Aspirin & Benadryl


The information posted here is not meant to replace qualified veterinary care. It serves only as a quick guide to the appropriate dosage of Aspirin or Benadryl in dogs, as well as a convenient location to find information about the possible benefits or side-effects these drugs may have. Please consult your vet before giving your dog any medications, including over-the-counter medications, to ensure they are appropriate for your individual pet and situation.




  • Also known as: Acetylsalicylic acid
  • Used for: Short-term relief of pain and inflammation
  • Side effects: Stomach upset, kidney damage
  • Cautions: Avoid use in dogs with Von Willebrand disease, and pregnant or nursing females

Aspirin, an anti-inflammatory and pain medication, is often recommended by veterinarians to treat temporary pain, swelling, and inflammation in dogs. Some common uses of Aspirin include treating pain and swelling after an injury, such as a pulled muscle, or to treat the pain associated with arthritic flare-ups in older dogs.

Aspirin can be bought at any pharmacy, drug store, or grocery store – even some gas stations carry it. It’s available with and without coating and in three different dosages: low-dose at 81mg, sometimes called baby Aspirin; regular-strength at 325mg; and extra-strength at 500mg. Low-dose, safety-coated Aspirin is the best choice for use in dogs.

Because Aspirin is also a blood thinner, you shouldn’t use it in any dog that has Von Willebrand disease, a type of bleeding disorder common in some breeds such as German Shepherds. If you don’t know whether your dog may be affected, please consult your vet before giving Aspirin.

Aspirin should always be given with food and the recommended dose can be repeated once every 12 hours. The standard dose for Aspirin in dogs is 5 milligrams per pound of body weight – a 5lbs dog should receive no more than 25mg of Aspirin. (It is possible to overdose on Aspirin, but vets generally believe 5mg to 10mg per body weight to be a safe dose.)

The chart below gives dosage in grams, as well as approximate dosage in number of pills. Please use this information only as a guideline and check with your vet if you have additional questions.





  • Also known as: Diphenhydramine.
  • Used for: Allergy relief, inflammation caused by mast cell tumors, anxiety.
  • Side effects: Drowsiness.
  • Cautions: Generally, none.

Benadryl, an antihistamine, is often recommended by veterinarians to treat symptoms of allergic reactions in dogs, including itching, swelling, and hives caused by insect stings or bites, pollens, environmental factors, or vaccine reactions. Additionally, it’s used to relieve the symptoms of inflammation associated with mast cell tumors in dogs, and due to the drowsy effect it has on some pets, it can also be prescribed or recommended to help with motion sickness or anxiety.

Benadryl is generally a very safe medication for dogs and side-effects or overdoses are not common with recommended use. The standard dose for Benadryl in dogs is 0.8 to 1.8 milligrams per pound of body weight, and a good rule of thumb is 1mg per pound.

The chart below gives dosage in grams, as well as approximate dosage in number of pills. Please use this information only as a guideline and check with your vet if you have additional questions.


Instructables: Dog Leash

I have a secret: I don’t think dog leashes should have a loop handle. That might sound weird, but I don’t use them and I inwardly cringe when I see folks with the loop wrapped around their wrist (and the leash wrapped around their hand five times), because that’s an accident waiting to happen. So, outside of a Schweikert leash I got as a present, most of my leashes are homemade. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to easily make your own leash using nylon or polyester webbing. Whether you add a handle is up to you.

My no-sew leash in action.

My no-sew leash in action at the Water Obstacle of Nope, Not Gonna Happen.


Skill Level: Easy / Beginner

Prerequisite Skills

  • No-Sew version: none
  • Sewn version: Knowing how to use your sewing machine.
    Basic skills you’ll need to complete this project include changing your sewing machine needle, loading the bobbin and spool, threading the machine, selecting the type of stitch, sewing straight lines, and back stitching. Need help with the basics? Check your sewing machine manual (try online if you don’t have one), or YouTube.

Equipment: What do you need?

No-Sew Version

  • Webbing: cotton, nylon, or polyester. Flat or tubular.
  • Bolt snap: ideally a heavy-duty one. Metal.
  • Scissors
  • Lighter

Sewn Version

  • All of the above
  • Sewing machine: install denim needle.
  • Thread: nylon or polyester.

