If you’re ready to make the leap to feeding raw, you might be asking yourself:
How do I feed my dog a raw diet?
Let us help you understand just how easy feeding raw can be!
There is a lot of information out there regarding how to start feeding your dog a raw diet. When you have decided to make the switch to raw, getting a probiotic and a prebiotic is a good idea to help support a healthy digestive system. You will want to start with a blander protein choice to be safe, and that is usually chicken – but turkey, rabbit or quail can be substituted. These proteins are recommended in the beginning, as opposed to red meat, due to the fact that they are blander and easier to digest, which in the end is less likely to cause digestive upset.
All meat that is fed should contain under one hundred milligrams of sodium per serving and should not be seasoned, smoked or cooked in any way. Many sources state that you should transition your pet to a raw diet slowly, but many counteract that and say you can transition right away- the opinions are split about 50/50.
In the raw diet, there is a rule of what and how much of that type of food to feed your dog. This rule is called the 80/10/5/5 rule. This means that eighty percent of the food comes from muscle meat, ten percent comes from bone, five percent comes from liver and the last five comes from secreting organs. This is a ratio for raw that represents a dog eating the whole prey. For instance, if a dog were to eat the whole animal, it is said to be an average eighty percent muscle meat, ten percent bone, five percent liver and five percent secreting organs. This has been called “Whole Prey Raw Feeding” and is the practice of feeding whole foods, following the ratio above, by balancing it over time or, if available, feeding whole animals. The general guideline is to feed two to three percent of your pet’s ideal body weight daily. (This however is dependent on metabolism, amount of exercise, energy level and genetics.) To calculate the percentage of how much to feed, take the percent number, move the decimal two places to the left, then multiply by your pet’s weight. Here is an example of this: If you have a fifty-pound dog, if you take 2.5% of fifty pounds by 0.025, that equals 1.25 pounds. That is how much food you would give your dog daily.
Since eighty percent of your dog’s meal comes from muscle meats, it is important to know what those are. These are basically any meat without the bones. Examples of these foods would be boneless chicken breasts, ground beef, turkey, beef or bison steaks and beef heart, as well as some others. (Beef hearts tend to be a dog’s favorite.)
The next is bone. These are any items that has both meat and edible bone. Examples of these are chicken leg, chicken necks, whole fish, rabbit legs, ostrich necks, pork neck bones, etc.
The next is liver. This is one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin A. Examples of these are beef, lamb, pork, chicken or bison liver.
Secreting organs, also known as offal meat, are meats that are rich in vitamins A, B, D, E and K. It is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits for dogs.
A big worry for people feeding raw is sanitation and safety. There are two major issues you need to worry about: foodborne illnesses (bacteria) and the cross-contamination of that bacteria to humans. Most foodborne illnesses are not dangerous to your dog (puppies, kittens, and pets with weakened immune systems are an exception.) Foodborne illnesses happen when bad bacteria in meat causes sickness when eaten. The two big ones are Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. (Again, both are not problematic for the healthy dog, but are for humans.) Listeria and Salmonella grow out of balance when the temperature of meat ranges between forty degrees Fahrenheit and one hundred-forty degrees Fahrenheit. In that range, the bad bacteria can grow rapidly, causing an imbalance that can make everyone sick who encounters it. Cross- contamination happens when the food has unwanted germs, and those can spread easily if you do not know how to handle food properly. (Here is an example of cross contamination: You make your dog’s raw meal, then you reuse your dog’s dinner plate for your own dinner without washing it first; the germs have now spread and will make you sick.)
It is also very important to wash your hands with soap after serving or handling the raw food. You want and need to wipe the counters down with a disinfectant after the food has been handled. If a meal is particularly messy, mopping or wiping down the feeding area is also important. Make sure when choosing to feed raw that the bowls are used only for the dogs. After the dogs are finished eating, wiping the bowls down will help get rid of germs as well. If the dogs are particularly messy eaters, wiping their faces down is good to do as well, so again the germs do not spread throughout the house.
Having kids in the house can complicate raw feeding, especially if they are young and put everything in their mouths. A good idea to help with the process is to buy containers designated just for the dog’s food and put them in a special place in the fridge. When the dogs are being fed, it is good to supervise the feeding to make sure the kids are nowhere near the dogs and their food and the potential germs. After feeding time, you will again want to clean with a disinfectant and finish by washing your hands with soap.
To keep the dog’s food safe, keep it frozen for as long as you can. Keeping the food frozen makes sure that the food is not in the range for bacteria growth. Storing the food on the bottom shelf of the fridge so nothing in it leaks onto human food is another good precaution to take. You never will want to leave the dog’s food out for more than twenty minutes, and the food stays good for two to three days in the fridge after defrosting.
With raw feeding being a more foreign topic to most, there are a lot of questions that get frequently asked, such as, “Will my family or I get sick from feeding my dog raw meat?” Raw feeding is no different than preparing meals for yourself and your family. You should practice sanitary habits, as stated previously, when handling raw meat, such as cleaning your area thoroughly after prepping the meat, washing your hands after touching the raw meat and sanitizing utensils used, as well as the environment the food was prepared in.
“Are bones dangerous because they splinter?” A common misconception about feeding bones to dogs is that they are dangerous. In fact, raw bones are great for dogs and are actually completely safe. Raw bones are soft and easy to digest in comparison to cooked or dehydrated bones. Cooking and dehydrating bones removes moisture from the bones which makes them hard, difficult to digest and splinter when eaten. Examples of raw, meaty bones are: chicken backs, duck necks, chicken quarters, pork tails and duck wings (for medium breeds.) For large to giant breeds, whole prey rabbit, turkey neck, lamb head, pork feet and turkey feet are good bones for them to have.
“How much does raw feeding cost?” -You will need to calculate how many pounds will be needed for a whole month to figure out a rough estimate on monthly costs. In order to calculate this, daily feeding ratios will need to be determined for muscle meat, bone and organ, and then multiply by thirty (for the amount of days for the month.) On average, you can expect to spend around $2.50 per pound to feed a complete raw diet using resources that are local to you.
“How long does raw meat last and what is the best way to store it?” Normally people keep raw meat in their refrigerator up to three days. However, dogs and cats are able to tolerate meat that stayed out for much longer. Once meat is fully thawed, it will last about seven days.
“How do I begin feeding whole prey?” The best way to start feeding whole prey is to start small so you do not overwhelm your dog. Once your dog accepts small, whole prey, you can start adding larger prey to it.
Feeding raw can be as easy as you want it to be and can have great health benefits for your pet.
By: Valor K9 Academy Trainer, Meg Rogers
Switching your dog to a raw diet, the official RFC guide, The Raw Feeding Community
Pishner, Amy, “A Simple Guide to Feeding Raw”, Valor K9 Academy
Kimberly, “Who Came Up with 80/10/5/5 for Raw Feeding?”, Keep The Tail Wagging