Raw Dog Food For Beginners | Guide

Dog Eating Raw Food For The First Time

We understand that 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, and it can feel overwhelming at times. We know you may have a lot of questions about how to get your dog started on a naturalrawdiet, and we want to make it easy for you. Look no further- 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!

Table Of Contents:

What Should I Feed My Dog?

As humans, our bodies needs 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, a raw diet is the best food your dog can eat. Raw dog food, alsoknown as a BARF diet, is filled with ingredients that are biologically appropriate for your dog.

A dog that eats raw food is generally healthier than one that doesn't because a raw diet has the greatest bioavailability of nutrients. This means that your dog's meal is much easier to digest compared to any other dog food, allowing all the nutrients to be absorbed!

Feeding a raw diet is the best and most natural diet that provides the nutrition and health benefits your dog needs for enhanced optimal health!

Why Not Kibble?

Kibble was the most popular dog food to feed our dogs but that was before we knew how harmful they are. 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 the 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 raw meat formulas 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. 

Dog food that is freeze dried don't have the unnecessary ingredients dry dog food has. However, during the freeze drying process, some nutrients are lost that are always in a raw food diet. 

Why Doesn't Everyone Feed Raw?

Many dog owners who have not yet started their raw dog food journey are usually hesitant because of misinformation. But no worries, that's what we are here for! To educate and help anyone interested grasp a better understanding of a raw food diet for dogs.

A popular reason many 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. 

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 dog food for your dog! 

raw dog food diet for dogs infograph

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 to give them optimal health and longevity. With this being said, there are many specific benefits leading to a healthy life. Think about if we ate all-natural whole foods...we would enhance our health. The same goes for dogs. A natural fresh raw diet can give your dog many health benefits, improve their current conditions, prevent future disease, 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, old age). 

Most pet foods are formulated are based on puppies to meet all life stages because 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 believe we need to tailor the nutrition to the specific needs of each life stage of the animal. 

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) which has the right amounts of nutrients for growth and reproduction. Our 4 Adult Formulas  meets the nutritional needs that change as dogs age.

How To Feed 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 to note 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 they have diarrhea after 7 days. Remember, this is new to them so they make 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 in a raw diet, you can also provide them with recreational raw bones such as our beef marrow bones. These recreational bones provide your dog with mental and physical stimulation and dental benefits! Limit these to once a week as a treat, as the marrow is rich and fatty and also 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:
transition to raw diet tips

Detox Symptoms

Got diarrhea? Itchy dry skin? Abnormal stool? Don't panic! It's not uncommon during the transition to experience some detox symptoms. Your dog's body is going through a bit of a detox when switching from processed foods to fresh food.

Your dog may experience the following symptoms:

Dog allergies infograph

 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 one! 

How Much To Feed

There are many ways to calculate how much to feed your dog daily! Some people choose to base it on kCals (Calories for Dogs), some choose to calculate based on 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 age, size, breed, health, and activity level. With this in mind, it is 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 based on Body Weight. 
Feeding dogs raw food guide chart

Weight Management

With nearly 60% of adult dogs classified as being overweight or obese, weight management is crucial. A raw diet can aid in weight loss and weight management. Obesity can lead to many other health issues as well as affect their activity level, quality of life, and longevity. We recommend making adjustments to your dogs 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 . Additional Tips For Weight Loss:
  • Weigh everything! Accuracy will aid in weight management.
  • Decrease portion to 2% of body weight, then once your dog starts losing weight increase to 2.5%
  • Stick to leaner meat sources such as 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 suitable for dogs.
  • Give raw bones to entertain your dog while satisfying their desire for treats without gaining many extra calories.

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 separate from food for human consumption.

Freeze & Thaw Tips

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

What If I'm Not Ready To Feed Raw

If you still find raw feeding intimidating, no worries. Even making small changes can have a great impact on your dog's health. Ways you can do this is by adding raw as a topper. This allows you to boost your dog's meal to be more nutritious than their current wet or dry dog food. We have a great Topper Guide that you can use until your ready to transition fully to raw!
Another way to add more nutrition to your dog's diet is by feeding natural & healthy treats. Instead of rewarding snacks that have nasty fillers, choose treats that are biologically appropriate like meat and organ meat treats. You can easily find these kind of treats at our sister store, Crafted Treats where we sell single ingredient treats that are all natural for your dog's best health.


In addition to our educational blogs and resources on our website, we hope this information helps guide you in the transition to healthier food for your dog. Our furry friends can’t do the research and 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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