Remy eating Darwin's raw food

Raw Dog Food for Beginners – DIY Raw Feeding Basics

This is a detailed guide on raw dog food for beginners and how to get started with DIY raw feeding.

Feeding your dog a raw diet means just as it sounds, to feed your dog a diet of raw meat and raw bones.

Feel free to post any questions you have about raw feeding in the comments, or you’re welcome to share any experiences you have. The info is helpful for the group!

We’re also promoting an awesome trial offer from our sponsor, Darwin’s Natural Pet Products.

You can get 10 pounds of raw dog food from Darwin’s for just $14.95! No code required. Click here. Read more about the benefits of Darwin’s in the post below!

I’ve divided this article into sections for easier reading. Just click on the topic you’re looking for:

Raw dog food topics in this article:

– The basics of raw feeding
– Benefits of a pre-made raw brand
– Making your own raw dog food

 

The basics of raw feeding – raw dog food for beginners

What is a raw diet for dogs?

A raw diet for dogs is simply that – raw. Raw meat, raw organs and raw bones along with raw fruits and raw vegetables if you so choose.

A raw dog food diet typically includes:

  • 80% raw meat (ground beef, chicken breast, etc.)
  • 10% raw bone (from “raw meaty bones” like raw chicken quarters)
  • 10% organ meat such as chicken liver or lungs, etc.

Many raw feeders also include small amounts of blended raw fruits and veggies, and some add supplements.

Feeding your dog a dry dog food diet (kibble) is not “bad.” You are not “killing” your dog if you feed kibble. Instead, use common sense. Real, fresh food is healthier for all of us. The less processed food we eat, the better. This is true for both dogs and people.

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Why should you feed your dog a raw diet?

Not only are there more nutrients in real, fresh food, but dogs have the digestive system designed to handle raw meat and bones. They’re obviously meat eaters!

For example, dogs have strong jaws designed for crunching up chunks of meat and bone. They have sharp teeth for slicing into the meat, and their digestive systems are shorter than ours which allows them to handle the extra bacteria without issues. Here is a good article about canine digestive systems.

Dogs can do fine on a cooked, dry dog food or canned diet, but those of us who choose to feed our dogs raw believe it is the healthiest and most natural way for them to eat.

More information:

Why I feed my dogs raw (from That Mutt’s writer, Barbara)

Why can’t you just cook the meat for your dog?

You can, but why would you?

Raw meat and raw vegetables are healthier for most dogs than cooked food because cooking destroys the enzymes needed for superior digestion and nutrient absorption. These enzymes survive the freezing/defrosting process just fine.

Remember, dogs ate raw meat for thousands of years before “dog food” was invented.

How much raw food should I feed my dog?

The general rule of thumb is to feed roughly 2 to 3% of your dog’s ideal body weight per day.

However, this is only an ESTIMATE. Some dogs require more calories, especially puppies or highly active dogs.

Remy with his raw dog food from Darwin's

My own dog is on the extreme side of needing calories due to our training for ultramarathons. We typically run about 25 miles per week. He is a 2.5-year-old male Weimaraner who is naturally lean at 63 pounds. He requires 4% of his body weight in food per day (2.5 pounds) to maintain his weight. On our longer running days I give him 5% (3 pounds).

Your dog’s weight in ounces.

Since most of us will be weighing our dog’s food in ounces, sometimes it helps to know how many ounces your dog needs per day vs. pounds. My dog needs 40 ounces per day.

Just take your dog’s weight in pounds and multiply it by 16 to get their weight in ounces. Then take 3% of that to get an estimated amount of how many ounces your dog needs per day. (Example: 63 x 16 = 1008 ounces. Multiply that by .03 to get the daily amount, which is 30 ounces.)

More info:
How much raw food to feed my dog

What is the cost of feeding raw dog food?

Feeding your dog a raw diet is definitely an investment. I would say for a 65 pound dogs the average cost for pre-made raw is $250 to $300 per month.

When you feed homemade raw, you can cut the cost dramatically. I still spend about $150 per month when I make homemade raw (63 pound dog), but you can really put in the effort to buy in bulk and get great deals to bring your cost down. Some people spend the same amount on raw as they would on dry; you just have to get creative.

