Whether it’s diet or quality of life, we all want the best for our dogs! Although the raw dog food diet is pretty controversial, a lot of people are curious about it.
If you’re interested in knowing more about this diet, you’re in for a treat. In today’s article, we’ll walk you through a detailed raw dog food guide with everything you should know about its methods and how to do it.
Dogs in the wild and before they were domesticated had their diet mainly made up of raw meat. For that reason, their digestive system has evolved to be able to digest raw meat.
In fact, a lot of people believe that raw meat is healthier for dogs because it’s what their stomachs are designed to originally deal with. Meat doesn’t necessarily need to be meaty bones and other flesh. Dogs can also digest offal, such as liver, kidney, hearts, brains, tripe, or even things like cow ears.
Is Raw Meat Safe For Dogs?
Since dogs evolved from wolves, a lot of people think that wolves’ diet is the healthiest and most appropriate type of dog diet with minor differences.
A raw diet, however, should be composed of 60 to 80% raw meat but with addition to other elements, such as:
Fish – for protein variety
Limited amount of berries and fruits – dogs have more amylase than wolves, so they can tolerate carbs like fruits
A lot of research and studies have been conducted to assess the nutritious benefits of raw food diets. For example, this study from the University of Illinois tested the benefits of raw food vs. kibble on 8 beagles.
The results came in showing a lot of health benefits, one being that raw food is more digestible than kibbles. But more on the raw food benefits later!
How Much Raw Food is Okay?
According to the previously mentioned study and its findings, raw food, in general, is considered safe for dogs and they’re capable of digesting it. However, being healthy and safe to digest doesn’t mean that dogs can simply munch down on the food all day long!
There’s a lot of ongoing debates about the ideal amount and feeding frequency of raw food to feed your dog throughout the day. However, most guidelines agree to a certain extent that the perfect amount of raw food depends mainly on the dog’s age. This is because little puppies would require to eat relatively more than what an adult dog might eat to build their body.
As a rule of thumb, you should feed your adult dog anywhere between 2% to 3% of its ideal body weight according to its age and breed standards.
The raw food meal should be split into two meals a day. However, some people might go for one large meal or even skip a day entirely every now and then.
It also depends on the activity level of your dog. A super active dog will usually need more food than a lazy one. Also, if you want your dog to lose weight, you’ll give them less food.
Here’s how to do the math:
A hyperactive dog or one that needs to gain some weight, multiply the dog’s weight by 0.03
If your dog is moderately active or you want to maintain its weight, multiply the dog’s weight by 0.25
If your dog is inactive or needs to lose weight, multiply the ideal dog’s weight by 0.02
Remember, exceptions can happen sometimes and every dog is different in terms of metabolism and nutritional requirements. You’ll usually need to monitor and adjust this percentage according to your dog’s health.
The previous numbers are pretty good for an adult dog. However, a puppy usually needs a higher percentage of food according to their age.
For the first 3 to 4 weeks of their life, puppies will rely mainly on their mother’s milk for nutrition. Although they drink milk up to their 6th or 7th week, you can incorporate raw food from the 4th week. Allow your puppy to eat to its appetite until the 6th week.
Here are the numbers for after 6 weeks:
7 to 12 weeks old feed the puppy 8% to 10% of its body weight
3 to 4 months old feed the puppy 7% to 8% of its body weight
4 to 5 months old feed the puppy 6% to 7% of its body weight
5 to 6 months old feed the puppy 5% to 6% of its body weight
6 to 9 months old feed the puppy 4% to 5% of its body weight
9 to 14 months old feed the puppy 3% to 4% of its body weight
14 to 17 months old feed the puppy 2.5% to 3.5% of its body weight
Older than 17 months old is fed 2% to 3% of its ideal body weight (adult feeding)
For puppies, most meals are split into 3 and preferably 4 meals a day to give them enough time to digest the food properly. You can split the meals into 2 to 3 meals after their first 3 to 4 months as their stomach becomes large enough to digest a bigger meal.
Just like adult feeding, you should adjust the percentage of the puppy’s food according to its activity level. Make sure that your dog stays lean and not get overweight to keep their joints healthy.
Benefits of a Raw Food Diet for Dogs
Raw food diets have a lot of benefits for dogs. Since raw food is exactly what a dog’s digestive system is designed to deal with, dogs usually get a significant amount of health benefits from it.
In this section, we’ll walk you through some of the most commonly reported benefits that dog owners noticed upon transition to a raw diet. Keep in mind that not all dogs will experience all these benefits and that it takes a bit of time for these improvements to occur.
Also, remember that proper dieting is an absolute must if you want your dog to enjoy these health benefits.
Dogs love raw food because it’s what their digestive system is designed to work with. They feel much better eating it, so they’re always more excited about eating it than manufactured kibbles, especially if it doesn’t taste good for them.
