Updated: Dec 10, 2022
Over the years, I have tried many kibble types for my retired service dog, Fiona. Fiona is a 65lb. American Pit Bull Terrier Mix, so she eats a decent amount of daily food. Every time we got Fiona transitioned to a new food, it seemed to be recalled. Eventually, I transitioned to a biologically appropriate raw foods (BARF) diet, and I have never looked back.
If you read my article Why I Raw Feed My Dog, you already know I used to get attacked, especially by vegans, because I fed my dog a biologically appropriate diet. Some individuals couldn’t grasp the concept that what’s biologically relevant for a human is, in fact, not biologically appropriate for a K-9. With that said, if you came here looking for a plant-based meal plan for your pet, you're in the wrong place.
Dogs prefer meat; in the wild, dogs are hunters. It's the biological process. Having a plant-based dog with the right research and supplementation is possible. I see no benefit considering dogs are not susceptible to the same illnesses and diseases as humans due to meat consumption.
Why I Stopped Feeding Kibble
Over the years, I have tried many kibble types for my retired service dog, Fiona. Fiona is a 65lb. American Pit Bull Terrier Mix, so she eats a decent amount of daily food. Every time we got Fiona transitioned to a new food, it seemed to be recalled. Even some of the "highest quality" dog foods also happened to have ingredients I look back on and cringe at. A few we've tried are:
Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal (source of Glucosamine), Peas, Pea Protein, Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Tapioca Starch, Dried Tomato Pomace, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Egg Product, Pea Starch, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Direct Dehydrated Alfalfa Pellets, DL-Methionine, Dried Chicory Root, Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), L-Carnitine, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Taurine, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary
Deboned Beef, Fish Meal, Peas, Pea Starch, Tapioca Starch, Pea Protein, Beef Meal, Dried Tomato Pomace, Potatoes, Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Canola Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Dried Egg Product, Fish Oil (source of EPA-Eicosapentaenoic Acid), Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Deboned Lamb, Deboned Venison, Calcium Carbonate, Dried Chicory Root, DL-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Pea Fiber, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Taurine, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Vitamin E Supplement, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chondroitin Sulfate, L-Carnitine, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Vegetable Juice for color, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Turmeric, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Selenite, Oil of Rosemary.
Taste of the Wild High Prairie with Bison & Venison ($56/month) Water buffalo, lamb meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), egg product, roasted bison, roasted venison, beef, natural flavor, tomato pomace, potato protein, pea protein, ocean fish meal, salt, choline chloride, taurine, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate, manganese proteinate, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid. Contains a source of live (viable), naturally occurring microorganisms.
Eventually, I transitioned to a biologically appropriate raw foods (BARF) diet, and I have never looked back. When I discuss how I feed Fiona, the most common thing I hear is how unrealistic it is and how it's unaffordable.
You can get reviews, ratings, and recalls on food on your current dog food here.
What I Include In My Dog's Meals (Plus Costs)
Since Fiona is overweight, she is provided roughly 800 calories daily, split up between two meals. Below is a picture of Fiona's meal prep for two weeks. Not pictured is a gravy topping consisting of goat milk, almonds, turmeric powder, ginger powder, kale, seaweed, and cod liver oil. We freeze the entire batch, taking three days of food out at a time and defrosting the first two she will need on the counter.
I'd like to note that Fiona's meals are not 100% organic; that is a bit much for us right now, so we are doing the second-best thing we can for our beloved pet. Each of Fiona's meals consists of roughly:
4 oz. Boiled Turkey ($0.29/lb. to $1.49/lb.)
Originally we were feeding boiled pork butt, but the fat content was too high, making it more difficult for our dog to lose the weight she needed to for a better quality of life, so as per a suggestion from our vet, we switched to turkey instead. We boil the turkey not because we are worried about parasites but to make it easier for us to prepare. Since we purchase a whole turkey with bones, we do not waste the bones; instead, we save the bones to make a bone broth for our dog. We like to purchase turkey around thanksgiving time to take advantage of the $0.29/lb. sales, but when there are no sales, we may pay as much as $1.49/lb. When it's on sale, we buy the maximum amount allowed for the sale to ensure we have a food supply for our dog. When we prep it, we use freezer bags consisting of 28 oz. of turkey (enough for one week) and freeze them flat. For a month's turkey supply, it's between $2.03 and $10.43 for the 112 ounces Fiona consumes.