Of course, the investment of feeding raw will hopefully mean fewer vet bills, an increased quality of life, fewer health issues in general and a longer length of life. No guarantees but improving your dog’s diet is one thing you have full control over.

Further reading:

Raw dog food on a budget

Affordable raw dog food

How much does it cost to feed raw dog food?

 

Step 1: Start with a pre-made raw brand

When you first feed your dog a raw diet, I highly recommend you start with a pre-made raw brand such as Darwin’s. Frozen raw food is the easiest way to go, and I recommend you order at least two week’s worth and go from there.

Remy loves his Darwin's raw food!

I recommend beginners start with a pre-made raw dog food brand because of:

Convenience. Feeding a raw diet seems very complicated to beginners and the largest barrier is people worry it’s too difficult. Most dog owners just go back to feeding dry food for this reason. You are paying for convenience, and that is worth it!

No worries about balance. The food is balanced, period. No worries about harming your dog or doing something wrong. No need to add supplements.

Bones are ground. Eventually you may want to feed your dog raw meaty bones because there are benefits to this. However, bones are scary to beginners. Feeding the bones ground in the food is the easiest way to get started.

Feed your dog the pre-made brand for six weeks to help yourself get used to feeding raw. You’ll see how your dog responds, you’ll learn how much to feed, etc.

Yes, this is an investment. Depending on the size of your dog, it might cost $200 to $300 to feed raw dog food for one month. (Yay if you have a smaller dog!).

Benefits of Darwin’s raw dog food

My favorite pre-made raw dog food brand by far is Darwin’s Natural Pet Products. I reached out to them a few months ago about partnering together because I want to recommend their brand to my readers regularly. Darwin’s is a sponsor of That Mutt and provides my dog Remy with food.

Right now, Darwin’s has an awesome trial offer going on! You can get 10 pounds of food for just $14.95! No code required. Click here.

Reasons Darwin’s is my favorite brand:

  • Darwin’s delivers to your door every two weeks (or you can make a custom delivery plan)
  • The company has an organic line and a more economical line
  • Darwin’s is conveniently portioned in 8-ounce pouches that are easy to open
  • They have a trial offer for new customers
 

Making your own raw dog food

Once you’ve been feeding your dog a pre-made brand for a month or two, you should be feeling comfortable with the concept of raw feeding. You’ll no longer be worried about your dog getting sick from the raw meat, for example. And, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how much food your dog needs to eat per day.

The healthiest way for most of us to feed a raw diet is to continue with a pre-made brand. This way, you know the food is balanced.

However, the cost is an issue for many dog owners, so the next best thing is to feed a combination of pre-made raw and homemade raw.

What to include in a homemade raw dog food diet

Rather than making balanced “recipes” right away, I would focus on introducing your dog to one type of protein such as raw chicken. You could feed some boneless meat such as chicken thighs as well as some chicken with bone such as chicken quarters.

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Once your dog seems to be doing OK with raw chicken, you could slowly add in some organ meat and another protein such as pork or beef. One of the most common mistakes is people add too many new foods too quickly because they’re trying to “balance” the meals and add variety. Don’t worry about “balance” right away.

Common foods to include in a dog’s homemade raw diet: Ground beef, chicken thighs, chicken quarters, chicken wings (small dogs), chicken necks (small dogs), turkey thighs, turkey necks, raw pork, raw eggs, beef or chicken liver, chicken or turkey gizzards.

Eventually, you’ll want to follow the general “rule” of 80% muscle meat, 10% bone and 10% organ meat. This does not have to be on a daily basis but averaged out over the week.

More info:
Homemade raw dog food recipes

Where to buy organ meat

Organ meat is the most challenging piece to feeding a balanced raw diet because it’s harder to find, depending on where you live. I can always find chicken liver at my grocery store but liver should only be half of your dog’s organ meat.

Definitely check around at the various grocery stores in your region, including Costco and Wal-Mart. You can also look into “ethnic” grocery stores to see if they carry organ meat such as kidneys.

More info:
Where to buy organ meat

Are raw bones safe for dogs?