In addition to the mealtime enthusiasm, they also become calmer yet more energetic and have better concentration and responsiveness to commands.
Eating raw food diets give them a stronger muscle tone. It also improves the immune system and helps them avoid metabolic problems.
Some dog owners noticed less incidence of parasitic infections, such as worms and fleas after their dog’s transition to the raw diet. The dogs also become less hypersensitive and suffer from less itch.
One of the most commonly reported benefits of raw food is the remarkably glossier coat. Not only that, but the hair coat also smells much better with no dog smell. Additionally, their dental health improves with healthier gums and pearly white teeth!
Raw food is much easier for dogs to digest, so they make the most out of it, leaving a much smaller and more compact healthy poo behind. It’s also easier to keep them in the right weight range since they’re enjoying what they eat and make the most benefits out of it.
Although a raw dog food diet might cost you a little more, it can save you money in the long run. Think about all the money you save from vet visits you won’t need as well as all the medication and treatments you’ll need to apply for your dog!
Not only that, you can actually save a lot of money while buying raw food if you’re careful enough!
Raw Food Diet Cons
Despite all its merits, raw food might have some minor drawbacks that you should also know about.
For example, dealing with raw meat can put you at the risk of salmonella infection (especially if feeding your dog raw chicken), so you always need to wash your hands carefully after you’re done. As for dogs, their gut has enough enzymes to deal with those kinds of bacteria.
The raw food is also a great balanced diet if prepared with a variety of nutritious elements. However, it can easily become unbalanced if you don’t carefully look into what goes into the meals.
Lastly, you’ll need to make sure that raw food is free of hard materials like bones and tough seeds. These hard parts can potentially choke your dog or break its teeth. Keep in mind that most of the previous issues are easily avoided if you’re careful enough.
Fresh Raw Vs Dehydrated Raw Vs Frozen Raw
When you think of raw food, the first thing that comes to your mind is ‘fresh food’. While this is true for most people, there are other types of raw foods as well.
The raw food alternatives are dehydrated and freeze-dried raw food formulas. First, all these raw food formulas are made from the same ingredients, which are raw meat, fruits, and vegetables.
The main difference here is the moisture content in them. Dehydrated and free dried raw food formulas will have the same nutritional benefits of fresh raw food but they’re much easier to prepare and lighter in weight.
All you have to do to get them ready is to add some water to them before feeding your dog. The only problem with dehydrated and free-dried formulas is that they’re usually more expensive.
That’s why they’re a great choice if you’re traveling because it won’t weigh you down but is still much healthier than regular dry kibbles.
Frozen raw food, just like any other food, lasts longer and is good for storage. To feed your dog, take it out of the freezer and let it thaw overnight. The food is then ready for consuming for the next 48 to 72 hours.
One healthy alternative to fresh raw food is fresh-cooked human-grade food. One example of a company producing this product is Pet Plate who is worth investigating!
BARF Diet for Dogs
BARF is an acronym for “Bones and Raw Food” diet, which was recently changed to “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food”. It’s the basic principle that raw dog food diets are based on.
The term was originally coined by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, which advocated raw food diets for dogs. Billinghurst recommended that an ideal dog diet should be made of 60% meaty raw bones while the rest is composed of a variety of carbs, such as vegetables, legumes, grains, and fruits.
Transitioning To A Raw Food Diet
Now that you know more about raw dog food, it’s time to transition to the new diet. One thing you should know is that transitioning could be a very slow process that could take days and up to weeks.
Transitioning starts by reducing the percentage of current food forms and slowly incorporates more raw food in the dog’s diet.
Organs usually have more vitamins and minerals than regular meat, so you should alternate between them every couple of days. They’re also inexpensive, so they’ll help you save more money.
Here’s a brief guide that you can implement at any age to transition to a raw food diet:
Start by adding 75% to 80% of the current food formula and mix it with 20% to 25% raw food (this includes splitting the raw food formula to 60% meat and 40% vegetables and legumes)
On the next day, reduce the original food percentage to 60% or 70% depending on your dog’s reception on the first day.
On day 3, reduce the original food formula to 50% and mix it with a 50% raw food diet.
Keep reducing the original food formula by 10% to 15% every day until you reach a 100% raw food diet
If you notice your dog is struggling with your pace, go back one step and move at a slower pace.
Raw Diet For Dogs Cost
A raw dog food diet doesn’t have to cost the earth. Whether you do it yourself or order through one of the many raw dog food delivery services, there are options for around $2 a day.
With that said, we conclude our raw dog food guide! As you can see, there are tons of benefits that your dog will get when you transition to a more healthy and reliable raw food diet.
Remember, while raw food is much easier for dogs to digest, it’s more work on your behalf. Always be careful about what goes in your dog’s raw diet and adjust its proportions based on your dog’s performance.
If you’re unsure about how to transition properly, you can always seek the help of a veterinarian who specializes in dog nutrition.
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