Raw Feeding: Biologically Appropriate Diet for Canines
HOW MUCH TO FEED
A general guideline is 3% of your dogs body weight. For a 75lb dog, that would be 2.25 pounds a day. This is just an estimate. Every dog is different so there is no exact amount of what to feed– depends on growth stage (puppies need more, can be weaned onto raw), metabolism, and activity level. You will determine how much to feed your dog by observing their body condition over time. If you notice they are getting too thin, you will feed a little bit more every day. If you notice they’re getting fat, you will cut back. A lazier dog might only eat 2% of his body weight, and a canine athlete might need 4-5%. You can weigh it in the beginning so you learn to eyeball weight. Then from there, just estimate.
Diet is not meant to be exact every single meal, or every single day, but to balance out over time. A diet should be balanced over a week or two. There may be a day when you’re busy, or ran out of a certain ingredient, or have no organ meats, and it’s ok to feed the dog just some chicken for that day, for example.
BENEFITS OF RAW: Health, anti-inflammatory, skin and coat, immune system, dental, digestive, dog waste
A raw diet will improve your dogs dental health, as he crunches chicken bones and tears at flesh. Many owners report better breath, better skin and coat, lessened allergies, overall health improvement, better stamina in canine athletes, and less odor to their dog. Plus, dogs love meat.
Another benefit of a raw diet is about 1/2 the amount of dog waste. They are not getting all those fillers, and will absorb much of what is eaten, and the waste will disintegrate easily, where as kibble-fed dogs poop will stick around for a long time. Know that the more bone they get, the more their stool will look white and crumbly, this will not be an issue with meaty items like chicken thighs, but if you feed a dog a meal of only all bony chicken necks, they are going to be constipated.
THE THREE KEY INGREDIENTS: MEAT (including fat), BONE, ORGAN
This is a PREY MODEL diet, where “extras” like veggies are just that… extras. Dogs only need these 3 items. Dogs are opportunistic carnivores, they “can” eat other foods, but they have no nutritional requirement for carbs, and we avoid starches and grains. If your dog has health conditions or known allergies to certain meats, a diet can be specialized for him. And if this is just all too much for you, feel free to purchase a pre-made raw diet at a pet store, they are ready to feed, just defrost.
Dogs cannot have an “all meat” diet. Nor can they do without organs, although they don’t need them every single day. They can do without bone for a day, but really they should get some calcium every day. Overall, balancing calcium (bone) and phosphorus (in the meat) isn’t difficult, as long as dogs receive plenty of bone. In general, any bone content over 10% is plenty although you shouldn’t often exceed 25% (in a DAY, not in a meal) because dogs need other nutrients too.
ARE BONES SAFE FOR MY DOG TO EAT? Raw chicken bones are safe, cooked bones are hard and brittle and are not healthy for dogs to eat or chew on, as they splinter. Chicken is a bird, and has light bones. I have seen small breeds like Yorkies crunch up raw chicken bones and rabbit bones. Larger bones from pigs or ruminant animals may be avoided, as they are too hard, and can damage teeth. If a dog cannot crunch bone, maybe due to age or dental problems, a ground-up diet can be fed. A ground bone powder can be added to a meat and organ diet.
BACTERIA IN RAW MEAT? Simply put, healthy dogs (who are not immunocompromised) and cats have different GI system than us. They have a more acidic stomach. This is an animal that can eat things we cannot, and can handle bacteria better than we can. Your meat should be fresh. Even commercial pet foods can contain salmonella. Use common sense handling for yourself, including washing your hands and all prep surfaces.
- The FDA’s Safe Handling Tips for Pet Foods and Treats page recommends washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap right after handling dry pet foods and treats. They also suggest you wash your hands before preparing human food and before eating. They recommend infants stay away from pet food areas and pet feeding stations, and that kids not be allowed to touch or eat pet food. The FDA also recommends washing pet bowls after feeding and sanitizing eating surfaces regularly.
Approximate percentage of bone (from the USDA nutrient database):
Whole chicken: 25%
Leg quarter: 30% (Main part of diet)
Split breast: 20%
Thigh: 15% (Main part of diet)
Wing: 45% (I don’t feed wings, not enough meat)
Back: 45% (would go with boneless beef in the same day)
Feet: 60% (chicken feet are good for dogs joints, give a few at a time)
TURKEY (Not every dog is good at digesting turkey leg bones as they’re bigger)
RAW DIET RECIPE (example given below is for a 70-lb dog, please adjust the amounts for your own dog).
HOW OFTEN TO FEED? Some people feed their adult dog just once a day, some twice. Puppies should be fed 2-3 times a day.
1-2 chicken quarters (depending on size) or 2-3 chicken thighs, with skin.
The chicken will be the larger meal of the day, about 2 pounds for my large dog. Skin-on, as skinless chicken does not have enough fat and would need to be supplemented with something like beef. I usually feed the dogs in a bowl in their crates. Some people use a mat or towel, or just clean the floor area after their dog eats.
A bit of chicken liver OR beef liver
Both are nutritious, but do more of beef liver. It’s better to feed a little bit every day, or every other day, than to feed a large amount at once. Too much liver at once will give a dog diarrhea. For a large dog, a couple ounces a day approximately.
A couple times a week: Gizzards, chicken hearts (is a muscle and almost no fat), kidney (beef or pork), chicken feet, just to vary things.
EVENING, SECOND MEAL:
Ground beef, stew meat, or any boneless beef
You can feed only chicken for a few days of the week, but 2-4 days a week, beef adds variety. I go for whatever is on sale, and sometimes there are cheaper steaks in the “clearance” section that are about to expire. This is fine as long as you’re feeding it the same day or freezing it. Most large dogs would eat about 1 pound a day of the beef.
