Raw Dog Food For Beginners | Guide

Many dog parents switch to a raw diet because their dog might have allergies, need help with weight management, is prone to cancer, want overall enhanced health, and more! A fresh diet is species-appropriate and provides a lot more nutritional value than kibble can.

Why do some owners hesitate to begin a raw food diet for their dog?

Starting your dog on an entirely new diet can be intimidating. There are thousands of informational sources out there that clash and contradict with each other. It can feel overwhelming at times. You may have a lot of questions about how to get your dog started on a natural raw diet, and we want to make it easy for you. We have everything you need to know about raw dog food for beginners all on this page! Below are some tips, guidelines, and answered questions about how to begin your dog’s health journey!

Dog Eating Raw Food For The First Time

Table Of Contents:

Who Should Feed Their Dog A Raw Diet?

The short answer: everyone. Overall, a raw diet is great for all dogs and can provide a lot of benefits which we will discuss more on.
A raw diet is best for:

  • Dogs with allergies. Feeding your dog raw food is great for allergies and can actually reduce their symptoms (not supress).
  • Dogs prone to health conditions. Certain dogs are more prone to health concerns like cancer. Especially, golden retrievers because they can't produce an important amino acid known as taurine and kibble doesn't provide this.
  • Dogs with a sensitive stomach:Dogs are able to digest a fresh, species-appropriate diet a lot better meaning their body don't have to go on overdrive to break down their meal.

Of course, even if your dog doesn't fall into one of these three categories there's still plenty of reasons to feed raw.

Why Should We Feed Raw?

As humans, our bodies need proper nutrition to reach their optimal health and strength. When we don’t receive the right amount of nutrients in our system, our body begins to falter and our immune system weakens. We are more likely to get sick, fatigued, or depressed. This also applies to our dogs, making what we feed them just as important as what we feed ourselves.

Compared to other forms of dog food available raw dog food is has the greatest bioavailability of nutrients

This kind of diet is known as aBARF diet.This diet is filled with ingredients that are biologically appropriate for your dog and generally much healthier than one that isn't.

Feeding a raw diet is the most natural way to provide the nutritional and health benefits your dog needs for enhanced optimal health!

Why Not Kibble?

Kibble was the most popular dog food for our dogs- but that was before we knew how harmful it really is. Like processed food, dogs can digest kibble but they won't receive the nutrients a real meal provides.

Dry dog food like kibble lacks theessential nutrients and vitamins that are necessary for a dog's biology.

To thrive, dogs need the amino acids, vitamins, probiotics, prebiotics, and nutrients that a natural raw meat diet can provide.

Commercial dog food companies claim that they provide your dog with these nutrients, but that is a myth!

Kibble is processed in extreme temperatures that destroy half of any nutritional value it had. They are packed with artificial flavors, colors, fillers, and preservatives: none of which are benefiting your dog's health.

Another thing to take note of; Dogs do not need carbohydrates! Processed dog food contains at least 50% of something dogs have no dietary requirement for. Not to mention, carbohydrates are metabolized by the digestive system to sugar which is known to feed diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, and more.

Instead of processed dry dog food, feed your dog a complete and balanced BARF diet which will give your dog the nutrients nature intended them to consume! 

A raw food diet will mimic the diet of meat, bone, organs, and some vegetation consumed in the wild.

What About Freeze Dried Food?

Freeze dried food is better than kibble, but still not as good as raw.

While the process of freeze drying raw dog food conserves much more nutrients than the process by which kibble is made, you can still feed your dog better. Dog food that is freeze dried doesn't have the unnecessary ingredients that dry dog food does. However, during the freeze drying process, some nutrients are lost that are always in a raw food diet.

During the process of freeze drying, some of the nutrients from the purely raw food are seeped out and lost. Since the whole point of freeze drying food is preserving as many nutrients from raw, it's best to just stick with raw since it already has those nutrients!

A common reason for the freeze-dried industry is the belief that dogs can get sick from raw food. By freeze-drying raw food, it's expected that the bacteria present in raw food is removed- however, we don't have to worry about that bacteria anyway.

Since a dog's stomach is much more acidic than a human's and their digestive tract is much shorter, the bacteria present in raw food can't survive long enough to multiply and make a pup sick. For this reason, there is no reason to worry about feeding raw!

Can't Dogs Get Sick On A Raw Diet?

Many dog owners who have not yet started their raw dog food journey are usually hesitant because of misinformation. But no worries, we're here to educate anyone interested in grasping a better understanding of a raw diet for dogs.

