Raw Feeding Guide for Dogs 

What exactly is raw feeding for dogs? And is it good for dogs? Let’s delve into the advantages of feeding uncooked, whole, unprocessed food to your pets. 

What is raw feeding for dogs?

This raw diet means consuming fresh food exclusively, with no cooked ingredients at all. 

What is a raw food diet?

This way of feeding includes bones, chicken wings, necks, legs or thighs, beef bones, lamb or goat necks and ribs. Organs are the nutrient-rich parts of the animal. These are important as they possess some vital vitamins. 

Other than the meaty bones and organs, the rest should be lean meats as these form the protein-rich component of your dog’s diet. Protein is crucial to building strong tissues besides supporting the hormones and enzymes your dog needs to survive and thrive.

Cost of raw feeding for dogs

This raw dog food diet is typically more expensive than a processed kibble diet. If you're looking into adopting this feeding method and struggling with the cost, there are several ways to save money on fresh food. 

For a start, source your meats and organs through local butchers, grocery stores, and do some hunting and fishing. Create or join a group of raw feeders who can come together to place orders in bulk at a discounted price. Invest in a freezer and wrap all purchases tightly to avoid freezer burn. All fresh raw food will last a few months if stored properly. 

Dispelling the myths of raw food diet

Processed dog food is a relatively modern invention and ancestors of dogs; wolves have been eating raw for years before they were first domesticated. There are no issues for dogs to consume their food uncooked. 

There are a few misconceptions around the issue of raw-feeding which we hope to dispel here as follows:

a. Bacteria

A strong argument against feeding dogs raw meals is that serving a dog fresh meat can lead to bacterial infections. Bacteria is still present in the meat, and just as worrying, it could be passed on to humans through poor meat preparation, or via the faeces of the dog.

Therefore we cook meat because we think it renders it safe for our dogs. 

When preparing fresh meat for dogs, one should take the usual precautions that you would when feeding a member of your family. Clean the counter, use a clean knife and wash your hands. As for bacteria being passed on through faecal matter, the normal precautions of hygiene would apply. 

However, we need to bear in mind that dogs have been roaming the wild for years eating a variety of rotten carcasses, fruit, fresh game, grasses and herbs. They are very well-equipped to deal with bacteria. Their saliva has strong antibacterial properties and their short digestive tract and powerful digestive juices are designed to eliminate food and ‘kill’ bacteria quickly. In short, they are able to deal with low levels of contamination which may be present in fresh uncooked meat.  

b. Raw bones

Despite what you may have heard, dogs do need fresh meaty bones. Cooking bones makes them brittle and therefore, more likely to splinter and this is why cooked bones could be an issue. 

Hence, feed your dog natural bones. Their canines teeth are built to eat bones and chewing on a bone is a very stimulating activity for a dog as it releases endorphins which promote a feeling of well-being. 

Another advantage concerning bone chewing is that it prevents tartar build-up so the raw bones act as a natural toothbrush for a dog.

Benefits of raw food for dogs

Some of the physical benefits are as follows:

  • Cleaner teeth and fresh breath
  • Better weight control
  • Improved digestion
  • Shinier, healthier skin and coat
  • Reduction of allergy symptoms
  • Harder, smaller, less smelly stools
  • Increased mobility in older animals
  • More energy and stamina
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Improved liver, pancreatic and bowel health
  • Savings due to less trips to the vet

Better behaviour

Aggression and behavioural issues can also be linked to a poor diet, so switching your dog to a raw diet could improve behavioural issues.  

Helps dogs with ailments and chronic conditions

As above, fresh raw ingredients can significantly improve your dog’s health. Whether you have a pet with health problems or want to prevent sickness in the future, feeding raw is an investment. 

The raw diet can reduce the chances of serious illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease and cancer. It can also help animals recover from illness or at least greatly reduce the severity because it supports cellular function on a higher level than processed foods can. As your pet’s health improves, your trips to the vet will lessen too.

10 simple rules to get started on raw feeding

Here are 10 easy raw feeding rules. Take it as a novice's guide to fresh-food feeding for dogs. You may visit a vet and get a veterinary-approved plan for your dog.

Rule # 1: Raw dog food diet must have calcium

Dogs, especially puppies, need a solid source of nutrients especially calcium and phosphorus. From fresh bones, your dog will mostly get the right nutrients. 