How to Make Your Leash

Step 1: Measure and cut your webbing.

Before you can start making your dog leash, you need to first measure and cut your material. You can either use a tape measure to cut a specific length or you can use your intuition to create a length that feels just right for you. The most common lengths are 4ft or 6ft for leashes and 15ft or 30ft for long lines.

Step 2: Melt the ends of your webbing.

When you work with nylon or polyester webbing, it’s important that you melt the ends after cutting, which prevents fraying. Use your lighter and pass it over the end of the webbing until it has melted. Do not do this if you use cotton – cotton doesn’t melt, it burns!

Step 3: Install the bolt-snap.

In the most complicated step, you’ll attach the bolt-snap to the leash. To do this, pull one end of your leash through the loop on the bolt snap as shown in the photo below, so you have an end of about 5″ to 7″. Bring this end around to the front, over the loose end of the leash, around to the back, then pull it through the loop and down, just like tying a tie. (Confusing? Check the step-by-step pictures!) Pull tight.

How to install the bolt snap on your dog leash.

How to install the bolt snap on your dog leash.


Voilà, you just finished a no-sew dog leash. Even though this leash isn’t sewn, it’s extremely strong and durable: we’ve competed with this leash and even used it for agitation work. It’s finished with a simple knot on the opposite end, so it can also serve as a drag leash if needed.

Step 5: Sewing down the loose end.

This is your next step if you want to add the extra security of sewing down the loose end. Get your machine ready with a denim needle (that’s the best choice for sewing webbing) and your thread and bobbin thread, then sew the loose end down as shown in the photo.

NOTE: Collars, harnesses, and leashes should be able to withstand a lot of use. Because a seam will always be the weakest point in the construction (meaning the seam will fail before the webbing does), using a bar tack or close-set zigzag stitch is the best and strongest way of securing the webbing. If using a zigzag stitch, I recommend going back and forth several times.

Finish by stitching down the loose end.

Finish by stitching down the loose end.


If you absolutely must have a loop handle on the opposite end of the leash, fold down the end to create a loop and sew it down the same way as above. Alternatively, a simple knot in the end makes for a good hand-hold when using the leash for tracking or agitation work.

Now that you know how it’s done, you can create many different designs using colored or patterned webbing, sewing ribbon or fabric to your leash, or add Velcro to attach a military-style name tag. Need some inspiration? Check out Etsy’s selection of nylon dog leashes for ideas.

Did you make a leash following our instructions? We’d love to see it! Send us a picture.

Posted in howto. 1 Comment »

Q&A: Boarding


Photo credit: Fort Stewart MWR


Sabrina writes: “What should I ask about before I leave my dog with a boarding place?”




Even though I prefer to leave my dogs with a knowledgeable friend while I’m gone, that doesn’t always work out and I’ve had to board several dogs over the years. So here’s what I do when I’m looking for a new boarding place, which is a good way to find one that works for you, too:

(1) Google is your friend! 

A quick Google search will get you started with a list of boarding kennels in your area. Since most businesses now have websites or Facebook pages, you can check out several kennels from the comfort of your home. A good kennel website should give you information about their facilities, hours, services, and rates.

Based on the website, you can already rule out some facilities – for example, I look for a place that provides kennel runs (ideally with access to an outside run), rather than “kennel-free” boarding where groups of dogs are together in one open area.

(2) Read the reviews and ask around.

Did I mention what a great tool the Internet is? Read the reviews on kennels you found to learn about good and bad experiences other customers have had. It’s important to take reviews, especially on pages like Google and Yelp, with a grain of salt: people are more likely to leave bad reviews after an unpleasant experience than they are to leave good reviews if the service was up to snuff. At the same time, consider this: if a business has 50 reviews and they’re all negative, maybe it’s best to avoid them.

Aside from reviews, ask others for recommendations and opinions. Good sources for this are members of the local dog club, staff at your vet clinic, and local discussion boards of Facebook groups about dogs.

(3) Drop by for a visit.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, it’s time to go see the kennels. You can get a hundred recommendations and look at a lot of beautiful websites, but that doesn’t compare to getting a first-hand look.

