Pet Advice

Creating My Own Raw Food Model for Our Dogs

 By Kimberly Gauthier, Keep the Tail Wagging

When I researched raw feeding, I learned that the two main models are BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) and Prey.  After more than two years of feeding raw to my dogs, I’ve found that the main difference between BARF and Prey are the amount of bone and the vegetables.

BARF Model vs. Prey Model Raw Feeding

BARF Model:

    • 60-80% raw meaty bones, which are bones with 50% meat still attached (turkey necks, chicken backs, duck wings, etc.)
    • 20-40% fruits, veggies, offal (organ meat), muscle meat, eggs, and/or dairy products

Prey Model:

    • 80% muscle meat
    • 10% offal (half of the offal is liver)
    • 10% bone

Introducing the FrankenBARF Model of Raw Feeding

In April 2013, I transitioned our dogs to a raw diet prepared and delivered by Darwin’s Pet, a local company that ships raw meals nationwide for dogs and cats. Their food includes muscle meat, organ meat, bone, vegetables, fruit, and supplements – all ground together in a yummy dose of healthiness. 


Premade raw is the way to go if you can afford it. With four big dogs, we couldn’t continue feeding them 100% premade, so I joined a local co-op and made raw dog food at home. Because our dogs did well on the BARF model, I followed the model at home.

I immediately came up with one problem – I couldn’t find all the ingredients I needed. The grocery store doesn’t have a large variety of muscle and organ meat. I didn’t live near an Asian supermarket (which tends to have more options). And our butcher was expensive. 

So I started piecing together a BARF-ish diet for our dogs that I call Franken-BARF.

The FrankenBARF Model of Raw Feeding

FrankenBARF Model:

    • 65% muscle meat (alternated weekly)
    • 15% raw meaty bones
    • 20% fruits, veggies, offal (organ meat), eggs, and/or raw goat milk


My model is not a balanced diet on its own (nor do I stick to the percentages), so I add the following:


And I feed our dogs premade raw food that is available through our co-op: Steve’s Real Food, Answers, and Vital Essentials are our favorites.

Sounds complicated? I thought so too, at first.

When I started making raw dog food at home, I quickly became overwhelmed, because everyone has advice on what you should and shouldn’t feed your dogs. There are plenty of books, YouTube videos, and websites that offer guidance as well. Information overload happened quickly and then a friend advised me to feed my dogs what they need.

Feeding Our Dogs What They Need

After typing that last sentence above, I laughed, because two years ago, I would have responded “what the hell does that MEAN?”

We have four dogs that have different needs, and I started adjusting their diets to accommodate those needs. I also began paying attention to their poop (yep, gross, but educational) to learn more about what our dogs need. This daily examination helped me determine that two of our dogs have protein allergies (confirmed by our vet) and one of our dogs wasn’t getting enough fish oil. 

From there, I made adjustments to their individual meals – and it worked!

Where do the Fruits and Veggies Fall in Raw Feeding?

Although I believe dogs are carnivores, I also think fruits and vegetables have a place in their diet. I feed our dogs fruits and veggies, because…

    • They provide nutrients and antioxidants, which help fight cancer.
    • They are an excellent source of fiber, which supports a healthy digestive system.
    • They help a dog feel fuller faster (great for dogs on a diet).
    • They’re a healthy snack, and my dogs love them.


While some raw feeders believe fruits and vegetables are unnecessary fillers meant to save money; I disagree. While they don’t replace ingredients in a balanced raw diet, I believe they can boost a diet, making it healthier. 

A FrankenBARF Recipe

Check out the below recipe to get an idea of what a FrankenBARF meal looks like for our dogs.

