Raw food diets for dogs is not a new phenomenon. In fact, some of the toughest breeds of dogs, such as racing greyhound dogs and sled dogs, have long been fed raw food diets. Like all things under the sky, raw food diets for pets are also a subject of global controversies.
What is Raw Food for Dogs?
Dogs are not obligate carnivores, which means they are not entirely dependent on only protein from meat. Their diet can consist of various food products such as dairy products, carbohydrates from rice, soya, and corn, vegetable, and fruits.
Commonly known as the B.A.R.F diet (‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Food’ or ‘Bones and Raw Food’), the raw food diet has countless health benefits for your pets.
Commercial foods and packed products were introduced to the market about a century ago. Years before that, most dogs were fed natural ingredients and mostly survived on scraps, leftovers, and by hunting.
Raw Food for Dogs
An important note to consider is that all these foods should be human-consumable grade. Expiry dates, freshness, and harmful artificial additives listed on the product descriptions should be checked before purchasing any of these.
The best raw foods for dogs mostly consists of:
- Organ Meats
- Muscle Meat
- Whole or Ground Bones (Ground Bones are better for small dogs while whole bones can be fed to larger dog breeds)
- Raw Eggs
- Fruits and Vegetables ( See the below list for what can and cannot be fed to your dogs)
- A small amount of Diary (especially yogurt)
- Chicken and Fish
- Supplements that include vitamins and antioxidants
You must discuss your pet’s diet with a certified veterinarian. Different dogs have their own dietary requirements based on their breed, weight, age, and size. Added supplements should always be given based on the veterinarian’s advice.
How much Raw Food for Dogs?
Most Adult dogs with ideal weight should eat 2-3% of their current weight. If they are active but underweight, you should feed the 3% of their weight. Senior, less active adult dogs should be given 1.5% of their body weight.
Raw Food Diet for Puppies:
Puppies naturally wean off from their mother’s milk at about three to four weeks of age. When they are old enough, it is best advised to slowly introduce raw food as meat and organs.
Domesticated puppies can also be easily infected with Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, and other types of bacteria found in meats. Make sure to clean the food thoroughly before feeding your puppies.
It is best advised to consult with a veterinarian because your puppies may have special needs or react to certain foods depending on their breed, size, and weight.
How much Raw Food for Puppies?
Puppies – 8 to 16 weeks (2 months to 4 months)
Four meals per day. Daily intake should be 5% to 8% of the puppy’s weight, split across ‘4’ meals.
Puppies – 16 to 24 weeks (4 months to 6 months)
Three meals per day. Daily intake should be 5% to 8% of the puppy’s weight, split across ‘3’ meals.
Puppies – 6 months to 12 months
Two meals per day. Daily intake should be 5% to 8% of the puppy’s weight, split across ‘2’ meals.
Benefits of a B.A.R.F diet:
Supporters of ‘Pro Raw Diet’ followers claim the following benefits:
- Healthier Skin
- Shinier coat with more glow
- Increased Energy
- Less fat and More lean muscles
- Improved Dental Health
- Smaller Stools
- Better Digestion
- Less Odor
- More active
All the above claims, in general, are accepted to be true. However, we cannot stress enough that meticulous care, dedication, and time are required in the preparation, handling, and sanitation of raw foods.
Depending on your region, a raw food diet may typically be more expensive than commercial ones.
Other factors to consider are the following:
- The threat to children, elderly, and your dog’s health due to bacteria residues such as E. coli and salmonella in raw meat and eggs. Children are more susceptible to these infections since they can contact the infected feces or saliva.
- An unbalanced diet, overfeeding, and unwanted fats may damage the health of dogs if given for long periods. This can be avoided by discussing the diet with an experienced veterinarian and carefully monitoring your dog’s health from time to time. Change the diet if you sense that your pet’s health is not improving or if any complications develop.
- Whole bones may choke the dog, break teeth, or, worse, cause an internal puncture. It is best that you prefer smaller, softer bones or even better, ground the bone in their meals – especially for smaller dog breeds.
Being a pet parent comes naturally for some people, while others take a while to learn the practical details. If you want to switch over from commercial food for your dogs to a raw diet.
