Raw Diet For Adults
PhD Natural Health, LMSW-ACP
Preparing a raw diet for your dog is not hard, but for those who are just starting out, the idea of it can be hard to get used as it is a totally different way to feed your dog. As outlined in the August 2005 newsletter, part of the marketing techniques for commercial food was convincing the public that dogs needed a totally complete and balanced diet at each meal and that feeding fresh food (i.e. ‘table food’) was dangerous. While that has become the ‘norm’ for most people, many of us remember before dog food was even invented. Dogs and cats were fed fresh food, in the form of raw foods, cooked foods, table scraps and what they could catch in the wild.
The concept to remember is that we are talking about the difference between processed foods and fresh foods. Commercial pet foods offer one big advantage, and that is convenience. It is the same for us when we stop at a fast food place and pick up a meal for ourselves, or buy prepared meals from the grocery store where we just heat and serve. But newer research has proven to us that fresh foods offer more nutrition and health for us, and the same is true for our dogs.
What I hope to do here is demonstrate the ease of home prepared meals and give you confidence to offer your dog (or cat) better nutrition for their health and longevity. In the same way we are able to feed our children and ourselves, feeding our dogs is just as easy. The hardest part is wrapping our minds around a new concept and the easiest will be watching the enjoyment of your dog with a raw diet!
A Few Rules
I will first start with a few basic rules.
1) To determine proper calcium to phosphorus ratios, feed two meals a day. One meal will be ‘raw meaty bones’ and the other will be muscle meat and organ meat. You can also add eggs, dairy and vegetables; I will go into more detail on that later.
2) Feed approximately 2% to 3% of the dog’s body weight daily. Larger dogs may eat less than this; smaller dogs may need more as the smaller the dog, the faster the metabolism.
100 lb dog – 2 lb to 3 lb daily, or two meals of 1 to 1 lbs each
75 lb dog – 1 lb to 2 lb daily, or two meals of 12 oz to 18 oz each
50 lb dog – 1 lb to 1 lb daily, or two meals of 8 oz to 12 oz each
25 lb dog – 8 oz to 12 oz daily, or two meals of 4 oz to 6 oz each
3) Use variety in the meals; don’t get stuck in a routine feeding the same foods over and over. Variety offers more in nutrients that a dog needs.
4) Organ meat needs to be about 10% of the diet. Organ meats are a rich source of nutrients, but too much can be too rich for a dog.
Definitions of Ingredients
Let’s look at what foods fall under these categories next.
Raw meaty bones can include:
Chicken wings, backs, necks and leg quarters.
Turkey necks, cut up
Pork necks, breast, pig tails and pig feet
Beef ribs, necks, tails
Lamb ribs, necks and breast
Rabbit, all parts
Canned fish with bones (Jack Mackerel, Pink Salmon, Sardines)
These can also be purchased ground, or you can purchase a meat grinder to do so yourself if the thought of whole bones makes you uncomfortable. I have no opinion on this, other than to proceed with your own comfort level. Large bones such as leg bones and femurs on the larger animals (cows, pork, and lamb), and sometimes beef rib and neck bones, are too hard for dogs to consume, but they can be given as recreation bones, but not considered part of the balance of the diet.
Muscle meat would include:
Beef heart, hamburger, lamb heart, ground lamb, chicken heart and gizzards, ground chicken, turkey heart, ground turkey, rabbit, fish (fillet), tripe, tongue, wild game (venison, elk and buffalo) to mention a few.
Organ meat would include beef, lamb, chicken, turkey and pork kidney and liver.
A Few Basic Supplies
A staple for most raw feeders is a freezer. This helps when buying larger quantities (which helps in price). A good pair of meat scissors (the Joyce Chen brand are very good). These are invaluable for cutting apart chicken pieces, ribs and cutting meat into manageable sizes. Plastic bins and containers for storing meat, as well as zip lock bags, a set of knives and of course, refrigerator space. Mixing bowls also come in handy. A small scale may be useful, until you become accustomed to serving sizes.
