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RAW FEEDING GUIDE

A Starter Guide to Feeding A Raw Diet to Your Canine Besty

A Starter Guide to Raw Feeding

Those new to the idea of feeding raw to their canine companion generally have the same questions, namely:

  • How do I start?

  • What exactly am I feeding?

  • Do I make it all myself?

  • How much do I feed?

 

If I'm honest, most people have no idea what it means to feed raw and they have no idea where to start.  People do not know where to go for good information on raw feeding, or they find conflicting information all over Google, and worse, they might have a traditional vet that is against raw feeding.  These can be very real barriers to finding your way to the best possible health and nutrition for your dog.  In this guide, we will give you the necessary tools and confidence to watch the health and vitality of your dog improve.

 

As you will learn, there really are only a handful of real rules in canine nutrition.   Holistic vets, canine nutritionists, and raw pet food manufacturers may all approach raw feeding slightly differently, but once you see the change in your dog, you see their teeth whitening, their coats glistening, you see them having more energy, and increased vitality, you'll that it just doesn't matter.   Unless you are a very elite athlete or bodybuilder, preparing for a big competition or looking to shred, we are not pouring over every nutrient and macro of our diets, and we do not need to do that for our dogs either.

RAW FEEDING GUIDELINES

The key points to remember with a raw diet are:

  • Balance over time.  You want to ensure that your dog's diet is balanced over the month.  Every single meal does not need to be completely balanced. That said, the ratio that we aim for in our dog's diets is:

    • 80% meat, sinew, ligaments, fat

    • 10% edible bone

    • 5% liver

    • 5% other organ meat

  • Meats are high in phosphorus, bones are high in calcium. When meat is fed with 10% bone you have the exact ratios of calcium to phosphorus required by a dog (1:1).   Whole prey, fish, pasture-raised eggs, and tripe have a balanced ratio.

  • Organ meat should not exceed 10% of the diet overall and 5% of that should be liver (beef liver has the highest nutrient levels). Feed liver once a week (or several small servings per week) and try to find an organic, free-range source if possible because the liver is responsible for filtering toxins out of the body.

  • If feeding pork or salmon, be certain to freeze the meat for two weeks before feeding to reduce the small risk of parasites.

  • NEVER feed cooked bones of any type as when bones are cooked they become harder and are dangerous for the dog as they can splinter and pierce the stomach or intestines. Raw bones are soft enough to bend and digest easily. Dogs are carnivores as per their scientific category (their DNA is 99% wolf) so dogs are designed to digest raw meat and bones – they have a stomach PH level of 1 or 2 which is highly acidic – perfect for digesting raw bones. It is therefore important to remember the difference between raw and cooked bones.   For optimal safety, mealtimes should always be supervised.

  • Feel free to feed ‘weird and nasty things’ such as turkey feet, beef trachea, tails, lung, kidney, testicles, and pizzles (penis). Beef trachea, trim, duck, and turkey feet are loaded in natural chondroitin and glucosamine which help to build healthy joints.

  • Avoid the weight-bearing leg and knuckle bones of large animals such as beef – also the vertebrae as these are too dense and dangerous to teeth.   Remember! ALL bones must be fed raw – cooked bones are dangerous as they are too hard and could splinter and pierce the stomach or intestines as well as damage teeth.

  • If possible, try to find grass-fed animals that are not given hormones or medications if possible. Younger animals in general will have accumulated fewer toxins to pass on to your dog. You can be creative, approach organic and free-range farmers and ask to buy their off-cuts.

  • Carbohydrates, in particular grains, are not a natural part of the dog’s diet and we do not recommend they form any part of the diet. Dogs do not have the ability to digest grains properly, so instead, an extra strain is put on the liver as it has to produce more bile to break down the insoluble fiber.  Grains suppress the immune system. Grains are mucous forming and provide an ideal environment for parasites to thrive. Grains also contribute to the formation of dental plaque and tartar on the teeth, as well as bad breath and flatulence. Dogs have no dietary requirements for carbohydrates nor are they equipped with the teeth to process them.

  • We do not recommend that you feed chicken unless you can feed pasture-raised chicken, which would not be economical.  Chickens that are fed chicken feed have meat that is very imbalanced in the omega 3:6 ratio.  The meat is so imbalanced that it causes a lot of inflammation in the dog, which is why a lot of people think that their dog is allergic to chicken.  Chicken eggs are fine, though, again, pasture-raised eggs are better.  

 

HOW MUCH TO FEED

 

Most adult dogs eat around three percent of their ideal adult weight per day.

