Why did We Write This Guide?
Welcome to the world of raw feeding for your dog!
It can be scary to stray off the beaten path, especially when you’re getting flack from your veterinarian, family, and friends.
You may be at the point where you are 100% committed to adopting a raw food diet for your dog, but after doing a bit of research online, you’re now more confused than ever!
It seems that nobody agrees.
Can’t all these raw food gurus just get along?!
We understand how confusing this can be. Maybe you thought it would be simple:
Just buy some frozen meat and voila, happy puppy.
...but I plead with you to not throw in the towel just yet!
Reading this guide will help clear the confusion without being dogmatic (no pun intended) about any particular school of thought.
At the end of the day, your personal beliefs, budget, time, and your dog’s bio-individuality are all going to factor into what form of raw feeding you eventually choose.
So review this guide to start building (or refreshing) your knowledge on all things related to the raw food diet for your favorite pooch.
Who is This Guide For?
Whether you’re a new initiate who has loyally fed their dog kibble for years, or you’re a raw food connoisseur who’s looking for some fresh perspective, you’ll definitely benefit from reading this guide.
If you’re a newbie, you might be wondering why you would need a guide at all? Can’t you just throw some ground beef in a bowl and be done with it? To be clear:
Feeding your dog raw food requires a bit more expertise and preparation than your dog’s former kibble-based diet required.
Here's How to Use This Guide
Raw Food Noobs: If you’re new to raw dog food, I would suggest reading through this guide from start to finish.
Just like a good soup, you need to create a solid base if you want the final product to turn out!
You may be tempted to skip to the recipe page so you can start feeding your dog raw food right away. To that we suggest:
Pump the brakes!
Slow down and read the material.
Let it soak in.
At least until you understand why raw dog feeding is beneficial, and what you need to do to ensure your pup gets all the nutrition he needs.
Raw Dog Food Connoisseurs: Although every section provides useful information, don’t feel bound to read through this guide from front to back.
Simply jump to the section you’re most interested in.
Chapter 1: Raw Dog Food Theory
Why raw dog food?
After all….Kibble-based foods are just so easy:
Scoop, pour, done! (repeat)
Sure, kibble is easy for YOU, but what about your dog’s stomach? ...or his immune system, teeth, gums, coat, skin, and breath?
Read on and we’ll tell you what’s wrong with conventional dog kibble and why raw feeding is best for your dog.
BONUS: Benefits and we namedrop some raw dog feeding celebs.
Chapter 2: Challenges (and Solutions)
Am I going to kill my dog if I mix the wrong ingredients?
Will it cost an arm and a leg to feed my dog an arm and a leg?
Does raw dog food preparation take up so much time that I won’t be able to Netflix and chill?
All valid (and common) concerns when considering going raw.
This chapter arms you with some great tips, tricks, and hacks for overcoming these challenges.
Chapter 3: Prey Model
Just what is the raw dog food Prey model?
In one word:
meat. Meat? MEAT!!!
If Ron Swanson were a raw food dog owner, he’d definitely subscribe to the Prey Model (no veggies allowed).
Keep reading to learn more about Prey, including recommended %’s between muscle meat, bone, and organ meat.
Chapter 4: B.A.R.F. Model
B.A.R.F. is the other raw dog food model.
What’s the difference between the 2 models?
Vegetables. And supplements.
Veggies get the O.K. from B.A.R.F.ers because the wild animals consumed by dog’s ancestors would have also consumed the other “stuff” in their prey’s bellies.
Nom Nom Nom.
If that wasn’t enough to hook you, keep reading and we might even tell you what BARF stands for.
Chapter 5: Handling and Storing Raw Dog Food
You might be tempted to skip this section.
Unless you’re a fan of Salmonella.
Then skip over this section.
This chapter also covers things like how long is too long for raw meat in the fridge and why picking your nose is bad.
Chapter 6: Raw Dog Food Recipes and Shopping Lists
It’s almost time to roll up your sleeves and get our hands raw meat dirty!
But first, what do you buy?
Where do you buy it from?
Do you just throw it all in a bowl, scream "BAM!", and voila?
Read on, because we answer these questions with our words and some videos.
Chapter 7: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
There are a lot of questions surrounding raw dog food.
