Raw Feeding for a Happy, Healthy Dog!

By Pam and Keith Bilyeu

Piper is a sweet English Lab who is a bit different than most dogs. She is my Guide Dog, we were matched at the Guide Dog Foundation in New York in July 2009.

The dogs used for Guides are bred onsite, and come from good stock, with high intelligence, resilience and low aggression. I frequently tell people that she is "smarter than most children and better behaved than most husbands!"

She was on a premium food, Natural Balance Original kibble when we came home. One issue was her poops were like melting ice cream and very difficult to clean up. Her trainer switched me to Iams. She also came home with a ear infection.

3 months later started the itching and biting her back legs, she actually chewed some spots bare. We switched foods again to Natural Balance low ingredient formula. The itching seemed to abate but her fur seemed a bit dull. The foundation put her on Derm Caps. No real change.

Her itching and bare spots seemed better during the summer, but come fall it started up again. We thought she may be allergic to something environmental. Then we started the various antihistamines, external sprays and shampoos. We switched to a Purina Sensitive Skin and Stomach formula, which seemed to settle things down but never completely resolved her issues.

This past winter, things reached a tipping point. Her itching was so furious at times, she would go hide to secretly scratch with no relief. She was developing bare spots on her legs, ears, and her butt the size of a saucer. Her sides from shoulder to hips had lumpy eczema like stripes. If you petted her on her back her muscles would twitch.

Her pads got dry, hard, cracked and she was chewing on them till they bled. There were days I couldn't use her as a guide as she was limping. We were spending $100's of dollars for ointments, meds, sprays and booties for her feet.

A friend mentioned Mushers Wax, which led us to Irish Acres Pet Health as they had it in stock. When Dana saw her paws she suggested something different called BooBooGoo. 2 applications and her pads were doing better.

We noticed her 14 year old Golden that day. It had a beautiful coat, also was more spry and active than one would expect for a 14 year old dog. Dana shared her raw food story. My husband was very curious....me...not so much. Sounded gross, expensive and unsafe.

Keith came home, started reading and researching. A couple days later he announced he was making an executive decision. "Your Guide Dog is a $60,000 investment by the Guide Dog Foundation, we need to make this investment to see if she gets some relief."

I reluctantly agreed to a 6 week trial. Off Keith went to purchase our first supply. He came home and promptly threw away an almost full bag of rather expensive food we had just switched to. We started that night with a hard switch over. I realize now that was a bit hasty, but surprisingly she had no intestinal upset. She gobbled up the premade patties like she had been given a glorious treat from the table!

End of week one: the furious secret scratching with no relief had stopped.

As each week went by, the scabbed, raised wheals slowly receded and disappeared. The scabs in her ears were gone.

At week 6 the bare spots were filling in with new fur.

We are now almost 4 months out. She lost 9 1/2 pounds, and is back to the original notch of her guide harness. Her fur is silky, shiny and so soft, I love to pet her! She feels better then when we came home 4 years ago....her fur always felt dry, brittle and picky, the only things I liked to pet on her was her ears.

Her pads are soft and supple. Her breath, ears and fur smell clean and sweet....she hasn't had any baths or special shampoos since before we started raw feeding.

The transformation has been so dramatic and rapid. In hindsight I wish I had taken pictures of her at her worst to document the journey. But, I was skeptical and thought we were throwing more money away. Instead, now I can throw away a Laundry basket full of stuff that is no longer needed.

Her energy, vitality and personality are affected for the better. She sleeps sounder and more rested. Play time is getting longer and longer!!

When I used to pet her I would get a handful of shedding fur, no matter how much I brushed her. Not so now. I barely get anything when I brush her. I wonder what the changing seasons will bring?

The fellow who mows our lawn asked if we were picking up the poo before he came as he wasn't finding anything to pick up. But there must be a rabbit or something leaving these little balls!

I serve on the Alumni Council for the Guidedog Foundation and was asked to do a presentation about Piper's experience. We invited the staff vet and others from the Canine Care Department to listen in.

Before I even started the vet was concerned that the meat wasn't sterilized, and I would give her parasites and salmonella. I smiled politely and told her I had the same concerns and went into this plan under duress!

I did my presentation and included the video of Dr. Becker which addressed those very concerns. I saved her poo from that morning, inviting all to feel the different consistency and smell it as well. Everyone but the vet and vet staff looked, touched and smelled....which was a bit comical as they handle animals and their waste daily.

The vet did a very cursory look and a little pat on her back of Piper. I asked them to do a complete well check of her. Check her urine, her poop, her blood what ever you wish.....they didn't do anything. I was disappointed, yet I understood their dubiousness and reluctance. I had been in their place.

The vet finally did state that Piper is obviously very healthy, and that I was doing a good job of making sure she got a balance diet. But, she said this is so far out of the realm of the ability for most blind people both in cost and convenience. She felt a high quality kibble met the needs of the dogs.

All I could hope for is to plant a few seeds in their minds, hopefully they will consider it as an option for unrelenting issues with allergies or weight control.

My beautiful girl just glimmers, gleams and shines.....she is thriving now, she never looked so gorgeous.

Our heartfelt thanks to Dana for introducing raw feeding to us...for quietly and patiently explaining things without being overly zealous. You let the diet do the talking. We still don't know what specifically Piper was allergic to, or if it indeed was allergies, but we can't argue with the results. We have a happy, healthy dog!