When you first start raw feeding nothing comes in more handy than having a guide to help you through the first stages and getting over any fears or worries you might have.
The amount of times I see people ask “How do I get started?” and then get sent a link to read, which often leaves the person even more confused than they were before.
I feed my dogs a PMR (Prey Model Raw) based diet, therefore I’m only able to advice on this type of raw feeding
PMR raw feeding means that you try to get as close as possible to how your pet would eat in the wild, in this case your dog.
There is no need for weaning your dog off kibble or tins (as you would do when switching brands).
Once you have decided to feed raw, you stop feeding kibble/ tins all together and start feeding raw meat straight away.
How much to feed
Weigh your dog as raw meals are based on the weight of your dog.
- 1.5% for weight loss
- 2% – 3% to maintain weight
- 3% and up for weight gain
- 7 – 10 weeks – 8% – 10%
- 10 – 16 weeks – 7.5% – 8.5%
- 16 – 20 weeks – 6.5% – 7.5%
- 20 – 24 weeks – 5.5% – 6.5%
- 24 – 36 weeks – 4.5% – 5.5%
- 36 – 56 weeks – 3.5% – 4.5%
- 56 – 68 weeks – 3.50%
- under 4 months – 4 or more meals per day
- 4-6 months – 3 meals per day
- over 6 months – 2 meals per day
I put estimate as every dog is an individual, with individual needs.
These weights can be adjusted if for example your dog is gaining weight on 2% lower the amount fed, if losing weight at 2% up the amount fed.
Some dogs are fine with as little as 1% of their body weight as where some others will need 3% or more to maintain their body weight
To make calculating the meals easier I have added a calculator, as maths isn’t everyone’s strong point and a worry for some
There are people that balance their meals out over a week or even a month, but for me it is easier to balance a meal each day, as otherwise I will have to keep a note of what each dog has been eating to make sure they get the right balance at the end of it all.
There is no right or wrong in this, it all depends on what works best for you and your dog.
What to feed
Feed a minimum of 4 to 5 proteins, the more variety the better with red meats being dominant.
If you know your dog is allergic to a certain protein for example chicken I would start with a different protein first and leave the chicken as the last protein to add.
This way you know your dog is fine with at least 3 other protein sources before trying him/her on the protein your dog supposedly is allergic to.
You might find that your dog is fine with that protein when fed raw, this is due to the fact that raw meat contains more moisture compared to dry kibble and thus the protein level is less concentrated
Dogs in the wild will eat the whole prey, which can be broken down in to the following percentages.
- 80% Meat (protein): White Meats: Chicken, Turkey and Farmed rabbits.
Red Meats: Beef, Lamb, Pork, Goat, Duck, Goose, Venison, Wild Rabbit, (Game) Birds.
- 10% Bone: this can be a meaty bone like a drumstick for example or bone ground up in a mince (No cooked or otherwise processed) bones or weight bearing bones. See Bone % Chart
- 5% liver
- 5% other secreting organs: Kidney, Testicles, Spleen (milt), Brain, Eyes, Sweetbread (Thymus), pancreas and Ovaries
Game/ wild animals and fish will have to be frozen for 3 – 4 weeks first before feeding to get rid of any parasites.
It is also advisable to freeze shop bought human grade fresh meat for about 1 – 2 weeks in case of Neospora and Toxoplasmosis contamination (mainly beef, lamb and goat)
Some people complain that when they defrost their meat they are left with a lot of moisture/ blood.
Do not throw this away
The over spill in our dogs raw food packaging is a liquid protein called myoglobin, usually mistaken as blood.
Myoglobin’s job is bring oxygen to muscles and oxygen is required to give muscles energy.
Collect it, Freeze it, Feed it!
Store in ice cubes holders or pour directly over their meal
No matter how big or small your dog is, all dogs are fed using the same 80/10/5/5 ratio’s, with the exception of Dalmatians, as most dalmatians can not have organ meats as this will cause Crystals to form and as such will need an alternative.
There is a Facebook group that specialises in feeding Dalmatians a raw diet.
Lately there has been a study showing that most Labradors especially those that are fed kibble lack taurine in their diet, which when on raw can easily be solved by adding more muscle meat, like heart for example.