    • Ground duck wings
    • Duck necks
    • Duck hearts
    • Kindly grain-free base mix by The Honest Kitchen (1-1/2 cups for every 5 pounds of food)
    • Green lipped mussel
    • Turmeric
    • Apple cider vinegar


I mix these ingredients in 8-quart bowls before transferring them to Rubbermaid container to be fed during the week. Each of our dogs receives fish oil, a joint supplement, a digestive supplement, and Olewo carrots and beets.  I add PetKind canned green tripe or fresh tripe once or twice a week (either mixed in their meals or as an individual meal).

When choosing a raw feeding model, keep your dog's need foremost in your mind.  It's easy to be distracted by well-meaning friends and strangers, but it's important to remember that you're an expert in your dog.

About the Author: Kimberly Gauthier is the blogger behind Keep the Tail Wagging, a blog about raw feeding, dog supplements, and raising littermates. Kimberly and her boyfriend are raising two sets of littermates in the Pacific Northwest where they enjoy a property with plenty of room to run and explore. Kimberly finished her first e-book on raw feeding called Raw Feeding from A to Z. Rodrigo, Sydney, Scout and Zoey are all herding mix dogs, including Blue Heeler, Border Collie, Catahoula, Australian Shepherd, and Labrador (a lover, not a herder).


 Photo compliments of DepositPhoto/Zuzule


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Treating Urinary Crystals for Your Kitties is Easier than You Think!

You know that awful feeling you have when you can’t urinate, well think of how your cat feels!  He or she goes to the litter box and just sits there and only a few drops come out at a time.  Or sometimes you kitty will miss the litterbox and that’s humiliating for them and a pain for us to clean.   It’s very likely in both cases that your kitty has urinary crystals.

Your cat typically has urine crystals from dehydration

While this isn’t always the case and depends upon your kitten, the majority of the cats that have urinary crystals simply aren’t drinking enough water.  Cats are extremely thirst tolerant and can be completely dehydrated and not even feel it.  Cats don’t always seek sources of water even when their body needs it. This is why cats so susceptible to urinary crystals and stones.

How can you get your cats to drink more water?

Cats are not like dogs and run to the bowl of water to drink it up when they are thirsty or even have just finished eating a meal.  Therefore, you have to get creative.  Always have water bowls out around the house.  Try getting a water fountain that spins fresh water and feels more like an interactive game to get them to drink it.



Your cat needs to eat wet food to help with crystals

We know our cats are finicky but it’s important for you to find wet food that your cats enjoy.  Wet food is 80% more water than dry.  In fact, adding more water to their wet food is even better – and we know our cats like mushy food.  Adding water to wet food is an excellent way to help your cats with crystals.

Stop feeding your cats any dry food for cats with urine crystals

If your cat does has crystals, it is time to stop the dry food altogether. Dry food will not cause the crystals, but it will be helpful in getting rid of the crystals.  You need to transition your cat to a wet food and stay on wet food for the duration of his life. 

Once your cat has urinary crystals, it never goes away completely

Once you have managed the first round of urinary crystals in your cat, it is important to discuss with your vet about your next follow up.  While the urinary crystals is certainly manageable, they can come back if you don’t take care of it from the start.

Want to know more about what urinary crystals are and how to know if your cat has them, take a look at my other article:  A Medical Condition No Cat Owner Wants for His Cat


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Thanksgiving Dinner – What You Can and Can't Feed Your Pets!

Thanksgiving is on its way and there is nothing better than being with your family and enjoying the turkey and all the other sides.  We humans can tolerate most of the food that is cooked, but our pets are a different story.  It is important to distinguish which food you can share with your pets and which you should avoid.

The below food is OK for your pets:

Turkey is fine for your pets (no skin)

Turkey can be a wonderful lean protein to share with your cat or dog. Make sure to remove any excess skin or fat, stick with white meat, and look out for bones.  But, don’t feed your cat or dog raw or undercooked turkey.  A little Petchup on your turkey is fine!

Pumpkin is good your dogs and cats and great for digestion

Pumpkin is good for dogs and cats to eat not only because it’s low in calories and bursting with vitamins, beta carotene and fiber, but also because it helps with digestion. If your dog or cat is suffering from an upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation, a little bit of pumpkin can help (maybe after the thanksgiving treats)!

