For many pet owners conditioned to think the best food for their dogs is pre-packaged in a bag, the idea of “feeding raw” can sound terribly scary.
The most well-intentioned pet owners may find feeding raw, feeding bone and not having a label to find out how much to feed is just too much to handle. So they may stick to what they know and continue feeding processed non-food.
We’re not judging.
It can be a little foreign and overwhelming at first.
But actually, the basic concepts underlying feeding raw are far from complicated. They rely on simple, intuitive ideas based on how canines eat in the wild and paying attention to your dog as an individual. And it really isn’t scary after all.
In the spirit of uncomplicated, here are five tips for feeding a raw diet that may help make things easier:
Balance calcium and phosphorus essential minerals.
Feed about half meat and organs and about half meaty bones like lamb necks, chicken backs, beef ribs, pork tails and turkey necks. Whole fish, raw eggs with the shell on and green tripe all have the correct ratio of calcium to phosphorus.
“What about the rest of the vitamins and minerals?” you ask. They’re in there too. Add in some organs, and you’re set…
Insides Count Too
Since organ meat should comprise about 15 percent of your dog’s diet, it’s important to feed all animal parts.
The organs are packed full of nutrients, including large amounts of B vitamins, phosphorus, iron, copper, magnesium and iodine. They also provide the important fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Livestock raised outside on grass develop even more of these nutrients than animals fed grain. If you haven’t fed organ meats before, start gradually as they may cause loose stool initially.
Gross But Good
It’s OK to feed gross stuff.
Not only is it advised to feed things like liver, lung and pancreas, but if you happen upon parts like eyeballs, brains, tracheas and testicles, go for it. Not only will your dog most likely gobble them right up, but they will get the benefits of an assortment of nutrients. Beef trachea, pig ears, chicken and turkey feet, for instance, are full of natural chondroitin and glucosamine, which help to build healthy joints.
As you experiment with the weird food, do keep one golden rule of raw feeding in mind: Never feed cooked bones. Raw bones are soft enough to bend and digest easily but cooked bones are sharp and dangerous.
Balance over time is the key.
Instead of trying to come up with a complete and balanced meal every single time, use the frankenprey technique. Over the course of a week or few days, feed what is equivalent to a complete animal.
Think of what a chicken or goat is comprised of as a whole and feed parts of that to your dog over several days, keeping about the same proportions of meat to bone and meat to organ meat. Once you have fed a complete animal (using parts of a variety of animals), you know your dog is on a balanced diet. In terms of amount, start by feeding about 2 percent of his body weight – for puppies, feed 2.5 percent of his expected adult weight. If he starts looking a little too heavy, feed less. Too thin? Feed more. Simple.
Along with that, you’ll want to throw in a day of fasting every week or two for dogs over six months.
Fasting can boost health by allowing the dog’s digestive system to focus on detoxing rather than constantly digesting. This will help clear things out and will help with the immune system since the majority of immune function resides in the gut. Fasting can include a bone like a beef neck bone to chew on and that’s it.
RELATED: Here’s an example of what a week a real meals looks like?
Know Where It Comes From
Source the best food possible.
The benefit of feeding a raw home diet is knowing exactly where your dog’s food comes from. And to that end, seek out farmers markets, local butchers, farmers and co-ops. Choose local over chain grocery stores. The more directly you go to get the meat – for instance, the farmer – the more information you’ll be able to get about how the animals were treated.
Were they caged with little room to move around? Were they given antibiotics? What were they fed? That kind of thing.
Your best bet is to go organic, grass-fed and pasture-raised to get less toxins and more nutrients. If money is an issue (it can get pricey), go with the best you can afford and watch for sales on the higher quality meats.
And with those five tips you’ll go a long way in securing a healthy future for your dog – with food he’ll quite enjoy.
Still leary of feeding raw? Click here to learn how to make kibble more nutritious.