Why I’ve Started To Feed My Dogs Raw

For years, I have been feeding all my dogs dry kibble (with the odd time of adding in wet food, specifically if one of them had dental work done). Recently though, I’ve started transitioning all my dogs to a primarily raw fed diet.

Before I go into the reasons why, I want to say the following things:

I 100% understand the reasons why some pet owners are unable to feed raw. Not everyone has the option (both cost wise and location if you are based in a rural and remote area) to feed your pet raw. And that is OK! There are people out there who think if you’re not feeding raw, you’re a bad pet parent and you are “killing” your animal. There is more than enough judgement in the world and when it comes to feeding your pet, as long as you are feeding them, that is a good thing. Do what works for you!

Being involved in animal rescue, any food donations we get are greatly needed. We focus on feeding animals first and foremost. I would never expect someone who is fostering a dog to make the transition to raw. 

I am NOT a veterinarian so I’m not here or able to offer any sort of medical advice.

I am also aware that not all dogs can eat raw as I know someone who’s dog consistently throws up any time they give him raw, so they make and cook his food instead. So once again, do what works best for you.

So why did I start feeding my dogs raw? Well, it’s quite simple. Max and Freckles literally did not want kibble any more. I had been feeding them Acana Pacifica and then switched to Orijen Tundra earlier this year and found they both were indifferent when it came to their food. So I decided to start adding in some freeze dried raw (such as Stella & Chewy’s Meal Mixers and Open Farm) to their food and found when I did that, they devoured their meals.

I eventually decided to try freeze dried raw patties from Stella and Chewy’s and Primal nuggets as well to see how they did. While both ate them up, I noticed Freckles would have a bit of an upset stomach if I gave her too much. So, it has been a slow transition for her.

I then started reading a bit more about the benefits of raw such as better digestion, shinier coats, healthier skin, better immunity and smaller stools just to name a few. I had noticed that all the dogs would occasionally deal with very smelly and loose stools from time to time when feeding just kibble but noticed as I started adding more raw food to their diet, the stool quality drastically improved (because there is nothing worse than trying to pick up a runny stool on grass).

I also found following accounts such as The DIY Dog Mom and Holistic Pet Radio helped me out significantly when it came to questions I had regarding feeding my dogs raw. They are not only great educational resources, they are also very supportive and are  both willing to answer any questions you have in a very non judgmental way (which to me, is super important). Amanda of Holistic Pet Radio even has an episode called “Super Charge Your Kibble” for people who choose to or can only feed kibble to their pets. Adding things like raw goat’s milk, blueberries, broccoli and a pre & probiotic can really go a long way in enhancing your dog’s food.

The wonderful thing about raw is that it comes in so many different forms as well. If the raw meat options gross you out (which I totally understand) or DYI (do it yourself) seems overwhelming to figure out, you can get raw in freeze dried form, air dried (I really like Ziwi Peaks) and commercially prepared raw you can find any most pet food stores.

Right now, I am using the commercially prepared raw for all my dogs. Max and Freckles are currently rotating between irRAWsistable and Primal and seem to do the best with duck, lamb, turkey or beef. Dolly’s been a big of bigger challenge to switch over to raw food through due to her allergies (as she can’t have any sort of bird, beef, pork or wheat). Thankfully, she does well with venison and rabbit. I have found raw kangaroo at Homes Alive and not only does she love it, she’s doing amazing on it.

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This is Max’s bowl with duck, veggies, pre & probiotic and half of a cooked asparagus as he loses his mind for asparagus. He got it as an extra treat.
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Dolly’s bowl included some venison, veggies and goat’s milk.

I found adding a pre & probiotic to every meal (I personally love Adored Beast Apothecary’s Healthy Gut) has also made for a much smoother transition.

For Dolly though, she still does get her Zignature kangaroo as she’s been doing really well on it. Eventually, I plan to have her on complete raw but am slowing transitioning with her as I need to be very cautious of her allergies and make sure something does’t flare them up (as I found she does well with one brand of venison but will have a flare up with another brand). When she does get kibble or a mix, she will always have goat’s milk, veggies and a dehydrated rabbit ear. I know there are many people out there who will be horrified by my feeding kibble and raw but it’s what works best for us.

I’m still in the learning process of everything there is to know about feeding raw but from what I’ve seen from my dogs, I feel I made the right choice. I plan to take a few courses over 2019 to help me learn and understand a little bit more of the science of it as well as I hope to help educate and support other dog others if they chose to also make the transition to raw.

Managing Dolly’s Seasonal Allergies

A few months ago, I wrote a post talking about how I manage Dolly’s allergies. Today, I wanted to do another post how I manage her seasonal allergies as the first post talked primarily about her food allergies.

