Although a raw diet can be far better for your dog than kibble, it can just as easily be unhealthy or even dangerous. Raw feeding requires proper planning and attention to detail to be effective.
The problem is that many dog owners jump in without learning what raw feeding entails. We have made a list of the most common raw feeding mistakes to help you avoid doing the same.
Some people are under the impression that a raw diet is simply a piece of meat or (worse still) ground beef or chicken. This could not be further from the truth. Whereas around 80 percent of the meat in your dog’s diet should be muscle meat, 10 percent needs to be full-fat organ meat and 10 percent should be bone (feet, neck, wing, and tail bones are all great).
The meat will be the main aspect of your dog’s raw diet, but you should also feed her fruits and vegetables. These will help your dog maintain the right alkali–acid balance, improve her cognition, and add water to her meal. Vegetables also provide your dog with:
Plus, if your dog is overweight, cutting down on the amount of meat and saturated fat you feed her and replacing it with vegetables will help her reach her optimal weight sooner. Remember, this is what our furry friends’ ancestors ate.
Learn more about fruit and vegetable-inclusive diets here!
Every dog is different and therefore requires a different combination of nutrients. A great thing about raw feeding is that it gives you the freedom to personalize your dog’s diet much more than you ever could with kibble, not to mention it’s grain-free!
Discuss with your vet what your dog needs. Take into account her medical history, any current health issues, and whether she has digestive problems. With the right diet, you may be able to resolve some existing conditions, and you certainly will be able to prevent diseases and other issues in the future.
Another way to include additional benefits in your dog’s raw diet is to give her supplements. Supplements often come in handy to support very physically active dogs. Rather than purchasing supplements in pill form and mixing them into her food, find ingredients that have the same value as commercial supplements. For instance, you could add fish oil to give your dog, even more, Omega 3, crushed eggshells, or oyster shells for calcium. This is much more affordable — not to mention effective — than buying pill supplements.
If you’ve ever switched from one brand of kibble to another, you will know that you are supposed to mix the current food with the new one. This helps the dog adapt to the change. However, this is not the procedure for adopting a raw diet. Instead, you need to make the switch completely.
The reason for this is that dogs’ stomachs need to reach a different pH to digest raw food than kibble. When you mix the two, the raw meat remains in the digestive tract for too long and bacteria may start to develop. This can lead to issues including discomfort and inflammation.
You do still need to make the transition to raw dog food easy on your dog’s digestive system. The best way to do this is to stick to a single source of grass-fed protein for about a week, or until you notice that she is digesting the food well. Then, keep introducing new sources gradually.
Once your dog is used to consuming various types of protein, feed her a different one every day — but never more than one per meal. This will give her a balanced diet without putting her at risk for health problems like heart disease and arthritis.
You’ll lose out on many of the benefits of a raw diet if you keep giving your dog store-bought treats made with grains or processed chews. A healthier snack is a slice of fruit or vegetable that your dog enjoys or a raw bone. Furthermore, raw bones do a much better job of keeping your dog’s teeth clean, strengthening her jaw, and providing her with more excellent sources of additional nutrients and essential amino acids than a commercial chew ever could.
Bear in mind, only some types of raw bones are safe. Always avoid pork bones and rib bones — these can splinter and cause an injury to your dog’s mouth or somewhere farther down her digestive tract. They may even lead to rectal bleeding.
Completely safe bones for dogs include lamb femurs and beef marrow. These are ideal for keeping your dog entertained and helping her relax, whatever her size. Medium to large dogs also enjoy knuckle ones — but these are likely to pose too much of a challenge for smaller dogs.
If your dog is currently the right weight, feed her about 3 percent of her body weight. Underweight dogs need slightly more than this, whereas overweight dogs should eat between 2 and 2.5 percent of their body weight. This is per day (not per meal!) and includes everything that goes into the dog bowl, not just meat. It may not seem like a lot but these sources of nutrient-dense high-quality protein and fat are exactly what dogs ate from an ancestral diet standpoint. Not kibbles and bits.
In addition to feeding an appropriate amount, you need to regulate how much fat your dog is receiving in her raw diet. Fat is essential but in small quantities. If you try to cut costs by feeding your dog cheap meat, she will be consuming too much fat.
Raw feeding is a great way to give your dog a variety of health benefits, but only if you do it the right way. Make sure that you are feeding your dog the correct balance and amount of high-quality ingredients, and avoid all the other above mistakes many pet owners make when they decide to switch to a raw diet.
A raw diet makes for a healthy and happy pet, but the true wonders of a healthy diet tend to compound over time. Stay with it and with consistency comes a new pet entirely. The results truly speak for itself.