I was overwhelmed by the idea of switching my dog to a raw diet, even though I understood it would be the healthiest diet for him. I kept putting it off due to the time I wanted to spend on research before making the switch.
You probably have some of the same questions I had.
What if my dog doesn't get the balanced nutrition he needs? What if I screw up and he gets sick? Are dogs carnivores or omnivores? How much protein does my dog need?
If you decide to feed your dog a raw dog food diet, you have several options. You can buy pre-prepared freeze-dried or frozen raw dog food. You can buy dog food mixes to add to your own raw meat. Or, you can buy all the ingredients and prepare your dog's food yourself.
Pre-made raw dog food patties
If you haven't fed your dog raw food before, the easiest way to go is to purchase pre-prepared raw dog food patties from a dog food company like Balanced Blends. The idea is similar to buying a natural kibble for your dog. If you pick the right brand, you can trust that the food is healthy and your dog is getting the balanced diet he needs.
The frozen chicken or beef meals from Balanced Blends contain all the meat, organ and bone (plus minerals) Ace needs in his diet so I don't have to add anything extra. To serve, I just de-frost the food overnight so it's ready to go the next day. I also recently wrote a review of Balanced Blends raw dog food.
Freeze-dried raw dog food
Freeze-dried raw dog food is convenient to store and convenient to serve. You don't have to keep the food frozen, and it takes up less space. You can serve the food dry or you can add water. Freeze-dried raw dog food is not as messy as the raw patties, and it's much more convenient to feed when you travel or board your dog.
Freeze-dried food is different than dehydrated food (often used for backpacking). When food is freeze dried, it starts out frozen and the ice crystals are turned to water vapor, according to Stella & Chewy's. All the nutritional value of the raw meat is retained because it is not lost in the heating process necessary to dehydrate or cook food.
Adding pre-made dog food mixes to raw meat
Companies such as Sojourner Farms make dog food mixes made of vegetables to add to raw meat. You just mix a few spoonfuls of Sojourner Farms in with raw meat and water and it's ready to serve. It's another easy way to make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients he needs. Sojourner Farms dog food mixes contain ingredients such as sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, celery, apples, eggs, flax meal and kelp.
Homemade raw dog food
If you want to make homemade raw dog food, take the time to do some research and plan ahead. I do not have experience preparing homemade raw meals for my dog, but I plan to make some meals for him in the future.
My ebook – 10 raw dog food recipes
Seriously. It's not that hard to make your dog's meals. I put together a book with 10 raw dog food recipes for you. The cost is $9.
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Here are some examples of topics I cover in the book:
How much meat does my dog need per day?
According to Sojourner Farms, a dog Ace's size (65-pound lab mix) should eat 3 cups of raw meat per day. I wish the chart gave the amounts by weight, but at least it's something to start with.
Dog owners are way too concerned about precision anyway. It's not rocket science. Just start with approximately 8 ounces of meat for every cup of kibble your dog is currently eating. Then adjust as needed. If your dog starts to look a little lean, then feed him more. If he starts to gain weight, feed him less.
A dog's raw diet should be about 70 percent meat, 10 percent organs, 10 percent bone and 10 percent veggies, in my opinion. Use that as a guide and don't worry about balancing every single meal.
Are dogs carnivores or omnivores?
This depends on who you ask. I've found that the general consensus is that dogs are carnivores that also eat vegetables.
I asked Ace's vet this question, and she said that dogs have become omnivores. In the wild, wolves and coyotes eat mostly meat. But when meat is scarce, they will eat nuts and berries and other vegetation. They also get grass from the stomachs of the animals they kill and eat. Obviously our dogs do well eating a variety of vegetables, too.
What kinds of fruits and vegetables can I feed my dog?
If you are not sure whether or not a food is safe to give your dog, make sure to ask your vet.
Some foods commonly acceptable to feed dogs include carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, sweet potatoes, squash, peas, apples, cranberries, cherries and bananas.
Do not feed your dog onions, avocados, grapes or garlic.
How much of my dog's diet should be fruits and vegetables?
This will depend on who you ask. Some raw feeders prefer not to feed any fruits and veggies at all. Others feed them occasionally as treats, and others regularly include fruits and veggies in their dogs' diets.
I prefer to follow the general rule of 70 percent meat, 10 percent organs, 10 percent edible bones and 10 percent vegetation.
One of the reasons to feed your dog a variety of raw fruits and raw vegetables is to make sure he's getting a variety of healthy nutrients. So go ahead and mix it up from week to week. You can either cut the vegetables up into small pieces for your dog or you can use a blender or food processor to blend them.
What kinds of vitamins and supplements should I add to my dog's raw food?
You can give your dog a spoonful of coconut oil. I do this for my dog, and it seems to leave his coat visibly shinier and his skin less itchy.
