Raw feeding is one of the most debated topics among vets and animal nutritionists. Unfortunately, that means owners who want to move away from commercial foods can have a hard time finding information. Not only that but the amount of information out there can make it near impossible to know where to start.
This guide will give you the basics to start your raw feeding journey. As your journey continues you will realise there are no hard and fast rules and no one has all the answers. Be guided by your dog, you know them better than anyone.
Balance over time is one of the biggest thing to remember with raw feeding. A little over here and a little under there is fine so don't stress too much. The approximate ratio you should be aiming for is:
70% meat, sinew, ligaments and fats
5% other organs
5-10% fruits and vegetables
Protein is an incredibly important nutrient, it is used to build and repair muscle and bone, make hormones and as an energy source.
Fats are a rich source of energy, with over double the number of calories per gram.
Protein and fat are the essential macronutrients for dogs. While carbohydrates aren't essential it doesn’t mean some carbohydrates aren’t valuable.
Dogs use calcium and phosphorus to move their muscles and control their bodily functions. Without a steady supply of calcium dogs will begin to draw the calcium from their bones which can lead to serious health issues.
Meat is high in phosphorus while bone contains 65% minerals, the most abundant being calcium.
Think of organ meat like natures multi vitamin for dogs. Muscle meats are a great source of protein but contain low levels of vitamins and minerals. Organ meats all have high levels of various vitamins and minerals.
Liver is a bit of a super food and will supply most of the essential vitamins. It is the most concentrated source of vitamin A and contains all the B vitamins. The liver also supplies good levels of vitamins C, D, E and K and minerals such as zinc, manganese, selenium and iron. It doesn't stop there, the liver provides both essential (unable to be produced by the body) fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6.
Liver is great but it can't do everything. You should also include other organ meats like kidneys, a good source of essential fatty acids, iron, zinc and vitamins A, B, D, E and K, and heart, a good source of B vitamins, iron and taurine which is important for heart health.
Don't limit yourself though, all organ meats provide their own health benefits. Others to consider are spleen, pancreas, brain, lungs, eyes and green tripe.
Pro tip - Organ meats can cause digestive upsets if too much is added to soon because they are so rich in nutrients. When starting on raw start with 5% organs and gradually work up from there.
Dogs are in fact omnivorous and fruits and vegetables are another way to make sure they are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals. Many fruits and vegetables have been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immune boosting or cancer fighting properties.
Don't forget not all fruits and vegetable are safe for dogs. Stay away from;
How much to feed
To get enough calories in, most adult dogs need between 2-3% of their body weight each
day. Active or underweight dogs may need more that 3% while less active, overweight or older dogs may need a little less than 2%.
When starting on raw it's a good idea to start at 2% for a few weeks. Keep track of the dogs weight by weighting them once a week and monitor any changes in their body shape. If they are loosing or gaining weight or becoming too skinny or overweight adjust the percentage accordingly. If you're not sure your vet will be able to assist you.
Growing puppies have different nutritional needs to adults dogs. Most importantly they need more calories and calcium to ensure they develop properly.
If you are raw feeding a puppy you should increase the bone content to at least 12-15%. This will ensure they are getting enough calcium to help their bones and teeth grow big and strong.
As puppies grow you will need to reduce the percentage of food until they are fully grown and you reach their maintenance percentage. Speak to your vet to help you determine when your puppy would be considered fully grown as large and giant breeds take longer to reach adulthood.
2-4 months : 8-10% of current body weight over 3-4 meals per day
4-6 months : 6-8% of current body weight over 3 meals per day
6-8 months : 4-6% of current body weight over 2 meals per day
8-12 months : 3-4% of current body weight over 2 meals per day
Paying attention to your dogs poo is super important because it can tell you a lot about their health that you can't see from the outside.
The ideal poo is a light to dark brown colour that is firm and easy to pick up.
White poo is common with raw feeding and an indication of excess calcium.
Grey poo can be a sign of too much fat or an issue with the pancreas.
Green poo can be caused by eating too much grass or it can be a sign of biliary or gall bladder issues.
Red can be a sign of bleeding in the lower digestive tract or a rectal injury.
Black may be a sign of bleeding in the digestive tract.
If you are concerned about changes in your dogs poo you should contact your vet.
Building a raw food meal
There a a few ways you can build a raw meal and none of them are right or wrong so long as you follow the basic guidelines.
To work out how much to feed you dog first start by finding 3% of the dogs current weight.
20,000g (20kg) x 0.03 (3%) = 600g (amount of food per day).
Next, find the weight of the meat, bone, liver, organs, fruits and vegetables you need.
600g (total food) x 0.7 (70% meat and fats) = 420g
600g (total food) x 0.1 (10% bone) = 60g
600g (total food) x 0.0.5 (5% liver) = 30g
600g (total food) x 0.05 (5% other organs) = 30g
600g (total food) x 0.1 (10% fruits and vegetables) = 60g
You can check your working by adding all the values. If they equal your total of food for the day you got it right.
420g + 60g + 30g + 30g + 60g = 600g
From this you can either make each meal as needed simply by adding the required quantities of each component to make a complete meal.
--- OR ---
You can make a bulk lot and just feed the required amount at each meal. Remember it's about balance over time. They will still get the required amount over the weeks so don't stress about it being exact for every meal.
If you want to make a weeks worth you would need 7x each of the values.
Total - 600g x 7 = 4.2kg
Meats and fats - 420g x 7 = 2.94kg
Bone - 60g x 7 = 420g
Liver - 30g x 7 = 210g
Other organs - 30g x 7 = 210g
Fruits and vegetables - 60g x 7 = 420g
DON'T FORGET - The total we worked out is the total for the WHOLE day. If your dog gets 2 meals a day you need to half that number, if your dog gets 3 meals you need to divide it by 3 to work out who much to feed at each meal.
Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. If you're not sure about something ask, your vet or an animal nutritionist is a great place to start. There are also plenty of forums and Facebook groups out there for raw feeders.