Over the winter, Dolly’s allergies were finally under control and she was off her Apoquel and only getting baths once a week. We were even finally able to use a regular shampoo instead of her medicated one from her vet. This was a huge step and we were so happy to not have to go to the vet every month for refills and skin check-ups. We found that feeding her kangaroo as well as adding in some raw venison was working for her (as I like adding raw to her diet as much as possible and recently discovered raw kangaroo in the city). We also started adding an Omega Oil to her food and her skin and coat were the best they’ve ever been.

Then the snow melted, the grass and pollen came back and so did her allergies in a really big way. We would wipe her paws anytime she came in from outside using hypoallergenic wipes and it seemed to work, but only for a bit.

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As the weather got nicer, I was finally able to take the dogs for longer walks, so one day I took them for close to an hour. Multiple times during that walk Dolly stopped, sat down and start scratching. I knew something was up as she never does that. The scratching was more intense as the walk went on so when we got home, I took a look at her skin and she was covered in hot spots everywhere. So I grabbed her and gave her a medicated bath right away as I knew she was having a major reaction to something outside. After her bath, I gave her a ½ tablet of Apoquel an called the vet to get her checked out. I had a feeling all the progress we made with her would take a few steps backwards.

I took Dolly in and I could see her poor paws had hot spots everywhere and she would not stop licking and chewing them. The vet did some skin swabs on her paws and in her ears (as I had a feeling they were a bit of a mess as well) and sure enough, along with hot spots, she had yeast and small amounts of bacteria in her ears and paws and was the result of seasonal allergies as the vet said we were the fourth patient that week that came in with a flare up.

We came up with an action plan and to help put the fire out as my vet would say, Dolly would have to go back on her steroids for a week to help calm things down. She would also have to back on regular doses of Apoquel to help manage her itchiness. She was also given a medicated ear drops and a home ear cleaning solution for us to use with her. We would have to go back to bathing Dolly twice a week using her really strong medicated shampoo and on days where she didn’t get a full bath, we would have to bath her paws every day (something that will have to continue until the snow falls sadly).

I did however recently start using a natural solution to clean and moisturize her paws called Reliq. The great thing about this line is they use all natural minerals instead of harsh chemicals like alcohol to clean and sooth skin and paws. There is nothing I hated more than putting something on Dolly’s paws all the time that hurt (and only like to use it if things get really bad).

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I also found an all natural hot spot spray that is also free of alcohol and instead uses Aloe Vera as an ingredient so it soothes rather than burns. I find this great not only her paws, but her belly, neck and a spot on her tail that irritates her once in a while.

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I really love my vet because she would rather treat topically through bathing than medication and only use it when things are bad. She agrees with me that Dolly being on a lot of medication (like steroids) are not good for her long-term health and are only a band aide solution. She prefers to take a natural approach as much as possible and actually likes that we do our research on natural solutions (as I know not all vets sadly feel that way).

As I knew I wanted something that would be more of a long-term solution, I started to do some research on dogs and seasonal allergies. It was incredibly interesting some of the things that I was able to find out. I recently discovered Holistic Pet Radio on Instagram and they recently did a podcast regarding seasonal allergies and your pets. I actually was able to learn a fair bit from it and highly recommend you check it out (along with many other great topics they cover).

One of the biggest take always I got was regarding how gut health plays a huge factor in things like seasonal allergies. So, I have recently started adding a probiotic to her food, coconut oil and on occasion, small amounts of kelp to her raw venison (I only use about ¼ of a teaspoon as I don’t want to feed her too much of it as I know it can cause issues if you do).

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A really good piece of advice I got from the podcast was giving your dog bromelain and quercetin as they act as natural anti-inflammatory and anti-histamines. Some people have even referred to it them as “Nature’s Benadryl”. I was fortunate enough to find treats that contain both and give one to Dolly two or three times a day (there is a listing of how much to give your dog based on their weight).

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I can say that since starting a more holistic approach to dealing with Dolly’s allergies, she has been doing amazing. The biggest thing that I am finding is if I go more than two days without bathing her paws, she does start to lick them (even though she just chews her claws for whatever reason but there is a difference from when she does that compared to when her paws are irritated). Dolly’s allergies are finally under control and she is the healthiest she’s ever been. I can’t do anything to stop seasonal allergies, but I’m happy that there is a plan in place to manage them.

I want to add that I am not an expert no and highly recommend speaking to your vet about things. And if you are not happy with what they recommend, seek another opinion as you are your pet’s caregiver.

How I Manage Dolly’s Allergies

When my husband and I adopted Dolly a year ago, one of the things noted on her adoption profile was that she had allergies and needed to be on medication to manage those them. It never stated what she was allergic to.

People have asked me “well, how do you know she has allergies?”. It was quite apparent as she had red marks on her neck (including a couple of scabs from her scratching so hard that skin would bleed), she constantly chewed and licked her paws (they were pink and raw from her chewing them), licking her belly and constantly scratching her ears as she had developed a number of ear infections.