Raw bones are an important piece of a dog’s balanced raw diet (roughly 10% of the dog’s diet). I personally only feed raw chicken and raw turkey bones because they are softer and smaller than raw beef and pork bones making them easy for dogs to digest. I only feed raw beef bones if they are ground in with the meat (from Darwin’s).

Raw bones I suggest you start with include raw chicken thighs, chicken quarters or turkey necks. These are all considered “raw meaty bones” simply because they are raw bones with the meat still on them. For smaller dogs, you can try chicken wings or necks but these could be a (slight) choking risk fo larger dogs.

Don’t worry if your dog swallows large chunks of meat and bone. They have highly acidic stomachs designed for handling the raw meat and bones. My 63-pound dog crunches up a chicken thigh for about 4 seconds and then swallows it. No big deal!

To slow your dog down, you can feed the food slightly frozen if you’d like. That’s what I do for my food hound.

More info on feeding raw bones:
Which raw bones are safe for dogs?

Affordable raw meaty bones

Why is dry dog food kibble bad for a dog?

I do not have to be a vet or a nutritionist to realize that most commercial dog foods are not ideal for Remy. Please read the ingredients of your dog’s food and let me know what you find out. It is not bad to feed your dog a dry diet. Just read the ingredients and choose the best quality food within your budget.

The first two ingredients in a dog’s food should be high-quality proteins, according to Michelle Smith, owner of Natural Pet Center in Fargo, which sells natural dog food and other pet products.

These should be specific proteins like duck or chicken. Other ingredients should be high-quality fruits and vegetables. Grain is not necessary, and all corn and by-products should be avoided.

When an animal goes to a slaughterhouse, only about half of that animal is used in human foods, according to Born Free USA, a national animal advocacy organization. These “other parts” (heads, feet, blood, unborn babies, etc.) are considered by-products and are used in pet foods.

“Meat meal,” “poultry meal” and “by-product meal” are also common ingredients in pet foods, according to Born Free. The term “meal” means the ingredients have been rendered.

Rendered ingredients

Rendering plants take all the random, leftover body parts and boil them down to a broth. Although the high temperatures kill bacteria and parasites, the natural enzymes and proteins found in raw ingredients are also destroyed.

Many pet foods also contain brewers rice as the first or second ingredient, which is an inexpensive rice by-product that contains no nutritional value, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials. The AAFCO sets unenforced standards for the quality of livestock feed and pet food.

If you do decide to feed your dog rice (most dogs don’t need grain in their diets), make sure it’s whole grain brown rice.

Commercial dry dog food sometimes contains chemical preservatives, sweeteners and dyes. None of these ingredients provide any nutritional value to a dog. They are used to improve the taste and appearance of the food. Potentially cancer causing chemicals such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin are permitted in pet foods as preservatives.

If you choose to feed your dog a dry food, I recommend Wellness CORE because I trust the company and the ingredients. I sometimes have a bag on hand for Remy in case I run out of his raw food.

Do you have a question on raw feeding?

Let me know in the comments!

-Lindsay

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DIY raw feeding for beginners

116 thoughts on “Raw Dog Food for Beginners – DIY Raw Feeding Basics”

      1. Hi Lindsay

        I have been interested in feeding Smoke a raw diet. But he is a 17 pound dog and I have been apprehensive about pursuing this avenue because I am not sure where to begin. Also he was treated for high liver enzymes but his numbers are now normal and I am ready to have him try a new route of feeding him as I want him to remain healthy.

        Thanks

      2. I am trying to learn more about feeding my dogs a raw diet. I feel it would benefit my one puppy mill breeder rescue dog, who has yeast problems from so many post c-section antibiotics.
        I am wary of making my own, as a lifelong vegetarian I just do not wish to handle raw meat.

        1. I picked up a dog off the street and he had a real bad skin yeast issue. The vets immediately wanted to put him on meds. when I told her no that I would try diet first I got a deer in the headlight look. He started improving almost immediately. Also do some searches on Kefir to get the gut bacteria back to normal.

  1. I enjoy reading your blog. I’ve been feeding my dog raw for almost 4 yrs. I’ve been wanting to try Darwin’s but hesitant on spending the money incase she does not like it. Thank you so much for the opportunity to try something new.

