Rule # 1: The Raw Dog Food Diet Must Have Calcium
Dogs, and especially puppies, need a solid source of minerals. Especially calcium and phosphorus. Your dog wouldn’t survive without them.
If you feed your dog bones, you’ll mostly get the minerals right. The most important ones to worry about are calcium and phosphorus.
Both dogs and growing puppies need enough calcium in their diet. And they need some phosphorus to go with it because these minerals work closely together.
Bones contain both calcium and phosphorus. Meat is high in phosphorus and too low in calcium. So an all-meat diet will cause bone and nervous system issues in your dog …
… and severe bone issues in growing puppies. So you need bone in the diet.
To get enough calcium and keep a healthy balance of minerals, your dog’s raw diet needs to contain about 12% to 15% bone.
To make things simpler, this means about 1/3 of his diet should be nice meaty bones.Here are some good choices for meaty bones:
Chicken wings, necks, legs or thighsTurkey necks (other bones are large)Beef tail bones (great for larger dogs)Lamb or goat necks or ribs
You can also feed your dog whole animals such as whole fish, whole rabbit, and whole poultry. These contain just the right amount of bone.
Feeding raw eggs with the shell also offers the right ratio of calcium and phosphorus.
Just be sure they’re from the farm because grocery store eggs have a toxic spray in their shells.
Rule #2: Organs Are The Multi-Vitamins
The number two mistake raw feeders make with a raw dog food diet … I’ll talk about the #1 mistake soon… is not feeding enough organs.
Organs are the nutrient-rich parts of the animal. Without them, your dog could be missing some important vitamins.
You’ll want to feed anywhere from 10% to 30% organ meats. But this depends on how much you can get.
If you can only find liver, just feed 10% organs.
If you can find kidney, spleen, pancreas, brain and other delicious, nutritious organs … then feed them as a third of your dog’s diet.
But never feed that much liver.
Limit liver to 10% because it’s really high in vitamin A and can give your dog some messy diarrhea if you give too much. The same applies to any organ.
No one organ should be more than 5% to 10% of your dog’s diet.
But if you have a few different ones, they can be 1/3 of your dog’s total meals.
Organs would include:
* Pancreas and thymus are both sold under the name sweetbreads.
Just go easy on the organ meat at first because it can cause loose stools until your dog is used to it. If your dog doesn’t like the taste at first, try frying it for a minute or so first.
Rule #3: Muscle Meat Is The Foundation
Once you get your meaty bones and organs in place, the rest of your dog’s diet should be nice lean meats.
That means half to a third of his total food, depending on how much organ meat you can get your hands on.
These are the protein-rich component of your dog’s diet. He needs proteins to build strong tissues.
And it supports the hormones and enzymes he needs to survive and thrive. Good choices for muscle meat include:
Beef (ground beef, cheek meat, stewing beef)Beef heart (but not more than 5% of the diet as it’s very rich)Bison (ground bison, stewing bison meat)Turkey (ground turkey, boneless thighs, breast meat, tenderloin)Lamb (stewing lamb, ground lamb, shoulder or breast meat)Pork (pork shoulder or butt, cushion meat, boneless rib meat, loin)Chicken (boneless thighs, breast meat)
Rule #4: Watch The Fat
Fat is healthy for your dog. It helps with nerve and immune function and is critical for skin health.
But fat carries a downside …
… fat contains twice the number of calories as protein. And it contains very few vitamins and minerals.
Remember I said I’d mention the #1 mistake when it comes to raw diets? It’s feeding too much fat.
If your dog’s diet is too high in fat, I guarantee he won’t be getting enough vitamins and minerals.
The calories from fat will add up befor he gets enough vitamins and minerals.
And you might start to see some long-term health issues if the fat is too high. The main reason why so many raw feeders give their dogs too much fat …
… is because cheaper meats contain a lot of fat.
But if you watch for sales, you can get low-fat meats at a good price.
Overall, you don’t want the fat to be much more than 10% and certainly no more than 20% of the diet.
But this doesn’t mean you don’t feed fat.
Your dog needs fat but not so much of it that it robs him of other important nutrients.
Here are some examples of some high-fat meats you’ll want to avoid and low-fat meats that are easy to find:
Rule #5: Don’t Get Hung Up On Fruit and Veg
Should you add fruits and vegetables to your dog’s raw diet?
The short answer is it’s up to you.
If you stick to the first four rules … your dog will get a nicely balanced raw diet with enough vitamins and minerals to do well.
But why end there?
Fruits and vegetables carry some unique benefits your dog can’t get from animal products.
And in the wild, your dog’s ancestors ate a reasonable amount of grasses and berries.
And I like to think that they ate them for a reason.
Because animals are very good at sourcing out the foods their bodies need.
