How do you feed raw dog food?
As a passionate raw feeder, that’s a question I’m often asked and happy to answer!
It’s an important one too because there are several different ways of feeding dogs raw dog food.
The beauty is that none of them are wrong and all have their upsides and drawbacks.
So today, I’ll cover the different raw feeding models and share how I personally feed raw dog food.
Spoiler alert: I quickly transitioned from one model to another!
How Do You Feed Raw Dog Food: BARF Diet vs PMR
In raw feeding, you can either feed what’s known as a BARF diet or PMR, and the main difference is the addition/absence of plant matter.
Let’s look at the BARF diet first.
BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food.
It includes a combination of raw meat, bones, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as optional grains.
This diet involves grinding or blending the ingredients together into a mixture or preparing them as whole-food meals.
Buying Premade BARF
If you decide that you want to feed your dog a BARF diet, the easiest way of feeding it is to buy it premade from a brand that ships it to your doorstep.
For example, from Darwin’s Natural Pet, a ThatMutt sponsor!
They’re located in Tukwila, WA on the West Coast and ship their grain-free raw dog food within the continental US.
Fun fact: I began my raw feeding journey with them in 2015.
Back then, I transitioned my Boxer mixes Missy & Buzz from kibble to raw dog food and also wondered, so how do you feed raw dog food?
Thankfully, a fellow raw feeder recommended the brand and they are truly awesome.
The way it works is you place your order online, they ship it to your home in frozen 8 oz pouches, and all you have to do is thaw and serve.
Tip: Get 10 pounds of food for just $14.95. That’s up to 75% off. No code required.
Since the first order includes a thaw tub, you don’t even have to use your own tupperware to thaw the meat in.
That said, Darwin’s has three different lines of BARF raw dog food:
- Natural Selections: That’s a free-range meat line that’s mixed with organic vegetables.
- Biologics: That’s their conventional meat & vegetable line.
- Intelligence: That’s a prescription line for dogs diagnosed with cancer, kidney, liver and joint diseases.
I’ve fed all three and my pups loved every single line.
Note: The Intelligence line is available by prescription only, so your vet will have to call it in. Back when Missy was diagnosed with cancer, her homeopathic vet Dr. Charles Loops prescribed it for her.
@Colby: Insert picture of Darwin’s cancer prescription raw dog food (I’ve shared it before with ThatMutt)
Here’s what’s in it:
Whitefish (Pollock), Turkey Necks, Turkey Gizzards, Broccoli, Beef Liver, Turkey, Beef Kidney Fat, Whole Dried Eggs, Mushrooms (Maitake, Shitake), Blackberries, Blueberries, Parsley, Raspberries, Tomato Powder, Fish Oil (Source of DHA), Cod Liver Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, Turmeric, Spirulina, Oyster Shell Powder, Green Tea, Vitamin E, Zinc Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Black Pepper, Manganese Proteinate, Iodine (EDDI)
Now, while ordering premade raw dog food is the most convenient and fastest option of feeding raw dog food, it’s also the most expensive option.
Feeding Homemade BARF
The expense of feeding my 50 lb & 75 lb dogs premade raw dog food from Darwin’s exclusively wasn’t sustainable for me personally.
That’s why I looked into making my own homemade raw dog food.
There’s a learning curve as you research the different components of balanced raw dog food:
- 70% Muscle meat
- 10% Secreting organs
- 10% Raw meaty bones
- 10% Plant matter (veggies, fruit, nuts & seeds)
My most memorable AHA moment was when I learned that organs like hearts and lungs aren’t fed as secreting organs but as muscle meat!
My own homemade raw dog food
All in all, it took me about 5 months to feel comfortable making my own raw meals.
The way I learned was by:
- Reading raw dog food books
- Joining raw dog food Facebook groups
- Watching YouTube videos by pro raw vets
- Reading raw dog food articles in Dogs Naturally Magazine
Years later, I also took a class in raw dog food nutrition and got certified as a raw dog food nutrition specialist, also by Dogs Naturally Magazine.
Prey Model Raw (PMR) Feeding
Now that we’ve looked at the BARF model of raw feeding, let’s look at the PMR alternative.
Prey Model Raw includes whole cuts of meat, bones, and organs, but no vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
That said, here’s what PMR consists of:
- 80% Muscle meat
- 10% Secreting organs
- 10% Raw meaty bones
Keeping that in mind, there are two approaches to feeding PMR:
- Feeding actual whole prey, meaning whole animals. For example, whole goats, rabbits, chickens, quails and ducklings.
- Following the Frankenprey approach that attempts to replicate a whole animal by using various parts from different animals. For example, a rabbit head, turkey neck, duck frame, turkey hearts, chicken feet, etc.
In terms of sourcing whole animals, there are some online raw dog food retailers that sell whole animals like chicks, ducklings, quail, rabbits and fish.