  2. Thank you so much for this offer. One of my 3 rescues has multiple heath issues the worst of which is leaky gut syndrome. I already feed him a holistic dry food and add coconut oil and kefir but it
    doesn’t seem to be enough. I am also going to try acupuncture for
    him but I truly believe that a raw diet will help.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, I understand the worry. It’s much easier if you start with a pre-made brand or feed a combo of pre-made and homemade.

      1. I ordered a bag of Dr Harvey’s veg to bowl pre- mix and I’m waiting on it to arrive. Hopefully it’s a good product.

  3. I just became mommy to a toy red poodle who was started on raw food at weaning. She is so picky that she goes for long period of not eating anything I have tried and I have tried many. I constantly worry about her receiving the proper nutrition and feeding her 3-4 times daily is a lost cause. She is my first raw feeder but I have researched it extensively regarding ingredients and nutrition and I feel comfortable doing it. I would like to try this offer to find a food welcomed by her and I appreciate you for the chance.

  4. Would love to win a month of Darwin’S food. I have thought about a raw diet, but am so unsure of how to go about it.

  5. We took advantage of your prior offer and tried Darwin’s for our 2 Daniffs and Great Dane. They all love Darwin’s Biologics beef/chicken/turkey food and we love the convenience. Thanks.
    Cheers,
    Scott Ross
    Billings, MT

    MERRY CHRISTMAS

  6. I adopted a little dog a year and half ago. This poor little guy, Pepper has been itchy and moaning from this. we’ve tried everything.
    I don’t want him to go on apoquel. I need to help him. Would a raw diet cure this. He can’t tolerate high fat. I’ve tried sardine diets. Also commercial raw diet.Nothing helps.Would the quality raw diet make the difference.

    1. It would be worth a try. It’s hard to know for sure without consulting with a canine dermatologist or other specialist to find out what he is truly allergic to (could be food, could be environmental, etc.) However, a raw diet of real, fresh food should boost his immune system in general which can only help for a healthier overall pup!

  7. Hi this is Coco I would love to chomp on some good food, I was surfing the internet with Mom and we came to this giveaway. I am a very fussy eater, I would love to be a taste tester for you and give a review for all the doggies surfing the net. They will be bugging thier mom’s to let them try the good stuff

  8. My dog has chronic colitis. I finally found a brand of food, California Natural, that completely resolved the issue. Unfortunately, Mars purchased the brand and then discontinued it. I would like to try a raw diet to see if that has the same effect.

  9. I’ve been feeding my GSD raw for about 9 months now and right away he stopped having loose poops. At 3 1/2 years old it was the first time in his life to have firm poops. I had tried at least five commercial dog foods, including a vet ordered prescription food and numerous additives. I was desperate and a friend suggested feeding raw. Nothing had worked before. He has gained weight and looks fantastic! His teeth are very clean and his coat is gorgeous!

  10. My dog is salivating over Darwin’s. To try it he would perform several tricks. And even record them for you as a bonus. See how much he wants to try?

  11. My dog,Rue, would love to try Darwin’s! We’re 4.5+ years into raw feeding and while we generally do a home-prepared diet, it is always nice to have pre-made options handy when we travel.

  12. I have been doing research about raw foods for my dogs. There is so much out there that is can be overwhelming. We have 4 dogs with varying age ranges and this could be the option we have been looking for.

  13. I have been slowly introducing raw meats to my dog mixed with his kibbles. This seems so much more convenient (and less gross)

  14. I would love to try this for 2 of my dogs. They both have very itchy skin and 1 of them I can not use flea medicine or anything because he will have seizures. My pity has alot of yeast infections.

  15. We started feeding a blend of raw mixed with dry kibble and have noticed a difference. We want to transition them over to all raw but to be honest, it scares me. I’m afraid of doing something wrong and getting them sick. I’m interested in trying another brand of premade.

  16. Barney is rescue dog from Iran and raised on people food. He will not dog food lives on drumsticks and beef. With rice and carrots. Does not like treats. He is 2and half has been here for two years he was foutdoor with his sister in a green bag in a trash can. He weight 10 lbs and now is 22 lbs. I would love him eat right.

