Diet is as important for dogs as it is for humans. Ensuring your dog has a healthy well balanced diet is crucial for their physical and mental development. Often behaviour problems can be down to the diet your dog is eating. Many commercial pet foods aren't very good quality and you may not understand what your dog is eating. By feeding a balanced natural raw diet you know exactly what your dog is eating and this will help with their overall health and can help prevent allergies.
After all you are what you eat!
A Simple Guide to Raw Feeding
Feeding raw can be as easy or as difficult as you like. I recommend keeping it easy to start with. By easy I mean you can buy complete raw meals so you just need to defrost and weigh out the quantity your dog requires per meal. We now stock Nutriment, They Love It and Bulmer’s. All suppliers are DEFRA approved and each of them provide slightly different types of food.
The benefits of feeding your dog raw:
- It’s a natural diet, you know exactly what you are feeding your dog
- No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives
- No grains and no beet pulp
- Feeding raw bones will help to naturally clean your dog(s) teeth
- Raw fed dogs have extremely shiny soft coats
- Less waste to clear up
- Fewer visits to the vets
- Is less hyper and more content
When switching to a raw diet it is best not to mix dry food and raw due to the different rates of digestion. Raw food is digested much quicker than dry which means the dry food may ferment within the gut which can cause diarrhoea and possibly sickness. When you start raw feeding it’s best to finish feeding dry one day and then start the raw the next morning. If you do want to feed dry and raw ensure there is 12 hours between feeds to make it easier on your dog’s stomach.
The trick with a good raw diet is variation. Initially you need to start off with one protein per week. Chicken is usually a good place to start unless you know your dog has a chicken allergy. This may have been recognised by your dog constantly scratching after eating it. The allergy is often due to the fact that poultry is fed corn, which some dogs may have an allergy to.
Feed your chosen protein for about 5 days. This can contain bone, but you may want to have less bone in initially. You can gradually add a bit of green tripe to each meal, tripe is extremely good for dogs as it contains loads of goodness, however it is also very fattening so bear this in mind if your dog is overweight.
The next protein you can try could be beef or rabbit. Again add just a small amount to mostly the chicken and do this gradually. Try and introduce one new protein a week. The ratios should be approximately 80% meat 10% bone 10% offal, these may vary slightly depending on which meat you are feeding.
You can also include raw bones from early on. If feeding chicken or duck wings for the first time you may want to hold the wing with a pair of pliers so your dog learns to chew it slowly. You can also feed them frozen which will slow them down a bit. Puppies can eat wings and necks from a very young age so you can start introducing them straight away. If your puppy has come from a breeder who already raw feeds the pup may already have been given a chicken wing or neck. If your pup is intolerant to chicken, feed duck wings and necks instead.
NEVER feed cooked bones, they splinter and are very brittle. They can be a choking hazard and cause lots of intestinal damage.
The bones you feed your dog can be in addition to your dog’s allowance of meat per day. They are good to keep them occupied but I tend to feed bones when I am with my dogs so I can keep an eye on what they are doing, although they do tend to eat their bones carefully. If some of the bones are quite meaty then just reduce one of your dog’s meal.
Raw bones that your dog can have include but are not limited to:
- Bird carcasses, wings and necks (including but not limited to chicken, duck and pheasant)
- lamb necks, ribs and spines
- beef necks, ribs and spines
- Venison necks, ribs and spines
- Whole rabbit.
- Pig Heads
- Whole fish
You should avoid feeding weight bearing bones from larger animals e.g. sheep and cows – these bones are very hard and dogs can break their teeth on them.
It is always worth going to your local butcher to see if they would be willing to part with carcasses and bones etc. that they don’t use. You may be able to get yourself some freebies!
Duck, chicken and turkey feet (and other bird feet) contain glucosamine chondroiten which is excellent for joints. You can feed one foot a day. If you are a bit squeamish about certain things just take things slowly and only feed things you are comfortable with. You will soon get used to it all.
Other products which are classed as boneless meats which are really good to feed:
Heart, tongue, cheek, skirt, off cuts, lung, diaphragm, trachea, gizzard, green tripe (can be fattening), brisket (stew meat), penis.
You need to feed 10% offal in each meal. Some ready prepared foods contain offal, just check the labels. Some people don’t add it to every meal which is fine as long as they get a good balance. 5% of the offal needs to be liver the other 5% can be made up of one of the other offals listed below. When you introduce offal it needs to be done very slowly; literally just a tip of a teaspoon to begin with as it can cause your dog to have the runs.
Liver, kidney, spleen, brain, pancreas, testicles.
If your butcher says he sells meat for dogs a few things you need to be careful of and ensure you ask the correct questions.
- Can they tell you what the bone content is?