Following the below rules:
- Calcium Intake:
Dogs, especially puppies, are very active pets. Puppies need a solid source of minerals to grow fitly and actively.
Grown-up dogs also need their share of minerals since, after an age, their bones tend to deteriorate.
- The most important of the minerals are calcium and phosphorous. Although meat is high in phosphorous, it is low in calcium.
To get enough calcium and a healthy balance of minerals, your dog or puppy’s diet needs to consist of about 12% to 15% bone.
Some good choices of meat are:
- Chicken wings
- Beef tailbones (Better for larger dogs. For smaller ones it is better to grind the bones)
- Goat or Lamb ribs or necks
- Lean Muscle Meat:
Dogs and puppies need protein-rich food to build strong tissues and grow healthier. Half to third of your dog’s food should contain lean muscle meat.
This also supports the dog’s hormones and enzymes that they need to survive and increase their activity and growth.
- Beef (lean ground beef, cheek meat, or any other lean meat part)
- Beef Heart (This is good for through dogs but do not add more than 5% since it is very rich in protein)
- Chicken (boneless breast or thighs)
- Lamb (ground lamb meat, breast, shoulder, or thigh meat)
- Organs for Multi-Vitamins:
Not feeding organs is the number one mistake of dog owners. In animals, organs are the most nutrient-rich parts of their bodies.
Kidneys, pancreas, spleen, brains, tongue, and other organs should form 20% to 30% of your dog’s raw food diet.
If you only find the liver, do not add more than 10% to the dog’s food since it can cause a condition known as hypervitaminosis A (overdose of vitamin A).
This may cause digestive problems, bone spurs, muscle weakness, weight loss, and bone deformity.
The same applies to the other organs too. The proportion of each organ should not exceed 10%.
Choices for the organs include:
Combine 3 to 4 organs where each organ does not exceed 10%.
- Be careful with the Fat: In general, fats in animals contain twice the number of calories as protein.
It is, however, healthy and essential for your dog’s nerve and immune system. Another benefit of the right amount of fats is the pet’s skin health.
Overfeeding fats can hinder the intake of vitamins and minerals that may make your dog overweight and cause other complications. The maximum amount of fat that can be added to a raw food diet is 10%. Not more than that. The cheapest meat contains a lot of fat. Try to avoid that.
- Fruits, vegetables, and grains: These are really not essential for your dogs, but they contain important digestible nutrients, including protein, vitamin E, and linoleic acid.
It is really up to you if you want to add any fruits, vegetables, or grains in your dog’s raw food diet.
However, it is best not to add more than 10% of these for the whole day’s diet. Some dogs are allergic to carbohydrates, and it is best to discuss it with a veterinarian.
For most parts, dogs need some kind of supplements in their diet for better heart health, aid in digestion, lustier coats, and fight against complications such as arthritis, bone degradation, joint stiffness, etc.
We strongly advise you to discuss the supplements that can be added to your pet’s diet with a veterinarian. Different breeds of dogs require various types of supplements, depending on their age, weight, and size.
A side note to firmly consider is that there are no studies to prove that supplements can cure cancer, parvo, or any other kind of serious disease.
Popular supplements and their uses are:
This is the most popular supplement for dogs. It is an amino sugar that is naturally found in the fluids around the joints and helps build cartilage. Glucosamine’s main source is shells of shellfish, but it can also be made in the laboratory. Many veterinarians and dog owners believe that Glucosamine is effective in treating arthritis in dogs and may relieve joint pains and bone degradation.
The second most popular supplement is fish oil. There are many benefits of fish oils. It contains omega-3 fatty acids that are useful in treating heart health, arthritis, and joint pains and can also improve coat quality.
A few types of research show that Antioxidant supplements that contain vitamin C and E can prevent memory loss and cognitive dysfunction caused due to aging. They can also treat heart diseases in dogs, reduce inflammation, and protect the body from free radicals that can damage or kill cell membranes.
Adding probiotics as supplements for dogs have also become popular due to its potential in treating diarrhea and other digestive problems. Probiotics such as yeast and live bacteria live naturally in the body and aid in digestive health. These come in different forms, such as yogurts, chews, powder, and in some dog formulations.
Always consult with your veterinarian before adding supplements to your dog’s food.