Making the switch to a raw food diet can be a great thing for your pup. After all, dogs are naturally scavenging carnivores. In the wild, dogs hunt down their prey and eat the whole thing to get the nutrition they need.
The idea behind a raw dog food diet is to imitate what your dog's ancestors ate before the advent of commercialized kibble.
While it can be daunting to start a raw diet, it offers a lot of benefits. One of the biggest is that you have complete control over what your canine companion is consuming.
While a lot of dog food manufacturers provide in-depth information about their ingredients, nothing beats the nutritional value of raw food. Your pooch will be able to take advantage of all the nutrition a meal has to offer.
Not only that, but you won't have to worry about our dog consuming mystery meats, unknown chemicals, or empty fillers.
Making Your First Meal
Many dog owners are nervous to make their first raw meal. It can be a scary thing to watch your pup scarf down raw meat and bones when we, as humans, have been taught that consuming raw protein can lead to a host of problems.
*The key is to remember that dogs are built for this kind of thing. Their stomachs are made to digest raw meat. Here's some information that can help you during your transition
Raw Food Basics
When you're planning raw meals, you have to start completely from scratch. Most commercial dry foods contain basic levels of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Your job is to figure out how to recreate that balanced diet.
While it may seem tough at first, there's a formula that makes planning meals much easier.
The 5:1:1 formula is used by many dog owners around the world. The formula represents a healthy ratio of ingredients. Your dog's diet should contain five parts of meat with the bone, one part of fresh organ meat, and one part of cooked vegetables.
This formula is easy enough to remember and can be adapted to the unique needs of your pup. You can scale up the recipe to create your dog's meals in advance. While there are more specifics you need to aware of, the 5:1:1 rule is a good start.
The Components of a Good Raw Diet
Now that you know the basics of raw food and how to plan a diet, let's take a look at some more specific information about what your dog's food should contain. Knowing what to look for and what to avoid can ensure that your dog is getting all the nutrients they need to thrive.
Lean Muscle Meat
Meat should be the foundation of every meal you make. It contains protein and muscle-building amino acids. In dry kibble, protein is almost always the most prominent ingredient in a formula.
Raw diets are no different. The unique thing about raw diets is that you need to choose lean meats with little fat.
One of the biggest mistakes that new raw feeders can make is to provide too much fat. Unfortunately, it's an easy mistake to make. Cheaper cuts of meat tend to contain more fat than leaner alternatives.
Too much fat can lead to excessive weight gain. Furthermore, higher levels of fat usually mean that your dog isn't getting enough vitamins and minerals. It's important that you go with lean cuts like pork loin, chicken breasts, and wild game. Try removing skin and cutting off large pieces of fat to keep things under control.
Ideally, you should be feeding your dog a diet that consists of less than 10% fat. You don't want to get rid of it completely. A little bit of fat can be beneficial to your pup's health. It provides a boost of energy and makes any meal much more appetizing.
You may have noticed that the 5:1:1 formula included five parts of meat with the bone. It's crucial that your dog consumes bone and cartilage. Bones contain calcium and phosphorous. Your dog needs these to maintain proper bone health.
They also help to maintain the nervous system. Without bones, your dog will experience significant health issues. Puppies, in particular, are prone to developmental problems without bones.
Your dog's diet should consist of approximately 15% bones and cartilage. If you choose to start off with ground muscle meat as a base, you're going to need to provide your dog with pure bones a few times a week.
The best way to ensure that your dog is getting the right amount of calcium and phosphorous is to provide them with meat that's still on the bone. This can include ingredients like chicken wings, turkey legs, tail bones, neck, whole fish and much more. Even whole animals, such as rabbit or chicken, are a great source.
Many butchers also sell these ingredients minced up. This is a great way to take advantage of the versatility that comes with minced meat while ensuring that there are enough bones in the mix.
Another option is to add whole eggs. The egg shells are chock-full of calcium and phosphorus. If you choose to go this route, just make sure that you're getting organic eggs that are free of any pesticides or chemicals.
Organs are a crucial part of the 5:1:1 formula. Organs densely packed with vitamins and minerals. A great way to look at organs is to compare it the human equivalent.
Leafy greens and vegetables are crucial for human health because of their vitamins and nutrients. Organs are the same way for your pup.
