Side stepping the whole prey model did not mean that I wanted to give up on the concept of feeding a raw diet. One difference between the whole prey model and the BARF model is that the meat is ground in the BARF model, making it much more difficult to figure out the meat-to-bone ratio you are feeding your dog. I admit, it is a lot easier to feed a whole chicken carcass, since a whole carcass is about 15% bone. It may be easier to purchase pre-ground chicken (it is supposed to list the bone content), but that can be costly. For those who want to grind our own chicken, using what is on sale at the grocery store, we have to be a little more diligent.
I did not want to spend the money on a meat grinder right away. They are quite costly, and since Phoebe’s raw diet is in its infancy, I did not want to drop a ton of cash. After some shopping around, I decided to buy a Ninja Food Processor. It works great on chicken wings, plus I needed a new blender and mixer anyway (a win-win). The only problem is that, after researching, I cannot use chicken wings as the sole source of chicken stuff. Not only is the bone percentage too high (37-38%), the amount of calcium and phosphorous is high as well. Making a meal out of these little guys would be too much all around. On the flip side, if you buy boneless chicken on sale, you can toss in a chicken wing as a calcium source.
Calcium is Crucial
The body does not make calcium. The only way to get it is to incorporate it into the diet. I read an article on DogAware.com titled. “A Crash Course on Calcium,” which is a reprint of a Cook’s Corner column written by Mary Straus, and published in Dog World Magazine February 2010. It is a really good article, and I recommend reading it to get the full picture, and not rely on the snippets I have added below. A few key points from this column:
“Although a lack of calcium won’t cause immediate problems, a deficiency can lead to bone deformities, pain and even fractures over time.”
“As important as it is to add calcium to homemade diets, it is equally important not to add calcium to complete-and-balanced commercial diets…Although excess calcium is not dangerous for adult dogs (they simply excrete what they don’t need), calcium binds many minerals, so adding too much decreases the nutritional value of what you feed.”
“…feeding high-calcium foods such as yogurt…is only enough to balance the phosphorus [it] contains; it’s not enough to balance the phosphorus in the rest of the diet or meet a dog’s calcium needs.”
“One food that provides more than enough calcium is raw meaty bones that dogs can fully consume, such as chicken necks and backs, whole or ground. If your dog’s diet includes at least 20 percent raw meaty bones, there’s no need to add calcium to the diet.”
The only problem I see with this article is that its use of the words “at least 20 percent raw meaty bones.” This infers that more than 20 percent would be all right. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Another site, dogsdinner2.com, discusses the consequences of too much bone (or bone meal) in the diet. According to the author, too much bone can cause constipation, and possibly impaction. I will vouch for this.
In my over-zealousness to give Phoebe recreational dog bones, I gave her too much. Her poop became really hard, like a lightweight rock. Short of hitting it with a heavy stick, it would not break apart. The solution is easy: cut back on the bone intake and it will resolve in a day or two. The importance of keeping your eye on the quality of dog poop never ceases to amaze me.