We tried to hit the most burning in the preceding chapters, but you undoubtedly have more.
That’s what this section is for - filling in the gaps.
Chapter 1 - Raw Dog Food Theory
If you’re just learning about raw dog food and feeling it out, you might be wondering whether feeding your dog raw is even going to be worth it. After all...
Kibble-based foods are just so easy!
Scoop, pour, done! (repeat)
Ok, so maybe your dog has always itched like crazy, and maybe his coat resembles a dry and dusty mop, but that’s not diet-related is it?
Some dogs are just born with the tendency to be smelly and itchy, right?
Would you be surprised if I told you that many of the so-called chronic health conditions your dog experiences could be directly linked to his diet?
The numerous testimonials from overjoyed owners seems to indicate there just might be something to this raw food craze.
Why Raw Dog Food? A Theoretical Basis for Feeding Your Dog Raw
It’s probably important that I clarify what exactly I mean by a raw food diet:
We are by no means providing the final authoritative definition on what a raw food diet is, but there are a few key themes that the different schools of thought have in common.
Basically, a raw food diet is designed to replicate a dog’s natural ancestral diet.
No matter what model you follow, leaders in the movement seem to agree that:
- Muscle meat
- Organ meats
In their raw form should compose the majority of a dog’s diet as this is what their wolf ancestors would have eaten in the wild.
The inclusion of vegetables, fruits, and other tasty forms of fiber are all in the details.
You might be looking at your chihuahua right now and having some serious doubts about his relationship with a vicious wolf.
Your dog doesn’t even like going out in the rain, much less chase down a wild boar...
But no matter your dog’s size, the theory behind raw food feeding is that ALL modern dogs are descendants of wolves.
So even though their personalities have changed (can you say diva?) and they may look a little different, they’re genetically designed to eat the diet of their wild ancestors. They’re not meant to eat the carbohydrate-based foods that are peddled by many veterinarians and pet food stores these days.
And what is the optimal diet?
As stated before, muscle meats, organ meats, and meaty bones because a wolf would have eaten the whole animal, leaving nothing to waste. At the same time, some proponents believe including certain herbs, fruits, and vegetables is beneficial because a wolf would have eaten the contents of their prey’s stomach (gross, I know).
And that’s it.
No starches, no polyunsaturated oils, and especially no grains!
Only recently in dog’s evolutionary history have they started eating grains. In fact, proponents of this way of eating strongly believe that many of the diseases we’re seeing in our dogs now are actually due to the inclusion of inflammatory foods like legumes and grains in our dog’s food.
Remove the toxins and the inflammation (e.g., excessive itching, allergies, dandruff, and rashes) goes away.
But What's so Wrong with Commercial Kibble?
You may be on the defensive, protesting that there is nothing wrong with your kibble-based dog food. You’ve fed it to your dog for years and he’s still alive isn’t he?
This is true, your dog is surviving, but is he thriving?
Unlike humans, canines haven’t had a long history of eating cooked foods. Have you ever seen a band of wolves get out the tinder and flint to cook the bison they just took down?
Send pictures, if so.
In fact, cooked foods can shorten the lifespan of domestic dogs by a significant amount.
A study conducted in Stockholm, Sweden demonstrated that initially a cooked food diet appears to be healthy in young animals, but after those animals reached maturity, they began to age rapidly and developed a number of chronic and degenerative diseases.
Conversely, another group of animals were raised on a raw food diet and did not age as quickly or develop any of the degenerative diseases their cooked counterparts did.
But there’s so many more issues beyond just the actual cooking of the food. Another problem with kibble is that you really have no idea what’s ending up in your dog’s bowl.
Toxins and harmful ingredients can easily find their way into industrial kibbles. Toxins including aflatoxins (mold from added starch), heterocyclic amines (toxin from cooked meat), acrylamides (toxin from cooked vegetables), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardant added during processing) are not uncommon additions to many conventional pet foods.
Many of these toxins are cancer-causing, slowly building up in your pet’s tissues through the process of bioaccumulation, causing disease over time.
And finally, cooked food loses much of its nutritional properties. Have you noticed on the back of your kibble bag that most companies add a slew of chemically-derived vitamins and minerals?