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Dolly’s poor neck looked like this for a long time



The medication she was given was Apoquel, which is an allergy medication for dogs which relieves itching without the use of steroids. It provides onset relief within 4 hours and works up to 24 hours. The great thing about it is that I have noticed little to no side effects with Dolly on it. But, it still did not solve her skin issues.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been to the vet with Dolly in 2017. I’ve actually lost count. When we adopted her, we decided to feed her the same food as Max and Freckles which was a chicken based food. The other two did quite well on it so I figured it would be easier to have them all on the same food. Every once in a while, I would also feed them some cooked ground chicken. Her skin didn’t get better, it seemed to get worse. I honestly could not figure out why. I thought maybe it was something in the environment as she she had gone from the hot and humid climate of Thailand to the cold and dry climate of Canada.

It was so bad that at one point, she was on Apoquel, a steroid called Vanectyl-P (because her allergies were out of control and she was itch all day and all night), and had yeast in her paws and her ears, a medicated cream to put on the spot on her neck and had to have medicated baths twice a week. As you can imagine, she was not feeling so great and I felt awful. Also, this was quite a costly time between the vet visits and all of the medication.

So why was this happening? What could possibly cause so many issues for her? The answer: chicken. The vet asked me what food I was feeding her and I told them. That’s when they told me to switch her food and cut out everything with chicken in it for her.  After talking with the vet, I was told that it’s quite common to see dogs who have allergies to common-found protein sources such as chicken and beef. We were told to try her on an elimination diet and see if that was the culprit before doing a full blown allergy test (as they are quite expensive to do and by this time we had already easily spent close to $1500 trying to get her allergies under control).

So, I switched her to a fish based diet and decided to switch Max and Freckles over to it as well. We continued to feed Dolly an all fish diet for a number of months. While her allergies improved, they still were not as good as they could have been. She would still get skin flare ups and was still on Apoquel to help her manage her itchiness which was not an ideal solution.

I also discovered she can’t have anything with wheat in it.  I was feeding her treats that had wheat flour in it and she would itch and lick every time afterwards. My parents, who love eating toast for breakfast, would feed her some when they would stay with us and I started to notice red spots on her neck again. Sadly, she can no longer share toast with them.

When I took her to the vet to once again get her skin checked out and a refill of her Apoquel, the vet asked me if I ever thought of feeding her a kangaroo based food. I’d never even heard of such a thing. The reason it’s recommended (that and venison) is because it’s a novel protein here in North America. Dogs who eat these type of meats do very well on them because they have no developed an intolerance or allergy to them. Kangaroo is also high in protein but low in fat.

After spending a year trying to get Dolly’s allergies under control and finding nothing that would work long term, I decided it was worth a shot. I was able to find a brand called Zignature that made a kangaroo based food. What I liked about this food is that it was highly rated by other people who’s dogs were dealing with the same issues as Dolly. I also really liked the ingredients that were in it. There’s no chicken, eggs, wheat, potatoes, grain, glutens, tapioca, corn or soy.  It’s a single protein (which is what is recommended if you have a dog with food allergies).

Side note: I retweeted an article an article a while back about how dogs are carnivores and need protein so vegan diets for dogs don’t make sense (unless your dog really is allergic to pretty much everything and it’s your last resort). I also mentioned that I feed Dolly kangaroo as she’s allergic to everything else and got attacked by vegans (who think I’m awful for feeding my dog meat) and by someone who thinks I’m evil for feeding kangaroo as it’s filled with parasites and I’m “killing my dog”. It was quite hilarious. 

I slowly switched Dolly over to it and I can honestly say for the first time ever, her skin is clear, she’s not constantly itching and licking and she’s lost weight. We have gradually decreased her Apoquel dosage to the point where she does’t need it. Even her fur is starting to grow back in areas where she was bald and her coat is incredibly soft and shiny. She’s the healthiest she’s ever been. She also no longer needs medicated baths.

Sadly, we do believe she has seasonal allergies and is allergic to grass. Every time she walks on grass, she will lick and chew hers paws for hours so we have to wipe them down every time she comes in from being on grass and have started using a natural solution to clean her paws on a regular basis. It’s not quite as severe as a friend of mine who has a dog who has Lupus and is allergic to the sun and grass. The poor guy has a rough time during the summer months.

I’ve known people who refuse to use any sort of medication as they want to go a natural route to dealing with their dogs allergies. That’s fine but, I will say that without Apoquel, Vanectyl-P, and the anti yeast medication, Dolly would have continued to itch uncontrollably and suffered. Medication is NOT a bad thing (when it’s needed). I’m fortunate to have a great vet that believes that medication helps but is not a long term solution and we have worked together to find the right solution that is best for Dolly’s health.

Let me be clear in saying this is what works for Dolly. What works for her might not work for another dog. I’m certainly in no ways an expert or capable of giving out medical advice. There’s enough judgement out there and people are smart enough to make their own decisions. When in doubt, talk to your vet.

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Our happy and healthy girl now

Do you have a dog with allergies?  What did you find that works?  Leave me a comment as I love talking with other dog owners who have gone through the same thing.