If you're a beginner that's just getting into raw and a bit apprehensive, our raw dog feeding guide was written just for you. It's easy to better the health of your dog without messing things up. I promise!
Since raw feeding is still not mainstream and many Vets preach against it, your apprehension is understood, but trust us.. You can do it just as many new to raw feeding have done before you. With our beginners raw dog feeding guide, we'll walk you right through the process :)
You can do it!
Feeding raw means we are giving our dogs a diet that nature intended. Food easily metabolized by a dog whose body is physiologically designed and genetically programmed to efficiently process raw meat. Dogs are carnivores, carnivores thrive on raw meat and cannot digest grains, plus the processing used in commercial food basically cooks out good enzymes, nutrients, and favorable bacteria.
Raw Dog Feeding Guide for Beginners
What do I feed them? Raw unprocessed food meats, bones and organs. Food that will be optimally processed by the digestive system of a carnivore. Foods that consist of Raw Meaty Bones (RMB), Muscle Meat, Organ Meat, and Recreational Bones.
Raw Feeding Definitions
RMBs: Are bones with some meat on them that can be consumed completely. Your dog will ingest and digest the entire RMB including muscle meat, bone, fat, cartilage & connective tissues.
Muscle Meat: Is any meat that does not have bone in it. Typically, this is a red meat or pork.
Organ meat: Is any organ, (liver, kidneys, lung, pancreas, etc.).
TIP: Heart is a muscle and for this reason considered muscle meat.
Recreational Bones: Are weight baring bones a dog will gnaw and chew. They will chew on them but not eat and swallow them. Recreational bones large enough they cannot be swallowed whole are a must.
TIP: Recreational bones can dry out and become brittle over time. Recreational bones should be replaced when your dog is able to snap pieces off the bone. If frozen, your dog will have more time to gnaw a recreational bone before it becomes a choking hazard.
Raw Dog Feeding Guide How Much of What?
Customarily, The first question on the mind of every raw beginner is "how much of what do I feed". Ideally, 80%/10%/10% ratio (meat/bone/organ) is our goal. Understanding that this formula may still leave some folks a little unsure, let's look at another example..
Take a chicken leg quarter, one quarter is nearly a perfect balance of meat/bone and pretty near 80%/10%. Chicken is also a great staple and recommended for raw beginners as it's readily available and relatively inexpensive. With chicken covering the meat and bone requirements, we're left only to make up 10% organ meat, let's use beef liver as an example.
With future meals and to provide different protein & fat sources, we'll substitute chicken with other meats, nearly any animal will suffice. Our raw dog feeding guide suggests sticking with chicken for a few weeks to a month, then experimenting with other meats and adding organ beginning with small amounts.
As you grow in confidence feeding raw, things will fall into place naturally, remember not to rush anything. As a suggestion, you can drizzle cod liver oil over raw chicken or add red meat to a meal twice a week to get started with variety.
To sum that up again, we always recommend feeding chicken for the first month. Specifically, a staple diet of leg quarters which have a near perfect balance of meat and bone plus a naturally balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio. After the first month, begin adding variety to your staple chicken quarter. Not only variety in the types of meat but also the cuts. You can include ground meats and large chunks of flesh with and without bone. You will want white meats and red meats.
Fresh or frozen fish, store bought or wild caught, is also great for raw feeding and provides additional omega 3 fatty acids. Be aware there can be heavy metals found in some farmed fish, canned fish, or those harvested from polluted waters. A good rule of thumb is would you eat the fish? If so, there should not be a problem feeding that raw fish to your dog ;)
Many hunters and those that know hunters often ask if feeding wild game is OK. Taking care to remove any lead, buckshot or pellets from the meat, freezing wild game for 48 hours will kill any parasites and render the meat ready to feed. Avoid feeding the spinal column of wild game however as a safety precaution.
When To Start Feeding Raw?
Today would be a great day to start! Things are often easier put off but why wait? You've done your research and are armed with the knowledge you need to blueprint a plan, go for it. Try switching kibble fed dogs while you still have a half bag or so of kibble left. Every now and then a certain dog can be difficult to transition and if that's your dog, you can always fall back on kibble temporarily.
Where Do I Feed Raw?
There's no HUGE difference between feeding raw vs. kibble but many dogs will try to take their raw food somewhere other than their feed bowl. Things can get messy and raw foods on surfaces other than your kitchen counter will spread bacteria. No big deal if you're swift to clean up after your dog has eaten yet this spells trouble for families with toddlers or young children.
Feeding your dog raw in their crate is a method preferred by many. We chose however to condition a "feeding spot" with a washable mat and stainless steel bowl to place the raw food. Realistically, any hard surface that's easy to wipe down will work perfectly. Many in warm climates will raw feed their dogs outdoors. Since my dogs do a great job licking the mat they've eaten from, a quick shot of disinfectant spray and a few paper towels is how I handle clean up.