Just like Froot Loops and Lucky Charms, companies fortify their foods because the original product isn’t much more than empty carbs. I hope you’re convinced that dry kibble just isn’t the way to go.
I know it can be so much easier, but at the end of the day do you really want your dog to live off what is the equivalent of Canine Cocoa Puffs?
Raw Dog Food Trendsetters
Maybe you’re thinking, if this diet is so great then why isn’t everyone doing it right now? In fact, my vet has never mentioned anything about raw food potentially curing my dog’s constant itching, and wouldn’t she know best?
The conspiracy theorist and answer-a-question-with-a-question person in me would respond, rhetorically:
Who’s going to fund the raw-dog-food-is-best-for-your-dog research studies?
Americans are predicted to drop a cool $24.01 BILLION on dog food in 2016, so…probably not dog food companies.
But I digress – that discussion is much needed, but we’ll save it for another day.
Raw food hasn’t gone mainstream, although it is definitely rising in popularity. But it’s not exactly true that raw food is a ‘new’ concept. In fact, owners of sled dogs, racing greyhounds, and working dogs have been feeding raw food to their dogs for decades in the belief that it is the healthiest diet for high-performance pooches.
And not to name drop (but to name drop), but there are a fair few celebrities who have adopted a raw food diet for their four-legged best friend. In fact, it’s recently become trendy for stars to put their dogs on a raw food cleanse.
After you stop rolling your eyes, you may stop to consider the benefits. Actors including Shannon Elizabeth, Alison Eastwood, Travis Barker, and Woody Harrelson have all used a canine cleanse to maximize their pups health to ward off the health-damaging effects of processed dog food.
If you’re thinking this is just another trend celebrities are jumping on, stop to consider that celebrity fitness advisor, Jack Lalanne, was feeding his German Shepherd, Happy, a raw dog food diet way before it was trendy.
But is Raw Feeding Right for My Dog?
Raw food feeding is not another trend.
It can be a healthy and extremely nutrient-dense way of feeding your dog if done correctly.
If you’re still on the fence, consider the current health of your dog. A raw food diet could be especially beneficial if your pooch experiences any of these ailments:
- Dogs with bad breath and gum disease
- Dogs with poor digestion
- Dogs with a dull coat and/or itchy skin (dandruff, rashes etc.)
- Dogs with a low immune system
- Dogs with poor stool composition
- Dogs with inflammatory disease including arthritis
Just to be clear, any dog will benefit with the adoption of a raw food diet, but owners of pets with a number of chronic health conditions may be pleasantly surprised to see these diseases clearing up, to be presented with a healthy and happy pup!
Raw Dog Food Benefits
If you’re interested in the number of health benefits of eating a raw food diet, then just take a look.
- Reduced vet bills due to an elimination or management of chronic health conditions.
- Healthy and clean teeth and gums
- The elimination of bad breath and the notorious ‘dog’ smell
- Smaller and better smelling stools that degrade quickly
- Healthy weight (skinny dogs gain weight, and obese dogs lose weight)
- Greater physical and psychological well-being due to increased nutrient consumption
- Elimination and management of inflammatory health conditions including arthritis, allergies, skin conditions, and dull coats
- Better digestion (say goodbye to smelly gas!)
Chapter 2 - Raw Dog Food Challenges (and Solutions)
Have we officially convinced you of the benefits of going raw?
Maybe you’re still hesitant because you’re unsure of your own abilities.
You’re already pressed for time as it is, and you’re not made of money.
Luckily, you’re not alone. These are all common concerns by new raw food feeders.
And that’s exactly why we put together this guide for you.
We’ve put together some simple hacks and helpers to keep you moving forward on your raw food journey.
CHALLENGE #1: What if I Mess This Up? The Risks of an Unbalanced Raw Dog Food Diet
After doing your due diligence and reading everything you could get your hands on relating to the raw food diet for your dog, you’re still a bundle of nerves.
What happens if your dog gets salmonella poisoning from the raw chicken you feed him?
What if he becomes anemic or starts losing all his hair because you left a critical nutrient out of his food?
What if your vet starts judging you because you’re being an ‘irresponsible’ pet owner who just jumps on whatever is the latest trend!