Sweet potatoes

If you want to give your dog or cat a little sweet potato, make sure it is just cooked and plain.  If you are making a dish and adding brown sugar or sweeteners, it will be hard for your pets to digest.  Just give your dog or cat a little treat before preparing your dish and similar to pumpkin, it’s very easy to digest.


Nothing wrong with some raw carrots and broccoli for your pets.  Just make sure they are chopped properly.  A great way to get some vitamins.


Try to keep the below food away from your pets:

Dough and cake batter

While most of us wouldn’t choose to give our pets’ raw dough, your dogs or cats might get into it while you are cooking.  It is very hard for your pets to digest raw dough/ batter and can sit in their stomach for days. Try to be mindful of your pets if you are making homemade pies that they are out of the kitchen.

Nuts are very dangerous

Walnuts and nuts are very dangerous for your dogs.  They can cause ‘macadamia nut toxicosis’ if ingested.  Within twelve hours of eating them, your dog can go into shock and have tremors. They will usually go away, but don’t ever let your dog eat either of these nuts.


Mushrooms are very dangerous for your pets. If your dog or cat ingest mushrooms, you can expect a slew of side effects that could become quite severe, including vomiting, seizures, coma and possibly death. 

Onions and garlic

Onions and garlic are always on the list of foods your dog should not eat, and for very good reason: they can make your dog very sick. Both onions and garlic contain sulfides, which are toxic to dogs and can cause the destruction of red blood cells, leading to anemia.  This is the same for cats. Garlic does not digest well.

Sage and Nutmeg

Sage contains oils and resins that can upset a dog’s stomach and eventually his central nervous system.  When cooking with sage, make sure your dog and/or cat are not in the kitchen. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.

Nutmeg has mild hallucinogenic properties that, when ingested, can cause seizures, tremors and central nervous system problems.  Both pumpkin and sweet potatoes are good for your dog and cats, but only without nutmeg.


As most dog owners know, chocolate is also very, very bad for dogs. Never feed your dog chocolate on Thanksgiving or any other occasion.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving with your pets.  And, even if you give your pets a sampling from the “good” food list, the plainer, the better!


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What Does It Mean if Your Dogs Eat Dirt?

Most dogs like to eat almost everything you put in front of them and have a good, healthy appetite.  But, sometimes that ‘healthy’ appetite can extend to things that your dogs shouldn’t be eating, like dirt.  If you notice your dog eating dirt (some dogs like grass), it's not always problematic, but there are some reasons why your dog might be eating it and it isn’t merely behavioral.

Your dog might be eating dirt because of a lack of minerals in his normal diet

You might be feeding your dog a perfectly good, healthy dog food, but if your dog is extra active, he or she might not be getting all the minerals necessary for maintenance.  Your dog will then turn to dirt because he is feeling unsatisfied.  If you are unsure if your dog is eating the right type of food, you can always ask your veterinarian for recommendations.

Your dog could be eating dirt simply from boredom

Boredom is another reason why dogs eat dirt. Bored dogs may begin to develop a number of strange habits such as licking their paws constantly, chewing on furniture or walls, or eating dirt. Munching at the dirt may be just another way to pass the time if he isn’t provide with toys or entertainment.



Some dogs actually like the taste of dirt

Some dogs like to eat dirt because they like the taste, particularly if there are snails or other small critters in the dirt that your pup likes to munch.  Dirt that contains compost or fish residue fertilizers can also be particularly appealing to dogs.  If you think this is the case, try to avoid the dirt that appeals to your dog while walking or, if it’s in your yard, try to fence that area off.

