Letting raw meat sit at room temp- canine edition
September 10, 2019 6:10 PM   Subscribe

I feed my dog raw meat. For reasons explained inside, I would like it to sit out for her to eat slowly over a period of several hours. Is there a safe way to do this, or do I need to figure something else out?

You all helped me figure out how to make a homemade renal diet for my dog, which includes raw beef, eggs, squash/yams, and tripe. It's going great and she gained back her 20% loss in body weight. Yay!

She free-ate dry kibble all her life until this past year, so she always had access to food when she wanted it, and typically ate in smaller portions throughout the day. When her bowl was empty, she would rattle it or stand next to it and whimper and that would cue me to fill it. Now, I can't keep her raw food out indefinitely, and she hasn't learned to eat much faster, so I put it back in the fridge whenever she stops eating. But I think she's starting to sundown in the evenings and gets agitated when there's no food in her bowl (especially if she wasn't done eating for the day).

Because she's 13, terminally ill, and apparently possibly having dementia symptoms, I would prefer to not try to retrain her by letting her cry it out.

Would it be sufficient to put a big ice pack under the tupperware with her food in it? If not, is there another way to do this? Or how long can I safely leave it out?

(Doggo pic in profile)
posted by quiet coyote to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Aw, what a sweet pup! I think the ice pack should be fine; they also make chilled pet bowls you can freeze and reuse.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 6:34 PM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah your old, sweet, and not-long-for-this-world dog should eat as much as she can as often as she wants. Your method is fine, even maybe a bit conservative for the context.

You can look at USDA guidelines but recall that most dogs were domesticated unintentionally, via eating untreated, unpreserved kitchen trash.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:54 PM on September 10, 2019

Agreed, she'll be fine if the food is left out. Yes, the ice pack would also work.

If you can find two bowls that nest, you can just freeze some water directly in the larger bowl. Then set the smaller bowl with kibble in it.

You could also freeze the chunks of meat if she'll eat the frozen chunks. They'll sit at room temp a little longer.
posted by hydra77 at 8:26 PM on September 10, 2019

You could buy a compressor style cooler1 and either remove or brace open the lid. Then place a metal bowl on a stand/brick inside the cooler so it is a couple inches below the rim. Fill in the space between the sides of the of the cooler and the top of the bowl with a sheet of 2" rigid foam. Adjust the thermostat to keep the bowl below 4C. Because heat rises the contents will be kept in the safe temperature zone. The deeper the bowl the better. This is pretty much how those ice cooled salad bar cold tables work but you won't need to add ice every couple hours. Or you could just cut a hole in the lid to handle your bowl. The plastic foam sandwich lid will cut easy with a long blade in a jig saw. If your bowl has a top flange careful attention to hole diameter will let you just drop the bowl into the hole while the flange stops it from falling trough. Using the foam though in the first option will let you use the cooler as a cooler after you no longer need it for your pet.

[1] It's important to get a compressor style cooler and not a pielter or thermoelectric cooler. The latter electric coolers have marginal capacity that is likely to not be able to handle the additional load of your modifications.

OR: Get mini fridge. Cut hole in door. Install soft flap doggy door making sure the bottom of the flap is above the top of a bowl placed on the bottom of the fridge.

You might have to have to plan this carefully. Often the bottom of the fridge is narrower to allow space for the compressor. Either a narrow bowl or a shelf above the narrow bit depending on the height of your dog. Or you might have to place the fridge on a stand.
posted by Mitheral at 9:21 PM on September 10, 2019

Oh, she's so sweet! My boys think it's a treat when they get ahold of any nuggets of their food that hasn't been defrosted. The pieces aren't large enough for them to choke on, and the boys' jaws are strong enough for them to chew the food regardless of the thaw state. Maybe consider mixing in a combination of frozen and thawed food for her, along with the double bowl system? Are the eggs raw? I'd be kind of more concerned about them rather than the meat.

Is this a matter of you not being home and wanting to leave her food out and available to her or you don't want her to go looking for it because she's used to being free fed? If you're home, maybe the answer is refilling her bowl a few times a day with smaller portions to the food doesn't get completely room temp.

I'm so glad that she's feeling better. One of my Frenchies completely turned around because of raw food. He went from unable to digest anything to having a beautiful coat, no bloody colitis, running and playing all the time. It really changed our world! Best of luck to you and your baby.
posted by dancinglamb at 9:27 PM on September 10, 2019

This is helpful! I wanted to clarify a couple points:

My current method is getting her food out of the fridge whenever she wants it and replacing it when she's done, but that means I'm sometimes moving the food between the bowl and fridge 10+ times in the evenings alone, which are often times I'm trying to get work done.

I use tupperwares that each contain of a day's worth of food, which she sometimes eats all in one go (and sometimes wants more later) and sometimes eats a little at a time.

She won't eat frozen pieces of food, unfortunately.
posted by quiet coyote at 9:48 PM on September 10, 2019

Is the tripe always in the mix? She may have lost some of her ability to smell and that could be affecting her sense of taste, especially since the food is cold. I'm wondering if she would eat more if it was stinkier (or warmer).

I know that when there are mornings where the boys' food hasn't entirely defrosted and some hot water is added to make kind of a gravy, they suck it down even faster than usual. And boy, does the kitchen stink!
posted by dancinglamb at 10:32 PM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Perhaps you could experiment with how much food you provide at any one time. Just give her some of her daily total. If she eats that immediately great, give a bit more. If she doesn’t eat it all immediately leave what is left of that serving for her to graze for however long you deem acceptable. If you feel it’s been too long toss what’s left and get some more of the daily total out of the fridge. You cut down on some of the trips to the fridge and her food will be safe without additional cooling.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:17 AM on September 11, 2019

I would leave out a generous amount and use an ice pack. Dogs have extremely acidic stomachs and that would make me feel more than secure with this set-up.
posted by quince at 2:49 AM on September 11, 2019

most dogs were domesticated unintentionally, via eating untreated, unpreserved kitchen trash.

True, and some of their adaptations for scavenging are things like "highly acidic stomach." But some of their adaptations involve being okay with puking and having diarrhea. If you've been around trash-eating stray dogs in a developing-world city, they do those things a lot.

I'd look to other fully-domesticated dog owners, and not to how stray or half-domesticated dogs live, for your model of how to do this.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:57 AM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you are using Tupperware already, freeze an empty one (with water in it) and put it underneath the full one. It won't keep it super cold but cold enough and solve your back and forth problem.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:17 AM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I agree with SaltySalticid in this particular case, but PSA for those not providing hospice care for a terminally ill dog, it's generally not a great idea to feed domestic animals, even obligate carnivores like cats, raw meat, unless you can guarantee it's been processed in such a way you could safely eat it yourself.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:53 AM on September 11, 2019

The USDA recommends that raw meat not sit out more two hours. So if you put out the amount you think/hope she might eat and leave it for than hour (instead of putting away as soon as done) and then put that same portion out for another hour and then toss then you would be very safe re the raw food. Using that schedule, you should only have to put out the food a few times in the evening, not 10 times a night. With ice, you can extend the period but I would still use a procedure that lets you track what has been out, leave it out longer and limit how many times you offer the same portion.
posted by metahawk at 11:22 AM on September 11, 2019

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