To that, we say:
Yes, feeding your dog a raw food diet can involve more planning and prep work than simply grabbing the cheapest bag of ‘scientifically’ formulated kibble, but it will be worth it in the long run for your dog’s health and your wallet (did I mention that chronic disease is really pricey?).
For nervous noobs, I would suggest opting to pay a bit extra to take the guesswork out of portion sizes and meal composition (bone, organ, and muscle meat breakdown). There are actually a lot of great companies that will do this for you.
One in particular is Raw Paws Pet Food.
You can order a month’s supply of food based on your dog’s weight and age. The site provides you with information for how much to feed your dog every day, and there needn’t be any worry concerning complete nutrition because Raw Paw’s includes a variety of animal proteins and critical organ and bone additions for optimal health. The only thing you have to do is portion out the meals by weight and thaw beforehand.
You don’t necessarily have to order your dog food online, but this company is a great resource no matter where you’re located. Try googling suppliers of raw dog food in your area. Many companies pre-portion their meals so all you have to do in unwrap and serve!
Conversely, if you’re trying to save a bit of money by preparing everything yourself then make sure to check out the book, Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats, by Dr. Becker.
The book provides a rotation plan and recipes based on an ancestral diet for dogs and cats. It’s veterinarian approved, and is a great way to take the guesswork out of planning your dog’s meals!
One caveat with this book is the inclusion of certain supplements, which Dr. Becker feels are needed to ensure complete nutrition for your dog. If you’re following B.A.R.F., then supplements are an accepted part of the program, but the Prey Model tends to avoid using any forms of supplementation.
We talk about the Prey Model in chapter 3 and B.A.R.F. in chapter 4, so keep reading!
CHALLENGE #2: Isn't Feeding Raw Dog Food Expensive?
I’m not going to lie, switching from a cheap kibble-based dog food to raw is going to cost you some more money. But if you think long-term, you may actually save yourself a hefty dose of cash that would have been spent on vet bills for chronic illness.
Healthy puppy = happy owner!
Still, I understand your plight.
You love your dog, but you’re not made of money. But being a little less affluent doesn’t mean you have to abandon the raw food diet for your dog. You just won’t be able to buy the wild quail with heritage duck eggs for him.
In fact, there are many ways to make the raw food diet suit your budget:
- Do it yourself. Yes, this will take a bit more time than those packaged pre-portioned meals you can buy online and in-store, but you’ll save a good chunk of cash this way.
- Buy in bulk from your local butcher or food co-op. Oftentimes, you can arrange a discount with a local butcher by buying larger quantities of meat. If it’s possible try and scrounge up an extra freezer just for your pet’s food. Being able to purchase and store an entire cow will save you a good chunk of money in the long run.
- Look for sales. When you see a good deal, stock up! At the same time, you don’t need those expensive skinless chicken breasts you insist on eating for your own dinners. Buying cheaper cuts of meat and organ meats are usually all much cheaper per pound than the all-too common fare we eat at our own tables.
- Develop a relationship with a local hunter. You can purchase the wild game from them, and freeze until needed. If you’re worried about your pup ingesting nasty beasties like parasites, simply freeze the meat for a month to kill off anything still lingering in the tissues.
CHALLENGE #3: Who has the Time?
You may be thinking you hardly have time to feed yourself, so how are you going to find extra time in your day to prepare all of these raw meals for your pup?
In today’s rat race, every second you have is valuable, but there are a number of tricks you can use to prepare raw food more efficiently. So if the idea of spending hours prying apart frozen liver with your bare hands doesn’t seem appealing, implement these tips to get your dog eating raw without breaking a sweat:
- Batch It! As a newbie, you may be tempted to just give your dog a bit of whatever you’re eating for dinner that day. But a rotating diet of tuna salad, rare steak, and raw skinless chicken breast does not a raw food diet make.You have to make sure your dog is getting the proper nutrition from a carefully planned raw food diet. Instead of crying from tears of frustration when you realize at 6pm that you still have to make your dog’s dinner for the night, might I suggest making a giant batch that lasts one week to a month?Find your raw food recipe of choice (with appropriate amounts of bone, muscle, and organ meat) plus or minus fruits and vegetables. Blend all of that goodness in a high powered blender (or not if you’re feeding via the Prey Model). You can then form the mixture into portion-controlled patties and freeze for later.
