Overall, raw feeding is quite easy and you only need to follow those simple rules to be safe and successful. And you will start to see that he has a better coat, cleaner teeth, fresher breath and fewer health issues.
Consider the typical kibble food. A large part of the cost is made up of marketing. The basic production method is to source meat and then cook it to pulp. Add fillers (typically cereal) and add agricultural pre mix to get the vitamin content up to a mix that your in-house veterinarians recommend.
Easy. For the dog is rather like having over processed junk food every day. There are variations on the theme – in particular you cam source a cold press food where the low cooking temperature preserves the natural goodness of the meat (to declare an interest, Doghealth supplies such a food). But if you are reading this it is because you want to know more about a return to basics – introducing your dog to a raw food diet.
You might be worried your dog will choke on bones or that his diet won’t be balanced. I hope I can help you make an informed decision.
Rule 1: The Raw Dog Food Diet Must include bones
Bones contain both calcium and phosphorus. Meat is high in phosphorus and too low in calcium. So an all-meat diet will cause bone and nervous system issues in your dog. Both dogs and growing puppies need enough calcium in their diet. And they need some phosphorus to go with it because these minerals work closely together. To get enough calcium and keep a healthy balance of minerals, your dog’s raw diet needs to contain about 12% to 15% bone. This means about 1/3 of his diet should be nice meaty bones. Here are some good choices for meaty bones:
- Chicken wings, necks, legs or thighs
- Turkey necks (other bones are large)
- Beef tail bones (great for larger dogs)
- Lamb or goat necks or ribs
You can also feed your dog whole animals such as whole fish, whole rabbit, and whole poultry. These contain just the right amount of bone.
Feeding raw eggs with the shell also offers the right ratio of calcium and phosphorus.
Rule 2: Organs Are The Multi-Vitamins
Organs are the nutrient-rich parts of the animal. Without them, your dog could be missing some important vitamins.
You’ll want to feed anywhere from 10% to 30% organ meats. But this depends on how much you can get. If you can only find liver, just feed 10% organs.
If you can find kidney, spleen, pancreas, brain and other delicious, nutritious organs … then feed them as a third of your dog’s diet.
No one organ should be more than 5% to 10% of your dog’s diet.
But if you have a few different ones, they can be 1/3 of your dog’s total meals.
Organs would include:
* Pancreas and thymus are both sold under the name sweetbreads.
Just go easy on the organ meat at first because it can cause loose stools until your dog is used to it. If your dog doesn’t like the taste at first, try frying it for a minute or so first.
Rule 3: Protein you need Muscle Meat
Once you get your meaty bones and organs in place, the rest of your dog’s diet should be nice lean meats. That means half to a third of his total food, depending on how much organ meat you can get your hands on.
These are the protein-rich component of your dog’s diet. He needs proteins to build strong tissues.
And it supports the hormones and enzymes he needs to survive and thrive. Good choices for muscle meat include:
- Beef (ground beef, cheek meat, stewing beef)
- Beef heart (but not more than 5% of the diet as it’s very rich)
- Turkey (ground turkey, boneless thighs, breast meat, tenderloin)
- Lamb (stewing lamb, ground lamb, shoulder or breast meat)
- Pork (pork shoulder or butt, cushion meat, boneless rib meat, loin)
- Chicken (boneless thighs, breast meat)
Rule 4: Watch the Fat
Fat is healthy for your dog and a necessary part of a balanced diet. It helps with nerve and immune function and is critical for skin health. However, fat contains twice the number of calories as protein. And it contains very few vitamins and minerals.
If your dog’s diet is too high in fat he won’t be getting enough vitamins and minerals.
The calories from fat will add up before he gets enough vitamins and minerals.
And you might start to see some long-term health issues if the fat is too high. The main reason why so many raw feeders give their dogs too much fat is because cheaper meats contain a lot of fat.
Overall, you don’t want the fat to be much more than 10% and certainly no more than 20% of the diet.
Your dog needs fat but not so much of it that it robs him of other important nutrients.
Here are some examples of some high-fat meats you’ll want to avoid and low-fat meats that are easy to find:
Rule 5: Fruit and Veg
You should you add fruits and vegetables to your dog’s raw diet.
But why end there?
Fruits and vegetables carry some unique benefits your dog can’t get from animal products.