How Should I Start?
Our raw dog feeding guide has hopefully motivated you to start feeding raw. But you may be thinking.. " Should I go cold turkey or transition slowly?" "Is raw or Pre-Mix raw better?" "What about preparing the food and how much do I feed?"
I promise it all sounds difficult but you'll be a pro in a few weeks! Most will do great with a 100% switch, but some dogs will not take to raw right away. Certain dogs need to be taught that raw is food, and, that it's okay to eat.
With difficult dogs, the easiest method I've found to gain their acceptance is offer small pieces of raw by hand while gradually working up to larger pieces, and eventually putting the raw in their bowl. Ground turkey will usually kick start an apprehensive dog's raw appetite and while we don't advocate ground raw, it works in a pinch for this specific situation.
How Much Do I Feed?
Perhaps one of the most frequent questions we receive is how much raw do I feed? My answer to this question always begins with, "Your dog will tell you how much". Conveniently, when feeding raw physical change happens quickly. Simply adding or subtracting from amount fed per serving will affect your dog's weight and appearance within days. Simply put, If you feel your dog looks thin, add a bit to each meal and less if they're looking too heavy.
In general, begin with the percentages outlined by our raw dog feeding guide below as a benchmark. Adjust as required by keeping a keen eye on your dog. Aim for averages over time, meaning, you can over or under feed daily as long as you meet your target weight of food served calculated for that week. For example.. if your goal is 2-pounds per day, 1.5-pounds on Friday and 2.5-pounds on Saturday averages 2-pounds, perfect. Hopefully this makes sense.
So what amount of raw do we start with? The rule of thumb is 1% to 3% of desired body weight for adults, and anywhere from 3% to 10% for puppies. Percentages will vary slightly based on your dog's metabolism and activity level, beginning percentages are not set in stone. Further, male dogs seem to require slightly higher percentages of RAW to maintain their body weight than female dogs.
A safe starting point is 3% of body weight, here's how you get there.. Take your dog's desired weight and multiply by .03, or 3%. As an example, I'd start a 35 pound dog on 1.05 pounds of raw food a day. No need to be exact, a heavy pound will do. If you choose to feed twice a day that same 35 pound dog would get 8 to 9 ounces per meal, (1 pound being 16 ounces).
Next, let your dog be its awesome self and keep an eye on their weight. Feed more or less as needed to maintain their perfect figure ;) Remember, percentages are simply a baseline to get you started. Every dog is unique! Weights, menu, feeding frequency and schedule will differ for every raw fed dog.
TIP: A kibble fed dog that has transitioned to raw may act hungry and even look a bit thin the first few weeks. Some grain formulated kibble swells in the gut and makes a dog feel full. It's not uncommon for a dog new to raw to give you that "I'm still hungry" look! There's no need to increase serving size unless your dog gets skinny, but give it a week or two until you're fully transitioned.
What About Supplements?
Now that we covered the what/when/where/why/hows of our raw dog feeding guide, let's chat about some other common concerns.
Supplements.. Do you need them? Should you use them? That is a BIG question. I personally do not add veggies to raw. And, since I rarely feed fish, I'll supplement salmon oil to provide good fatty Omega 3. Like me, If you're not going to feed fish, consider using an omega 3/6 blend to add EFA (essential fatty acids) back into the diet.
If you are switching a long time kibble fed dog to RAW there may be a detoxification period. Detox can last a week to a month and symptoms can vary depending on the quality of the kibble your dog has been eating. You may notice any of the following to some degree and what we consider normal.
Some symptoms of detox include • loose, mucus covered or odd colored stools • shedding • sneezing • gas • laziness (more than usual) • loss of appetite or finicky eating (They're learning it's food) • anything can happen.
While detox symptoms are concerning, if your dog is otherwise acting normal, eating, drinking and eliminating, don't worry too much. Speaking of drinking, it's quite normal for a raw fed dog to stop drinking all together due to the high moisture content of raw food. Those that do still drink will most definitely drink much less.
What if my Vet disagrees?
While the majority of Vets advocate kibble, some do accept the concept of raw dog feeding! Regardless, you will come across Vets that will absolutely school you against raw. Nutrition is something that veterinarians are not trained in great depth on. Furthermore, what training they do get is normally sponsored by the big kibble dog food companies who in short, want to sell kibble. If your Vet does not agree but does not protest, great. If your Vet says raw caused your dog salmonella, there are bone fragments in its stomach, or you're killing your dog feeding raw, we suggest you seek a more open minded Vet.
We hope you found our raw dog feeding guide for beginners easy to follow and informative. And, that you're more confident than ever in getting your dog started on raw food. Should you choose to go raw I trust that like me, you'll never look back at kibble based diets.
More Great Raw Info
For additional info on raw dog feeding including nutrients in raw, how to switch a dog to raw and so much more, don't miss the excellent articles in our raw library published on our Raw Feeding Dogs page!