When I visit a kennel, I drop by unannounced during normal business hours. “Hi, I was in the neighborhood and I’m looking for a place to board my dog …” is always a good way to introduce yourself to the person behind the front counter. Ask them about the facility and services. Ask them what they need from you to board your dog. Ask them how far out you need to make reservations. Get their business card, a copy of their price list, and a brochure if they’re available. Then ask if you might see the boarding area.

NOTE: Unless the kennel is extremely busy with customers when you visit, I would always be weary of a facility that won’t give tours at all or that will only give tours by appointment. There’s no reason why a clean, safe facility wouldn’t let you have a look! (After all, you’ll put a member of your family into their care!)

Things to Look For or Ask About

What are their vaccine requirements?

Boarding kennels should ask for a copy of your dog’s shot record to ensure that they up-to-date. Most boarding kennels will (and should) require dogs to be current on rabies, DHPP, and bordetella (kennel cough) vaccines in order to be boarded.

Do they take unaltered males and females?

Many boarding kennels won’t take unaltered dogs, particularly unaltered females. If your dogs aren’t spayed or neutered due to medical reasons, because you’re showing in conformation, or because they are not yet fully grown, you’ll need to make sure the kennel will take them.

Will they feed your food (and supplements, if applicable)?

A good boarding facility should allow you to provide your dog’s own food. For most dogs, being boarded is a stressful experience without the added stress of being switched to a completely different food. You may be required to package individual mealsto make feeding easier on the kennel staff. Ziploc bags are great for this purpose – make sure to label them with the dog’s name!

Is there someone on site overnight or outside of “business hours”?

Fortunately, a lot of boarding kennels nowadays are family businesses located alongside the family home on their property, but even a commercial facility should have some other sort of supervision at the kennels at night and over the weekend to ensure dogs’ safety and well-being. (Ideally, staff should be trained in canine first aid, too, and have emergency numbers for local vet clinics in an easily accessible place.)

Do they provide exercise?

If a boarding kennel does not have indoor/outdoor runs for your pet, the fee should include at least two daily walks. Additional walks and one-on-one playtime should also be available for an additional fee. Remember, you’re paying the kennel to take care of your family member, not rent out a storage space.

Will they give medication / care for a special needs pet?

If you have a young puppy, a senior, or any pet that has special needs, you need to ensure that the kennel is able to provide appropriate care. Not all boarding facilities have staff trained to administer a daily pill or injection and many have little or no experience with pets that are deaf, blind, or otherwise disabled.



Do you have a dog question? Contact us!

K-9 Veterans Day

I made these two wallpapers for K-9 Veterans Day some time ago and I’m not sure I’ve ever shared both of them in a blog post. Click the images for nice large versions that you can use as computer wallpaper or share on Facebook. Please check our copyright page for any questions on how you can use or edit them.

Both wallpapers were created using military press-release photos that are in the public domain, and edited using Photoshop.

The group of dogs pictured in the background of both photos represent some of the breeds that have been used as military working dogs by the US armed forces. From left to right, they’re the Belgian Malinois, Doberman, mixed-breeds, Labrador Retriever, and Husky. The dog silhouette with the handler in both photos is a German Shepherd.

Both Dobermans and Huskies were used in World War II. Dobermans were used by the Marine Corps, where they worked as sentry and messenger dogs. Huskies were used by the Army to pull dog sleds and carry packs with equipment. The Army was planning to use sled dog teams to evacuate wounded soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge, but before they were able to deploy the dogs from airfields in France, the weather started to warm up and a lot of the snow melted.

Labrador Retrievers are commonly used as detection dogs trained to find explosives and IEDs. German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois make up the majority of the canine workforce in the military.

The dog shown in the center above is Sergeant Stubby. Stubby was a mixed-breed dog, often identified as a pit bull (though period publications refer to him as a “Boston terrier mix”), who served as a mascot during World War I. Adopted by a soldier and smuggled overseas on a troop ship, Stubby spent time in the trenches with his unit and learned to alert them of gas attacks. He’s even credited with catching a German spy behind the lines. Stubby is often called “the only war dog to be promoted through combat”, although Stubby was never actually a war dog and all his promotions were honorary. After the war, his owner brought him back to the US and he served as the mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas.