High-quality organs like kidneys, spleens, and brains can do wonders for your dog. While it may seem a bit unorthodox, this is the only source of nutrients for dogs in the wild. Organs should make up about 10% of your pup's diet. Stick to the 5:1:1 rule and your dog should be fine.
There are some notable exceptions that you should be wary of. One of them is liver. It's pretty easy to find chicken, beef, or pork livers at the supermarket. However, you should limit your dog's liver intake.
It's very high in Vitamin A. Too much of it can lead to some messy diarrhea. The use of heart and tripe is another exception. Heart and tripe are pure muscle. They can be used as a meat source but not as organs. If you include these ingredients, add in another organ to make sure that your furry friend getting the nutrients they need.
Fish is a great ingredient. Whole fish provides your dog with protein, organs, and bones. One of the biggest benefits of whole fish is the oil. Fish oil contains omega fatty acids. They play an important role in keeping your dog's heart healthy. Additionally, fish oil can keep your pup's skin and coat supple.
While fish oil supplements are available, nothing beats the real thing. Supplements are heavily processed and go bad pretty easily.
Adding a bit of salmon or sardines to their meal every day is an easy way to make sure that they're getting a healthy dose of fish oil. Alternatively, you can use whole fish as the main meat source for one of their meals each week.
One important thing to note about fish is that you'll need to freeze it first. Raw fish can carry bacteria and parasites that will affect your pup. Freezing the fish for up to seven days can kill most of the bacteria and parasites.
Fruits and Vegetables
While the main component of your dog's diet should always be meat, you can throw in some vegetables as well. Plant-based ingredients aren't required.
For many dog owners, it's simply a matter of personal preference. However, vegetables can offer a number of benefits.
One of the biggest is fiber. Fiber helps to keep your dog's digestive system in check. With an adequate amount of fiber, their stool will be firm and healthy.
Fruits and vegetables also include probiotics, chlorophyll, antioxidants, and much more. All of these nutrients will benefit your pup's health in the long run.
Before you add plant-based ingredients, make sure it's something that your dog can eat safely. There are a number of fruits and vegetables that are toxic. Once you know it's safe, cook it to break it down. This gives your dog easy access to all the good stuff and makes it easy to digest.
What About Carbohydrates?
Almost every commercial dog food on the market has carbohydrates and starch. They help to create that signature kibble shape. However, they're completely useless in a dog's diet. Grains and simple carbohydrates are only fillers. They're empty calories that fill your dog up.
Most of the time, unhealthy carbohydrates are used as a filler to keep costs low. Starchy foods, such as potatoes, can actually cause harm when paired with raw meat. It throws off the acidity in your dog's stomach. As a result, they may not be able to digest the raw meat safely.
Raw food diets are meant to provide your dog with the things he or she needs. So, you should avoid adding too many carbohydrates.
With that being said, many owners still add some complex carbohydrates to their dog's diet. Complex carbohydrates are absorbed much slower and don't affect insulin levels too much. If you want to add carbohydrates, do so sparingly. Use high-quality complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and squash.
7 Homemade Raw Dog Food Recipes
#1. Basic Mix
If you want to make a simple recipe that can last you well beyond a week, this option may be for you. It uses over 20 pounds of meat. It can be separated into daily portions and kept in the freezer until you give it to your pup.
Start off by boiling the vegetables until they're soft. Allow them to cool down completely before mashing them up into a fine pulp. Then, mix together the minced meat, vegetables, and organs. Add in the eggs with the shell.
#2. Organ Patties
This is a simple recipe that can be used as a delicious treat or variety option throughout the week. It's a great option if you have a surplus of organs. One thing that's missing is bones and cartilage. As a result, you shouldn't use this recipe as a regular meal every day of the week.
The first thing you'll need to do is prepare the ingredients. You'll need to chop up the organs or put them in a food processor. The same goes for the vegetables.
Once everything is minced, simply mix it all together. Add the raw egg with the shell. You can then form the mixture into patties and pop them in the freezer until you're ready to give them to your dog.
#3. Satin Balls
Satin balls are designed to help adult dogs gain weight. They should be fed to your pup in moderation. You can provide these raw food balls to your dog a couple of times a week. They're very high in calories and utilize ground beef as the main protein source.
