Interested in learning more about beginning a raw diet with your pet? Here are some helpful tips in getting started.
Nutrition is complicated and no one has a 100% understanding of diet and nutrition. There is a growing belief, however, that eating a more natural, less processed, diet helps supply the combination of nutrients necessary for good health and long lives.
Dogs and cats are carnivores and anatomically our dogs share a digestive system very similar to that found in wolves. Dogs (and wolves) need diets that are high in animal protein, bulk, and roughage (not plant fiber, but indigestible or poorly digested parts of animals) and low in carbohydrates and caloric density. Cats are also obligate carnivores meaning that they need to consume prey high in protein with moderate amounts of fat and minimal amounts of carbohydrates.
Note: While a raw diet can be very beneficial for most dogs and cats there are some pets with chronic digestive issues which may have a difficult time adjusting to a raw diet. In addition, pets undergoing cancer treatment have a suppressed immune system which results in their susceptibility to bacterial infections and should avoid a raw diet.
There are three key benefits to feeding a raw diet:
- A raw diet supplies the necessary food enzymes for your pet. This helps them in needing their bodies to produce less digestive enzymes and protects their metabolic enzymes from depletion. Your pet is born with a set amount of metabolic enzymes which are critical for healing and repairing every bone, tissue, muscle and organ in the body. If your pet does not have the appropriate level of food enzymes in their diet then they need to produce more digestive enzymes which draws down their supply of metabolic enzymes and accelerates the aging process.
- Bio-Availability. Meat, vegetables and fruit in their natural state increase the absorption of vitamins and minerals plus adequate amounts of dietary protein are necessary to form all 22 amino acids, the building blocks of protein.
- Intracellular Moisture is the liquid found inside cells. This is critical in helping your pet’s digestive system break down and process their food. Getting this moisture from prey animals avoids having your pet to work extra hard in digesting their food.
Let’s address the safety issue:
Care should always be taken whenever handling raw meat. Your dog or cat, however, are not humans. They have a specialized digestive system which is much shorter than ours and much higher level of acidity. Good news, this helps them break down foods we couldn’t digest and it also creates an environment that is harmful to bad bacteria. Of course, you will also feed your pet fresh and USDA inspected foods and approved raw meaty bones. The raw food we carry is of the highest standards and great care is taken to bring you the freshest and safest options available.
Variety is key! Four Muddy Paws recommends rotating between three different meats and three different brands to ensure your pet is getting the variety they need in their diet!
The Transition – patience is key!
As with all of diets we do recommend that your pet’s digestive system is healthy and active. Adding digestive enzymes to their diet ahead of the transition to raw is important.
Sometimes a sudden change in diet can disrupt your pets digestive system if they’re not used to a variety already. As with any food change we recommend a 10-day transition.
- Days 1 – 3: 25% Raw, 75% current diet
- Days 4-6: 50% Raw, 50% current diet
- Days 7-9: 75% Raw, 25% current diet
- Days 10 – ?: 100% Raw
Start your raw diet focused on one type of prepared diet or just meat and bone. We find that most dogs do best on a chicken or turkey diet. Gradually introduce more variety after about 3-4 weeks. Then you can begin to rotate through other proteins. Variety, as with all foods, is the key to proper nutrition. Our prepared diets are intended to be rotated.
Provide your dog with a recreational, raw marrow, bone every 3-5 days. They provide physical and mental stimulation and also provide terrific dental benefits. Clean teeth are a tell-tale sign of a raw-fed dog!
If your dog is particularly sensitive, scoop the marrow out of the bones the first few times. The rich and fatty marrow, while delicious, can upset the stomach of some dogs.
If your dog doesn’t take the bone right away, hold it with one hand and tug a little to create a little interest. If a bone becomes too small and a possible choking hazard, offer a treat in exchange for the bone.
Note: if your dog is a very aggressive chewer, avoid the marrow bones. They tend to want to eat the bone and could possibly break a tooth. Best to stick with neck bones or chicken backs for them.
You know your dog. Each dog is unique and you’ll find some foods they love and others that they don’t tolerate as well. Don’t worry we carry many options for you to rotate through. Sometimes these more troublesome foods can be added back into their diet once they’ve made a full transition.
Some things you might see change after feeding a raw diet:
- Your dog may be drinking less because they’re getting intracellular moisture in the food they’re eating. It’s the most effective way for your pet’s digestive system to break down and process their food.
- A large reduction is stool volume (and odor!). Stools from dogs on a raw diet tend to be harder and smaller, sometimes even chalky or white in color. They’ll also breakdown in only a few days. This is normal and is due to the higher calcium content of their new diet and increased digestibility of their food. No grain fillers coming out on a raw diet! Just remember that since they’re getting a more varied diet, their stool many change from day to day.
- Some dogs may go through a detox or healing crisis period. This is a normal process as your dog begins to eliminate the various toxins in their body. You may see looser stools, slightly goopy eyes, draining ears, or some skin irritation. These signs should clear up within one or two weeks. Dogs on steroids, anti-biotics or other long-term drugs may have a longer period of healing. Of course, consult your veterinarian if you believe there are more serious issues to address.
For more information on beginning a raw diet, in addition to our vendor partner sites, we recommend the following resources:
Read more about joining the Raw Food Revolution!
Raw Meaty Bone (RMB) Books:
The BARF Diet – Give Your Dog A Bone/Grow Your Pup With Bones by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, B.V. Sc.
Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy For You and Your Dog by Carina Beth MacDonald
Switching to Raw by Susan K. Johnson (more info)
Raw, Meaty Bones by Tom Lonsdale, DVM (more info) Follows the “Whole Prey” Diet
Home Prepared Bone Free Diet Books:
Dr. Pitcairns Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard Pitcairn, DVM
Holistic Guide For A Healthy Dog by Wendy Vollard and Kerry Brown, DVM
Natural Food Recipes for Healthy Dogs: Everything You Need to Know to Make the Greatest Food For Your Friend by Carol Boyle (for the cook – great recipes to share with your dog!)
K9Kitchen: Your Dog’s Diet by Monica Segal (more info)
Additional health and nutrition resources:
The Complete Herbal Handbook for Dogs and Cats by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
The Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein, DVM
Homeopathic Care for Dogs and Cats by Don Hamilton, DVM