Bones contain both calcium and phosphorus. Meat is high in phosphorus and too low in calcium. So don’t rely on an all-meat diet and do include bone in the raw meal.

For sufficient calcium and to keep a healthy balance of nutrients, bones should comprise 1/3 of his diet. Some good choices for meaty bones are chicken wings, necks, legs, or thighs. Turkey is fine too. Beef tail bones are great for larger dogs. If you can afford it, get lamb or goat necks or ribs. You can also feed your dog whole animals such as whole fish, whole rabbits, and whole poultry.  

Rule #2: Organs are the multivitamins

Organs are the nutrient-rich parts of the animal. Without them, your dog could be missing some important vitamins. 

Limit liver to 10% because it’s really high in vitamin A and can give your dog diarrhoea so avoid overfeeding on the liver. No one organ should be more than 5% to 10% of your dog’s fresh meal. Suitable raw offal for dogs include kidney, spleen, pancreas, thymus, brain, lung, and testicles as part of a natural dog food.

Rule #3:  Raw muscle meat is the foundation

After the meaty bones and organs, the rest of your dog’s raw diet should consist of nice lean meats. These are the protein-rich components of a dog’s healthy diet which it needs to build strong tissues. Good choices for muscle meat include:

  • Beef (ground beef, cheek meat, stewing beef)
  • Turkey (ground turkey, boneless thighs, breast meat, tenderloin)
  • Lamb (stewing lamb, ground lamb, shoulder or breast meat)
  • Pork (pork shoulder or butt, cushion meat, boneless rib meat, loin)
  • Chicken (boneless thighs, breast meat)

Rule #4: Raw fats for dogs -  Watch the fat

Raw Fat is healthy for your dog. Fat is an excellent natural energy source for dogs, It helps with nerve and immune function and is critical for dog’s skin health. However, if your dog’s diet is too high in fat, the calories will add up and that will affect its health. 

You might start to see some long-term health issues if the fat content is too high. The main reason why many raw feeders give their dogs too much fat is that cheaper meats contain a lot of fat. 

You don’t want the fat to be more than 10% of the overall diet. This doesn’t mean you don’t feed fat. Your dog needs fat but not so much of it that it robs him of other important nutrients.

Rule #5: Should you add fruits and vegetables to your dog’s raw meals?

It is not essential but there is no harm feeding your dog with some fruits and vegetables as they carry some unique benefits absent from animal products.

Rule #6: Keep it starch-free in raw-feeding

Starchy foods like grains, peas and potatoes are not suitable for dogs so try as much as possible to limit their intake. Starchy foods cause your dog to continually produce a hormone called insulin which causes him to store a lot of his food as fat. This can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.

Rule #7: Variety counts in raw feeding dogs

Just like humans, dogs need a variety of wholesome foods to provide them with a wide range of nutrients. Feed a wide variety of different raw foods, including different sources of fresh raw meat. This also ensures that your dog will eat regularly without getting bored. 

Rule #8: Balance raw dog food over time

One common concern with this way of feeding is that it’s not “complete and balanced.” This isn’t true. As long as your dog’s nutritional needs are met over the course of a few days or weeks, it will be fine and healthy.

Rule #9: Feed raw fish once a week

You can feed dogs whole fresh fish like sardines, smelts, herring, and mackerel once or twice a week. Another option would be adding a bit of little raw fish to several meals. Salmon is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats support the immune system and can be beneficial for skin and coat health.

Rule # 10: Relax 

If you follow rules 1 through 9, you’ll be feeding your dog a fresh and whole food diet that’s safe and balanced. It is really that easy to feed raw fresh food. The only step left is to start doing it! But before you do, read through the 10 rules above and use them as a guide.

Final thoughts:

Overall, raw feeding is quite easy and straightforward. Just follow those simple key raw dietary ingredients every raw fed dog needs to be safe and successful. Over time, you will become more comfortable with your dog’s new raw diet. What greater joy and reward in seeing your pet with a better coat, cleaner teeth, fresher breath, and fewer health issues.  

Reviewed by: 

Dr Francis is one of the top wildlife nutritionists in Asia. Originating from Montreal, Canada, he left at 21 to pursue his Masters and subsequently a PhD in wildlife nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Instead of taking the path of common animal science to learn about farm animals, or through the veterinarian space and taking a certificate in nutrition, he took the road less travelled to dive deep into the world of animal ecology, metabolism and nutrition.