Homemade raw dog food diets

What I’ve learned about homemade raw dog food

I’ve been feeding my dog Ace homemade raw dog food, and I plan to continue.

I want to share some thoughts on the experience for anyone interested in switching her dog to raw.

I am not a vet or a nutritionist. This is just some advice from one dog lover to another.

Dog owners are hesitant to switch to raw feeding because they worry they’ll do it wrong. I was the same way.

Research is a good thing. But don’t use “more research” as an excuse to wait months or years to make the switch. Just start a week or two from now. If raw food isn’t right for your dog, you can always switch back to feeding dry food.

homemade raw dog food recipes

My thoughts on homemade raw feeding

Use commercial raw food to get started.

Commercial raw dog food is expensive ($3.50 per pound or more), but it’s a convenient way to become comfortable with raw feeding. The bones are typically ground so you don’t have to worry about your dog choking. The food should also meet the nutritional standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

Try feeding commercial raw food for a week or two before you make your own raw dog food recipes.

Avoid feeding foods that make you nervous.

If you’re nervous about potential bacteria, then lightly cook the meat for now (but don’t feed your dog cooked bones). If you’re worried your dog will choke on raw bones, then don’t feed any bones for now.

Start by feeding what you’re comfortable with, and transition to a wider variety over time.

I’m a worrier myself. But, my dog has never gotten sick from raw meat, and he’s never choked on a raw bones.

Add new foods slowly.

I started Ace on raw chicken, and this week I added raw beef. He’s never had digestive issues with raw food, but I still wanted to give his system time to adjust before adding new protein sources. You know your dog best, but when in doubt wait a few weeks before adding new types of meat.

Shop as you go.

Raw feeders like to stock up on meat when it’s on sale. That’s great once you know what your dog likes. You can also save money on raw dog food that way.

I realized, though, that I don’t like to buy huge quantities of food. When I shop for myself, I buy about a week’s worth. When I’m out of food, I head back to the store. That’s how I’ve been shopping for my dog, too. When I’m at the store, I buy about a week’s worth for him. It’s less overwhelming.

Whole chickens are way too much work to portion.

Some raw feeders choose to buy whole chickens and either feed them whole or cut them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not for me.

I will never buy and cut up a whole chicken again. I don’t have the proper boning knives, and I’d rather not spend the time. It’s easier to buy packages of chicken quarters. These are the perfect portions for my 70-pound dog.

Don’t freak out about an upset stomach.

Some dogs will get loose poop from switching to homemade raw dog food. This is normal, and it’s usually because of the higher protein or fat content compared to dry dog food. Usually, a little extra bone in the food will fix this problem. Canned pumpkin also works wonders (sugar free).

Some dogs will throw up a yellow stomach acid in anticipation of a meal. That’s just a sign that your dog’s stomach is preparing to digest the meat. No big deal.

Also, you might see your dog throw up his meat right after he eats or while he’s eating. This is most likely because he swallowed large chunks, and his digestive system recognizes they will be difficult to digest. So, the dog throws up, re-crunches the food a bit and re-swallows. Nice, right?

Of course, if you are worried about your dog, you should take him to the vet.

Don’t worry about “balance.”

I know my dog requires about 1.3 pounds of food per day to maintain his weight, but I don’t measure his food. Instead, I observe his behavior and weight. Does he seem hungry? Does he look thin? I adjust accordingly. Every meal does not have to be the same size.

As far as nutrition, my goal is variety and balance over time. Everyone has their own opinion on what a dog needs, and every dog is different.

Ace eats about 70 percent raw meat with bones (mostly chicken), 20 percent fruits and veggies and 10 percent organ meat. He also gets a glucosamine tablet every day, fish oil and either an egg, plain yogurt or cottage cheese. Sometimes he gets a calcium tablet or probiotics. With time, I plan to introduce a wider variety of protein sources.

Ace eats dry dog food at least twice a week. I want him to remain used to it for convenience and traveling. I also plan to feed commercial raw food once or twice per week.

Is this ideal? I’m doing my best. For more info, see my post on how to make raw dog food.

Approach your dog’s vet the correct way.

There is no “right” way to talk to your dog’s vet, of course. Every vet is different.

When I asked Ace’s vet about her thoughts on a raw food diet for dogs, she was quick to speak against it. Dogs can choke on bones or get sick from raw meat, she said.

But when I told her I am feeding my dog raw food, she was willing to work with me.

I recommend you approach your dog’s vet by saying, “I am feeding my dog a raw diet. Could I show you his feeding plan and get your ideas?” If the vet is unwilling to work with you, then find a different vet.

It’s challenging for vets to deal with a wide variety of dogs owners. They know most people won’t take the time to feed a proper raw diet. Still, I have to mock them for recommending corn-based foods like Science Diet.

No one should feel bad about the type of dog food they buy. My dog ate Purina One for years. But vets should at least tell people about healthier, meat-based dog food brands.

