“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.
The key points to remember with a raw diet are:
Russell Swift, D.V.M. feels that grains suppress the immune system. Grains are mucous forming and provide an ideal environment for parasites to thrive in. Grains also contribute to the formation of dental plaque and tartar on the teeth, as well as bad breath and flatulence. Dr. Swift details how cats and dogs have no dietary requirements for carbohydrates nor are they equipped with the teeth to process them.
Most dogs eat around two to three percent of their ideal adult weight per day.
So for example:
|2% of adult weight:||3% of adult weight:|
|30kg dog:||30,000g x 0.02 = 600g of food||30,000g x 0.03 = 900g of food|
|20kg dog:||20,000g x 0.02 = 400g of food||20,000g x 0.03 = 600g of food|
|10kg dog:||10,000g x 0.02 = 200g of food||10,000g x 0.03 = 300g of food|
Initially, when switching your dog to raw, we recommend starting with 2% of body weight and splitting the daily amount as follows:
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.
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.
Starting Out – Gently…
It is a commonly believed myth that dogs switching to a raw diet will experience diarrhoea in the first few days or weeks. This is a myth and is solely caused by an over-zealous approach to the switch to raw food which can cause diarrhoea and/or constipation.
Some robust dogs (such as former street dogs) can usually handle just about any raw food that is given to them, yet other dogs, particularly those that have been on kibble for several years, or who may have an underlying medical condition, need a gentler approach, so it is this gentle approach that we detail here…
Puppies & Bones
Puppies adapt quickly and can be weaned onto raw straight from the dam – from about three weeks of age they start to take an interest in what their mother is eating, by six weeks of age they can eat chicken carcasses, rabbits and fish.
During the brief interval between three and six weeks of age it is advisable to provide minced chicken, ground chicken carcasses or similar (the meat and bone should be minced together). This is akin to the part-digested food regurgitated by wild carnivore mothers. Large litters will need more supplementary feeding than small litters. They should also have access to larger pieces to start to encourage them to rip and tear to build jaw strength. Meat off the bone can be fed, but only for a short time, until they can eat meat and bone together — usually at about six weeks of age.
From six weeks of age, you can start off with meaty chicken ribs and chicken wings as the bones are not too dense so are considered soft for puppies to build up jaw strength plus some muscle meat to make up the ratios. Some raw fish is also a good starting food for puppies as the bones are also nice and easy. To help them get their small teeth into it, just slice into the meat a bit so they can chew into it easier. Chicken skin in particular should be sliced as they find that hard to chew through as it’s stretchy!
Chicken wings should have the wing tip cut off at the third joint, as if the puppy is tempted to swallow it whole, the double joint of the wing is a major choking hazard.
Between four and six months of age puppies cut their permanent teeth and grow rapidly. At this time they need a plentiful supply of meaty carcasses or raw meaty bones of suitable size.
Use Goats milk, as fresh from the goat and unprocessed as possible. It can be fed 1:1 i.e. 50% whole raw goats milk/ 50% pure water (such as spring, filtered, or pre-boiled water) or whole raw goats milk can be fed without diluting it – it really does depend on the health of the puppies. Some will find undiluted goats milk too rich and give them diarrhoea, others are fine with it. We recommend to start with diluted, check the stools and over time work up to whole milk. Whichever you choose, diluted or whole milk, add one egg to 1 litre of milk (or milk dilute) once the pup is happily established on the goat’s milk.
The milk should preferably be raw/unpasteurised and not boiled. Once you’ve made up the litre and beaten egg, then store in the fridge in a glass/china container (not plastic). As you need it, pour out what you need and warm it just a little to replicate mom’s milk temperature. Goats milk is a perfect substitute as it is much closer to bitch’s milk than cow’s milk which most puppy milk replacers are made from – we have raised many orphaned litters this way, some from as young as 2 days old.
Raw goat’s milk will also still contain a certain amount of antibodies as they are not just contained in the post-birth colostrums. It is therefore preferable for the milk to be raw, and from a goat that is as naturally reared as possible, i.e. preferably pasture fed/free range – obviously practicality reigns on this, just to say the more natural the milk, the more beneficial to the puppies. At around 3-4 weeks old, you can start to offer some raw meat alongside the milk and egg, usually minced meat, and then build up to full raw food over the coming weeks as detailed in the previous section.