- Does the meat contain offal and how much and which offal have they used. (some butchers class heart and lung as offal – these are muscle meats. (see the offal list above).
- Do they add any fillers e.g. rusk, bread, flour etc?
- Is the meat fatty?
Vegetables – to feed or not to feed?
If you aren’t feeding the complete meals with veg you can add vegetables to your dog(s) diet. It isn’t essential, I only recommend feeding veg as a filler if you are trying to get your dog(s) to lose weight or if they are constantly hungry.
Dogs can’t digest raw vegetables. In order for them to gain any nutritional benefits from them they need to be slightly prepared. Vegetables should be either juiced including pulp or lightly steamed. I usually do a mix of about 4 veg both below ground and above ground. I give a large tablespoon per meal to my dogs. If you don’t have a juicer you can use a food processor, you might want to add a bit of water to it, try and avoid cooking the veg unless you steam and then add in some of the water that it was cooked in or the veg will lose all the nutritional value.
Squash, parsnip, carrot, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, courgette, cauliflower, green beans, sweet potato, and pumpkin are all ok to feed.
You can also include fruit.
PLEASE ENSURE YOU NEVER FEED FRESH GRAPES OR DRIED FRUIT OF ANY DESCRIPTION TO YOUR DOGS!!!
You can feed live pro-biotic natural yogurt, kefir and raw egg including shell once or twice a week. You can also feed at least one or two meals a week which are boneless the meat chunks are good for feeding for boneless or you can feed heart or just buy boneless mince from the supermarket to balance it out. Some of the minces I have in stock are boneless.
There is a really useful group on Facebook called Rawfeeding Rebels. The members are really helpful so if you have questions whether you are new to raw or an experienced raw feeder or anything in between and interested in sharing stories or gaining advice then it is definitely worth joining. https://www.facebook.com/groups/Rawfeeding.rebels/?fref=ts
They also have a website if you aren’t on Facebook: http://www.rawfeedingrebels.com/
You will find that you will need to keep an eye on your dog’s poo. This is really important as a raw feeder so you can see from his poo if he is being fed the right quantities of bone and offal. If the poo is white, chalky and crumbly he is having too much bone so just give him a boneless meal if you are feeding additional bones, if it is black and runny he is having too much offal so just balance it by reducing the offal and increasing the meat and bone content slightly.
To calculate the quantity of meat to feed your puppy or dog you work it out on a percentage of the current or ideal bodyweight (if overweight). Use the chart below as a guide. If your dog is overweight you should base the percentage on the ideal weight. You can always reduce and adult dog’s percentage of food down to 1.5% of the ideal weight and feed vegetables as mentioned above to bulk out the food. You may want to feed your dog little and often so they feel less hungry.
If you have an iPhone you can download a free App called Raw Dog which is a great calculator for quantities to feed.
Here are the percentages to feed:
- 7-10 weeks 8 – 10% of bodyweight
- 10-16 weeks 7.5 – 8.5% of bodyweight
- 16-20 weeks 6.5 – 7.5% of bodyweight
- 20-24 weeks 5.5 – 6.5% of bodyweight
- 24-36 weeks 4.5 – 5.5% of bodyweight
- 36-56 weeks 3.5 – 4.5% of bodyweight
- 56-68 weeks 3.5% of bodyweight
- 68 weeks plus is adult maintenance at 2-3%
It can be common for raw fed dogs to have what we term as hunger pukes. This is when they may bring up a foamy liquid and is usually first thing in the morning. This is caused by them being hungry because the raw food is digested quicker than dry food. It’s nothing to worry about. If you give your dogs a snack last thing at night this usually prevents this.
I would feed a pup under the age of 3 months 4 meals a day then reduce to 3 meals a day until 6 months and then feed twice a day. However, the number of times you feed your puppy / dog is personal preference. Fussy eaters can be better having one meal a day and you could give ribs, a neck, a wing or a foot as a snack either morning or evening. Some dogs will also benefit from a starvation day. I personally don’t do this with my dogs. You will find what works for your own circumstances.
My dogs are fed twice a day and have a chicken foot at night before bed. They are generally fed between 7.30am and 9am and then 5.30pm and 6.30pm in the evening. I feed minces, chunks and whole chicken carcasses, wings, necks, ribs and feet.
Their diet includes:
Chicken, duck, venison, lamb, beef, rabbit, pheasant, oily fish, white fish, pork and offal
Any other questions please feel free to ask. Email is usually the best method to contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org
Suppliers I have used: Durham Animal Feeds, Manifold Valley Meats, Bulmers, Landywoods, The Dogs Butcher, Nutriment, They Love It.
The Raw Dog Food Company has a shop based in Lenwade, Norfolk they stock a variety of food from some of the suppliers above and they offer a delivery service. www.therawdogfoodcompany.co.uk