Does anyone really benefit from a diet of mostly corn? Maybe grasshoppers? 🙂

Raw dog food ebookWhat have you learned about feeding your dog raw food?

For more info on raw feeding, my ebook provides a raw feeding guide and 10 easy raw dog food recipes. Check it out here.

31 thoughts on “Homemade raw dog food diets”

  1. I’ve been wanting to feed my dogs a raw diet for a long time, but I’m always worried that something is going to go terribly, terribly awry. I feed a high-quality kibble right now, but still want to switch.

    My problem is that I have a “gulper” – one of the dogs that gulps her food and bones because she’s afraid of them being taken away – she’s swallowed whole chunks of rawhide (that I’ve had to pull out of her throat because she couldn’t swallow them)and I worry about her swallowing a bone and it becoming lodged. She “came with” this habit as a rescue and is a heavy chewer.

    Is there any way to get over this fear? If I fed her raw chicken (say, thighs or wings), do you think I’d have the same problem?

    1. I’d stay away from bones for now if you were going to switch. My dog wolfs down chicken wings way too fast so I don’t feed them to him anymore because it’s just too stressful. If you wanted to keep feeding bones you could get the butcher you buy them from to ground everything down or, like we do, buy mince/offal or a boneless cut of meat and mix it with some potatoes or rice.
      My vet reckons that whatever we cook for ourselves we should cook for the dog, so he suggested we cook a little extra of the things he can eat when we cook for ourselves. This does mean that sometimes our VERY lucky dog will have roast chicken (obv no bones!) and potatoes or his own meatballs etc which makes me think he’s pretty darn spoilt haha.

    2. Lindsay Stordahl

      How big is your dog, Mel? Chicken quarters seem to be the right size for Lab-sized dogs because they are generally too big for the dog to swallow. They have to chomp it up a little first.

      When I first started Ace (he’s about 70 pounds) on raw chicken with bones, I would hold the meat while he ate it. I started with chicken thighs, which are generally too small for Labs because of choking hazards but I didn’t realize this at the time. I only let him have the meat if he chomped it a bit. If he tried to pull it away or swallow it, I didn’t let him have it. This worked well for him, and it only took about three days for him to learn to “chew” the bones first. But I could see how it might make some “gulpers” want to swallow the food even quicker if they think you might take it away.

      You could try feeding larger portions of meat, like whole or half chickens so the dog has to break it up.

      Or, as Pipa has suggested, just go with ground meat that includes the bones. This is hard to find and expensive if you do find it. Most of the commercial raw foods contain ground bones. I’ve also had a few people tell me they just cut the chicken and raw bones up into smaller pieces (like 2 inch by 2 inch pieces) so the dog can swallow them without choking.

      Really, what it comes down to is knowing your dog and what she can handle. And supervising, of course. Best of luck to you if you decide to try raw.

      1. It is been my experience with gulpers to cube the meat you are going to feed and have it mostly frozen, this should cut down on the gluping. Also if you are going to feed raw ground meat or chicken, put a small bowl in the center of their bowl so they have to eat around it and cannot dive right in. Hope this helps.

  2. We also didn’t want to deal with dividing up a whole chicken. However, we did find a butcher who grinds up whole chickens (including bones and organs) and sells this by the box (about 20 lbs per box).

  3. I have four big dogs and just started last week on a raw food diet. Following recommendations, I’ve only been feeding chicken (bonein). Three of the dogs took to it immediately, but one 9 yr old German Shorthaired Pointer mix is not that interested. I’ve tried searing the chicken lightly to bring out the meat flavor. I’ve tried hammering the bones to make it easier for him. He eats a little, then refuses it. This morning, I gave up and gave him kibble with wetfood on it, and he ate that right up…should I keep trying? I’m thinking of cooking his portions of chicken (without the bones) and seeing if that will work. Any other suggestions?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’ve taken care of plenty of picky eaters, and what I do is keep offering them the food at two times per day (when everyone else eats). I give the dog a few minutes to eat, and if he doesn’t, I take the food away. I offer it again at the next meal time and again at the next. Some dogs will wait two or three days before eating, but then they eat once they are hungry.

      That’s what I would do in your case, as dogs will not starve themselves.

    2. I have the same problem with my 130 lb GSD of 3 years, so picky about bone arg. What I did yesterday morning is I had a meal of chicken backs and some small steaks. Also I have a 110 lb female 1 1/2 year old GSD as well she will eat anything you put in front of her including a half chicken. Anyway with my boy, I had a can of salt free water packed sardines. I filled the cavity of the back bone and rubbed, with a spoon, more along the back bone. He had no problem with this. Also sardines are another good raw food to feed that is easy, good source of Omega 3 and there are small bones from calcium that will not get lodged in their throat. I also feed crushed egg shells and mix with the raw ground beef or chicken or lamb to balance out the potassium in the meat.

      Trying to find out when my local fish market will get them in fresh.

      Hope this helps.

