Here are tips when getting started with a raw food diet. Feeding a prepared raw diet offers convenience and the appropriate nutrition levels for your pet. Creating your own raw diet requires some study and focus on the appropriate nutrient levels. Remember you’re basically creating a carcass for your dog or cat to eat and enjoy!
The typical dog or cat needs about 2 – 2.5% of their total body weight. For the average 50lb dog that means about 1 lb food per day. Of course this meal can be divided up into multiple meals during the day. Remember, however, that every animal’s metabolism is different. A Boston Terrier can eat the same amount of food as a Labrador despite their larger size, depending on their individual metabolism.
In general, feed young, active, small, underweight and growing dogs more; feed older, sedentary, overweight and larger dogs less food.
Here’s a sample per day feeding chart for adult dogs and cats:
(Puppies and kittens should be fed 5% – 10% of their total body weight depending on their age and projected adult size)
- Tiny Dog: 7 – 15 lbs (1/4 – 1/2 lb)
- Small Dog: 16-25 lbs (1/2 – 3/4 lb)
- Medium Dog: 26 – 50 lbs (3/4 – 1 lb)
- Large Dog: 51 – 75 lbs ( 1 – 1.5 lb)
Handling Raw Food:
Keep your raw food frozen until you’re ready to use it.
Thaw your meat in the refrigerator. If you need to thaw it more quickly, thaw on the countertop, but put in the refrigerator while there are still ice crystals in the center of the meat.
Best to place your thawing meat in a plastic bag to prevent any leakage issues.
Wash any surfaces (including your pet’s bowl) with warm, soapy water, after any contact with raw foods.
Avoid microwaving your meat to defrost it, but if you absolutely must, then use a power level setting of 30% or less and microwave for less than a minute. You want to avoid destroying any nutrients or cook any bone making it hard and brittle.
Defrosted food should stay fine for two or three days and sometimes longer. If it smells bad to you, don’t serve it to your pet!
Best to serve the raw diet at room temperature for better digestion.
For all dogs and cats on a raw diet – all can benefit:
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s): Contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids found in fish oils and organ meat. Most of our meat is deficient in EFA’s so supplementing this in the diet is essential. We recommend Fish Oil as this provides EFA’s in their most natural state. Flaxseed oil and other plant mixes can be used but the body needs to go through a conversion process which can be difficult for some animals. We do recommend this for all diets, prepared and homemade.
If you’re feeding and rotating a complete prepared diet, these supplements may not be necessary.
Vitamin/Mineral Supplement: Begin to use after the first week of the transition and continue to use on daily basis. The product should include both trace minerals and vitamins. This is particularly important for those animals that do not tolerate multiple meat sources.
Digestive Enzymes: Can be useful when beginning a raw diet but can be continued permanently if needed. Raw food provides the necessary animal and plant enzymes for most animals.
Fruits & Vegetables: Included in the prepared diets but should be approximately 5% – 25% of your dogs diet, 0 – 5% for cat’s. Dark, leafy greens are best and citrus/tropical fruit should be avoided due to their high sugar content and peas and carrots are also high in sugar and should be used sparingly. All greens should be put into a blender and mixed with your pet’s food. This helps to break up the plant’s cell walls making the beneficial phytonutrients available to your pet. Cats should avoid citrus fruit all together. Veggies can be very helpful if your pet’s stool appears to be extremely hard on a regular basis. Added veggies can also help in a weight loss diet. Regular canned pumpkin is a great in adding complex carbohydrates and fiber to your pet’s diet.
Grains: Your dog does not need grains in their diet. According to many scientific study’s there is no known minimum dietary requirement for carbohydrates in dogs and cats. Dogs and cats derive their energy from fats and proteins unlike humans who derive energy from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates break down into starch which breaks down to sugar and can contribute to obesity, diabetes, Feline Struvite Crystaluria and cancer. Improperly stored grains can also contain Aflatoxin, a mold that grows on grains and some pets may have a grain storage mite sensitivity in addition to dust mite sensitivity.
Calcium/Bones: Calcium is necessary in your pet’s diet since plain meat is very high in phosphorus and your pet thrives on the right balance of phosphorus/calcium in the diet. Most prepared grinds and mixes already include the appropriate levels of calcium. It is essential that you add the appropriate level of calcium in a home-prepared diet. See the resources below for additional resources on home prepared diets.
Organ Meats: Liver, kidney, spleen, tripe include many necessary vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids for your pet. Organ meat should be approximately 10% of your pet’s diet. Organ meat is included in prepared raw diets but must be added to the diet when creating your own raw diet.
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