  17. Thanks so much for the great information! Can’t wait to switch my dogs to raw though I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with figuring out meals for 2 medium-sized and 2 large-sized dogs. Will definitely check out Darwin’s.

  18. I have used Darwin’s in the past. Loved the convenience. The GSD I have now is on a commercial raw food diet from a local meat market that makes their own. And I have also used other commercial raw like NW Naturals, etc, which is very expensive. It was costing me $300 to $400 a month just to feed one dog. I believe Darwin’s is is relatively cheaper than what I was feeding in the past. My only worry is that they have had a recall in the past and their limited protein sources. Didn’t they use to have Buffalo or other novel meat proteins?

  19. I’ve always been curious about raw diets, but never looked too much into it. This was a very interesting article and I plan to start researching again.

  20. yes, I would love this because my oldest got e-coli and hepatitis from the venison that the person that hunts on my property because where he has it processed, the facility was not cleaned after each grinding of the meat. not only did this costs me over $3500 but my dog had to have her belly cut open all of the way down, take 2 biopsies, and have shots and infusions everyday for several weeks. she is okay now, in fact she looks like she had a tummy tuck. however, I am mad. so from now on I will be buying my raw meats at the local pet store or get them from a reliable source. she has to be on 4 different meds for 60 days. my other dog did not get it because she does not like raw and wont eat it. it could have been very serious and deathly if the vet had not caught it in time. I like that they have turkey and tripe, wish they had a good venison though as well or rabbit. I have heard of Darwin’s because they used to make regular kibble and now I only see their treats in the local dog store. I liked their dry kibble and treats. a very reputable company. my local dog store is very careful about what products they carry, they research everything.

  21. Some raw is better than no raw! Even with my dane I always try and add some raw to his diet as often as possible as I’d go broke doing full raw haha

  22. What a great article! Doesn’t make kibble feeders feel like they are killing their dog yet it encourages to do better and provides a way! Thanks for being awesome Darwin’s!!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thanks Jonathan, most people feed their dogs dry food and I don’t think that is a bad thing. We’re lucky to have so many high-quality dog food options available. (Meanwhile, my dog will also eat whatever garbage he happens to find off the street…)

  23. I’m so interested in starting to feed raw, but just never get around to making my own or getting my pups started on it. Would love to win to get them started! Thanks for the great blog post.

  24. I have a 5 month old boxer that has allergies to chicken. I’ve got him on Acana and would like to get him on raw, since it seems to be the same amount of money a month. I’m interested in learning about a balanced diet for him and would love to try Darwins to see how he’d like it.

  25. Hi I make George a few raw meals but not always. He is a very picky eater I love the thought of less poop though. Luckily he usually goes to the bathroom in a few locations so we know where to dodge it. 🙂

  26. I’ve read and listened to convincing info to feed my dog raw food. I guess I’m in the camp of, “it sounds like so much work”, as well as worrying that I won’t do it right. But, I’d love to give it a “go” and observe my pup and see how it affects him. I have a high energy 16 month old Golden Retriever.

  27. I’ve been feeding my dogs raw for almost a year now, and they’re both very healthy, happy pups.I feed both diy and premade brands.I’d be very interested in trying Darwin’s to see if they like it,and if so, I can add it to the rotation of the different brands I like to use.Thanks for the opportunity.

    1. Hi Kim, sorry to hear your dog has some aggression issues around food. If you switch him to raw food, I would follow the same things you’re doing now with his regular food to minimize issues. Raw food itself doesn’t make dogs aggressive, of course. However, if your dog is already having some possessiveness issues around food, he might be slightly more possessive with the raw food if he views it as “high value.”

      I leave Remy alone when he eats because he is slightly food possessive as well (with dry food also). I also have him sit and stay before he eats. When I had two dogs, I fed Remy in his kennel or behind a gate.

  28. My Senior sheltie and young border collie, Flick and Reverie, are very interested in trying Darwin’s! Flick has skin trouble and only a few teeth left, Reverie has a sensitive GI and high energy needs. We’ve been moving away from kibble, per my Vet’s advice, to home cooked. But it’s time consuming, very interested in what Darwin’s offers!