The best way towards a fully balanced diet without (too many) complications is to take it slow, as the stomach PH will have to lower (from 3-5PH on kibble to 1-2PH on raw) increasing the acidity in the stomach, which is needed to digest bone and deal with bacteria
Week 1: The first protein
It’s in this first stage (First 5 to 10 days) where it’s advised to feed just a single protein source, no bone and no organs
A protein that is mostly accepted really well is chicken (Boneless and skinless) or green tripe (Only feed green tripe, as white tripe meant for human consumption has not got the same nutritional value beneficial to your dog as green tripe has), to learn more read here
Pet shops like Pets At Home sell green tripe in the freezer section, but there are now also a lot of local and online raw food suppliers (see our suppliers tab for your country)
If your dog is doing well in the first 5 to 10 days (No abnormal stools or stomach upsets) you can start the 2nd step.
If you have a dog that has a grain allergy you might want to think of starting with a different protein than chicken, as chickens and pheasants are mostly grain fed and as such the compound that causes the allergic reaction on kibble may cause the same reaction when feeding the protein itself.
That being said, your dog could be perfectly fine on chicken as it contains more moisture (70% +) and thus is less concentrated than kibble, but personally would leave it as one of the last protein to add if my dog had sensitivities, for the following reasons:
1: To give the body a break from the allergen
2: To make sure your dog is fine on other protein first
Week 2: Bone
Add a soft bone to the meal.
If you started with chicken, add something like a chicken breast with bone (no more than 10% of the full meal allowance), if you started on a different protein use a soft bone from the same protein source (See the Meaty Bone % Chart
Or you can buy a mince which has ground bone in it, though most minces from raw food suppliers contain a high bone %. (15% – 30% depending on supplier)
Make sure you know what that bone % is so you can add boneless meat to the mixture to level it out.
If by the end of the 2nd week your dog is doing well on a single meat and bone source, it’s time to start introducing a new protein.
Week 3: new protein
Add the new protein in small increments over several days until your feeding a complete meal of the new protein
Start by adding 20% of the new protein to your dog’s meal per day (take that amount off the protein you were already feeding) until the end of the week you have replaced the whole meal with the new protein.
So for example: If you’ve been feeding 100gr chicken, you’ll now feed 80gr of chicken and 20gr of veal, the next day this will be 60gr of chicken and 40gr of veal etc
Week 4 and 5:
Continue adding a new protein source the same way as above until your dog is eating 4 or 5 different types. (The more variety the better, as each protein source has different beneficial nutrients)
Once you’re feeding about 4 different proteins you can start adding organs in week 6 (These will always be a secreting organs, and Liver has got to make up 5% of the 10% allowance as explained at the beginning of this page)
Week 6: Liver 5%
As Liver is the one organ meat that has to be part of the diet I suggest you start adding this first.
However, even though it is the most important organ to feed, feeding more than the recommended 5% can cause a vitamin A overdose , so liver will only ever be a total of 5% of their meal.
Don’t start by giving the full amount, as going to fast will result in runny stools.
As with adding a new protein you will want to introduce liver slowly over a week.
Once your pet has been eating the full 5% of liver without any problems, you can start adding another organ in week 7
Week 7: Other secreting organ 5%
Kidney is the easiest to get hold of as you can use supermarket bought, but if you can get hold of other secreting organs that would be great (same as with protein sources the more variate in both the type of organ as well as the source it came from the better).
Again building it up slowly over a week.
Pancreas should only be fed at 5% to a fully transitioned dog.
A dog with pancreatitis may benefit from being fed the pancreas, but it should not have any effect on a dog with no health issues.
Once you’ve got your meals balanced out on 4 different proteins, with meat, bone and organs, you can start adding Fish.
Week 8: Fish
Fish should be introduce slowly to begin with like you’ve done when introducing the other new protein sources
You can feed a whole days worth of fish, spread over a few days as otherwise you risk it coming back up or your dog getting diarrhoea.
Whole fish are classed as whole prey so have a balance of 80/10/5/5.
Fish is a great protein source rich in omega 3 fatty acids and has fairly low saturated fat levels, making it a brilliant protein source alongside other meat proteins.
They are full of the best omega 3 fatty acids for dogs and cats, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) , which are found in fatty fish, all of which have health benefits like antioxidants and anti-inflammatory, aiding joints and all round mobility.
For more detailed information about fish and what type of fish is safe to feed please read here
If your dog doesn’t like Fish whether fresh or frozen, be it the texture or other you can always supplement by giving a good Krill/ Salmon oil.