So for example:

3% of adult weight:

30kg dog:  30,000g x 0.03 = 900g of food

20kg dog:  20,000g x 0.03 = 600g of food

10kg dog: 10,000g x 0.03 = 300g of food

Initially, when switching your dog to raw, we recommend starting with 3% of body weight and splitting the daily amount as follows:

  • over 10 months old – switch gradually to one meal per day

  • for 4-10 months old – split into 2 meals per day

  • for under 4 months – split into 3 meals per day

if your dog is very active, you may need to feed a little more than 3%, or if your dog is more of a couch potato, you may need to feed a little less than 3% – every dog is different. The best way to tell if you are feeding the right amount is to run your hands over your dog’s ribs. If you can feel the ribs, yet not see them, your dog is at a good weight.

 

Puppies

Puppies should receive about 7-10% of their current weight split into 3 meals per day depending on age. When puppies are four to six months old, they require a great deal of food and a little extra edible bone as they are building their adult teeth. Do not let puppies get too thin at this important age as their energy demands are tremendous when cutting new teeth.

 

WHAT TO FEED

Most people, particularly those just starting out, are going to opt for a commercially prepared and balanced raw diet.  These diets are readily available from a great many pet stores (not the big box stores) and in great supply and variety.  Just thaw, weigh and serve. Not just the main meal, but all the frozen bones and treats, kefir, goat's milk, supplements (such as kelp and Omega 3 oils), and pre and pro biotics as well can be found in pet stores that carry raw.  The one thing you are unlikely to find at pet shops is whole prey (like quail, rabbit, game hen).

For those that want to do it on their own

One common concern with raw feeding is that it is not ‘complete and balanced'. This is untrue for two reasons. Firstly, no one truly knows what complete and balanced is for a dog, so it is difficult to make this claim. Secondly, balance can occur over time just as we do with our own meals; every meal does not need to be completely balanced as long as the nutritional needs of the dog are met over the long term. You don’t calculate the exact percentages of protein and carbohydrates or the exact amount of vitamins and minerals in each of your own meals, and you don’t have to do it with your dog’s meals. If you feed a variety of meats and organ meats, then it will balance out over time.

 

Starting Out – Gently…

It is a commonly believed myth that dogs switching to a raw diet will experience diarrhea in the first few days or weeks.   This is a myth and is solely caused by an over-zealous approach to the switch to raw food which can cause diarrhea and/or constipation.

Some robust dogs (such as former street dogs) can usually handle just about any raw food that is given to them, yet other dogs, particularly those that have been on kibble for several years, or who may have an underlying medical condition, need a gentler approach, so it is this gentle approach that we detail here…

1)      Choose a meat type to start off with – usually something that is easy to obtain and an acceptable price to you, such as turkey or pork. We usually start off with just one item and get the dog used to that first.

2)      Assuming you will start with a supermarket-style prepared turkey (i.e. gutted, and without head, feet etc) then this turkey is around 33% bone in total – with the breast portion being less bone, and the bony parts, such as the wings, being higher bone.

So start with a section of the breast, cut a piece according to the size of your dog that includes breast meat and the ribs – remove the skin for now. Feed this portion for a day or so, storing the rest of the bird in the freezer for later use. Then check your dog’s stools – you are looking for stools that are not too loose and not too firm.

3)      If stools are okay, then you can start to introduce cuts of the whole bird – bearing in mind that the bony parts such as wings and drumsticks are much higher than the 10% bone recommendation, so you will need to add some breast meat to balance the ratios in these early days.

4)      If stools are ok with all parts of the turkey, continue to feed for two or three weeks before considering choosing another meat type. Whichever meat type you choose next, follow the same slow, introductory procedure.

5)      Some dogs may object to one meat type, yet adore another. If you are having difficulty getting your dog to accept turkey for example, try a different meat source and come back to turkey once fully established on raw.

6)      Once your dog is fully established on raw food, then you can start to add in a little organ meat.   Liver is an essential part of the diet, so we recommend starting with that. Organ meats, particularly liver, can cause loose stools, especially if too much is fed too soon, so again, depending on how robust your dog is, start with a tiny piece and build up slowly to the full 5% of the diet by checking stools at each increase.

7)      Repeat the process for other organ meats.   Heart meat can be fed as muscle meat, although not exclusively.

 

Puppies and Bones

Between four and six months of age puppies cut their permanent teeth and grow rapidly. At this time they need a plentiful supply of meaty carcasses or raw meaty bones of suitable size.

 

  1. AIM FOR VARIETY…

  • Raw bones are living tissue composed of living cells and just like any other part of the body, they are a complex source of biologically balanced minerals, especially calcium, yet also copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, zinc, and manganese. It is highly probable that bones in a dog’s diet play a similar role to fiber, that is, a role in bulking out the food, thereby removing toxins and promoting general bowel health.   The easiest way to provide balanced calcium is by feeding raw meaty bones that have around 10% edible bone in them – such as whole quail, or turkey quarters, with perhaps some extra meat added in to allow for the bird having been processed (i.e. the innards missing) – a whole processed turkey is considered to be 33% bone, with some parts higher in bone content such as the wings (46%) whereas the bone-in breast portion is lower, perhaps 20%.