2.28 oz. Ground Meat ($1.99/lb.)
The ground meat is fed completely raw. Typically we buy ground beef., chicken, or turkey, whichever is on sale at the time of purchase. We typically find ground meat on sale for $1.99/lb and stock up. When we prep it, we use freezer bags consisting of 16 oz. of ground meat (enough for one week) and freeze them flat. When we meal prep, we distribute the entire bag evenly. For a month's supply of ground meat, it's $7.96 for the 64 ounces Fiona consumes.
1.14 oz. Liver ($2.82/lb to $3.68/lb)
The liver is also fed completely raw. Typically we purchase either beef or calf liver. Frozen beef liver costs us $2.82/lb. while frozen calf liver costs $3.68/lb. We never seem to see this on sale, so we just buy this every two weeks when we prep Fiona's food. When we meal prep, we distribute the entire liver evenly. For a month's supply of liver, it's between $5.64 and $7.36 for the 32 ounces Fiona consumes.
1oz. Organ Mix ($3/lb.)
I get this from my local farmer's market, and it's a mixture of ground heart, liver, pancreas, and kidneys. We purchase this at $3/lb. When we meal prep, we distribute the organ mix evenly. For a month's supply, it costs $6 for the 32 ounces Fiona consumes.
2tbsp. Puréed Pumpkin ($0.45/can to $1.79/can)
When purchasing pumpkin purée, make sure the only ingredient is pumpkin. I love giving Fiona pumpkin because it's anti-parasitic and great for digestion. I typically purchase these after thanksgiving when all the pumpkin purée is 75% off and buy out stores. I can buy 29oz. cans (enough for 2 weeks at a time) for as low as $0.45 per can. When we meal prep, we distribute the entire 29oz. can evenly. For a month's supply of pumpkin purée, it's between $0.90 and $3.58 for the 58 ounces Fiona consumes.
1tbsp. Beans ($0.37/can to $0.49/can)
We prefer to use black beans, as that's what our dog likes but typically get whatever is on sale and in stock. We always make sure the beans are low in sodium and unseasoned. Typically, we wait for a local sale where they are $0.37/can and stock up, but we sometimes stock up while they're $0.49/can. When we meal prep, we distribute the 16oz. can evenly. For a month's supply of beans, it's between $0.74 and $0.98 for the 32 ounces Fiona consumes.
1 Chicken Neck ($1.39)
We previously used to buy turkey necks, but our dog was not a fan of their size. We find chicken necks are smaller and easier for her to eat and enjoy. We typically get chicken necks for $1.39/lb. when we meal prep, we give 1 chicken neck (roughly 1oz.) per meal. We typically spend $2.43 for the 28 ounces for a month's supply. Fiona consumes.
1 Chicken Foot ($1/lb to $2.24/lb)
Chicken feet, sometimes called chicken paws, are a delicious crunch for dogs. Some people clip the nails; we do not. Typically we stock up on chicken feet when we find them on markdown for as low as $1/lb, but that's not always the case, and sometimes we purchase them full price at $2.24/lb. When we meal prep, we give one chicken foot (roughly 1.25oz.) per meal. For a month's supply, we typically spend between $4.38 and $4.90 for the 35 ounces Fiona consumes.
1 Frozen Sardine ($3.99/bag)
Previously we were purchasing Season Sardines in Water until we realized one of our local stores had frozen sardines at the beginning of summer. So instead, we buy 4, 35oz. bags at $3.99 per bag, which lasts us the entire year. A month's supply of frozen sardines is roughly $1.33 for the sardines Fiona consumes.
1-2 Whole Oysters ($3/can)
Oysters are great for zinc, but the sodium content can become absurd. Some people rinse off their oysters before feeding, which is a great option when buying canned. Previously I bought the canned oyster in the store but found purchasing them on Amazon, through subscribe and save, is much cheaper. When we meal prep, we evenly distribute 1-8 oz. can (roughly 1-2 oysters per meal). For a month's supply, it's $6 for the 16 ounces Fiona consumes.
