If you haven’t read my previous post on my Raw Feeding Experience, I recommend you check it out. You can read it now or after you read this simple step guide. If you want to start feeding raw the steps are super simple to begin. Please note I am basing this off a PMR Diet (Prey Model Raw Diet).
Rule #1: Muscle Meat is the Foundation
As you can see above, muscle meat is the foundation of any raw diet. This means adding in those nice lean meats. Your dog needs proteins to build strong tissues. Keep in mind that muscle meat makes up 80% of the diet. So it’s super important to add this protein rich component to your dog’s diet.
Some good meat choices to consider are:
- Beef (ground beef, cheek meat, or stew meat)
- Beef Heart (make sure you don’t go over 5-8% as this is a very rich meat)
- Pork (pork should or butt, loin, or boneless rib meat)
- Lamb (ground lamb, stewing lamb, should or breast meat)
- Turkey (ground turkey, breast meat, tenderloin, or boneless thighs)
- Chicken (breast meat or boneless thighs)
- Bison (ground bison or stewing bison)
Rule #2: Must Have Calcium
All dogs, puppies especially, need a solid source of minerals. This is true especially for calcium and phosphorus. Dogs wouldn’t survive without these.
If you feed your dogs bone, you are most likely making sure they get these much needed minerals among others. This is super important when you start feeding raw to your dog.
Growing puppies and dogs need both phosphorus and calcium in their diet. They both work closely together so without them, your dog can end up having bone and nervous system issues. This includes severe bone issues in growing puppies. One thing to remember is that meat is high in phosphorus and low in calcium.
A dog’s raw diet needs to contain roughly 10% bone. Some nice meaty bone options are:
- Turkey Necks
- Beef Tail Bones (great for larger dogs)
- Chicken Necks, wings, legs, or thighs
- Lamb Ribs or Necks
- Goat Necks or Ribs
Rule #3: Organs are Multi-Vitamins
Organs are the nutrient-rich parts of the animal. If your dog doesn’t get them in their raw diet, they would truly be missing some important vitamins. Organ meats should make up 10% of the diet. Make sure to give no more than 5% of liver. The other 5% is to be another secreting organ (spleen, kidney, brain, pancreas, lung).
If you want to feed pancreas of thymus, you’ll need to look up the term sweetbreads on a raw feeding site where you purchase from or tell your butcher you are looking for sweetbreads.
Another tip for feeding organ meats, is to start slow when you first jump into feeding a raw diet. This is due to the fact that they can cause a loose stool. If your dog isn’t wanting to eat these at first, you can lightly sear it or try freezing it or grinding it and mixing it with the muscle meat.
Rule #4: Careful of Fat
Fat is important in a raw diet for your dog. You will need to be careful though as it carries some downsides. The perks of fat is that it helps with the nerve and immune function. It is also critical for skin health.
The downside of fat is that it contains twice the number of calories as it does protein and has very few vitamins too. Feeding too much fat is the number one mistake most new raw feeders make. So when you start feeding raw, be sure to watch the amount of fat.
This mistake is easily made as the cheaper meats tend to contain more fat. Raw feeding isn’t a cheap way to feed your dog but you can make it affordable by watching for sales on those lean cuts of meat that aren’t high in fat content. Generally speaking, you won’t want the fat content to reach more than roughly 10%-15% of the overall diet.
Dogs do need fat, but not so much that it robs them of the other much needed nutrients. Below I’ll list some cuts that are high in fat and then some that are lower in fat.
High Fat Content
- Ground Beef (85% lean or less)
- Chicken Necks with Skin
- Pork Belly
- Chicken or Turkey Dark Meat with Skin
Low Fat Content
- Pork Loin
- Wild Game (except duck)
- Lean Ground Beef
- Most Fish
- Chicken necks without Skin
- Chicken or Turkey Light Meat without Skin
Rule #5: Starch Free
I say this and mention it because starchy items aren’t suitable for dogs. These include grains, peas, and potatoes. Dogs can digest a small amount and if you want, I suggest keeping these for training treats. Personally I make my own treats and can do so without using grains but that’s not for everyone.
One of the biggest reasons to ditch the starchy foods is that it adds calories to your dog’s diet. Your dog has no need to starches or carbohydrates like they do for proteins and fats. Another negative to starches is that they can disrupt the microbes that live in the digestive tract. This can then lead to allergies, yeast, and/or inflammatory issues.