- Thaw It! Always have a day’s worth of meals thawing in your fridge. Nothing is worse than having a freezer full of raw dog food and then realizing you have to make a meal from scratch because none of it is ready for your dog to eat. But by always having two or three meals thawing in your fridge, you’ll never run into this situation.Crisis averted!
- Automate It! Another option, if you have the funds, is to purchase your meals from a local pet food supplier or a raw dog food supplier online. Many of these companies will ship the meals pre-packaged and pre-portioned so all you need to do is unwrap and thaw. You can’t get much easier than that!Here are a few more sites to check out if you’re looking for a way to cut down on that annoying prep time:
Chapter 3 - Prey Model
You’re committed now, but you’re still confused about how to do raw.
Some gurus say all meat all the time, while others recommend a hearty serving of fruits and vegetables for roughage. Both seem pretty sure of themselves, and both have great arguments as to why it’s their way or the highway.
I’m not here to play referee between the two sides to declare a winner.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to your personal beliefs and what diet your dog responds best to.
This chapter, we’ll discuss the Prey Model.
First, a key difference between the Prey Model and the B.A.R.F model is the complete exclusion of any plant-based material whatsoever.
Although you may enjoy your green smoothie in the morning, according to the Prey Model, the only thing that has a place in your dog’s diet is animal-based foods.
Prey Model followers are pretty specific about what they consider to be an appropriate meal for your dog based on what a wolf would consume if he brought down and consumed prey.
Basically, your dog’s meal should be:
Variety is key according to the Prey Model because your dog wouldn’t have limited himself in the wild when he was chasing down a grouse or catching a fish.
Many of these exotic protein sources you would never have considered eating yourself such as elk, deer, rabbit, quail, or bison, but they all offer a complex array of nutrients for your dog.
Note: It’s important to not solely focus on feeding your dog muscle meats.
In North America, we’ve gotten into the bad habit of throwing away the most nutrient-dense portions of the animal, which are the organ meats!
Liver is a super-food if you can believe it.
If your dog is getting a mix of liver, kidneys, pancreas, and lungs, then you’ll be ensuring your dog is consuming a well-balanced diet.
Another unique feature of the Prey Model that differs from B.A.R.F is the focus on feeding whole foods as close to their natural state as possible.
Unfortunately, this means no patties or pureed meat meals for your hungry pup. According to Prey Model gurus, feeding whole bones and unprocessed raw meats to your dog has a beneficial impact on your dog’s dental health.
Is your dog’s breath so bad it wards away young children?
Have you literally tried every doggie breath mint on the market with no success?
Your dog’s foul breath is due to lack of friction and all those fermentable carbohydrates sitting around in his gums. But the gnawing, crunching, and tearing on bones and meat is an excellent tool to keep those canines clean.
By feeding your dog pureed and pre-chewed food, you’re not giving their chompers the workout they deserve. And in case your dentist has never told you, but a healthy mouth equals a healthy body!
Finally, Prey Model advocates eschew all forms of supplements.
They believe that an animal-based diet will provide everything your pet needs. It is complete as it is, and supplements are unnecessary. The only exception to this rule is if owners don’t have access to wild fish, and will then supplement with an omega-3 oil.
Chapter 4 - B.A.R.F. Model
You’ve just read about the raw dog food prey model – what are your thoughts?
Are you all in, screaming BRING ON THE MEATS!?
Or maybe Prey sounds a bit too intense, since you’re just starting out and all. You’re all for your dog eating a more ancestral diet, but you’re not sure you completely agree with the absence of all fibrous vegetables.
Plus, these gurus seem to be a little too strict in terms of how you feed your dog.
Maybe your dog would rather eat a softer patty (especially if he’s a senior dog) or maybe your dog has very sensitive teeth and seems to be losing too much weight having to chew all those bones.
The B.A.R.F model stands for:
Unlike the Prey Model, B.A.R.F advocates believe that a certain amount of vegetable matter is an important addition to your dog’s diet.
Their line of thinking runs that a wolf, when eating its prey, would have consumed the stomach, the intestines, and the contents inside of them. And since wolves would have eaten herbivores, it stands to reason that your dog’s wild ancestors would have eaten plant material on occasion.