To create this recipe, simply mix the ingredients together until they're fully incorporated. Then, form the mixture into balls and freeze them in separate bags for easy meals.
#4. Fish Dinner
Fish is a versatile ingredient that offers all the nutrients your dog needs. This recipe uses fillets and canned meat as the base.
First, chop the vegetables into small pieces and boil them until they're fully softened. Let them cool down completely before continuing.
Once cooled, put the fish, liver, and vegetables in a meat grinder or food processor.
When the ingredients are fully combined, add in the eggs with shells, honey, and kelp powder
#5. Chicken Dinner
Chicken is one of the easiest meat ingredients to find. This recipe uses the chicken necks and various organs to provide your pup with a healthy diet. It produces a lot of food that can be used for many weeks.
Putting this recipe together is very simple. First, chop up the fruits and vegetables and lightly cook them. Then, you can mix the whole meat ingredients together with the plant-based ingredients. Alternatively, you can run all the ingredients in a food processor to create a mince.
#6. Turkey and Vegetable Mash
This simple recipe uses ground turkey as the main protein source. Because it doesn't contain bones or cartilage, this option is best suited as a one-time meal during the week to add some variety.
To prepare the vegetables, chop them up into small pieces and boil them to break down the fiber. Then, put them through a food processor until they turn into a soft mash. The livers should also be chopped up into smaller pieces. Mix the vegetables and meats together to create a mince.
#7. Red Meat Mix
If you're looking for a recipe that incorporates a different meat source, consider this red meat mix. It uses chopped beef or lamb. It also contains a bevy of vegetables for a healthy dose of vitamins.
Start by cooking the rice and pumpkin together. Then, soften the carrots and peas by boiling them in a separate pan. Once cooled, mix the vegetables and apples together. Chop the lamb or beef into small bite-sized pieces and mix all the ingredients together.
Variety and Balance
It's important to mix things up every once in a while. You shouldn't be feeding your dog the same meal every day. Different ingredients offer varying levels of nutrients. Mixing meals allow your dog to take advantage of a wide variety of different nutrients. It's the key to finding the perfect balance.
Speaking of balance, one common misconception that many dog owners have is that their pup needs to have a certain amount of nutrients each and every day.
Truth is, dogs aren't going to be heavily affected if their diet doesn't contain everything they need one day out of the week. Balance happens over time. As long as your pup is getting everything he or she needs over the course of a week or so, they'll be fine. You don't need to do heavy calculations every time dinner comes around.
Many experienced raw feeders create meals ahead of time. They may use the 5:1:1 rule to plan a week's worth of meals and split it up accordingly.
How Much Food Does Your Dog Need?
Figuring out how much food your dog needs can be a bit of a challenge. Every dog is different and a lot of factors can affect their diet. Generally, adult dogs will need to consume between 2% and 3% of their body weight in raw food each day. You will need to monitor your dog's habits and lifestyle to narrow that number down further.
If your dog is active and spends most of their time getting exercise, their daily intake will be on the higher end of the spectrum. Alternatively, an older dog or one that lounges around all day will need closer to 2%.
Body condition also plays a role. Look at your dog's body from above and take note of their shape. If they're underweight, they'll need more food to get healthy. If they're overweight, you need to cut back so that they don't experience any lasting problems.
Despite their small size, puppies require a lot of food. Their bodies are rapidly developing. As a result, they need plenty of fuel to keep up. When you're planning your puppy's diet, use their ideal adult weight as a reference.
If healthy dogs of the same breed weigh 40 pounds as an adult, they should be getting between 2% and 3% of that figure each day.
Where to Get Raw Ingredients
One of the biggest hurdles you're going to need to get over when you decide to make the switch to raw food is finding a source for all your ingredients. It can be a costly endeavor to buy everything at your local grocery store. While it certainly can be done, you'll need to make sure that everything is suitable for your dog.
If you choose to shop at your local grocery store, you can communicate with the meat department for more information. Many supermarkets also offer price reductions on products that no one wants. Organs tend to be much more affordable than those prime cuts of steak.
Another great option is to go to a local butcher. You may be able to get a good deal on undesirable bits and pieces. A lot of leftovers get thrown away.
Speak to your butcher and see if they'll sell these throwaways to you. One great thing about going to a butcher is that you can usually get information about where the meat came from. This can help you avoid potentially dangerous sources.