PX Pet Show

While getting my shopping done on base in early June, I noticed a banner and some signs for the annual PX Pet Show that was to be held on the morning of Saturday, 23 June. This is an annual event that has been running for nearly a decade now, and Ronja and I previously attended two years ago, along with our friend Jess and her pup, Max.

Sadly, even though the event has been going on for nearly a decade, there is no website and no place to information about it online. The first year we competed, we just showed up and went to see what the event was all about. Even completely unprepared, we had a blast. A couple of vendors offered treats and toys, and the military police K-9 unit did two demonstrations, one on locating explosives scent and one on bite work. Competition included largest and smallest dog, best trick, dog-owner look-alike, and best costume. Back then, Ronja and I competed in best trick because we weren’t prepared to do anything else (like best costume), and wound up taking first place.

This year, I tried to find out more information prior to the event – I figure if we’re going to compete, we’ll go all in, regardless of whether we’ll do well in a category or whether we’ll just make fools of ourselves. After unsuccessfully trying to find information online, I resigned myself to calling Customer Service at the PX. Let me tell you, that was an experience. It went something like this:

“Hi, I’m trying to find out some information about the Pet Show.”
“Sure, hang on – I’ll transfer you.”
*transfer music*
“Hi, I’m trying to get some information about the Pet event?”
“Uh … yeah … hang on, I need to transfer you.”
*transfer music*
“Yeah, hi, I’m just calling to get some information about the Pet Show.”
“Can you hang on one sec? I’m at the front register, but I’ll transfer you to someone who knows.”
etc. etc.

I eventually got a voice mail where I left a message and, after not getting a response for a few days, went through the whole phone tree again until I spoke to a real live person who actually had some information. For reference, if anyone finds this post while trying to find information for an upcoming PX Pet Show, the number at the PX to call is customer service at (315) 773-0061, and it’s a good idea to call about a week out since you may get a voice mail or may need to keep trying.

At any rate, I learned that the competition would include “Doggie Field Days”, which are basically different stations you can try out with your dog, such as a hoop jump, ball toss, or slalom run. There’d also be a “Guess How Many Treats In the Jar” contest and a Spin-the-Wheel to win prizes furnished by the event sponsors, which included the local SPCA Shelter, the PX, and various dog food manufacturers. And, lastly, the judged competition where pets and owners would compete in the categories Most Obedient, Best Trick, Best/Funniest Costume, Dog-Owner Look-Alike, and Most Unusual Pet, the latter of which also included two sub-categories, Largest and Smallest Pet.

Armed with this new knowledge, I decided I would enter each category because, well, it’s free and what the heck – might as well go all out. Since this event was held on base, I decided that our costume would be dressing Ronja up in a set of Army PT’s, complete with reflective belt and running shoes. This was easy enough – $5 got me a pair of extra small PT shorts and a small PT T-shirt at the local thrift store, and I took the spare reflective belt I’ve been carrying in my Jeep and made it fit Ronja. It’s a very cute costume for her, especially with her dog boots which do look a lot like “running shoes”. Since I was already being creative, I figured we’d also enter dog-owner look-alike and instead of having the dog look like me, I’d try to look like her – so I wore my PT’s along with my set of ears and my tail. 😀

On Saturday morning, we loaded into the car and headed out to the PX. I’d been told that registration starts at nine and that competition would start at ten, so we made an effort to get there early. It’s generally a good idea to get to any dog events early since that gives the dog a chance to get settled and be less stressed, rather than getting there late just throwing them right into the chaos. (A good idea for all kinds of dog events, by the way!) That would’ve been a good plan had it not been for a rain delay.

Eventually, the sky cleared, the sun came up, and things got going.

People and dogs checked out the activities.

After signing up to compete twice – once because I was second in line and then again because there were separate sign-up sheets for each category that the girl doing the sign-up hadn’t been aware of – I went around to see everything offered. Ronja and I tried out the different games offered in “Doggie Field Days”. She slalomed through parking cones and chased after a yellow squeaky tennis ball. She resolutely refused to jump through a hula hoop. Actually, she kind of looked at me like I’d lost my mind when I asked her to jump through the hoop.