For a 15kg adult dog at 2% – 15,000g x 0.02 = 300g of food per day
|Week 1||150g bone-in chicken breast||150g bone-in chicken breast|
|Week 2||150g chicken thigh & breast meat||150g chicken thigh & breast meat|
|Week 3-4||150g small chicken quarter with beef trim||150g small chicken quarter with beef trim|
|Week 5-6||150g chicken wing & beef trim||150g chicken wing & beef trim|
|Increase food to 2.5% – 15,000g x 0.025 = 375g of food per day||–||–|
|Week 7-8||225g small chicken quarter with pork meat||150g small chicken quarter with pork meat|
|Week 9-10||225g pork ribs with beef trim plus occasional raw egg||150g pork ribs with beef trim|
|Week 11-12||275g pork ribs with beef trim and tiny piece beef liver||100g chicken wing & breast meat|
|Week 13-14||310g pork ribs with beef trim and 15g beef liver||Alternate 50g small chicken breast with ribs or whole egg|
|Week 15-16||285g pork ribs with beef trim 25g kidney & 15g beef liver||Alternate 50g small chicken breast with ribs or whole egg|
|Week 17-18||335g chicken quarter, 25g beef heart & 15g beef liver||Training treats (e.g. slow baked organ or meat slices)|
|Week 19-20||295g chicken quarter, 50g heart, 15g kidney & 15g liver||Training treats (e.g. slow baked organ or meat slices)|
Remember, you’re aiming for:80% meat, sinew, ligaments, fat, can also include heart meat
10% edible bone
5% other organ meat
So for 375g of food a day this equals:
300g meat, sinew, ligaments, fat, heart meat
37.5g edible bone
18.75g other organ meat
These measurements don’t have to be exact, just to bear in mind.
Essential organ meats in particular:
You may have heard of dogs “detoxing” when they first start a raw diet. This all depends on the current health levels of the dog, particularly how many toxins it has been exposed to, and this in particular includes the number of vaccines, heartworm medications, flea preventatives etc they have been given which all have chemicals in them that are difficult for the dog to expel from the body.
With the increased health that raw provides, occasionally this build up of toxins will start to be excreted, usually through the body’s largest organ; the skin. Typically, this will present itself as unexplained itchy skin, itchy ears with or without discharge and runny eyes. These are all signs that the body is cleaning itself naturally and no oral steroid or injections, antibiotics or topical treatments are needed, and in fact, if used, will suppress the detoxification process and cause it to internalise into the major organs to cause organ disease later in life. Please see the herbal health section for more information.
Raw Feeding Summary
Overall, raw feeding is quite simple. If it still seems complicated, try to visualize a rabbit or bird whole, before it gets cut up and put into containers. Try to feed your dog the rough percentage of bone, meat and organ meat that would occur naturally in this animal. This is what we strive to recreate for our dogs diet.
Remember to feed a variety of meats, not just different parts of a chicken or turkey. Over time try deer, pork, rabbit, goat, duck, turkey, beef, a variety of fish and any other meat that you can get cheaply.
As you have read, there are only a few guidelines to follow. With time, you will become more comfortable with your dog’s new diet and you will start to see the results in the form of better coats, cleaner teeth, fresher breath and fewer health issues. Switch to a raw diet and feel confident that you will be joining thousands of people who have safely and effectively made the leap to raw and have never looked back.
No matter what breed it is… No Matter what their size…
We wish you happy raw feeding with your lucky dog!
Health benefits of rawfeeding:
Natural food equals natural health and helps provide the essential building blocks of a strong immune system!
After just a few weeks of rawfeeding you will start to see an improvement in their health. After a few months the benefits are incredible and the list of health benefits are endless!! Here’s just some of the benefits I’ve experienced with my four dogs:
In general dogs that eat raw are more balanced. Even their characters improve. Any raw feeder that has switched from commercial will tell you this.