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I believe a raw diet is the healthiest diet for most dogs and cats, but that’s only if the food is:
- Made with high-quality ingredients
- Nutritionally balanced
Feeding high-quality ingredients is pretty straightforward. It doesn’t take a veterinarian or nutritionist to tell you that real, fresh food is healthiest for most dogs.
This post is sponsored by Balanced Blends raw dog and raw cat food.
Healthy ingredients for a balanced raw diet
The following are some examples of high-quality ingredients you could use in a homemade diet, and you would likely see some of these in the food from a commercial raw company.
- Organic fruits and veggies such as apples, strawberries, blueberries, spinach, kale or carrots
- Raw chicken, beef, turkey or pork
- Supplements such as a vitamin mix or salmon oil
- Some people feed a bit of all-natural, organic yogurt (although usually not necessary)
Some general tips on what to feed and what not to feed:
- Avoid processed foods
- Feed fresh food: Raw meat, fruits and veggies contain more nutrients than cooked
- Avoid meat with added hormones or antibiotics
- Feed organic meat, fruits and veggies when possible
- Dogs don’t need grains, although they won’t necessarily cause any harm
How to feed a balanced raw dog food diet
When I first started feeding my black Lab mix Ace a raw diet (in 2011), I always followed the very general “rule” of giving him roughly 70% meat, 10% organ meat and 10% raw bone. I also added in a fruit and veggie mix which ended up being about 10% of his overall diet.
I still see this “rule” recommended by many of the other raw feeders I know online, and I think it’s a good start, especially for someone new to raw feeding.
A potential problem with this “equation” is it’s overly simplified.
I very much support and encourage dog owners to feed a homemade raw diet, but it does take some extra work.
It’s best if you can mix up the types of meat you’re feeding your dog (more variety of nutrients), but it’s even more important to feed him a wide variety of organ meat.
Unfortunately, buying a variety of organ meat (heart, lungs, brain) is difficult for many of us. It takes some work to track down food not normally found in a grocery store. Some options include working directly with a butcher or ordering through a local raw co-op. It just takes some extra planning.
Feeding pre-made, balanced raw dog food
The easiest way to make sure your dog’s raw diet is balanced is to buy pre-made raw food from a raw company like Balanced Blends. I recommend you do this for at least a couple of your dog’s meals per week.
Food from Balanced Blends is designed specifically to exceed the AAFCO nutrient profile for dogs, the company says on its website. Balanced Blends uses nutritional knowledge from veterinarians, a nutritionist and the AAFCO standard so you can trust your dog is getting optimal nutrients in every meal.
I'm not saying you can't feed a balanced homemade raw diet, but it is more difficult to know which vitamins your dog is potentially lacking. (I'm a worrier!)
However, I also understand it’s difficult to afford a pre-made, commercial raw diet for a large dog (or multiple dogs) so that's why I recommend the option of using a pre-made brand for a couple of meals per week. This is especially helpful when you're just starting out.
When I started learning about raw dog food, I felt overwhelmed and it was helpful to have a bag of pre-made food in the freezer for Ace. I could just de-frost a meal in advance and feed my dog without any worry.
I know everyone feeds a raw diet a little differently, so in the comments I'd love to hear what you do, whether it's mostly homemade, mostly pre-made or a little of both.
Balanced Blends starter packs
Balanced Blends is offering 2-pound “starter packs” specifically designed for those interested in trying a raw diet.
How do you make sure your dog's diet is balanced?
Let me know in the comments!