This debate can get a bit contentious between raw food gurus.
Some say that just because a wolf would have eaten the stomach contents of its prey doesn’t mean that that food is in anyway optimal (the difference between surviving and thriving).
If you were looking for a definitive answer on whether feeding fruits and vegetables is optimal for your pup, you won’t find it here.
There are already quite a few self-professed experts attempting to do this.
We recommend good ol’ fashioned trial and error.
Does your dog have more or less energy with the addition or subtraction of plant material from his diet?
What does his coat look like, does he still have allergies?
Just like people, dogs can all be different.
For example, while your brother can eat a gallon of ice cream with no ill effects, just a small bowl will have you dashing to the toilet.
If you do decide to incorporate some plant material into your dog’s diet, there are a wide range of opinions on the optimal amount.
Dr. Ian Billinghurst, a raw food expert, states in his latest book, The BARF Diet, that no more than 15% of your dog’s diet should be composed of plant matter.
Conversely, Dr. Lonsdale of Raw Meaty Bones believes that up to a third of your pet’s diet could be composed of vegetables and fruit.
I’m sure at this point you’re just loving the lack of consensus among thought leaders in the raw feeding movement.
Regardless of how you decide to partition your dog’s meals, a B.A.R.F meal could be summarized as being a mix of muscle meats, organ meats, ground bone, fruits, vegetables, and even supplements including fish oil, coconut oil, digestive enzymes etc.
What is important is what the B.A.R.F diet does not include, which are grains and legumes. The reasoning being that our dogs simply weren’t meant to digest starchy foods as they contribute to chronic and degenerative diseases.
Many raw newcomers are attracted to the B.A.R.F way of feeding first, instead of jumping straight to the Prey Model. B.A.R.F food is more widely available for purchase, so squeamish pet owners can opt for ordering their dog’s food online or in-store.
At the same time, many owners have a bit more peace of mind knowing that they’re adding beneficial supplements to their pet’s meal rather than relying completely on nutrition from animal flesh. And as I mentioned before, if your dog can’t consume raw meaty bones because of age or dental problems then he’s not going to thrive on the Prey Model.
At the end of the day, you have to take your and your dog’s unique situation into account when making a final decision!
Chapter 5 - Handling and Storing Raw Dog Food
You may be tempted to skip over this section.
Preventing salmonella poisoning is important because yada yada yada.
But just because you’ve managed not to poison yourself through cross contamination so far, doesn’t mean you can use the same haphazard methods to ensure your dog and family don’t become sick.
Why do you have to be extra careful now?
Because you’re not cooking any of your dog’s food. And although your dog has a hardier digestive system than you do, parasites and other critters can cause a lot of harm if ingested (especially if you’re buying meat off of a hunter).
You may be tempted to skip over this section...
Handling Raw Dog Food
The best thing you can do when starting out on this raw food venture is to have separate tools that are set aside just for preparing your dog’s meals. This means separate cutting boards, knives, containers, bowls etc. It’s an extra step to avoid cross contamination with your own food.
You don’t want your kids cutting up carrot sticks on a board that was just used to debone a raw wild quail.
At the same time, washing your hands before and after prepping and wearing gloves will protect you from picking up any germs. By touching your face or biting a nail (read: picking your nose) unconsciously, you’re giving bugs an open invitation via your oral cavity.
After you’re done prepping your dog’s food, make sure you wash everything down, preferably in a dishwasher or with hot soapy water, and give the counters a thorough wipe down with an antibacterial spray (not just any dirty old rag).
Storing Raw Dog Food
You’ve also got to be careful about how you store your dog’s food.
You can’t just keep a month’s supply of raw ground beef in your refrigerator. If you’re trying to make your dog sick, that’s a great way to go about it.
That being said, if you need to, you could take out 3-5 days worth of food to thaw and serve as needed before adversely impacting the meat’s freshness.
Also, don’t leave your dog’s food to thaw on the counter. It’s a much better idea to slowly thaw your dog’s food in a cooler environment like your fridge than the sticky humidity of your kitchen counter on a warm summer’s day.
You may be thinking, surely I’ll be able to smell or see if the meat’s gone bad, won’t I?
Were you able to tell when that street sushi was bad, only to end up curled over your toilet for hours?
