Raw Diet: The Basics
After losing our 2.5 year old Dogue De Bordeaux to GDV (commonly called bloat), we began searching for information on how to prevent this condition. By the time our new pup arrived we had settled on a raw diet for our little giant. While I have been in the animal field for over 7 years and have owned dogs for 11, this is my first raw fed puppy. Of course, starting something so new and different (and time-consuming!) can be daunting, so I'd like to help answer some of the most common questions posed to us about raw diets. There are many ways to feed raw, and even more opinions about what is good and what isnít; this information is based on our personal education and experience.
What is raw feeding?
When raw feeding, what you see is what you get. There are no hidden ingredients, no fillers. All the mystery is taken out of your dogís meals. A raw diet is composed of the same food you eat, but as it suggests, nothing is cooked. Well, I donít know many people who eat bones, but for the most part, raw food is human food.
Why feed raw?
Dogs in the wild did not have little cooked pellets that contained cooked vegetables and grains (or cooked meat, for that matter), thus their systems are not made for digesting these ingredients. A raw diet is a direct evolution of what dogs ate before they became our pets.
Some pet owners who have made the switch have noticed drastic changes in their pets, including:
- Shinier, healthier skin
- Fresher breath/cleaner teeth
- Improved digestion
- Improvement with allergy symptoms
- Decreased shedding
- Increased stamina
- Firmer, smaller stools
- A general increase in overall health
What can I feed?
When discussing raw feeding you'll often hear people talking about RMB's, which stands for Raw Meaty Bones. A raw meaty bone is a bone with a *lot* of meat on it that is consumable. Yes, a dog can eat (and will enjoy eating) the entire bone. No, the bone is not going to splinter; those canines will be put to good use grinding bones up.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Cooked bones run the risk of splintering- NEVER feed cooked bones!
A dog on a raw diet will need a variety of different meats in order to reap the benefits that each protein provides; for example one type of meat may be higher in iron, while another may be higher in vitamin A. This is why a rotating diet is recommended in order to maintain a healthy raw diet.
Here is a list of some items your dog can try:
- Chicken - whole or any parts! (backs, necks, wings, etc.)
- Turkey - whole or any parts (wings, necks, etc.)
- Cornish game hens (whole)
- Beef (any cuts)
- Pork (necks, ribs, any cuts)
- Fish (canned sardines in WATER, not oil, or Jack mackerel)
- Buffalo, kangaroo- almost anything you can think of!
Also, your dog does need organ meat, for its high nutrient content- feed liver or kidney as 10% of their diet.
When you first start your dog on raw, introduce one protein source at a time. Feed chicken for a week, then beef for a week, and so on, to introduce these foods to your petís system. This way you can easily detect a protein allergy. Once the food is introduced you should have no problem varying meat daily during normal weeks.
A note on bacteria: This was one of my concerns when we starting looking into the raw option. Raw meat is not safe for humans because of bacteria like e-coli and Salmonella. But, canine digestive systems are have some natural immunity to bacteria, and can handle the bacteria in meat without issue, when in good overall health.
In addition to meat, include vegetables, eggs, fruit, yogurt, etc. Eggs, like bones, are a good source of calcium, so are good to use when you donít have bones. Pumpkin is a good system regulator, so we keep that on hand for most meals. There are countless good foods to give your dog, once you start looking! Grains, however, are completely unnecessary- since commercial pet foods are always grain-based diets, many people are used to the idea that their dogs need grain. Itís just not true. Some of the positive effects of feeding raw are related to eliminating grain from your dogís diet.
How much does my dog need to eat?
The general rule is to feed a healthy adult dog between 2-4% of its weight daily, and then adjust as needed. If you have an overweight dog, start on the lower end of the spectrum, if you have a dog who needs to gain a little bit of weight, start closer to 4%. You will also be able to judge by looking at your dog- if he is looking a little thin, bump up his meat intake. Puppies may require up to 10% of their weight daily during growth. Raw diets are ideal for growing puppies, too, but they canít eat all the same bones an adult dog can. Give puppies non-weight-bearing bones, as their young teeth canít handle thicker bones.
Where do I find raw food?
Raw diets are catching on as a viable and healthy alternative to commercial pet food, and so there are some brands of packaged raw food. While those are a step up from kibble, they are very expensive and you still donít have the advantage of knowing exactly what your dog eats at each meal. We recommend finding a good butcher or local farmer for your meat source. If you have some extra freezer space, youíll probably be able to work out good deals buying in larger quantities. As far as cost goes, raw is less expensive than kibble. Kibble has filler in it, while a raw diet is 100% food a dog will benefit from eating. People feeding kibble need to feed more of it to satisfy a dogís dietary needs; raw food is more cost effective in that sense.
This is just a basic introduction to the world of raw feeding, but I hope it answers some of the most commonly asked questions I see out there.
For tips on managing a raw diet, check out our article: Simple Facts and Advice About Raw Feeding