  • Raw, meaty bone choices – all poultry, pork, lamb/mutton, cow, deer, fish etc. Whilst the flesh of any animal is fine, bone type should be restricted to the type of animal a dog pack could realistically hunt in the wild – a cow would be unlikely and the bones are said to be too dense for a dog's teeth (especially small dogs) so could cause teeth chipping or breakage.   Common cuts can include turkey backs, wings, and necks (or even whole carcasses), lamb necks, pork necks, turkey necks, pork hocks, pork ribs, ox tails, turkey tails, and even lamb, pork or poultry heads for the adventurous; any meaty bone that can be completely consumed by your dog in fact. If you are feeding meaty parts then you can feed them alone, if your choices are bonier (such as turkey backs, pork necks, wings or ribs), then you will need to add meat or heart to correct the ratios.   Basically, you are trying to replicate whole prey, so look at what you’re about to feed and visualize the actual bone content – if a third or even half of it would be bone, then you know you need to add more meat. Remember you are aiming for 10% bone, although for robust dogs there is some tolerance for slightly higher bone content.

  • Whole prey, as the name suggests, is the whole ungutted animal or bird. Depending on the size of the dog, this could be anything from small birds to a rabbit or hare.   Some people feed larger prey and then remove what isn’t eaten and store it for the following days until the whole prey is eaten.

  • Raw muscle meat from a variety of sources should be fed daily. You can feed the heart as muscle meat yet not exclusively.   Cheap sources are waste trim from the butcher – this is often fatty, yet also has some lean, sinewy content.     Muscle meat is a great source of protein, and protein contains essential amino acids, the building blocks of your dog. Muscle meat also contains a lot of phosphorus and is low in calcium. When fed with 10% bone you have the exact ratios of calcium to phosphorus required by a dog. Free-range grass-fed meat is also rich in omega 3 and beta-carotene – intensively farmed grain-fed meat has very little if any.

  • Raw Fat is an excellent natural source of energy for a dog, however too much fat too soon can cause loose stools so you need to build up fat content nice and slowly – this includes turkey skin which is considered a fat, so for sensitive dogs should be removed in the early stages of raw feeding.

  • Raw fish (preferably whole, small, oily fish) can be fed for one or two meals per week. You may also opt to feed fish body oil such as Salmon oil. This supplementation is recommended if the meat you feed is not grass-fed because grain-fed animals lack Omega-3 fatty acids which protect the dog’s joints and immune system. It is preferable to feed smaller whole fish, than portions of a larger fish since the mercury and toxin levels in fish are a concern.

  • Raw offal (organ meat such as liver, heart, kidneys, brains, lung, pancreas, spleen) from a variety of meat sources should be fed for one or two meals per week or 10% of the diet. Some dogs do not like the texture of organ meats and need to have them lightly seared to change the texture. Other dogs don’t tolerate offal in larger quantities well, so it may be best to divide it up and feed a little each day to avoid loose stools. The liver is particularly important and should form 5% of the overall diet as it is the main source of water-insoluble vitamins in organs that a dog needs. Organs in general provide an enzyme-rich mixture of protein, B-complex vitamins, vitamins A and D, vitamin E, some vitamin C, and essential fatty acids EPA, DHA, and AA, along with minerals such as manganese, selenium, zinc, potassium, and copper. Like muscle meat, organs contain a lot of phosphorus (and potassium) and are low in calcium.

Essential organ meats in particular:

–   Liver has a vast range of important nutrition – it has the most concentrated source of vitamin A as well as vitamins D, E, and K in substantial quantities. Liver is an excellent source of the minerals zinc, manganese, selenium, and iron. It also contains all the B vitamins, particularly B1, B2, B3, B5, B12, biotin, and folacin, and is a good source of vitamin C. Liver provides a source of good quality protein and the essential fatty acids, both the omega-3 and omega-6 type. It’s fantastic food for your dog!

–   Kidneys supply good quality protein, essential fatty acids, and many vitamins including all the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Kidneys are a rich source of iron and all the B vitamins. They also have good levels of zinc.

–   Heart is an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, and iron. It contains some essential fatty acids and a little vitamin A. Heart contains good levels of taurine which is an important food… for the heart!