The problem with pathogenic bacteria is they don’t really have a specific smell, flavor, or appearance that would allow you to identify them in your pet’s food.
In this case, better safe than sorry.
Chapter 6 - Raw Dog Food Recipes and Shopping Lists
Step-By-Step Dog Food Instructions
Are you excited yet?
Now that you have a solid understanding of all things raw food, are you ready to take the first steps towards a new vibrantly healthy pooch?
This section is for those who want to prepare their dog’s food themselves. This can be a great option for anyone looking to save some money or for someone who wants to control what goes into their dog’s food.
In this section, I’ll provide you with a shopping list of tasty ingredients you’ll need to make your dog a delightful dish, in addition to any tools you may need, with some other tips and tricks.
I’ll break it down even further by providing separate lists for B.A.R.F and Prey Model followers.
Sample Shopping List for Prey Model Feeders
based on a 30lb dog for 1 week
- 2lb chicken quarters
- 2lb beef shoulder
- 0.5lb pork ribs
- ¼ lb beef liver
- 1lb fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
- ¼ lamb tripe
Most of us are visual learners, so here is a great instructional video on prey model meal prep:
Sample Shopping List for B.A.R.F. Model Feeders
based on a 30lb dog for 1 week
- 1 bag of carrots
- 1 bag of spinach
- ¼ lb of apples
- 4lb of beef
- 1 lb of chicken with bone
- ¼ lb of beef liver
- 1 carton of eggs
- 1 bottle of fish oil
- 1 bottle of a vitamin/mineral supplement
Check out this B.A.R.F. model video for some good pointers:
Sample Week B.A.R.F. Feeding Schedule
This is an example of an optimal rotation between different animal proteins on a B.A.R.F diet.
Vegetables, fruits, and supplements can easily be mixed into the ground meat mixture.
There are many different ways you can do a raw food diet (for example, mixing in a bit of organ meat with each meal or making one entire meal offal for the week), so don’t become a zealot about following any one guide!
*As a side note: It’s up to you how many times you’d like to feed your dog a day. Most owners feed their dog two meals, but there are quite a few who say their dog is content with one meal. Puppies will need to be fed more often, with 3-4 times a day being a good rule of thumb.
Chapter 7 - Raw Dog Food (Frequently Asked) Questions
Still have questions?
Just check out this handy FAQ section to find the answers you’re looking for.
Is My Dog too Young or Old to Eat Raw Food?
You don’t have to worry about waiting until your dog is fully grown before feeding him raw food.
The entire purpose of feeding raw food is that it is the healthiest possible diet for your dog.
So why wait?
The only aspect you’ll need to be careful about is transitioning your puppy onto raw food if he’s already been started on kibble. I know most pet food store staff and veterinarians will recommend mixing two types of food together during the transition process, but this is actually not a good idea!
It’s best to quit the kibble cold turkey when switching your dog over to raw.
The reasoning behind this is that cooked kibble and raw meat require different ph levels in the stomach for digestion, so if you start mixing them then you poor pups’ stomach is going to be very confused. The higher ph level required for cooked food will make him more susceptible to the bacteria present in the raw food.
Another tip is to start out with one protein source to get your puppy used to eating raw meat.
Most experts recommend chicken because the bones are softer and the protein is more easily digested. After one week, if your puppy’s digestion seems to be running smoothly, then start introducing a larger variety of proteins.
At the other end of the spectrum, maybe you’re thinking your dog is just too old to start another dietary regime. Maybe he won’t like it or maybe it will be too tough on his system?
All I can tell you:
It is never too late to make a healthier dietary switch.
My only suggestion is to start with a milder protein like chicken, and monitor his bowel movements and digestion. At the same time, if he has dental problems then B.A.R.F may be a better option than feeding all those raw meaty bones that come part and parcel with the Prey Model.
After switching your senior dog you may be surprised when conditions you thought were just associated with age were actually due to an insufficient diet full of harmful additives!
How Much Raw Should I Feed My Dog?
This can easily be determined by your dog’s weight.
I would suggest checking out this raw feeding calculator, which can be tailored according to your dog’s weight and what model of raw feeding you’re following (e.g., B.A.R.F or Prey Model).