And in the wild, your dog’s ancestors ate a reasonable amount of grasses and berries.
Rule 6: Keep It Starch-Free
Starchy foods like grains, peas and potatoes aren’t suitable for your dog …These cause him to store a lot of his food as fat, so if your dog is on the chubby side, avoiding grains will help. Starch only adds calories to the diet. The only benefit to starch is it keeps costs down for you … they add no benefit to your dog whatsoever. You might ask why commercial foods will contain these starches. I suggest you ask the manufacturer!
Cutting out the starch is the main reason people see such improvements when they move to a raw diet.
Rule 7: Variety Counts
Just like us, dogs need a variety of wholesome foods to provide them with a wide range of nutrients. Feed a wide variety of different foods, including different sources of meat.
Include chicken, duck or turkey feet, beef trachea, tails, lung, testicles and pizzles.
Beef trachea and poultry feet are loaded with natural chondroitin and glucosamine.
Which help to build healthy joints and they’re reasonably priced.
Rule 8: Balance Over Time
One common concern with raw feeding is that it’s not “complete and balanced.”
This isn’t true for two reasons. First, nobody knows what complete and balanced is, so it’s difficult to make this claim. Second, balance can occur over time … every meal doesn’t need to be completely balanced.
You don’t need to calculate the exact percentages of protein and carbohydrates.
Real Life Raw Meal Examples
Monday: Big veal tails
Tuesday am: Beef (95% lean) mixed with 50% organ meats. (containing brain, lung, spleen, kidney, reproductive organs, liver, pancreas and some green tripe) and 5% fruit and veggie mix
Tuesday pm: Beef (95% lean) mixed with 50% organ meats
Wednesday am: Lamb ribs
Wednesday pm: Beef (95% lean) mixed with 50% organ meats and 5% fruits and veggies
Thursday am: Whole mackerel
Thursday pm: Ground goat with 40% organ meats and 5% fruits and veggies
Friday: Whole rabbit
Saturday am: Lamb ribs
Saturday pm: Ground goat with 40% organ meats and 5% fruits and veggies
Sunday am: Beef neck bone
Sunday pm: Fruit and veggies
Rule 9: Feed Fish Once A Week
Whole fish to be about 5% of your dog’s total diet. This will balance out his fats. Now a quick rant AGAINST fish oils
- It can easily turn rancid (even high quality oil) and cause inflammation in your dog
- It’s not environmentally friendly and it’s a heated, processed product.
Instead of fish oil, you can feed whole fish like sardines, smelts, herring, mackerel once or twice a week.
Rule 10: Relax
If you follow rules 1 through 9, you’ll be feeding your dog a fresh, whole food diet that’s safe and balanced.. It really is that easy to feed raw. The only step left is to start doing it! But before you do, here are just a couple of things to keep in mind.
When To Feed
Most people feed their dogs twice per day. I feed once a day, twice a day and some days not at all.
I like to fast my dogs once every week or two because most immune function is in the gut.
If the dog’s digestive system is continually digesting meals, there’s no time for house cleaning. The dog’s immune system will suffer.
Once a week, I turn my dogs out with a nice beef neck bone to chew. Or I’ll give them some fruit and that’s their fast day. The exception is puppies under six months of age who eat three times a day in my house.
How Much To Feed
As a starting point, feed your dog about two to three percent of his ideal adult weight. - So, if he weighs 50 pounds, feed him one pound of food or a bit more.( If your dog is very active, you may need to feed a little more. And if your dog is more of a couch potato, you may need to feed a little less.)
The best way to tell if you’re feeding the right amount is to run your hands over your dog’s ribs. If you can feel the ribs, but not see them, your dog is at a good weight.
Special Needs for Puppies
Puppies need more calories and nutrition.
So they should also receive about two to three percent of their ideal adult weight.
When puppies are four to six months old, they will need a lot of food. And a good amount of calcium because they’re building their adult teeth. If they don’t get enough calcium in their diet at this critical stage, they’ll pull the calcium from their bones. And then they can develop bone or dental deformities.
So, throw a few extra bones at your puppies at this age, just for a little extra insurance.
With special thanks to articles written by Dana Scott - the Founder and Editor in Chief of Dogs Naturally Magazine