Eggs are a great source of easily digestible protein and vitamins, and are inexpensive and easy to feed. A large dog may have 1-2 eggs a day. They can eat the shell, too, crushed up, but it’s not necessary since the dog is getting bone from the chicken.
Other meats: pork, lamb, venison, duck, goat, rabbit, quail, bison, etc.
Variety is healthy and should be encouraged. Some dogs will show preferences for certain meats, and may dislike others. When feeding pork, I choose boneless pieces of meat, and feed it along with a bony meat such as chicken necks. Rabbit is a very healthy food for dogs, and is similar to what they would eat “in the wild,” so to say. However, it may be cost-prohibitive to feed more expensive meats frequently. This is why I feed primarily chicken, I get it for .49 cents a pound. Try to find sources for good quality meats and organs so you can feed a wider variety.
Should I be feeding organic?
Organic meat is obviously great, but for most people, unless they have a good local option, it’s cost-prohibitive. None of the meats in commercial pet foods are organic. A conventional meat raw diet is not perfect. Not everyone can procure whole rabbits, green tripe, and free-range meats. But it’s still superior to commercially produced kibble, where the meat is processed, usually of unknown origin, plus it’s full of carbs.
Vegetable mix (OPTIONAL)
In a food processor or blender, mix things like leafy greens (kale, mustard greens, spinach, parsley), broccoli and carrots. You don’t have to have it all in there at once. It’s the leafy greens that may have health benefits and fiber, just make sure they are totally pulverized, or they are indigestible. You can blend this once or twice a week, or freeze it. You could feed this with beef, so it blends in and the dog eats it. If you want the dog to eat vegetable mix without meat, put a bit of liver into the blend.
Feeding fruit to dogs
Keep in mind that fruit is high in sugar, which is not good for dogs. All fruits should be considered a treat. An occasional apple is fine, just don’t feed the core with the seeds. Pineapple is ok in small amounts as a treat. No grapes, no seeds, no fruits like peaches with pits, and most dogs dislike citrus.
ADDITIONAL FOODS (not every day, but sometimes, or can substitute either AM or PM meal)
Sardines or salmon
Tins of sardines packed in water are a very healthy addition to any dogs diet. 1-4 tins a week for a larger dog, or occasionally feed. Smaller fish do not have mercury levels like larger fish such as tuna. Another healthy food is cooked canned salmon.
Plain Greek yogurt. There is whole fat, 2%, and 0% fat free. I usually get 2%. Cottage cheese can also be substituted. Greek yogurt is high in protein. One way to feed it is to freeze it inside Kongs, and give it as a treat.
A smelly, but very healthy food for your dog.
Sweet potato, squash, pumpkin (all cooked) (OPTIONAL)
I do not feed my dogs any carbs, however, some people choose to feed these in moderate amounts. Make sure they are cooked all the way. These are the only carbs a dog should be getting. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates. Quinoa is ok. No white potatoes. Olive oil is fine for dogs if you’ve cooked these for yourself, too.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR RAW DIET (the first 2 are the most important, the rest are optional)
1. Fish oil
Do not get any fish oils meant for dogs, they’re garbage. Human-grade, and should be sealed in capsules. I get large bottle at Costco. Add the capsules to either yogurt or the ground beef mix. For a large dog, 2-4 a day.
This is very good for overall health and digestion, and will make your dog have a stronger system. The best is VetriScience Probiotics for Dogs, available on Amazon.com It has special strains for dogs. Ones for humans are ok, too, but may not be as effective.
Green powder with health benefits and antioxidants, also said to give dogs better coat pigment.
Foods and Supplements you do NOT need:
-Grains (no pasta, rice, wheat, breads, etc.) Dogs have zero dietary requirement for carbs! Canine athletes cannot “carb load” like people do, they draw from fat for their energy.
-You want to balance a diet, and avoid feeding things that are “too much” of anything– bags of chicken skins may be cheaply available from your butcher, but they are mostly fat. Chicken backs are mostly just bone. Balance them with by pairing them with other items.
-Dog treats like biscuits, Milk Bone, Beggin Strips (all grains and flour, artificial coloring, sugar). Your training treats should be compatible with a raw diet. For training, we recommend any freeze-dried meat. A good one is Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried Raw diet, they are patties that can be broken up.
-Antibiotics, unless necessary. If your dog gets a minor cut or bite, some vets will give you antibiotics because obviously they can’t just say “It will probably be fine” and then be blamed if it did get infected. Dogs typically heal from minor scrapes very well if they are cleaned out, and the dog is healthy. I would not give my dogs antibiotics unless they truly need them. So I ask my vet to be conservative of the use of antibiotics for my dog. Likewise, I do not take antibiotics unless my doctor insists.
-Flea and tick medications, be careful. Only use this if you have to, and if you go to areas with ticks, then consider Frontline or similar, as recommended by your vet. Never “over the counter” flea/tick meds, they are not as safe. Avoid Hartz, Adams, or any brand you buy at a pet store, and only give what your veterinarian recommends and sells.
-Enzyme powders (unless a dog is deficient, they already have their own digestive enzymes)
-Coconut oil (this is fine for your dog in small amounts, but may be too much fat. Fish oil is better)
-Flax seed oil (any vegetable oil is inferior in absorption to animal-based oils)
-Be skeptical of any supplements meant for pets, they can be low quality and overpriced, and do nothing. The best animal supplement brand is VetriScience.
Travelling with a raw-fed dog?
You have 3 options:
1. Bring a cooler for your dogs food, use cold packs
2. Stop at a store and buy meat along the way
3. Bring a freeze-dried raw diet, available online or at pet stores. Just add water to it. It’s very light, and travels well.