A popular reason many owners don't feed raw is because of the concern about the bacteria in raw food. However, dogs have a shorter digestive tract and higher levels of acidity in their digestive system. Therefore, they can tolerate a higher level of bacteria than us humans.

Read more: Salmonella Poisoning and Dog Food: What You Need to Know

When a dog is fed a species-appropriate diet, their immune system is optimally strong and their digestive system is functioning properly. The acidity level in their stomachs is also very high on a raw diet, which makes it an undesirable environment for bacteria to survive. Remember, raw meat is what nature intended dogs to eat. Quality raw meats are not just perfectly safe for dogs, they are the best food for your dog!

What Are The Health Benefits Of A Raw Diet?

As we’ve discussed, a raw diet is biologically appropriate and will give your dog the essential nutrients needed for optimal health and longevity. With this being said, there are many specific benefits leading to a healthy life. Think about if we humans only ate all-natural whole foods...we would completely enhance our overall health. The same goes for dogs! A natural raw diet can give your dog many health benefits, improve their current conditions, prevent future diseases, and help them thrive.

raw dog food benefits

 We Recommend: Benefits Of Feeding Raw | Cali Raw Blog

All our formulas are made from human-grade ingredients passed for human consumption. Dog's need nutrition, not ingredients! 

The Importance Of Life Stage Nutrition

Here at Cali Raw, we practice Life Stage Nutrition, which adapts the nutrient profile of the food to the specific requirements of the animal.

We optimize the nutritional plan, foods, and feeding methods for the individual physiologic stages of an animal’s life (growth, reproduction, adulthood, and old age).

Most pet foods are formulated based on a puppy's needs in order to meet all life stages, since they have higher nutritional demands. This way is more convenient to offer the same formula regardless of age or activity level compared to adapting to the different nutritional needs of different life stages. However, if we really want our pets to thrive throughout their whole life, we need to tailor their nutrition to the specific needs of each life stage.

We take the extra step and formulate accordingly between puppy and adult dogs. Our menu offers 2 Puppy Formulas for dogs up to 12 months (14 months for large breeds), consisting of the right amounts of nutrients for growth and reproduction. Our 4 Adult Formulas  meet the nutritional needs that change as dogs age.

Read more: Cali Raw's Life Stage Nutrition Guide

Transitioning To A Raw Diet

Starting a raw diet is the best switch you can make for your dog. To make the switch, slowly transitioning will be the best way to begin your dog's journey to an easy raw diet.Remember that if your dog has been eating processed foods, switching to raw will come as a slight shock to their digestive system. To help with this, we recommend sticking to one type of protein in your dog’s meals for at least the first week, and possibly longer if symptoms preside after 7 days. Remember, this is new to them so they may take some time to acclimate to their new diet.  

Our formulas come in 1 lb packages and make it easy to feed raw dog food.

Once your dog has adjusted to the first source of protein, you can introduce the next — again giving them at least a week to adjust. When you’ve established a raw diet after a couple of months, you can mix things up with different meats each day. In addition to introducing your dog to different proteins, you can also provide them withrecreational raw bones such as our beef marrow bones.

These recreational bones provide your dog with mental stimulation, physical stimulation, and dental benefits! Limit these to once a week as a treat, since the marrow is rich and fatty and requires time for the digestive system to adjust.

Follow These Guidelines When Transitioning Your Dog From Kibble To A Raw Diet:

  • First, select a protein familiar to your dog & thaw in your fridge for 24-48 hours before feeding.
  • Phase 1: Begin the transition by first feeding 20% of raw dog food & 80% of the old food for 3-5 days.
  • Phase 2: Next, move onto 50% raw dog food & 50% old dog food for another 3-5 days.
  • Phase 3: Then you can advance to 80% raw dog food & 20% old dog food for another 3-5 days.
  • Phase 4: Finally, feeding 100% raw dog food! 
transitioning to raw diet

Pro Tips:

  • Serve at room temperature
  • Fast your dog one meal prior to introducing a raw diet
  • Be enthusiastic and excited about your dog's new diet
  • Take the transition from kibble to raw as slow as your dog needs. Monitor stool, and slowly increase raw food portion every few days
  • For picky eaters, serve first few meals lightly cooked on low to medium heat for 6-7 minutes with a tablespoon of water to add back moisture. This will enhance the aroma and entice eating.
  • For dogs with sensitive stomachs, prep their meal with goats milk or slippery elm to aid with digestion and naturally settle the stomach
  • Keep it simple when transitioning to raw. Do not add any additional supplements, treats, or food unless necessary
  • Remember, every dog is different. We recommend using these general transition guidelines but adjust as needed.