Fish oil is also healthy for dogs and it too contains the three omega acids. Do not give your dog cheap oils like corn oil or canola oil since there are healthier options.
Are bones really safe for dogs?
Yes, raw bones are safe for dogs as long as you make sure your dog is actually chewing the bones and not swallowing small pieces. This is why larger bones are safer. Take the bones away from your dog if you start to see him trying to swallow pieces without chewing.
Never feed cooked bones, as they shatter too easily and the small, sharp pieces can harm your dog.
Dogs love raw chicken bones. I give my dog chicken quarters, chicken thighs and even whole chickens at times.
I plan to avoid pork bones because these are harder bones and I worry they could harm my dog's teeth. Some people prefer to freeze raw pork meat before feeding it to dogs due to the slight risk of a fatal bacterial disease from the pork bones. I've found that this is mostly a myth and raw pork is safe for dogs. If you're still concerned, you can always freeze pork for three weeks to kill potential bacteria.
Example of a homemade raw dog food recipe
Here is an examples of a meal I could feed my 65-pound lab mix. This is about as simple as it gets:
1 chicken quarter (raw chicken bones are OK, just make sure to supervise), 1/4 C. raw broccoli, green beans and carrots, 1 T. fish oil
Wow, that was almost as easy as tossing a cup of kibble in a bowl! Click here for more homemade raw dog food BARF recipes. BARF stands for bones and raw food.
How do I transition my dog from kibble to raw?
You can either switch your dog immediately or you can do a gradual transition as I did with Ace. A gradual switch is probably best for dogs that have been eating mostly kibble all their lives.
Why can't I mix raw dog food and kibble?
The reason some raw dog food companies and vets recommend a quick switch is because dogs have a difficult time digesting the combination of raw food (easy to digest) and kibble (harder to digest). This is why it's a bad idea to feed your dog kibble and raw food long term, although some dogs seem to do OK.
If you choose to do a gradual switch, the process is the same as switching from one kibble to another. Feed 75 percent of the old food and 25 percent of the new food for three days or so. Then do half and half and then 25 percent old, 75 percent new. If all is well, switch to 100 percent raw.
My dog eats raw dog food – day 10 update
This is week two of a 12-week raw food trial for my dog Ace. Stella & Chewy’s is sponsoring this trial by providing Ace with 90 days worth of pre-prepared raw dog food patties.
Ace has been doing awesome on his raw dog food patties from Stella & Chewy's. I highly recommend the switch to almost all dog owners.
The patties are so convenient. I spend very little time preparing Ace's food. Even when I forgot to de-frost the patties one night, I still cut them up and he was happy to eat the frozen pieces.
I did a gradual switch from kibble to raw over about eight days. Ace ate one meal kibble and one meal raw for the last couple days. Yesterday was his first day eating 100 percent raw. He has had absolutely no digestive issues, so I saw no reason to prolong the transition.
All of his raw food has been chicken based so far. Tomorrow I plan to start mixing in some beef patties. He hasn't eaten beef-based dog food in about three years, so that could be interesting.
Some additional info:
Ace's ears seem dirty, like he could possibly have the beginning of an ear infection. This is most likely because his owner hasn't taken the time to clean his ears lately.
He is eating chicken as his main protein right now. His dry food (Evo) was also made of chicken and he seemed to do fine. He had a lot of ear infections when he ate Purina One chicken and rice (a cheap kibble) and I've often suspected a food allergy to something such as brewer's rice.
Ace is definitely scratching less and he has less dandruff. That's what I like to see!
The mutt might be shedding a bit less, but too early to really tell.
Ace's stool is not as tiny and compact as it was when he was on a grain-free kibble. His body is obviously still adjusting to a raw diet and possibly going through some sort of detox. Still, the mutt's poop is dry and crumbly and if I don't pick it up right away, it starts disintegrating. It magically starts to dissapear 🙂
He has had no diarrhea whatsoever. And no throwing up, not even from drinking too much water.
My dog is (not) always thirsty
Ace's obsession with drinking water has decreased. He has water available at all times, and he does not drink his entire bowl! This has been the most obvious change in my dog so far. I feel bad that a kibble diet may have been keeping him dehydrated.
Well our scale is now broken, but Ace doesn't appear to have lost or gained any weight.
I haven't noticed a change in Ace's energy. He's tired because we've had a lot of dogs visiting lately and we have a new foster cat to keep track of 🙂
Excitement around meals!
Ace can't wait to eat breakfast in the morning and dinner at night. He's always been enthusiastic about eating, but now he loves to eat even more. This morning he was doing a little dance around his bowl. This could get irritating, but I think it's cute. When he gets too excited, I always make him lie down and wait (and drool) for a bit.
Have you tried feeding your dog a raw dog food diet?
Get the ebook here. The cost is $9.