There are problems that can occur with eating dirt

While an occasional munch on dirt is normally not harmful to dogs, a propensity to eat dirt can lead to various health issues:

Eating dirt can lead to digestive issues

One of the biggest dangers for dogs that eat dirt is digesting the stones and other particles that are found in dirt.  An abundance of stones and particles in the stomach can interfere with the digestion of foods and the absorption of nutrition. These small particles or stones can also become lodged in your dog’s digestive track and you will then need to get medical help immediately.

Eating dirt can also cause tooth damage

Chewing on dirt is a habit that is also harmful to a dog’s teeth. The constant grinding and occasional biting on stones or pebbles, can wear teeth down over time. Damaged teeth can become painful and infected over time and dental treatments will eventually become necessary to repair the damage.

Eating too much dirt can lead to poisoning

Eating dirt may also cause dangerous poisons to accumulate in your dog’s body.  There is a tendency for the soil and dirt in the environment today to contain traces of pesticides and chemical residues. The result can be a gradual poisoning of the dog’s system which may cause permanent damage to the dog’s health and is very dangerous.

If you don’t think that your dog is eating dirt for any of the above reasons, than there might be an underlying behavioral problem that should be addressed.  Most dogs that eat dirt in these instances will display additional types of unusual behavior such as compulsive disorder and it is best to discuss how to treat this behavior with your veterinarian or a dog behaviorist.



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8 Quick Tips to Make Sure Your Cat Has a Healthy Diet!

If you have recently adopted a kitten or cat, you want to make sure that your cat is eating a healthy diet. Or maybe your cat is not eating his current food and you want to make a switch.  With so many different brands on the market, it’s sometimes difficult to know what is best for your kitten or cats.  As long as you are feeding your cat a healthy protein based food, you are off to a good start.

Below are 8 quick tips to help make sure your cat has a healthy diet:

1.  Make sure to feed your cat a diet that contains mostly poultry or chicken-liver base. Try to avoid beef, lamb, seafood (unless this is all your cat will eat), corn, soy or milk products for the wet food.  Dry food provides a crunch that cats crave and can be left out all day.

2.  Learn to read labels. A diet that is called “Chicken Entree” may only contain a small amount of poultry. Ingredients are listed on labels with those in the largest amount listed first.  Protein or crude protein should always be the first ingredient and the fewer fillers, the better.



3. Think critically about ingredients. Avoid marketing hype and realize that those funny colors are put in foods for humans—our kitties could care less.  The more it looks like real food, the better! Especially with dry diets, ingredients like herbs, mushrooms, etc. are unlikely to survive the heating process.

4. It’s OK to treat your cats periodically to some cooked poultry. Other cats enjoy cantaloupe, tomatoes, etc. Remember that treats are exactly that—treats—and not the basis of a complete diet. Nothing wrong with a little variety.

5. Pay attention to your cat’s appetite on a daily basis. A healthy cat eats well every day and really looks forward to mealtime. If your cat or kitten misses a day or two of eating, call your veterinarian.  Usually if your cat loses his or her appetite, it is one of the first signs of serious disease in cats.

6. Never force your cat to eat a new food. Although it seems like a dog will eat almost anything, our cats are more discriminating. Make food changes slowly and patiently when switching out to a new food.  Use the old food as a base and keep adding the new food until your kitty is eating just the new food.

7. Always provide a source of fresh, clean water daily to your cats. Some cats will drink out of a wide, shallow bowl, but others prefer their water from a circulating water fountain or even a glass.  Just make sure that they are drinking the water.

8.  You can evaluate your cat’s diet by how your cat or kitten looks and feels. Cats that are eating an excellent diet are lean, have a shiny coat, don’t have dandruff and aren’t constipated or plagued with vomiting and diarrhea. If you can easily feel your cat’s ribs (but not see them) and if your kitty has a tuck after the ribcage (when you look down upon him or her), most likely the weight is perfect.

As always, your veterinarian is your cat’s most knowledgeable resource for nutrition and advice.  And if your cat does stop eating for a day, make sure to see your vet immediately.



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