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 and food intolerances.
Feeding raw can be as easy or as complex 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. All raw dog food suppliers must be DEFRA approved.
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 non-weight bearing 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
- They are 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.
The pH level of the gut will need to be more acidic to digest bone and more alkaline to digest dry food.
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.
Your dog may start to detox from their old food as they are adjusting to the new food. Things to look out for are changes in coat and they may lose weight. Do not panic, after a week or two your dog will adjust. It is no different to when we change our diets. For example: if we cut out caffeine quickly, we can end up with headaches – this is part of the detox process.
The ratios for raw feeding should be approximately 80% meat 10% bone 10% offal, these may vary slightly depending on which meat you are feeding.
It is essential to feed a good variety of meat and fish.
Initially you need to start off with one protein and continue with your chosen protein for 2 -3 weeks.
Chicken is usually a good protein to start with. If you suspect your dog has an intolerance or allergy to it, try turkey.
An intolerance or allergy to chicken can be recognised by your dog persistently scratching after eating or they can have ear problems. Look out for dark red/black build up of a waxy substance – this can indicate they have allergies. The allergy is often due birds being fed corn.
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 can also 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 first protein you have fed and do this gradually. Try and introduce one new protein every week to 10 days.
Fish is a really important protein to feed as it will provide valuable Omega 3 nutrients to the diet. If your dog wont eat oily fish the diet can also be supplemented with flax seed or you can feed organic salmon oil.
Raw bones are an essential part of a raw fed diet. These can be included 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. They can also be fed frozen as this will slow your dog 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 always feed them to your dogs when you are able to watch them to ensure you can monitor them. If some of the bones are quite meaty then just reduce the quantity of your dogs meal or feed instead of mince or chunks.
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 or fish heads
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. 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.
Offal is an essential part of your raw fed dog(s) diet. Offal that you can feed to your dog:
If your dog has had a carcass or a meaty bone as a meal replacement it can be best to feed a boneless meat for the other meal that day and even for the following day. This will help to balance out the bone content that your dog has eaten.
Other products from animals that are classed as muscle meat are:
Heart, tongue, cheek, skirt, off cuts, lung, diaphragm, trachea, gizzard, green tripe (can be fattening), brisket (stew meat), penis.
Fruit, Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds
If you aren’t feeding the complete meals that contain fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds it is a good idea to add these to your dog’s diet.
Dogs can’t digest raw vegetables as they don’t have amylase within the gut to break the raw vegetables down. In order for them to gain any nutritional benefits from them they need to be slightly prepared.
They can either be juiced including pulp or lightly steamed.
Some vegetables you can feed: squash, parsnip, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, courgette, cauliflower, green beans, sweet potato, and pumpkin are all good to feed. You can also include fruit.
ABSOLUTELY NO GRAPES as they are very toxic to dogs.
Pumpkin, squash and sesame seeds are all great for dogs. NO MACADAMIA NUTS as these are toxic.
You can buy a supplement called Smartbarf this is a complete fruit, veg, nut and seed mix which you just add water to rehydrate it.
Other foods you can feed in addition to the above can include:
- A live pro-biotic natural yogurt or Kefir which is great for gut health.
- Raw egg including shell once or twice a week.
- Brewers yeast is also really good to add as a supplement to your dogs food 1/2tsp per 10kg.