  4. I decided to change my dogs from comercial dog food to RAW to try and get better health test results. We hip and elbow score all our dogs before we breed from them. I realy noticed a big difference, I found my dogs got better results, apparently this is because they grow more slowly allowing bone and joins to delvelope slowly.

  5. My 6 month old Siberian Husky has been on a raw diet since he was 4 weeks old, that’s right he could eat it that young! As he become 8-10 weeks I added in bones. I mostly feed him chicken quarters as they give the perfect meat-to-bone ratio needed in a meal along with organ meat. As a puppy he gets 9-11oz in the morning and another at night, therefore it’ll end up being 1.2 pounds to 1.5 pounds a day which is the most you should feed a dog. I also include ground turkey/beef, pork neck bones, turkey backs, an egg, whole fish, beef/pork tongue, etc.

    I will NEVER feed my dog commercial dog food, EVER. Plain and simple

    1. Christian,

      What find of whole fish do you feed your pup. I give my guys canned sardines, no salt and packed in water, cook salmon as it seems to be too rich in the raw state. Tried Butter Fish but they wanted nothing to do with them. Also are pork neck bones soft enough or are they hard recreational bones. I found that Beef Brisket bones are soft enough and give my girl a good work out, my boy turns up his nose (he doesn’t want to work for his food LOL).

  6. Our mostly inactive 14 yr old,19.5 pound Sheltie started refusing to eat the vet prescribed dry dog food he’d been on all of his adult life, got diarrhea for two days & looked ‘sick’ so a trip to the vets showed dehydration, infection in his liver that was attacking his kidneys & a weight loss of 4 pounds making him underweight now by almost a pound. He’s still on an antibiotic for the infection but I started to feed him his two feedings a day of a cooked mixture of extra lean gr beef, mixed in with some mashed sweet potatoes & carrots with one raw medallion of beef ‘Instinct’ added in. I am amazed at how he’s perked up, he sees the vet for a recheck in two days but I think getting him onto a natural diet and with the help of these antibiotics has done the trick. I’d like to get him onto the raw Instinct but with just those medallions should I also be adding foods I would prepare? Giving him only 4-6 medallions a day seems inadequate.
    Thanks Joan

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I believe the Raw Instinct medallions are meant to be balanced on their own. You shouldn’t need to add any extras, although you certainly could to cut back on cost a bit.

  7. Thank you Lindsay, I just wondered if giving him these medallions alone would be enough to provide him with all the nutrients needed for a balanced diet. Also I have received packages of dehydrated natural dog food eg; Grandma Lucy’s Artisan in chicken, & The Honest Kitchen in Keen turkey, chicken and Thrive. Anyone used this dehydrates ‘stuff’ & if so how to you feed it to your fur-friend? Just add water as per instructions or do you mix it with some of your own food?
    Thanks Joan

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I think some dehydrated dog food meals are meant as complete meals and some require you to add meat to them. I used the Stella and Chewy’s dehydrated food once, and all I had to do was add water. Very convenient.

  8. I want to start making my own raw patties in addition to the raw meaty bones I feed now. Question is, where can you get ground bone, my butcher doesn’t grind down the bones. Also I am not sure if this is considered Bone Meal or not; this I can get online but would prefer just straight ground bone.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I know some people have their own meat grinders, and they just grind up the bones themselves. I haven’t been able to find a butcher that grinds the bones either, so I’ve only fed whole bones so far unless I feed commercial raw dog food patties.

      1. Have you looked into your own meat grinder, not sure how much they cost but it would be worth a search. If I find one I will let you know.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Hi Karie. I’m not really sure. I would think a good two weeks since you’ll be baking them anyway to kill any bacteria.

  9. I never even heard of the raw food diet until I read your article about the 6 things you can you for your puppy. I was immediately intrigued and got almost obsessive with research. 1.5 weeks later, my pup has had his first (2nd and 3rd) commercial raw food meals and he LOVES it. No upset stomach (yet) and his breath already smells better. Since he’s a small breed and requires less food, I don’t know if I’ll ever transition to homemade foods, but I am excited. Also, I’m a new subscriber (2 weeks) and I already look forward to seeing your newsletters in my inbox.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Oh that’s wonderful! I’m so glad the transition to raw went well. Sometimes they get upset tummies because of the combo of dry food with raw food so that’s great that your dog seems to be handling the switch just fine.

  10. I have 3 large dogs: GSD (100 lbs.), Aussie (65 lbs.), and an English Lab (75 lbs.) I have fed all three dogs for the majority of their lives. I switched to high-end kibble for about 6 months and my Aussie developed an itchy skin condition, so I returned to raw. We feed mainly raw chicken, a good quality canine multivitamin, fish oil, chicken here & there, and fresh raw eggs. The skin problem cleared up right away. Their poops are tiny!!! The Aussie is now 15 years old and acts like a puppy, though he is getting a little hard of hearing. I know that is part genetics, part diet, but I have good reason to believe it’s mainly diet.

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