The event mascot, Pokey the Puppy, demonstrated proper technique for getting through the hoop. Right up to the point where he got stuck because his head didn’t fit. Despite Pokey’s hoop prowess, he wasn’t well-received by all of the dogs. Some barked at him. Some spent a lot of time sniffing him. But at least nobody bit him!

We’re gonna need a bigger hoop!

Around 10:30, the competition took off after the judges took their seats and a mat was laid out in the demonstration area. The judges consisted of the Exchange’s general manager and two 10th Mountain Division soldiers. I’m not sure how they got chosen for this detail, but I expect there are worse things you could be detailed for.

“Best Trick” was up first, and people tried to show off the best trick or tricks their pet had learned. One Poodle who was wearing a sports jersey danced on his hind legs and then spun in circles. A Boxer called Major knew how to crawl forward and bark on command. An Irish Wolfhound knew how to bark in his quiet inside voice. Some dogs suffered from a bit of performance anxiety and just refused to do anything at all once they hit the demo area, like this big Mastiff who later competed for Largest Dog (and won).

What’s this “shake” you speak of?

Ronja had her energy up pretty well when we headed up into the demo area and we did a couple of our tricks, like turning in a circle, going around me, going through my legs, rolling over, speaking on command, and playing dead. Our “play dead” needs a lot of work and while she laid down, she refused to flop onto her side, dead. She just went into her “platz” position and looked at me. We finished up with her biting the jute tug and me swinging her by it. That one’s always a hit, whether we do it with a tug or the bite sleeve, and everyone here liked it as well.

Now, remember how I keep saying Pet Show and not Dog Show? That’s because the PX Pet Show is actually open to any type and species of pet and not just dogs, although the majority of people bring dogs. The first year we competed, someone brought a cat that knew how to walk on a leash. This year, two little girls competed with two mice, one white and one black. The latter was named Truffles.

Truffles competed for Best Trick by balancing across a rope, made visually even more interesting by the patriotic props set up by his humans. It was very cute, especially when Truffles stopped halfway across the rope and sort of swung around, trying to regain his balance, his tail moving in big circles to propel him back upward and forward. (The mice also competed for Smallest Pet and Best Costume.)

Truffles’ balancing act.

Next up was the Best Costume category. A lot of dogs had store-bought costumes, such as the little Dachshund mix dressed as Spiderman or the dog below, dressed as a partially-peeled Banana. But a fair number of dogs had creative homemade costumes, too. (I like those better.) There was a black Labrador dressed as a soccer referee, a Husky dressed in a bright orange shirt and black shorts, a Golden Retriever in a white work shirt, and a black Dachshund who wore an Army jacket and beret. Ronja, as mentioned previously, wore Army PT’s. But the best costume, in my opinion, was a Beagle dressed as Underdog, in a properly homemade Underdog costume. (Unlike the movie photo, this Underdog wore a red long-sleeve shirt with an applique U on the front, not a knit shirt. But it was spot on and got lots of applause. From us, anyway!)

I’m not a wiener dog, I’m a banana dog!

Ronja even wore “running shoes”.

After the Best Costume category came the Dog-Owner Look-Alike category, which is a good thing because it meant that I didn’t have to undress Ronja right away (which would have meant re-dressing her again later). I clipped on my ears and tail, which got lots of snickers and applause, and we walked up and looked foolish when it was our turn. There were a lot of, “OMG! The dog even has shoes!” yells for Ronja and a lot of “She’s got a tail!” yells for me.

The last two categories were Most Obedient and Most Unusual, so after getting both Ronja and I changed back to our normal selves, we headed up to compete for Most Obedient. I had her heel up to the judges’ table, then turned in a small circle with her at the heel to the left, then to the right. Then I had her sit and down, and while in a down, I threw her ball up in the air and swung it around her head to demonstrate stay and self control. Then I walked around her in a circle and finished up by standing over her while she was in a down and then have her sit up. She did really well, not just in part because she’d already calmed down for the day and was no longer hyper-hyper for her ball.

This Irish Wolfhound is about to compete for Most Obedient.