A good rule of thumb is:
Feed your dog 2.5% of his weight every day.
This is for maintaining your dog’s weight so you can easily adjust this percentage up or down depending on if you want your dog to lose or gain weight.
Exceptions to this rule include puppies and active dogs.
For puppies, you would feed them 2.5% of their expected adult weight every day.
For active dogs, you’ll likely have to play around with the total amounts. You want to feed them enough to support their weight and energy levels without causing them to put on additional fat.
What do I say to Critical Friends, Family Members, and My Veterinarian, who all Believe This is a Bad Idea?
Maybe your vet has told you that your dog will likely die from raw food, or they’ll puncture their intestines from all those bones!
Despite everything you’ve read and the numerous raw food advocates you’ve talked to, you’re starting to feel a bit embarrassed about pursuing this out-of-the box lifestyle for your dog. You’ve already seen some pretty impressive improvements to your dog’s health and you don’t want to give up everything you’ve worked for just because of the opinion of a few skeptics.
The following are some tips and tricks for how to navigate a sea of raw food refusers:
Your Vet: The simplest answer is to just find a new vet that is supportive of feeding raw. They do exist! One of the reasons your vet may be skeptical is due to a lack of training regarding the links between nutrition and disease. Much of what they’ve been taught has been supported by large pet food companies who strive to develop a relationship with vets so they’ll promote and sell their product to their customers.
Maybe you’re thinking, but what kind of health practitioner isn’t taught the importance of proper nutrition and its impact on health? And I would tell you, just think about your own doctor for a minute and consider the last time they talked to you about the relationship between heart disease, cancer, mental illness and poor diet (the answer for most people is never). It’s unlikely your vet is purposefully trying to lead you astray, they just might not know any better. If you can’t switch vets, then the best thing to do would be to keep mum on the subject of your dog’s diet.
Don’t try to win any converts or you’ll likely get into an unnecessary fight. At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. Your vet will marvel at your dog’s vibrant health and attribute it to all those vaccines, when you’ll know it’s due to his diet.
Friends and Family: For extended family and friends, simply avoiding a charged topic is probably the best course of action.
So your Great Aunt Gertrude is horrified you’re feeding your dog raw meat? If you only see her at Christmas and Thanksgiving, then don’t fret over her opinion. Avoid the topic when you do see her and everything should be smooth sailing.
You don’t have to justify your actions to anyone other than yourself.
You’re not feeding your dog illicit street drugs so what you do with your pet should have no bearing on someone else. On the other hand, if you have close family members who are gravely concerned with the health of your pet, I would suggest meeting their concerns in a respectful, but firm manner. Show them a bit of research on the raw food diet if that will help allay their fears. And again, when they see your dog they’ll have to admit that Fido looks to be a much improved version of his former kibble-based self. At the end of the day, it’s best not to worry about the opinion of others.
It’s always nice to have everyone on your side, congratulating you on making a smart decision for your pet, but that shouldn’t be the motivating factor. You’re much more likely to win converts to the raw food movement simply by taking care of a dog that is happy and vibrantly healthy, rather than arguing at every social get together about the superiority of your pet care methods.
What Should I Expect When Transitioning My Dog to Raw Food?
Just because the raw food diet is the best method for ensuring your dog experiences excellent health, it doesn’t mean you can just switch from kibble to raw kangaroo with no minor hiccups.
Remember the last time you did that juice cleanse?
You probably weren’t feeling so hot while you were doing it, but you knew good things were happening to your body, which is why you pressed on.
Your dog may experience something similar in the beginning.
Remember, his system is not used to processing raw food, which means it might take a little bit before enzymes and digestion are up and running efficiently.
To make the transition process easier on your dog, I would recommend introducing an easily digested protein like chicken first. I know you may be excited to present your dog with a delicious bowl of wild boar, kangaroo leg, and some kind of exotic bird, but have mercy on his digestion.
To assess whether your pet’s system is accepting the new diet, monitor his stools.
On a raw food diet, your dog’s stools should be smaller, firmer, and less smelly. If you’re noticing that your pup’s stools are runny, smelly, or soft then introduce new foods more slowly. If your pet has a history of digestive issues then it may be helpful to incorporate some enzymes into his food to give his digestive system a helping hand.