Week 9: Eggs
The last thing to be added, but not least important is eggs.
Eggs are a great addition to your dog’s diet as they are full of Vitamin A, Riboflavin, Folate, Vitamin B12, Iron, Selenium, Fatty Acids and when feeding the shell you’ll be adding Calcium as well.
Eggs will need to be counted towards the meat allowance and should be fed two or three times a week, however if you’ve got an over weight dog you might want to give eggs in more moderation, as eggs are a quite fatty protein source.
It can be fed with or without shell. (Think of chicken, duck, goose and quail.eggs)
For more detailed information about eggs see this page
Balance is important in every diet and unless we completely analyse every bone, meat and organ we feed, we will not know if we are feeding the correct balance, don’t panic though and don’t let this deter you, as once you get more comfortable with raw feeding, you’ll start adding more variation and it’ll all work out in the end without making things complicated.
To be really honest with you, there are not many people that I know of that fully analyse every meat bone and organ they feed to their pet (I sure don’t)
This however is why it is important to feed as much variation as possible (not just protein sources but also different types of organ meats), the more variety you feed, the more balance you create as every protein has its own nutritional value.
This takes me to the next subject.
Both meat and bones contain phosphorous and we know we need to feed bone to provide our pets with calcium.
For a perfectly balanced diet the phosphorous to calcium ratio needs to be 1-1
Because meat protein contains phosphorous adding bone can easily take you over the 1-1 ratio, but as said above without analysing everything we feed we will not know.
If you want, you can replace 1 or 2 bone meals a week with powdered egg shell to compensate.
The guide is 1/2tsp of egg shell powder per 1lb meat/organ to reach the 10% bone for PMR.
Last but not least
There often is some confusion around organ meats, in the sense of whether they should be fed as offal or as meat.
The easiest way to explain it is to determine whether the offal is more of a secreting organ or a muscle.
See the charts below
Red meats should be fed more in the diet compared to white meats.
Green tripe should only be 10 – 15% of the diet (in my case feeding more caused for my dogs to pile on the pounds)
Heart between 15% – 20% (it is very rich and can cause diarrhoea when fed more)
The more variety of proteins you can provide for your dog the better.
But my dog just won’t eat raw and I really want him too – what do I do now??
You’ll have to remember this if you have a would be picky eater.
Dogs are built for feast or fast and anything in between.
Wild dogs and wolves can go weeks in between meals.
They’ll gorge when they catch/find a prey knowing it can be days before they are able to catch or find the next one
I am not saying that you only have to feed your dog once a week, but just pointing out that they are able to go days without food and still be perfectly fine and healthy.
Dogs are extremely smart and can work most owners out very well.
They know that if they refuse food, their loving owner (you) will give them something more to their liking and even your raw fed dog will have his favourite things, just like us
Whether your dog is a pup, new to raw or is a long term raw fed dog, the rules are still the same to avoid you’re dog from becoming a picky eater, if your dog is alert, drinking water and going about his usual business, do not give in to your dog’s wishes.
If your dog is lethargic, not drinking, acting unusual there might be another reason and a vet visit is required.
Have set meal times and stick to them.
Never encourage your dog to eat, instead ignore and go about your daily business, E.G. wash the dishes, just don’t focus your attention on your dog, or make eye contact.
Place the food were you want your dog to eat and give your dog 10 to 15 minutes with it, if no interest is shown put it back in the fridge until the next feeding time.
Don’t offer an alternative.
Don’t give a snack between meals.
Be prepared to have to throw some food away.
Keep offering the same type of food (obviously replacing with fresh if this continues for several days)
Offer the same food, but present it differently, some dogs like to work for their food and you could try stuffing a kong with it and refreeze, your dog could show more of an interest in this, you could try and give the kong frozen.
The same food but a different texture EG instead of a mince feed chunks or visa vera
The same food, but frozen, run it under a tap for a minute first, so that your dog’s lips or tongue don’t stick to it.
They can have a will of steel and we often cave in, don’t let your emotions take over, keep reminding yourself that your dog is not suffering, he is choosing not to eat knowing that eventually you will cave and give up.
A healthy dog basically will not starve itself
He is playing the long game, which he does because he can.
Vegetables/Fruits/grains or other carbs are not needed as dogs are carnivores and cannot digest them, it stresses the pancreas which can cause pancreatitis and yeast which will cause skin problems.
For more information read Fruit and Vegetables are they safe?