Do you want to switch to feeding a raw dog food diet but don’t know where to start? Raw feeding is the healthiest and most natural diet you can offer your dog, but it’s important to make sure they are getting a complete and balanced diet that contains all of the right components to keep your dog at his optimal level of health.
Here are 5 essentials for balanced raw dog food diet:
- Muscle Meat & Organs
Let’s explore these in more detail.
Why feed a Raw Dog Food Diet?
Everyone has a different reason for deciding to switch to raw feeding. Some believe that because a dog is an animal they should therefore eat what an animal would be eating if they were living a wild and natural life, eating as nature intended, one might say. This means offering a diet that resembles as closely as possible what a dog might hunt in the wild. Raw meat, organs and bones would be your dog’s natural instinctive choice.
Perhaps you are concerned about the impact that kibble could be having on your dogs’ general health and in particular their teeth if you don’t brush them regularly with a toothbrush. Gnawing on raw meaty bones is considered to be like natural flossing for dogs and keeps the breath fresh. Feeding a ketogenic dog food diet is also considered to be an anti-cancer dog diet!
The fact is that raw feeding is the best way to ensure that your dog’s health is the best it can be. So if you have decided that this is for you (and for your dog) congratulations, and welcome aboard. Unfortunately many people are put off raw feeding, not only because of all it’s gory glory, but also because it can seem pretty complicated if you are at the beginning of your journey of discovery and learning.
It is important, if you want to do this, that you do it right. Your dog can only reap the rewards of raw feeding if they are fed a balanced diet. Luckily we can break this down into five easy to remember components, so that you can make sure that your dog is getting a bit of everything they need, in the right proportions.
Muscle Meat & Organs
Muscle Meat is the foundation for your dog’s new healthy and natural raw diet. This is where their protein is going to come from. Muscle Meat is essentially good quality lean raw animal meat, which should make up between 50% to a third of their diet. Protein is essential for strong tissue growth and has an important impact on the hormones and enzymes your dog needs in order to function at their optimal health.
Muscle meat can be sourced from a variety of different animals, and the more variety your dog gets the better. When you measure out your muscle meat you need to take into account any bone as this will affect the weight of the meat content. Your dog may not be getting enough of the actual meat if your don’t.
Here are some ideas for the muscle meat component of your dog’s raw diet:
- Chicken Breast & Thighs are a popular option because they are easy to purchase and inexpensive.
- Ground Beef, Beef Cheek & Stewing Beef are also easy to find and affordable.
- Turkey Meat is a good alternative to Chicken, as is Duck.
- Lamb and Pork are other popular options.
You should also include organ meats, as these are the nutrient rich parts of animals that your dog needs to have in their diet. Don’t be tempted to skip out the organs just because they might be more difficult to find or more expensive. You should be feeding between 10% to 30% organs depending on what you are able to find.
Be careful not to feed too much liver though, as this is very rich in vitamin A, and may leave your dog with an upset stomach. If you are only feeding liver as an organ meat you should stick to just 10% or less. If you are able to find some of the following options, feel free to include more of a variety, and increase organ meats to make up to 30% of your dog’s meals:
If you are looking for pancreas and thymus, you might have better luck asking for “sweetbreads” as they are more commonly known in supermarkets and butchers.
Organ meat may be difficult for your dog to consume at first due to the unfamiliar flavors and textures – they may just not like it! Organ meat is also very high in nutritional value, which can loosen your dog’s stool if they are not used to eating it. It’s best to start them off slowly, and if your dog refuses to eat it at first, you can fry it off slightly in a pan, or mix it in with the muscle meat so that the taste is altered or disguised.
You can also offer your dog raw fish. It is best to feed a whole raw fish once weekly rather than slathering fish oil over poultry for their daily meals. Fish oil turns rancid too quickly. It is also a heat-processed product, which isn’t exactly natural or environmentally friendly.
Mackerel, sardines, herring and smelts are all good options for feeding a whole raw fish once per week. Alternatively you can add smaller fish to your dog’s meals more regularly. In order to balance out fats, fish should make up about 5% of your dog’s overall diet.
Contrary to what we as humans like to believe for our own diets, it is important to include fat in your dog’s raw feeding. It is also important of course to watch how much fat your dog is consuming. Fats are great for healthy skin, nerve and immune function. Just remember that fats contain very little in terms of vitamins and minerals and twice as many calories as protein, so be careful with quantities.
Be aware that cheaper cuts of meat contain a lot more fat. You should aim to include less than 10% fat, but don’t be tempted to cut all of it out. Fat is still a healthy part of your dog’s diet. Keep in mind that the more your dog consumes, the less they consume of the good stuff, and so it’s good to keep things balanced.
Go for chicken necks or chicken and turkey (light turkey meat, not dark) without the skin, or cut the skin away before serving. Choose lean ground minces. Opt for Pork loin instead of pork belly. Avoid domestic duck, and feel free to feed rabbit, most fish and most wild game (minus the duck).
If you are able to feed whole fish or animals with the bone in, this is your best option, as they provide the perfect balance of all components. But often you will find carcasses in the butchers or supermarket with the organs removed, in which case you will have to replace them to make sure the meal is balanced.
Calcium is an essential part of a raw diet for your dog. Bones are an obvious choice, and they contain both calcium and phosphorus, which are essential minerals that work closely together for your dog’s health.
Meat is also high in phosphorus, but low in calcium. If you only feed your dog meat in their diet they will certainly develop bone and nervous system deficiencies. Growing puppies in particular need enough calcium to help their developing bones and joints grow properly. If you are opting to include raw meaty bones as a main source of calcium, they are also great for oral health, and you can aim to feed them for about a third of your dog’s diet.
Did you know that you could also feed eggshells? If you feed the raw egg with the shell you will be providing the perfect ratio of calcium and phosphorus. Some dogs will lick out the sticky contents and leave the eggshell behind. If your dog does this you can easily grind up the shell and add it to your dog’s main food. It is important to use only farm eggs, as eggs bought from the grocery store will have had their shells sprayed with a toxic substance that could make your dog ill.
Fruit & Vegetables
Vegetables and fruit are a source of fibre for your dog, but whether you want to include these in your dog’s diet is a personal choice. Your dog won’t need you to add fruit and vegetables to their diet in order for them to survive and thrive. In the wild they would probably eat a certain amount of vegetation including grasses and berries. Much of the greens they ate would have been contained within the stomach of an animal that they have hunted down to eat, and will have already been partially digested.
However, fruits and vegetables can provide benefits that can’t be found in meats. For example, in your dogs gut live tiny bugs (probiotics). Indigestible plant fibres feed these bugs, which play an important role in your dog’s health. So go ahead and feed your dog some healthy fruits and veg with their meals.
To help your dog digest any greens that you would like to feed to them, you can juice, blend or lightly steam the veggies, which will help your dog to get the most out of the their nutrients.
If you stick to these five guidelines you can have great satisfaction knowing that you are giving your dog a safe and balanced diet that mimics what they would choose to eat naturally in the wild.
You will be protecting them from all kinds of health issues and keeping them strong and vibrant, with healthy teeth and a gleaming coat.
Feeding a healthy raw dog food diet doesn’t have to be confusing or stressful, and the best thing is that you will know exactly what is going into your dog’s body, because you will be designing each meal yourself, and this will be reflected by what you see on the outside – a happy, healthy dog!