Meat Grinders are useful for people with toy dogs or who are uncomfortable with feeding whole bones. Northern Tool makes some good meat grinders that easily fit on a kitchen counter.
OK, you got your supplies, now where to get the food? Most grocery stores will have many of these foods on hand. I can get my meat manager to order beef heart, beef kidney, chicken hearts and pork neck bones. They will also have chicken wings and chicken leg quarters. Some meat departments will also be able to order chicken necks and backs. But if your local grocery store doesn’t carry much of these, you may need to check at ethnic grocery stores. Joining a local raw feeding list for your area can also help with finding people in your area that can direct you to good sources. Some locales have raw meat coops that order together. You can also check Mary Straus’s website for a list of sources by state that sell frozen and fresh meat. Again, it is a new way of shopping, especially for dog owners used to buying commercial food. At first it can seem daunting, but as time goes on it seems like second nature.
At my house, the meat is kept frozen until I take the meat the night before I use it. I have plastic containers that I place the meat in to thaw overnight. Please make sure the meat is fully thawed before serving. Meat selection can vary by location, and in my area the variety I use includes chicken, lamb, beef and pork. Some dogs may have preferences for some meat choices over the other; the best way to learn is by trial and error. When first starting out on a raw diet, some dogs need time to get used to the texture, temperature and flavor of meat, while others will act like that was just what they had been looking for all along. Some dogs do better if fed in crates individually. Having a mentor available or belonging to an email group familiar with raw feeding also helps when you have questions!
People ask me how to start, slowly or all at once? There is no hard and fast answer for this, but since all I have at my house is raw food, any dog that comes my way starts on a varied raw diet. I do take in rescues and I haven’t had any problems so far. But again it is where your comfort level is best for you. Some people choose to add muscle meat to the commercial food first (see the January 2006 newsletter.) And do not over feed; this is one of the most common reasons for diarrhea and digestive upset.
At my house, I feed the muscle meat for the first meal and raw meaty bones for the second meal, but this can be reversed. Some people prefer to feed once a day and this can be done with feeding raw meaty bones one day, and muscle and organ meat the next day, or by feeding half and half each day. Remember, it is balance over time, not at each meal. Try not to rely on one type of raw meaty bone (such as chicken) and rotate between pork, poultry, beef, etc so that the dog has a variety of meals. I may feed chicken necks and backs for three nights, pork necks and tails for two nights, and beef or lamb ribs for two others.
For the other meals, I feed tripe twice a week, beef heart once or twice, chicken hearts for one and ground lamb or beef for the other meals. Some days I may add eggs or dairy (plain yogurt or cottage cheese). Do add some kidney or liver to some of the meals to get about 10% of organ meat in the diet.
Some people prefer adding ground or pulverized vegetables. Carbohydrates are not necessary for dogs, but some people enjoy adding them. I would keep any vegetable mix to less than 1/4th of this diet. Vegetables will add bulk to the stool and can create gas.
The three main supplements I use for my dogs are:
Berte’s Immune Blend. This is a powder mix of vitamins A, C, E and B complex, digestive enzymes and acidophilus. It contains the antioxidants helpful for the immune system, and the enzymes and probiotics will help with digestion. For healthy dogs, use half dose.
Berte’s Green Blend. The green foods in this mix include kelp, blue green algae, dulce, spirulina, Irish moss and alfalfa for trace minerals and phytonutients.
EPA Fish Oil or Salmon Oil Capsules. I give one per 20 lbs of body weight daily for the omega 3 fatty acids. These help with the coat and skin help with immunity and fight inflammation.
This type of diet will offer the best bioavailable protein for your dog and the best part of raw feeding is that you control the quality of your dog’s diet. While preparation takes some getting used to in the beginning, the health and joy your dog will receive is a big benefit. For further information, please check out Mary Straus’s links on raw feeding for sources, web sites and books. And don’t forget the articles at B-Naturals
Copyright 2006 Lew Olson, All Rights Reserved