  • Raw whole eggs with shells (a perfect ratio of phosphorous to calcium) can be fed two or more times per week. You might have heard that raw egg whites contain a protein that binds with biotin and that is true. To avoid deficiencies, feed the entire egg, yolk, and everything. The yolks are where most of the nutrition is found anyway. Egg yolks are an excellent source of magnesium, calcium, iron, folate, vitamins A, E, and B6, and pasture-raised eggs have lots of beta-carotene.   If you buy your eggs commercially, they are likely sprayed with wax and other chemicals to improve their appearance.   These chemicals are harmful to your dog so if you cannot find fresh farm eggs, feed commercial eggs without the shell and count them as a meat meal.

  • Raw green tripe has long been quoted as being “the finest of natural foods”. It should be unprocessed, unbleached – basically straight out of the animal and is a great food as it is the edible lining and accompanying content of a cow or other grass-eating animals’ first or second division of the stomach. Paunch tripe comes from the large first stomach division and honeycomb tripe comes from the second division.   Both wild canids and domestic dogs benefit from eating tripe as it contains a very diverse profile of living nutrients including digestive enzymes, omega- 3 and 6 fatty acids, vitamin B, probiotics, and phytonutrients. Raw tripe is considered meat yet has a very good calcium/phosphorus ratio – it’s not an essential part of the diet, yet is extremely nutritious if you can get it.   Tripe should be from grass-fed herbivore animals (not grain-fed) to get the maximum nutritional benefit.

 

THE “DETOX”

You may have heard of dogs “detoxing” when they first start a raw diet.   This all depends on the current health levels of the dog, particularly how many toxins it has been exposed to, and this, in particular, includes the number of vaccines, heartworm medications, flea preventatives, etc they have been given which all have chemicals in them that are difficult for the dog to expel from the body.

With the increased health that raw provides, occasionally this build-up of toxins will start to be excreted, usually through the body’s largest organ; the skin.   Typically, this will present itself as unexplained itchy skin, itchy ears with or without discharge, and runny eyes.   These are all signs that the body is cleaning itself naturally and no oral steroid or injections, antibiotics, or topical treatments are needed, and in fact, if used, will suppress the detoxification process and cause it to internalize into the major organs to cause organ disease later in life. Please see the herbal health section for more information.

 

SUMMARY

Overall, raw feeding is quite simple. If it still seems complicated, try to visualize a rabbit or bird whole, before it gets cut up and put into containers. Try to feed your dog the rough percentage of bone, meat, and organ meat that would occur naturally in this animal. This is what we strive to recreate for our dog's diet.

Remember to feed a variety of meats, not just different parts of a duck or turkey. Over time try deer, pork, rabbit, goat, duck, turkey, beef, a variety of fish, and any other meat that you can get cheaply.

As you have read, there are only a few guidelines to follow. With time, you will become more comfortable with your dog’s new diet and you will start to see the results in the form of better coats, cleaner teeth, fresher breath, and fewer health issues. Switch to a raw diet and feel confident that you will be joining thousands of people who have safely and effectively made the leap to raw and have never looked back.

No matter what breed it is… No Matter what their size…

We wish you happy raw feeding with your lucky dog!

 

Health benefits of raw feeding:

Natural food equals natural health and helps provide the essential building blocks of a strong immune system!

After just a few weeks of raw feeding, you will start to see an improvement in their health. After a few months, the benefits are incredible and the list of health benefits is endless!!  Here are just some of the benefits we’ve experienced with our dogs:

  • They enjoy their food and can't wait to dig in

  • Helps create a stronger, healthier immune system so more resistant to disease and ill-health – much cheaper vet costs, if any.

  • Shiny healthy coats.

  • Sweet-smelling skin (no doggy smell) 

  • Pearly white teeth, healthy gums, and sweet breath (no tooth decay, or periodontal disease, therefore no infection on the gums and no bacteria swallowed with every gulp of saliva, this, in turn, leads to…… reduced chances of heart, kidney, and liver disease.)

  • Better concentration with commands and less hyperactive yet more energy.

  • Easier to keep at the right weight.

  • Better muscle tone.

  • Smaller poops.

  • More mental stimulation by eating dinner when they have to figure out how to attack it – helps to stop boredom.

  • No parasites (I don’t use any flea preventatives, I just occasionally use a neem herb spray instead and my dogs never have fleas, as fleas/ticks like unhealthy bodies) so there is no need for harmful neurotoxins for flea/tick control.

  • No need for harmful chemical dewormers again due to the added health from raw food; worms are prevented by a healthy immune system.

  • No metabolic problems

  • It’s cheaper in the short run if you buy wisely

  • It’s cheaper in the long run as vet bills are dramatically reduced – in over 6 years of raw feeding I’ve never needed a vet.

In general, dogs that eat raw are more balanced. Even their characters improve. Any raw feeder that has switched from kibble diets will tell you this.