The Most Unusual category included both actually unusual pets, as well as the Largest and Smallest Pet. Truffles the mouse competed for smallest and was, by default, the smallest pet there, closely followed by a tiny little Miniature Pinscher puppy whose head was smaller than a tennis ball. The Irish Wolfhounds, Mastiff, a Great Dane Puppy and a big, fluffy Great Pyrenees all competed for largest. The Wolfhounds were tallest, but the Mastiff won the category because he outweighed them by quite a few pounds. The title of Most Unusual went to a Chinese Crested who was the only Crested there and, let’s face it, you don’t often see them, so she was most definitely the most unusual (and possibly the most sunburnt, according to her owner).

The Crested was very uncomfortable in the heat.

After the last competition, the judges tallied the scores and awarded the prizes.

First, Second, and Third place were awarded in the categories Most Obedient, Best Trick, Best Costume, and Dog-Owner Look-Alike, and First places were awarded for Most Unusual, Largest, and Smallest. Ronja and I took First for Most Obedient and Best Trick, and second for Best Costume. We won three PX gift cards that can be used at any AAFES locations – two for $25 each for the First place wins and one for $10 for the Second place win. We also won two large bags of dog food with our First Place awards, which I donated to the SPCA because I know they can always, always use those at the shelter.

Obviously, we had an absolute blast again and with the nice weather, it made the day all the more awesome. I even got Ronja to cool herself off in a kiddie pool, which is unusual for her since she doesn’t like to get into water. She still won’t sit or lay in it, but at least she’ll put her paws into it now without a lot of coaxing. (One of these days, I’ll get her to swim, too!)

After the event wrapped up, we headed over to the dog park so Ronja could run around and relax since she’d been working so hard, and we even got a small order of French fries from Burger King before we headed home as her reward since she loves fries and doesn’t often get them. She certainly deserved them!

Hugs for the good puppeh!

Warning: Hartz & Sergeants

Cheaper isn't Better Image

Cheaper isn’t better – and in this case, it’s not even “as good” as other products.
Photo credit: left,; right:

If you, like me, are one of the millions of animal owners in the United States, you’ve probably found yourself in the pet aisle at your local grocery store or Walmart, wondering what makes the flea and tick products sold there so different from the brands sold at much higher prices at your vet clinic. If the assortment sold at your local store included Hartz and Sergeant’s, two of the most prolific brands found on store shelves, the answer is easy: quality.

Although it’s possible for any topical flea and tick treatment, including the brands sold at your vet clinic, to cause an allergic reaction or sensitivity in some animals, we’re not talking about a little bit of redness and some missing fur when it comes to the issues that have been plaguing Hartz and Seargeant’s for over a decade: we’re talking chemical burns, seizures, and even death. That’s a high price to pay for a cheaper flea and tick preventive.

Hartz and Sergeant’s both share a long history of class action and individual lawsuits, recalls, and warnings from the EPA. What’s more, they share the stories of thousands of pet cats and dogs who were injured, requiring often expensive and extensive veterinary treatment, and even killed by these chemical products. And they share the stories of grieving, angry owners who wanted nothing more than to keep their animals safe from fleas and ticks and who thought that these products, so prolific on store shelves, would be safe to use on their pets.

But, don’t take my word for it:

Consumer complaints about Hartz
Consumer complaints about Sergeant’s
Hartz Victims

Please take the time to talk to your veterinarian about making good choices regarding flea and tick products and alternatives to these products. There are many natural options on the market, such as Springtime’s Bug Off Garlic, which has yielded fantastic results for our friends over at Cosgrove K9’s.

Raw Feeding 101

I was looking through the resources pages on Dogster and happened across an article in the Ask A Vet section where Dr. Barchas addresses raw feeding. I think Dr. Barchas really tried his best to answer the question, but I found the end result somewhat misleading and confusing to people who have no knowledge of a raw diet, and I want to address this in this entry.


Before I get started, please let me put out a couple of things:

First, it’s important to understand that not every veterinarian will be a good source of information regarding feeding. In their training, vets receive instruction on the basic nutritional needs of dogs, but they are not experts in creating pet diets, nor are they able to tell you which brand or type of food would be best for your individual dog. Some vets with specialty training, called Veterinary Nutritionists, may be a better source for this information. Think of it like going to your family doctor: he or she can tell you to eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables, but if you need a meal plan or specific dietary advice, you’ll need to see a specialist, such as a dietician.

