural digestive enzyme plus green bananas can improve digestion start to introduce some.

As i start to build up her diet again, I’ll be introducing some of the above. Plus some other bits including red cabbage, apple, sweet potato, heart and other offal too. They will all be lightly cooked at first. As the days go by, and if good progress is being made, including toileting normally, which we often forget about as an indicator as this gives us a great indication of whats happening inside. I’ll slowing start to introduce raw again. A-lot of the time I’m just going on habits and how the dog is. It sounds like I’m copping out of an answer, but listen to your gut feeling, YOU know your dog better an anyone.

As she’s always been raw fed, she’s bounce back to eating full raw in no time. Im not intending to do any huge long transition. I’ll take things a little slower but nothing like our starter guide. It’s quite easy to cook the food less and less, or add some of the raw to the lightly cooked food. Ill be looking for quality, low fat, high moisture content raw food. Sounds easy right? But not all raw is equal. Im likely to start with either The Dogs Butcher, The Dog and Bones, Cotswold Raw or Paleo Ridge. This is doing any of the other down. I know my girl loves these brands normally and without going though every label i know i can find what i’m looking for quickly and easily with one of these.

Fast forward 3 1/2 weeks since the op that saved her life. Tinkerbell got bloat, which from the kick is a killer. She’s very lucky to be with us, after following my own advice she’s to tell the tale. Im very grateful for my vet trusting me , and trusting i knew what i was doing. It’s not been easy, and while she was much sicker than even i had expected, her recovery was super speedy in comparison to other dogs that have been in her situation. The vets didn’t expect her to live, she blew them away. The power of fresh nourishing food should never be under-estimated. It’s always surprising me, even though i know how powerful it it.

I hope you never have to go though this, but if the worse hits, its always best too prepared. I hope this goes a little way to understanding what i did in this situation.

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Average lifespan of a rabbit is 4.3 YO – New study reveals

We are a nation of animal lovers with the RSPCA stating there’s a reported 51 million pets in the UK and nearly 1/2 the country’s households owning at least 1 pet. That’s 12 million households who have pets!

So, today I read a new evidence-based study from the Royal Veterinary College which revealed the average lifespan of a rabbit is ONLY 4.3 years. I’m shocked.

When I was a child, I had a pet rabbit and I’m sure she (she was actually a he, but after I named her I wasn’t changing her name to a boy’s name!) lived to around 10 years. It’s worrying to think that we’re not extending our pets’ lives with all the extra knowledge and information we’re learning. In fact, we’re shorting it.

Undoubtedly, rabbits and guinea pigs both make the top 10 list of most popular pets to own. Especially because they’re often chosen for children’s first pets too. But, do we really know what to feed them? And does nutrition affect lifespan, behaviour and disease?

When I first started Stefs, my goal was to create a place where all our pets could be fed a species appropriate diet. Horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, fish etc. It doesn’t matter what you choose to own, care for or share your house with. They all matter.

Anyway, back to the study… After collecting data from 6,349 rabbits in 107 veterinary clinics around the UK, researchers found the most common causes of death were:

  1. Flystrike (10.9%)
  2. Anorexia (4.9%)
  3. Collapse (4.9%)
  4. Gut stasis (4.3%)

Furthermore, they also revealed the most common medical conditions:

  • Overgrown nails (16%)
  • Overgrown molars (7.6%)
  • Dirty bums (4.5%)
  • Overgrown incisors (4.3%)
  • Gut stasis (4.2%)

I’m looking at this list and it’s staring me straight in the face. Most of these medical conditions and causes of death could have been cured with a species appropriate diet. However, we tend to feed our small animals with something convenient. This is usually in pellet form, filled with loads of totally unnatural products and cheap fillers such as soy-bean hull/meal/oil (where have we seen this before?).

But our small animals require the same train of thought as our dogs and cats. We need to be looking at a much more natural diet. For example, rabbits and guinea pigs are grazers so they like to have something to nibble all day long. This should include fresh grasses, hay, herbs, fruit and their branches, seeds, whole leaves, bark and roots. They will naturally forage given the choice too!

So, what do you think? Could feeding more natural products help improve the lifespan of a rabbit? Comment below with your thoughts!

And before I forget, we’ve just started to add further products to our small animal collection. We can’t wait to share more with you so keep checking back. We’ll be giving you more information on what, how much, and when to feed. Watch this space!

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Dirty Dozen

Dirty Dozen

Have you heard of the dirty dozen and the clean 15?

In this Dirty Dozen blog, I’m going to outline the differences between these two lists. I’ll also discuss why I think feeding fruit and veggies to your dogs is important.

Fruit and veggies, seeds, nuts and extras are a super important part of our canine’s diet, despite what you read in various Facebook groups and forums, or from manufactures that only produce diets without extras etc. I’ve recently read an article suggesting feeding none at all! Yet in said article, they’re conveniently selling their supplements instead (can you see my eyes rolling from there?).

I’m always the first person to say that our dogs are individuals and we should treat them as such. What suits one might not suit another. Just bear that in mind next time you read that dogs don’t need veggies! I can never really get my head around the fact we all want the best for our pets yet this argument will divide for a while yet.

There’s now research out there that states adding green leafy veggies to any diet, 3 times a week, will dramatically decrease disease markers. Look, I’m not teaching grandma how to suck eggs; we all know the importance of eating fresh foods. It’s the same for our dogs.

Fruit and vegetables provide lots of nutrients. This includes vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients, fibre, antioxidants, water and so much more! Plus, let’s not forget about naturally occurring enzymes that help to digest food. You can find out more information about feeding fruit and veg to your dog in one of my other blogs.

But, there’s no point adding all that amazingness if our choices for extras are plagued with pesticides. If you didn’t know, they are as harmful to us as they are to our dogs. If you want to know more, have a Google, just remember I did warn you!

 

The dirty dozen

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The above image outlines the 2019 dirty dozen list. This shows which fruit/veg farmers use the most pesticides on. So if you’re buying these ingredients, it might be worth investing in organic or buying from the clean 15 list instead.
 
 

The clean 15

Now we don’t want to be all doom and gloom so let’s also look at the clean 15. These fruit and veggies contain fewer pesticides than the dirty dozen and are usually easier on the wallet too.

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Remember, we all do our best so don’t go over your budget by overbuying organic, just make small changes. Please don’t forget no matter what list you choose to feed, dogs can’t have grapes, cherry stones, strawberry tops or onions, and it’s advisable to also avoid potatoes, hot peppers (can add flavour and can be given in small amounts, but always let them choose not to have it) and sweetcorn!

And finally, fruit and veggies can be fed in multiple ways: whole, raw, steamed, dry fried, blitzed, in fact any which way you fancy. So be creative with your feeding experience!