For example, Hare Today and Raw Feeding Miami.
To get your hands on larger whole animals like deer, sheep and goats, you can make friends with wildlife processors and hunters, or buy them directly from a local farmer or butcher.
Some online raw dog food retailers also carry ground whole prey, which is just as convenient as ordering the premade BARF meals from Darwin’s.
For example, My Pet Carnivore and Raw Feeding Miami.
You can also buy these and turn them into BARF meals by adding your own veggies, fruits, nuts & seeds. Or you can combine them with a raw dog food base-mix like:
How Do You Feed Raw Dog Food For Puppies
If you’ve raised a puppy, you know that growing puppies need more nutrients, i.e. more food, than adult dogs.
That’s true regardless of whether you feed kibble, wet dog food, cooked dog food or raw dog food.
Similarly to buying a bag of kibble, premade raw dog food like the kind from Darwin’s comes with feeding suggestions on the packaging.
They also offer free menu consultations by phone.
I had one of those when I first started feeding raw and do recommend them!
Now, if you make your puppy’s own raw dog food, you’ll be having to do some calculations to figure out the amount of raw dog food they need to eat per day.
One option is to feed your puppy 2-3% of their ADULT target body weight per day.
So for example, if you know that your female Labrador puppy is going to weigh 60 lbs as an adult, you can do the feeding math using 2.5%:
Divide 2.5% by 100, then multiply it with 60. The result is your puppy’s daily raw dog food allowance:
2.5% / 100 x 60 = 1.5 lb = 24 oz
This pup would need around 24 oz of raw dog food per day.
Now, obviously you can only guestimate your puppy’s adult weight, even if you check in with your breeder and/or vet.
That’s why this is not my preferred way of doing raw feeding calculations for puppies.
In my opinion, a better way to calculate a puppy’s daily raw dog food allowance is by using their current body weight.
This implies having to weigh your puppy on a weekly basis, and the best way to do that at home is with a digital puppy scale.
Click here to learn more on how to feed raw dog food to puppies, including the formulas.
How Do You Feed Raw Dog Food For Adult Dogs
Again, if you’re feeding premade raw dog food from a brand, you’ll find feeding guidelines for adult dogs on the packaging or their website.
But if you make your own BARF or PMR dog food, you’ll be doing the calculations with a specific formula.
For moderately active adult dogs, you feed them 2.5% of their target body weight per day.
This means you divide their target body weight by 100, and then you multiply the result with 2.5% to get their daily raw dog food allowance.
If they’re more of a couch potato, they’ll need less food and you’ll be doing the calculations with 1.5% – 2%.
Likewise, more active working dogs or pregnant dogs require much more food, so you’ll be doing calculations with up to 4% of their target body weight.
I know this can be confusing, so here’s an example of the math you’ll be doing for a moderately active adult dog who weighs 40 lbs and isn’t overweight (40 lbs is their target body weight):
40/100 = 0.4 x 2.5 = 1 lb = 16 oz
So this dog would need to eat 16 oz of raw dog food per day.
Here’s one more math example for an overweight 55 lb dog who doesn’t exercise much and needs to lose 5 lbs.
Since their target body weight is 50 lbs, you divide 50 by 100, then you multiply the result with 2%:
50/100 = 0.5 x 2 = 1 lb = 16 oz
This dog would also need to eat 16 oz of raw dog food per day.
How Do You Feed Raw Dog Food – My Approach
I already shared a few bits and pieces of information as far as how I feed raw dog food.
In a nutshell, I began my raw feeding journey with premade BARF dog food from Darwin’s.
Once I learned how to make homemade raw dog food, I supplemented Darwin’s raw meals with my own raw dog food.
These days, I feed my Feist mix Wally following the same approach.
He gets about 75% of my homemade raw dog food, and 25% of premade raw meals following the BARF model.
After my move overseas, I can obviously no longer buy from Darwin’s but have to shop locally here in Germany.
That should answer the question of “how do you feed raw dog food”!
It’s always easiest to buy premade raw dog food from a brand like Darwin’s.
Especially if you’re new to raw feeding and want to make sure you’re feeding balanced raw dog food.
However, this convenience comes at a premium, so one way of making it more affordable is by supplementing their meals with your own homemade ones.
ThatMutt’s founder Lindsay follows the same approach and wrote an ebook on how to feed raw dog food, including 10 recipe ideas for small, medium and large dogs!
If you don’t want to feed veggies, fruit, nuts & seeds, you’ll be feeding your dog the PMR way.
Remember, this excludes plant matter and while many prey model raw feeders feed whole animals, you can also follow the Frankenprey approach.
Similar to raw dog food brand Darwin’s, there are brands who sell ground PMR for convenience.
Now it’s your turn: Let us know how YOU feed raw dog food in the comment section below!