People new to raw feeding all have the same questions: “how do I start”, “what exactly do I feed?”, “how much do I feed?” All too often, people are not given the information or confidence they need to begin and this is an unfortunate barrier to getting their dog off kibble, especially if their vet is against raw feeding.
As you will learn, there really are only a few hard and fast rules in canine nutrition. No one has all the answers, not the pet food manufacturers, not the vets and not even the canine nutritionists. Yet what you will also learn, as you see the health of your dog improve and your dog start to glisten with health and vitality is that it doesn’t matter. Just as we ourselves do not scientifically analyse what we eat, nor do we need to do it for our dogs.
RAW FEEDING GUIDELINES
The key points to remember with a raw diet are:
Balance over time – one meal could have more bone content, another more meat or organ. The approximate ratio to aim for overall is:
80% meat, sinew, ligaments, fat
10% edible bone
5% other organ meat
Meats are high in phosphorus, bones are high in calcium. When meat is fed with 10% bone you have the exact ratios of calcium to phosphorus required by a dog. Whole prey, fish, eggs and tripe have a balanced ratio.
Organ meat should not exceed 10% of the diet overall and 5% of that should be liver (beef liver has the highest nutrient levels). Feed liver once a week (or several small servings per week) and try to find an organic, free range source if possible because the liver is responsible for filtering toxins out of the body.
If feeding pork or salmon, be certain to freeze the meat for two weeks before feeding to reduce the small risk of parasites.
Never feed cooked bones of any type as when bones are cooked they become harder and are dangerous for the dog as they can splinter and pierce the stomach or intestines. Dried soft bone and raw bones are soft enough to bend and digest easily. Dogs are carnivores as per their scientific category (their DNA is 99% wolf) so dogs are designed to digest raw meat and bones – they have a stomach PH level of 1 or 2 which is highly acidic – perfect for digesting raw bones. It is therefore important to remember the difference between raw and cooked bones. For optimal safety, meal times should always be supervised.
Feel free to feed ‘weird and icky things’ such as chicken feet, beef trachea, tails, lung, kidney, testicles and pizzles. Beef cartilage and chicken feet are loaded in natural chondroitin and glucosamine which help to build healthy joints.
Avoid weight bearing knuckle bones of large animals such as beef – also the vertebrae as these are too dense and dangerous to teeth.
Carbohydrates, in particular grains, are not a natural part of the dog’s diet and we do not recommend they form any part of the diet. Dogs do not have the ability to digest grains properly, so instead, an extra strain is put on the liver as it has to produce more bile to break down the insoluble fibre. Everything available from The Dogs Takeaway is grain free.
HOW MUCH TO FEED
Most dogs eat around two to three percent of their ideal adult weight per day.
So for example:
Initially, when switching your dog to raw, we recommend starting with 2% of body weight and splitting the daily amount as follows:
over 6 months old – split into 2 meals per day
for 4-6 months old – split into 3 meals per day
for under 4 months – split into 4 meals or more per day
Once your dog has been on a raw diet for two or 3 weeks and the stool is fine, dogs over 1 year old should be switched gradually to one feeding per day as it is better for their digestion when on a raw diet. If your dog regularly does not eat all of his meal in one go, then you know you are feeding too much and should adjust accordingly.
Once established on raw, then you can increase the amount of food to 2.5% or 3% of adult body weight depending on your dog. If your dog is very active, you may need to feed a little more than 3%, or if your dog is more of a couch-potato, you may need to feed a little less than 2% – every dog is different. The best way to tell if you are feeding the right amount is to run your hands over your dog’s ribs. If you can feel the ribs, yet not see them, your dog is at a good weight.
Puppies should receive about 2-3% of their ideal/expected ADULT weight split into 3 or more meals per day depending on age. When puppies are four to six months old, they require a great deal of food and a little extra edible bone as they are building their adult teeth. Do not let puppies get too thin at this important age as their energy demands are tremendous when cutting new teeth.
WHAT TO FEED
One common concern with raw feeding is that it is not ‘complete and balanced’. This is untrue for two reasons. Firstly, no one truly knows what complete and balanced is for a dog, so it is difficult to make this claim. Secondly, balance can occur over time just as we do with our own meals; every meal does not need to be completely balanced as long as the nutritional needs of the dog are met over the long term. You don’t calculate the exact percentages of protein and carbohydrates, or the exact amount of vitamins and minerals in each of your own meals, and you don’t have to do it with your dog’s meals. If you feed a variety of meats and organ meats, then it will balance out over time.