So what benefits do fruits and vegetables offer that can’t be found in meat?
Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers. They feed important little bugs that live in your dog’s gut (called probiotics).
Chlorphyll is the green pigment in plants that makes your dog’s cells healthy. It also detoxifies his liver and digestive system and can protect against cancer.
Carotenoids are important antioxidants that protect your dog from aging and disease. Carotenoids are found in yellow, orange and red colored fruits and vegetables. Things like squash, carrots, papaya, cantaloupe.
Lycopene is another powerful antioxidant. It can play a role in preventing and slowing cancer. Lycopene gives many vegetables their red color. It’s found in tomatoes, carrots, red cabbage, watermelon.
Lutein is another antioxidant that’s known to protect the eyes, skin and heart. It’s found in dark leafy greens and in yellow plants, including kale, broccoli, oranges and papaya.
Flavonoids or bioflavonoids can regulate cell signalin. They also have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In general, the more colorful the plant food, the higher it is in bioflavonoids.
My dogs love eating fruits and veggies and I like giving them for the above reasons. And to get the most out of their fruits and vegetables …
… you can either run them through a juicer or mulcher or lightly steam them first. Fruits and veggies can be pricey, so help your dog get the most out of them. And always buy organic if you can afford it.
Rule #6: Keep It Starch-Free
Starchy foods like grains, peas and potatoes aren’t suitable for your dog …
… or for you for that matter.
Dogs do have the ability to digest some grain content.
And can include a small amount of grains in training treats …
… but try as much as possible to limit their use.
Starchy foods cause your dog to continually produce a hormone called insulin.
This causes him to store a lot of his food as fat, so if your dog is on the chubby side, avoiding grains will help.
This can also lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
But the biggest reason to ditch the starch is that it only adds calories to your dog’s diet.
While your dog would die without protein or fat, he has no need for starch or carbohydrate.
Eating too much can disrupt the colonies of microbes that live in his digestive tract.
These little bugs make up most of your dog’s immune system and even help him produce vitamins.
When they’re disrupted … your dog can suffer from allergies, yeast, and inflammatory health issues.
In a nutshell, if your dog doesn’t need them, why would you feed them?
There’s no benefit to starch and the risks outweigh the benefits.
The only benefit to starch is it keeps costs down for you … they add no benefit to your dog whatsoever.
Most of the health benefits of the raw diet aren’t necessarily because it’s raw …
… it’s because every other diet is high in starch!
Don’t overlook the importance of cutting that starch out of your dog’s life.
This is the main reason people see so many healthy changes when they switch their dog to a raw diet.
Rule #7: Variety Counts
Just like us, dogs need a variety of wholesome foods to provide them with a wide range of nutrients.
Not to mention the fact that it’s boring to eat the same foods every day!
Feed a wide variety of different foods, including different sources of meat.
Don’t forget to feed some of the “weird and icky things”.
Such as chicken, duck or turkey feet, beef trachea, tails, lung, testicles and pizzles.
Beef trachea and poultry feet are loaded with natural chondroitin and glucosamine.
Which help to build healthy joints and they’re reasonably priced. Adding the icky parts is a win-win.
Rule #8: Balance Over Time
One common concern with raw feeding is that it’s not “complete and balanced.”
This isn’t true for two reasons.
First, nobody knows what complete and balanced is, so it’s difficult to make this claim.
Second, balance can occur over time … every meal doesn’t need to be completely balanced.
As long as your dog’s nutritional needs are met over the course of a few days or weeks, you’re good.
You don’t calculate the exact percentages of protein and carbohydrates … or the exact amount of vitamins and minerals in each of your family’s meals.
You don’t have to do it with your dog’s meals either. So, you don’t have to follow these rules for every meal.
Rule #9: Feed Fish Once A Week
Although a lot of raw feeders do, I never give my dogs fish oil.
It can easily turn rancid (even high quality oil) and cause inflammation in your dog.
It’s not environmentally friendly and it’s a heated, processed product.
I feed my dogs to avoid the unhealthy consequences of heating and processing.
And I don’t want to undo all that hard work and extra expense by slathering fish oil all over my dogs’ meals.
And if you’re feeding poultry, your dog’s diet will be much too high in polyunsaturated fats if you add fish oil.
Instead of fish oil, you can feed whole fish like sardines, smelts, herring, mackerel once or twice a week.
Or you can add a little fish to several meals.
At the end of the week, you’ll want whole fish to be about 5% of your dog’s total diet. This will balance out his fats.
Rule # 10: Relax
If you follow rules 1 through 9, you’ll be feeding your dog a fresh, whole food diet that’s safe and balanced.
It really is that easy to feed raw. The only step left is to start doing it! But before you do, here are just a couple of things to keep in mind.