This guide provides a basic understanding as well as helpful hints and tips to get your dog started on a raw diet.
There are a lot of differing opinions out there but the more you read the more you can decide what you agree with and what you don’t and therefore come up with your own way of feeding raw, as raw is all about being able to provide the very best food customised to your dogs, and with time you WILL learn what works best for you and your dog.
Raw feeding is also often called BARF, RMB, prey model etc… However don’t get hung up on the labels – it’s all raw – just slightly different presentations!
Firstly, you need to work out how much to feed your dog. A good place to start is 2-3% of body-weight for an adult dog or 3% of the expected adult weight for puppies throughout their growing phase, you can split this over 1 or more meals a day.
This will give you a starting point and you can then adjust accordingly, and please do stay flexible as these are guidelines and might not suit your individual dog or puppy as they are all individuals and differing activity levels and metabolic rates etc. I increase the amount fed or reduce accordingly to how my dogs feel.
With a healthy dog you can feel the ribs and they have a waist, plus there is a tuck underneath.
To start with feed one protein source (like chicken or turkey), one meat, for a week and keep a diary, slowly by week 2 introduce a new meat, (for example beef and beef GREEN tripe), combine for a week, and use this method to introduce other things like lamb, rabbit, etc.
See how your dog goes for a week. You will find you will become an expert at looking at dog poo as this is the best way of telling how your dog is doing. You will find that poos generally become smaller and better formed as they utilise more of the food that they are being fed. The perfect poo can vary in colour but should be like a small kickable non stick pellet.
For many starting out it can make a lot of sense to start with premade minces with everything already in it (a complete meal)
So what should I be aiming for? You want to aim to have a good varied diet, the more variety the better the balance and the less likely a chance of your dog missing out on something.
your aim [ratio]: 80% meat, 10% bone & 10% offal
Examples of things that are counted towards your 80% meat are: heart, tongue, cheek, skirt, off cuts, lung, diaphragm, trachea, gizzards, green tripe, brisket, stewing meat, fillets. Your 10% offal …. 5% liver do include liver – it’s essential. other 5% kidney, spleen, brain, testicles, pancreas.
With bone it’s better to start slightly lower and build up then feed too much. You will know if you feed too much bone as poo becomes very hard and chalky or the dog is straining to get it out – if this happens skip a bone meal for a boneless meal like tripe or just some more meat (without bone). If you are concerned you have given too much bone and the dog is struggling with constipation feed offal – this gets the bowels moving, or heart can also help. You can feed pretty much any meat; chicken, turkey, lamb, goat, pork, beef, venison, rabbit, duck, pheasant, wood pigeon, kangaroo, fish – the list is endless and it will mostly be about what your hands on.
You can also add in some vegetables: this is the big debate in the raw feeding world! Some are against some for – you will have to make up your own mind with it – I personally do feed veg but not always. If you do decide to feed your own vegetables they need to be pulped/ mashes/slightly cooked as dogs can’t break down the cellulose walls of vegetables. Onion, corn on the cob and potatoes (raw) should not be fed. And nice leafy greens like spinach and kale together with squash or pumpkin are nice.
TOTALLY NORMAL – dogs on a raw diet tend to drink a lot less – especially if they have been used to kibble – keep an eye of course but if all the motions are OK don’t worry.
Most of the moisture they need comes from the raw meat you feed. Bone: bone is essential, however especially when you start build it up slowly – TOO MUCH BONE IS NOT GOOD and to be avoided and is an often mistake for those just starting, REMEMBER IT’S JUST 10%!! – if your dog is struggling pooing give some offal or heart.
Look at what comes out the other end – you after FIRM poos not hard, clean kickable is perfect! Too hard, crumbly, white, your dog straining means it’s too much bone. Also poo colour changes are quite normal depending on what they have eaten.
Dogs are individuals and have different bone tolerances it’s important you learn what your dog can handle.
Sometimes dogs get particularly hungry, resulting in them throwing up bile (yellow foamy stuff with sometimes BITS!) most of the time this would be overnight or early in the morning so feed a treat last thing at night (I give a big dollop of mince) to tie them over.
Also it can help to give food that takes time to eat. Sloppy poos & membrane poos: sometimes something just doesn’t fit with your dog that’s Ok it could be they eaten a nasty on a walk or in the garden or that pork or diary just didn’t suit them…what works for me is tree bark powder and a few days of tripe and chicken to re-balance the gut.
Equally dogs going through detox with have a few sloppy poos – if it persists do get advice.
The guidelines of 2/3% are just that – guidelines – every dog is different it might help to weight things out and make a note – don’t get to stuck on these percentages – some are over 3% some are under 2% it’s normal like people dogs are individuals -adjust based on what your dog looks and feels like!
This is really essential! Supplements: tricky and everyone has a slightly different opinion on it so you will have to figure this one out for yourself. I feel supplements are excellent when you have a need, say a dog with itchy skin or bad breath – however do try and always find out the cause.
Other supplements can help with covering the basic needs eg salmon oil if you do not feed regular oily fish. Not eating: be aware that healthy dogs won’t starve themselves and can go a while without eating. Put down the bowl and if untouched just take it away, try again and next meal time and cut out ALL treats – don’t fuss, sometimes we as owners make a problem where there is none, that way creating a behaviour… (so if you have issues and they are engrained perhaps try a different routine (change how you do it) .
Remember you are not a chef with a menu and you do know what’s best, think if you were used to MacDonalds then your mum/dad presenting you day in day out with a Cesar Salad might take a little persuasion initially. Vets: Few vets welcome raw feeding, most are against it, and will warn you off with all sorts of dreadful tales, so be prepared, be honest but equally consider if it worth blurting it out if you are having a routine check up.
However do consider this… Vets get very little nutritional education at university, what they do get tends to be sponsored by kibble manufacturers, equally these vets once in practice will sell you said kibble – it’s profitable after all.