Second, I don’t advocate the raw diet for every dog or every dog owner. Raw feeding requires not only a lot of research but also a lot more work than feeding a commercial diet. There are many excellent commercial pet foods on the market for people who choose not to raw feed and there’s no shame in not feeding a home-made or raw diet.

Lastly, raw feeding is not new, it’s not a fad, and it’s not a response to pet food recalls. Many breeders and owners in the United States have been feeding healthy raw diets for decades. It is due to recent recalls, however, that there has been interest from a wider segment of the population into this type of diet. Unfortunately, greater interest means that many people who feed raw have not taken the proper time to understand and feed this type of diet correctly, and many recently-published articles are misleading or poorly researched.

That all said, let me get to Dr. Barchas’ article and raw feeding 101.

Bones in the Raw Diet

Dr. Barchas writes, “When whole bones are added to the diet, new risks develop. Although many animals can tolerate bones, many others will break their teeth on bones or chew the bones into fragments that can lodge in the intestines. The latter problem can be life-threatening.”

When you feed a raw diet, raw meaty bones (RMBs) such as chicken leg quarters or pork ribs, should make up about 60% of each meal. Bones provide important nutrients including calcium, collagen, iron, and fatty acids in the meat and bone. Many raw feeders use chicken leg quarters as their “staple” food.

It is completely safe to feed any of the bones I’ve named above, just as long as they are RAW. They become unsafe once they have been cooked because cooking alters their structure, making them brittle and easy to splinter. In their raw form, however, these are soft bones that can be crunched up, swallowed, and digested. These small, soft bones are supposed to be eaten in the raw diet.

The only time outside of cooking these bones are dangerous is if your dog tends to gulp them down instead of chewing – in this case, you will want to give larger pieces, puree the bones, or hold one end while your dog is eating to control how fast he can consume it.

Recreational Bones

Another type of bones found in the raw diet are recreational bones. These are the weight-bearing bones of large animals, such as cows or pigs. Unlike RMBs, recreational bones are not meant to be chewed up and swallowed. In fact, the dense bone can cause damaged to the teeth, esophagus and intestinal tract. They are meant to be offered only for supervised recreation – as “chew bones.”

Raw Feeding – Doing it Safely

Dr. Barchas points out in his article that, “raw meat, if not properly prepared, can harbor parasites and diseases such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. (…) Although animals naturally eat raw meat, they are still susceptible to these diseases. And they can spread them to people.”

If you’re feeding a homemade raw diet, buying and handling raw meet is par for the course. Most raw feeders purchase meats that are human-grade, sold in standard grocery stores or butcher shops. Standard safe food handling practices also apply: cut your meat on a surface you use only for this purpose (such as a red cutting board for red meats), bag and freeze what you’re not using, and defrost only what you’ll be using that day.

Additionally, many commercial raw diets are also available, including those that are dehydrated (just add water to feed) and prepared frozen meals (just defrost and feed) to make raw feeding safe and easy, particularly for beginners or people who are not ready to “do it alone.”

It’s still important that you practice good hygiene and safe food handling techniques when you raw feed. If you’re careful with handling meat and clean up diligently, there’s little chance you will contract food-born illnesses. The chances of getting sick are the same as handling meat to prepare your own dinner. Just be smart about it: clean your counters (bleach wipes are great!), and wash your hands. Obviously, keep your dogs from licking you, particularly in the face, after they have eaten and for about an hour after feeding.

Your dog will be fine, too, even if the meat contains Salmonella or e.Coli. Dogs very rarely get sick from these.

Raw Feeding Resources

You can learn more about raw feeding from some of the sites below. These are sites of breeders, owners, and veterinarians who have been feeding a raw diet to their dogs for many years and have lots of good advice on how it’s done.

The Raw Dog Ranch
Leerburg: Q&A on feeding a raw diet Raw Learning
Monica Segal Nutritional Solutions for Dogs – raw and homemade diets