Raw Feeding

For almost 20 years, I have been feeding my dogs a raw diet. And interestingly, over the past 20ish years, it seems that many “dog food” companies have been creating formulas that are getting closer and closer to a natural diet for our dogs – raw meaty bones. When anyone asks me about feeding raw, I give them several references and tell them to do their own research before starting to transition their dog. The one reference I always give is the Raw Feeding group. This group originally started as a Yahoo Group and has migrated to Facebook. You can find them here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/rawfeedingcarnivores/ You will want to join and read for a few weeks. They also have a tons of great info under the Files link on the left. I have been a member of this group for as long as I have been feeding raw.

Here is a very good post that I wanted to share – it is a basic guideline to get you started:

1) quantity 
2) proportions 
3) types of meat 
4) how to feed 
5) transitioning to raw 
6) what to avoid 
7) when to feed 
8) things you’ll notice 
9) things to watch out for 
10) cost

1) Quantity: Feed 2-3% of ideal adult body weight per day.

(eg: 25kg dog = 500g-750g, or 55 pound dog = 1.10 pounds – 1.65 pounds food per day). More for young, energetic, active dogs. Less for older, slower dogs. After a while you won’t have to measure and weigh everything – you’ll be able to judge by how your dog looks. (On a healthy dog you should be able to feel the ribs but not see them, except perhaps the last two on certain breeds, eg: greyhounds). 

Note: Puppies need to be fed either 2-3% of expected adult weight or 10% of current weight (though this is not so precise), and pregnant and nursing bitches should be given as much quantity and variety as they want to eat.

2) Proportions: Feed: 80% meat + 10% bone (in the meat) + 5% liver + 5% other organ (kidney, lung, pancreas, brain, eyeballs, spleen, genitals, etc.) You don’t have to do this everyday. This should balance out approximately over the month. 

Note: heart, skin, stomach and intestines (and sometimes lung) are fed as meat. 
Note: too much organ at once can cause diarrhea. Too much bone can cause constipation. You can add raw fish and whole raw eggs (including shell) occasionally. These will provide Omega 3 oils and Vitamin E which are beneficial to your dog. 
No veggies, fruits, grains or supplements of any kind are needed. (Dogs can get all the vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and enzymes they need from raw meat)*. 
*If you don’t feed oily fish regularly or grass fed red meat, you can supplement with a good fish body oil (not liver oil) or salmon oil, one with no soy and minimal Omega 6 and no Omega 9; one that delivers 300mg EPA+DHA total (minimum) per serving.

3) Types of Meat: Feed whole animals as much as possible or appropriately sized portions of whole animals. 

Feed whole chickens or chicken halves or chicken quarters, turkey legs or breasts, rabbits, lamb shanks or shoulder, goat or pork racks (ribs), shoulders, back, neck. beef heart, whole fish, etc., according to the size and requirements of your dog. 

There is no danger of choking on large pieces of meat, but avoid smaller, swallow size pieces of meat, such as turkey necks that can be swallowed whole and stick in the throat. Dogs have no trouble crunching and digesting raw bones. Only cooked bones are dangerous. Meat can be offered frozen, cold or at room temperature. Even meat that has gone off (by our standards) is probably fine for your dog. (Think about how your dog can bury meat and dig it up weeks later and eat it). For convenience, freeze daily portions of meat in freezer bags. Take out of the freezer several hours ahead of feeding time to defrost. Give to dog.

5) Transitioning a dog to raw – don’t waste time converting slowly.

Get rid of the grains and give them raw meat right away. Older dogs can be switched ‘cold turkey’. No need for a slow transition, but it’s best to start with one kind of meat and stick with it until the dog has got used to the change.  For example, start with chicken (take skin off if it causes loose stools) and introduce a new meat after a couple of weeks. Don’t give liver or other organs until your dog is used to the new meats. 

Puppies can start on raw as soon as they are weaned, from 4-8 weeks. They can eat whole prey including bones and adapt more easily than mature dogs.  (Raw meat is better for their steady growth and avoids sudden growth spurts caused by the carbohydrates in dry dog food, which is why dogs brought up on raw do not suffer the joint and bone problems of many other dogs). 