If your dog doesn’t need them, there is no need to feed them.
Rule #6: Fruits & Veggies
A common question I get asked about those interested to start feeding raw to their dog is “Does my dog need fruits and veggies?” and honestly that’s totally up to you. I personally rarely feed them if ever in the meal. I do however give them occasionally as a treat.
If you stick to the first four rules, your dog has a nice well balanced diet already with enough vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables do have some unique benefits though that can’t be gotten from animal product. In the wild, your dog’s ancestors ate grasses and berries and probably for a good reason. Most animals are good at sourcing what their body needs. I’ll list a few benefits of fruits and veggies below.
- Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibres that feed the little bugs that live in your dog’s gut (called probiotics)
- Lutein is an antioxidant that is known to protect the eyes, skin, and heart. It is found in kale, broccoli, papaya, and oranges.
- Chlorphyll is that green pigment in plants and make’s your dog’s cells healthy. It also detoxifies the liver and digestive system.
- Carotenoids are another important antioxidant that can help prevent aging and disease. It’s found in foods such as squash, papaya, carrots, and cantaloupe.
If you decide to feed fruits and vegetables, be sure to run them through a juicer or mulcher or even lightly steam them to help your dog get the most out of them. Fruits and veggies aren’t cheap so making sure they truly help your dog is key if you are going to opt to feed them.
Rule #7: Balance Over Time
Many don’t start feeding raw due to the concern it won’t be balanced and complete. This isn’t too much of an issue as you can balance over time and it doesn’t need to be balanced daily. The key is to make sure the nutritional needs of your dog are met over the course of a few days or even a week or two. Aiming for weekly balance is usually my main objective.
Just think of it as you don’t count or balance out your nutritional needs with every meal so you don’t have to do it for your dog either.
Rule #8: Variety Counts
Dogs are similar to us in that they need a variety of foods to provide the nutrients that they need to survive and thrive. It’s also boring to eat the same meal every day for every meal. Feeding a variety of different meats is beneficial and good for your dog.
Something else to remember is to feed those “weird and icky” things such as chicken, duck ,or turkey feet, beef trachea, pizzles, lung, and tails. Pizzles are tough to come by raw for me so I tend to give my dogs bully sticks which is a pizzle but dehydrated so it’s hard.
Beef trachea and poultry feet are loaded with natural chondroitin and glucosamine. These help build healthy joints and are relatively affordable. You can even stuff your dogs meal into the trachea to make for a fun and engaging eating experience. It’s easier if the food ground before stuffing it into the trachea but not required.
Rule #9: Feeding Fish
The rule I do my best to follow is to feed fish once per week. This can eliminate the need for a fish oil. I’ve heard both sides from many raw feeders that they don’t like giving a fish oil while others much prefer using a fish oil. I’ll admit I’m still undecided on how I truly feel about fish oil as I do use it but would much prefer to feed actual raw fish once or twice a week to my dog.
Fish isn’t a cheap protein option, at least not where I am located. Salmon is the easiest fish for me to find and it easily costs $10-$14 per pound at most groceries where I live. When I don’t have the option to grab fish whether that be salmon, sardines, herring, smelts, or mackerel I tend to go for my fish oil. Using fish oil is better than not using it or not giving fish at all. A good place to source fish is Raw Feeding Miami. They have a wide variety of fish options including both dehydrated and non-dehydrated options.
Fish is fed as muscle meat and you’ll want it to be roughly 5% of the total meal for your dog. This will help keep the diet balanced.
Rule #10: Applaud Yourself
You made it through this super lengthy article and can now feel accomplished and good to be on your way to start feeding raw to your dog. Seriously you’ve got this and just come back anytime to read the rules above for friendly reminders along the way.
Start Feed Raw – When to Feed
Many people tend to feed their dogs twice a day. I’ll do this but also will sometimes do just one meal a day or skip a day. No this isn’t starving your dog. It’s fasting them and helps their gut to “recharge” or do some in-house cleaning.
Some of these fasting days I’ll give them some fruits and veggies but not too much. Puppies under 6 months I feed three times a day. Once a week I will give my dogs a good raw meaty bone outside for them to enjoy.
How Much to Feed
So I’ll simply post this feeding calculator here.
Don’t fret if you see your dog start to gain or lose a bit of weight, it’s easy enough to adjust the amount your are feeding them.
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