  29. My German Shepherd would love to try Darwin’s raw food!! She can get pretty picky when it comes to dog food and wants meat and more meat! I think she would be too happy if I fed her raw

  30. I’ve never tried a raw food diet for my Doodle. He is quite the picky eater when it comes to dry foods. I’m sure he would love to try Darwin’s raw food.

  31. I’ve been feeding my dogs raw , mostly ground chuck and chicken, for several years. I like the idea of having the chicken frozen a bit to slow the eating down.
    I had a chow mix that was very picky on kibble but when I started feeding raw he would jump around with excitement for his meal. My dogs also get kifer. I pour it over their food like gravy. Occasionally they get a can of sardines but not the ones in soybean oil. My dogs eat better than me.

  32. I have a 10wk pitbull puppy that’s been on Ziwi, so already eating clean. Does it make sense to feed a clean diet with a raw supplement, or should you really do one or the other?

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      You can mix the two if your dog seems to tolerate it OK. Some get upset tummies when you mix the two types of food and others are just fine.

  33. Redington would love to try Darwin’s…. for a whole month!!! He’s a big boy so he’d eat up that 10lb offer in only a few days!! Thanks for the opportunity!

  34. Been feeding raw for 6 years now. Will never go back to kibble! My Doberman and five Labradors have never been healthier. ❤

  35. I have been wanting to change my guy from freeze dried raw and ziwi peak to frozen raw but he is very picky I am hesitant to order. I would love the opportunity to try it for him. Happy Holidays.

  36. I would love to try Darwin’s for Dexter. I’m always looking for healthy options and have been curious about Darwin’s for a while now.

  37. My dog Rocco is starting his raw diet this week. I don’t believe we will have a problem this dog would eat rocks!your info is greatly appreciate it. I’m getting recipes books & any info I can get my hands on. A clean area of preparation is a must!
    Is going to be a little bit of work but the happines my Rocco has nrought into my life is well worth it!!

  38. This might be lost amid all the comments, and someone else may have mentioned this – but check with a butcher if you want to do homemade raw. My butcher does my 80/10/10 base for me. He grinds it together, including the bones, and all I have to do is add supplements and any other foods I want to add on for variety and extra nutrition. It’s pretty cheap, too; I priced it out against the kibble we feed sometimes for convenience and my base costs about half per pound what the kibble does.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thanks KL, I’ll add that into the post. How often do you feed kibble and does your pup ever get an upset tummy from switching? Remy needs to eat so much food (2.75 lbs raw per day) that sometimes I wonder if I should mix in some high quality kibble just for more calories/bulk. He might do find if I just mix in a little kibble with his meals. I know many people say not to mix the two but I think it just depends on the dog.

      1. Lindsay, I think it depends on the dog. My girl can eat kibble for one meal and raw the next, but I can’t put them together in the same meal. Her breeder posited that because raw and kibble are digested at different rates, her stomach might not enjoy that. My breeder’s dogs do get both in every meal (about half and half), and they’re fine.

        I don’t feed kibble very often. I’d say she gets a kibble meal a week or so, on average. But if I’m busy, or we need her meals to be portable, it’s more often.

  39. I’m looking into feeding raw. On a brief chicKen and rice diet my boy was overjoyed to eat, something I haven’t seen in a few months. He’s 7.5 months old and has not enjoyed any kibble ive gotten for the last few months. I’ve tried everything on his kibble as well as different brands like Victor hipro plus and diamond naturals.

  40. I recently learned something I did not know abt raw food for dogs. I had a terrible recent experience with feeding my oldest raw venison that the person that hunts on my property gives to me. he has it processed at a human grade facility. however, my oldest got really sick not once but twice. after a 4k vet bill, which discovered she had e-coli and hepatis, which she had gotten from the facility not cleaning the equipment properly after each use. she could have died from it and the surgery. the vet had to cut her open from the chest all the down and take 2 biopsies. my other dog did not get it because she does not like raw. I found out that raw food for dogs has a much higher compliance with the FDA than raw food for humans because humans cook their raw food. so be very careful where you get your raw food and how it is prepared, etc.

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