Note: avoid letting your dog decide the menu. If your dog doesn’t like what you give him, put it away until the next meal, or the next, or the one after that. He won’t starve and will eat when he’s hungry. Eventually he’ll learn that you are the pack leader, not him, and he’ll eat what he’s given. If you give him what he wants every time, you’ll just make a fussy dog. If they absolutely refuse a meat, you can try lightly searing it or sprinkling some cheese on top until they get used to it.

6) What to avoid: Cooked bones / leg bones from large animals

Never give cooked bones – these can pierce and tear a dog’s intestine. Never give weight bearing bones from big mammals (eg: cow leg bones) as these can break teeth. (If you like you can scoop out the marrow with a spoon and give it to your dog). Avoid giving plain bones – always make sure it is hidden in the meat. Wild game (eg: wild boars, venison, possibly rabbit, wild salmon) should be frozen for 1-2 weeks to kill parasites. Human grade meat from slaughterhouses should be fine, but if in doubt, freeze first. 

Never give ‘swallow size’ pieces of meat. Dogs do not chew their food, they crunch, break and swallow. 

Check that the meat you give is not enhanced – no added salt (no more than 80 mg). Try to give ‘organic’ meat or meat that has not been treated with antibiotics as much as possible, though unfortunately this is way too expensive for most people.

7) When to feed: find what works best for you and your dog but no need to feed regular meals. 

In the wild, wolves eat when they can. This may be smaller animals every day or so, or larger animals once every four or five days. Most or our dogs have got used to eating once or twice a day, but if a dog gets programmed to a rigid feeding schedule, he can start to vomit bile which he will produce in expectation of food. To avoid this do not feed according to a tight schedule. Vary the amount of food each day and the feeding times. Some people prefer to let their dogs self regulate. They allow the dog to eat as much as they can and then don’t feed them again until they are hungry, maybe two or three days later. These dogs tend to establish an ideal weight by themselves and never eat more than they need. Work out what works best for your dog. 

Note: Feed puppies 3 times a day until they are 6 months, twice a day from 6 months and once a day after their first birthday (roughly – go by the dog). Pregnant and lactating bitches, as already stated, should eat what and when they want.

8) Things you will notice after switching to raw: Your dog will drink less water (meat is 60-70%+ water), and will poop far less than before (no wasted carbohydrates). This is normal.

Stools will vary according to diet – it won’t be the same every day. Loose stools are fairly normal and should not be confused with diarrhoea. They may change colour and consistency and occasionally contain mucus and bits of bone. Over time you’ll work out which meats suit your dog’s digestive system best. 

Your dog will soon have better energy levels, but will also sleep better after meals. His coat should become shinier and he will get to a better weight. His immune system will be better so less need for medical interventions. His teeth will be cleaner and whiter and lose the tartar. He will develop better jaw and muscle strength. He will be much happier, and for the majority of dogs, switching to raw is like going to doggy heaven! He will not become more aggressive or prone to attacking other animals. This is a myth.

9) Things to watch out for: allergies and other problems.

99% of the time your dog’s pre-existing health issues and allergies will disappear when you switch him off a grain based diet and onto raw meat. Even dogs that are allergic to certain meats, are less likely to be allergic to that meat on a raw food diet. Many dogs on dry dog food diets that have allergies, clear up completely on a raw diet. However, if you see any of the following signs it may be worth changing meats to try and rule out possible allergens: constant vomiting or diarrhea, unwillingness to eat, lethargy, excessive blood in vomit or stools. If in doubt – see a vet.

10) Cost – it needn’t cost more than what you feed already.

If you shop around it’s usually possible to buy good meat for less or same price as you’ve been spending on dried dog food (kibble). Supermarkets sometimes have deals on certain meats, frozen meats, etc. but try to make sure they are un-enhanced with salt or additives. If you visit slaughterhouses or butchers and ask they may be able to give you free stuff, but don’t just rely on bags of fat and unwanted bones. Get organs and body parts that are not normally used. Some people prefer to rear their own meat (rabbits, chicken, etc.) for their dogs, while others are lucky enough to find road kill or hunt their own.