Raw Dog Food: A Quick, Everything-You-Need Guide
If you’re unfamiliar with raw dog food, the idea of preparing your own food might seem scary. Maybe you’ve heard of the risks, limitations and concerns associated with raw diets, but you know the nutritional and energy benefits make raw food worthwhile. We’re here to reassure you and arm you with the information you need to make the right decisions for the dog (or dogs!) in your life.
Since you undoubtably care deeply about your dog’s nutrition, you know you’ll need to do your own research and learn how to safely prepare food that satisfies and supports canine health. Food has such a significant impact on how we look, act and feel. Food can make you feel great and enjoy a long, healthy life or it can prevent you from reaching your potential.
In this article, we’ll provide you with information and research about raw dog food, introduce the basics of making your own and mention other resources you can check out for more in-depth information. By the end of this post, you should have several great ideas for how to get started with raw food and how to safely support your dog’s nutritional needs.
What is a Raw Diet?
Raw diets for dogs are designed to supply the types of food that early ancestors of today’s dogs ate on a regular basis. Staple foods include raw meat, bones and vegetable scraps. These ingredients are prepared by taking into account the individual dietary needs of your dog and are made with minimal processing, so that the end result is food that is very similar to what dogs would eat in the wild. Raw foods are very different from the heavily-processed, dry kibble commonly available in supermarkets and pet stores.
Typically, raw food is prepared at home and served soon after it is made, preserving freshness and wholesomeness.
Benefits of Raw Diets
Grain-based, dry food with little to no real meat are very typical in most dog food blends. Designed to be shelf-stable for long periods of time, these foods are often chock-full of preservatives and fillers that don’t actually contribute to your pet’s nutrition. Raw meat and raw food diets are different–they are served fresh, provide important nutritional benefits and are closer to what dogs ate earlier in evolutionary history. They also have ingredients that can spoil quickly, can be more difficult to make and may not be immediately-accepted by dogs that are stubborn or familiar with kibble. Even with these drawbacks, though, many people swear by the health benefits.
Potential benefits of a raw diet:
- Shinier and healthier coat
- More energy and vitality
- Better digestion
- Eliminate vitamin deficencies
- Clean teeth
- Healthier skin
- Better muscle tone
- Improved behavior due to better nutrition and more dietary vitamins
How To Start a Raw Diet for Your Dog
When preparing a raw foot diet for your dog, you want to be sure your raw food has the right vitamins, minerals, energy sources and protein sources. You need to minimize the fat content and leave out starches altogether.
Combining the right mixture can help you create a balanced diet for your dog. At a glance, here’s what needs to be in your dog’s diet:
- 15% Bones or Eggshells for Calcium and Phosphorus
- 10% to 30% Organ Meats for Vitamins
- 33% to 50% Lean Meat for Protein and Energy
- Fruit and Veggie Scraps (Various; Use These for The Remaining % of The Meal)
- Fish (Once per Week)
In order to create a complete and balanced diet for your dog, 15% of the meal should include bone or eggshells as they are a good source of calcium and phosphorus. Be sure to avoid store-bought eggs as they are coated in preservatives that can have an adverse effect on your pup. The meal should also include 33% – 50% lean meat (a good source of protein), 10% – 30% organ meat (a good source of vitamins), and some fruits and veggies to balance out the nutrients.
Keep in mind, however, that one type of organ should NEVER exceed more than 10% of your pet’s diet; especially not the liver. If eaten in excess, liver can cause your pet to overdose on vitamin A and develop symptoms of hypervitaminosis (vitamin overdose). This can also cause excessive bone growth, bone deformations, dangerous weight loss or anorexia. Try to choose a variety of different organs and be careful not to feed your pet too much liver.
A lack of balance in the diet is where many people go wrong. Not sure what amount of bone, meat and organs to include? You can also feed your dog whole animals, such as fish, to provide the right proportions of each type of food. Smaller rabbits are also a great choice.
Risks of Raw Food Diets
Without proper planning and action, you can really encounter problems with raw food diet recipes. It’s not like you’re buying a bag of kibble and pouring a bowl for your dog–you’re creating your own, from-scratch food and trying to account for your dog’s real needs. It’s not easy. But it’s also a worthwhile effort for many dog lovers who are tired of feeding their pets less-than-optimal nutrition.
Keep in mind that foods must be sourced, stored, prepared and served properly. Choose high-quality ingredients–if you wouldn’t eat it because it looks spoiled or questionable, toss it out.
Pay attention to how you store food. Use refrigeration to keep meats fresh and always remember to store shelf-stable food in a cool and dry place, keeping containers properly sealed.
As you cook, prevent cross-contamination by cleaning and sanitizing surfaces you’re finished using. Raw meats, for instance, can contaminate cutting boards with bacteria so you’ll want to keep that in mind as you prepare and serve your food.
You’ll want to refrigerate food you’re not serving immediately to prevent bacteria from making your dog sick. Any unused portion should be promptly stored or thrown away. Remember to use similar cleanliness and kitchen hygiene standards for any food prepared for dogs as you’d use for food you plan to eat yourself or serve to another human.
When preparing raw dog food, imbalance is the most common problem. Too much organ meat, for instance, provides an excess of certain vitamins, which can be harmful to your dog. Additionally, sharp pieces of bone that aren’t properly broken-down or are too large for your dog can cause chocking or result in cuts and scratches in their mouth and throat. Balance is key! All-meat or all-vegetable diets (or any other “all” diet, really) can result in malnutrition or create serious health problems and should be avoided, unless you have careful supervision by a veterinarian.
When feeding your dog a raw diet, there’s a lot of room for error so it’s important to do your research carefully. To avoid mistakes, your main focus should be ensuring the meal is complete and balanced, using quality ingredients, and storing the ingredients correctly. Do this and your pup will reap the rewards!
When in doubt, it’s always best to ask your veterinarian for advice.
Natural dog food is a great investment in the health and livelihood of your best friend. Since our dogs can’t choose their own healthy diets, it’s important for the humans in their lives to carefully source dog food that sustains. It’s up to us to help our dogs eat wholesome, nutrient-dense foods.
If you’re looking for a diet that can help your dog’s health, a raw dog food diet is a great place to start. Just be sure to carefully plan your dog’s diet. Whenever possible, talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s nutritional needs and overall health–that’ll help you find the best combination for your dog.