1/2 Boiled Egg ($3.26/18-count)
We chose to boil the eggs because it's easier for us. If you're buying organic eggs from a farmer's market, you do not need to boil them; you can also feed the shell. We have not made this switch yet, so we prefer to boil it for now since store-bought eggs are sprayed with chemicals toxic to dogs. We typically buy an 18-count of eggs for two meal preps. For a month's supply, it's $3.26 for the 14 eggs that Fiona consumes.
1oz. Dried Cranberries ($7.62/bag)
We chose cranberries for UT support since our dog does have urinary tract issues. When preparing meals, we typically give a small handful (approximately 1oz.) of dried cranberries. We pay $7.62 for a 48-ounce bag that will last us a month and a half. For a month's supply, it's $4.45 for the 28oz. Fiona consumes.
2 Apples ($2/lb)
We chose apple for extra fiber to help Fiona go to the bathroom since she does have issues with her anal glands. We always get organic to avoid the toxic chemicals sprayed on apples to ensure she can also eat the skin. When preparing meals, we typically chop up two apples and distribute them evenly between all trays. For a month's supply, it's roughly $3.50 for the 4 apples Fiona consumes.
Finally, I make an appealing gravy topping (it's really a smoothie) that gets distributed evenly between all meals. I make this by blending the following ingredients together in my Pampered Chef's Deluxe Cooking Blender:
8oz. Goat Milk ($4.54/qt.)
Previously, we purchased kefir milk but have since switched to Meyenberg Goat Milk. They do offer a powdered version, but we like the convenience of the pre-made option. This is great for dogs since they're often lactose intolerant. It's also delicious in the gravy. One quart costs will last us 2 months. A month's supply is $2.27 for the 16 ounces Fiona consumes.
12oz. Frozen Kale ($1/bag to $1.42/bag)
We get frozen kale for simplicity and convenience, and it goes great in her "gravy" while ensuring she gets her 7% of vegetables. We typically don't get these on sale, so we purchase them as needed. We use one bag per meal prep session, costing us between $2 and $2.84 per month.
5 oz. Raw Almonds ($13.72/bag)
Raw almonds ensure Fiona is getting her 2% nuts or seeds. I used to get these in the bulk bins, but again, with inflation, that's very rare now. Instead, I get a 48-ounce bag off amazon, which can be found here. A month's supply is $2.86 for the 10 ounces Fiona consumes.
4tsp. Turmeric Powder ($5.84/lb.)
Turmeric has so many health benefits for pets, such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Turmeric may also help arthritis, improve brain function and is good for heart health, so why not add it to my dog's diet? We typically purchase turmeric in bulk on Amazon or through Anthony's Goods. In a month, we use roughly 1.39oz. making our monthly cost roughly $1.01 for the 8 teaspoons Fiona consumes.
4tsp. Ginger Powder ($8.55/lb)
Ginger also has many health benefits for humans, such as anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties. We typically purchase ginger in bulk on Amazon. In a month, we use roughly 1.39oz. making our monthly cost roughly $1.48 for the 8 teaspoons Fiona consumes.
14tsp. Cod Liver Oil ($35.15/bottle)
Previously I was using Earthley’s Cod Liver Oil but found Nordic Naturals Pet Cod Liver Oil, which is much cheaper without compromising the quality. I get the 16oz. bottle (94 teaspoons), which is a 3-month supply. For a month's supply, it's $10.47 for the 28tsp. Fiona consumes.
4 Full Seaweed Sheets ($3.24/pack)
Seaweed is great for iodine and overall nutrition in dogs. We never find these on sale, so we just buy them as we need them. One pack contains 10 sheets, so it will last us a little more than two feedings. For a month's supply, it costs approximately $2.59 for the 8 sheets Fiona consumes.
In total, it costs us between $72.14/month and $85.70/month to raw feed Fiona, and several of the things we add are unnecessary and just extras I felt she could benefit from. These things include turmeric powder, ginger powder, seaweed, and cod liver oil. If you take all of those out, the total monthly cost drops between $56.59/month and $70.15/month.
Considering the cost of inflation and how much we were spending on dog food previously, I am happy with the overall cost. If you consider the fact that we were throwing away nearly full bags of food due to recalls and have never had to throw away her raw food, transition her, or anything else, I think we are doing pretty well. Plus, Fiona is thriving, which is what matters the most.
⚠️ Always remember to wait 30 minutes after feeding, before allowing your pet to lick you.