Transition Detox Symptoms

Does your dog have diarrhea? Itchy, dry skin? Abnormal stool?

If so, don't panic!

It's not uncommon during the transition period for your pup to experience any of these symptoms. Your dog's body is going through a "detox phase" as it switches from processed foods to fresh food.


It's common for dogs to experience the following symptoms:

Dog allergy symptoms

All of these symptoms are completely normal when transitioning to a raw diet. While this may worry some pet owners, this is actually a positive thing! Many people call this getting “unsick”. Your dog will be purging toxins that have built up from a processed diet. These symptoms should resolve themselves once new cells replace the old unhealthy ones.

How to Ease Your Dog's Detox Symptoms

No dog owner likes to see their pup in pain- even if it is for the better good. As the toxins in kibble leave your dog's body, your pup might need some support. Here are a few things you can do to ease the symptoms of detoxification in your pet:

  • Fast your dog 24 hours before the switch to raw food for a smoother transition.
  • Add raw goat's milk to your dog's meals. This will give them a probiotic boost and ease their stomachs, which will help to reduce vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Provide your dog with plenty of fresh water. Water will help your dog flush out all the toxins and ensure that your pup is staying hydrated during the process.

For more information on doggy detoxification and why it's happening, check out our Transition Guide!

How Much To Feed When Feeding Raw

There are many ways to calculate how much to feed your dog daily! Some people choose to base it on kCals (Calories for Dogs), and some choose to calculate based on their Body Weight. To make it simple on you, we suggest feeding 2-3% of your dog's body weight daily. Remember, just like humans, every dog is different and has a unique metabolism. This also differs depending on your dog's age, size, breed, health, and activity level. With this in mind, it's important to monitor your dog and adjust the amount you are feeding them as needed. Below, we also have included feeding guidelines based on kCals and Body Weight.

Your Dog's Ideal Weight (Adult) x 2-3% = Daily Feeding Calculation

Feeding dogs raw food guide chart

A Raw Diet & Weight Management

With nearly 60% of adult dogs classified as being overweight or obese, weight management is crucial to your dog's health. A raw diet will aid in weight loss and management. Obesity can lead to many other health issues or affect their activity level, quality of life, and longevity. We recommend making adjustments to your dog's diet as needed to control weight loss or weight gain. Some other tools we suggest for weight management are our body score chart and our Weight Loss Guide.

Additional Tips For Weight Loss:

  • Weigh everything! Accuracy will aid in weight management.
  • Decrease feeding portions to 2% of body weight, and once your dog starts losing weight increase it back to 2.5%
  • Stick to leaner meat sources like our Turkey Formula. Stay away from fattier meats.
  • Add coconut oil or fish oil to improve your dog’s metabolic rate, increase energy levels, and regulate thyroid function.
  • Cut out the extras! Include treats in your daily calculations along with the food they will receive in meals.
  • Read the labels! Make sure you are feeding your dog the appropriate amount.
  • When giving treats, stick to healthy options such as fruits and vegetables edible for dogs.
  • Give raw bones to entertain your dog while satisfying their desire for treats without gaining many extra calories.

Raw Food Safe Handling Tips

To ensure your own safety when feeding raw, use the same safe handling practices you would use when preparing your own raw meats: exercise basic hygiene, wash your hands, and sanitize surfaces after use.

  • Wash all surfaces that the meat touches including counter tops, food bowls, utensils, scissors, and hands with hot soapy water immediately after handling.
  • Keep raw food in the freezer, and thaw in the refrigerator as needed.
  • Store the meat covered and separate from food for human consumption.
  • Don't let your pup give you face kisses after a meal (No matter how cute they are!)
  • Avoid washing the meat itself, since the water could spread bacteria into your sink.

Freeze & Thaw Tips

  • Thaw a Cali Raw pack in your refrigerator 12-24 hours prior to raw feeding.
  • Measure your dog's meal portions based on our raw feeding calculator.
  • Transfer excess food to a food storage container for easy access.


In addition to our educational blogs and resources on our website, we hope this information helps guide you as you transition to healthier food for your dog. Our furry friends can’t do the research or use their voice, so we must do it for them. Providing your dog with a fresh raw diet is the best thing you can do for them. They will thrive and benefit from enhanced optimal health and longevity. Nutrition is key!

Ingredients of raw diet for dogs
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