As pet owners have become better educated in regards to pet nutrition, more and more of them have made the decision to feed their pet an all natural raw diet consisting primarily of meat, bones, and organs. The exact diet that God has always intended our little carnivores to eat! Probably the biggest issue that remains is - how do I start? When I first began feeding raw, 13 years ago, I can say one thing for certain - I was TERRIFIED! The first time I handed my 7 year old GSD a raw chicken back, I was certain he was going to choke and die. Happy ending - he didn’t! I had nearly lost my Doberman to bloat a few months before switching - bloat caused by kibble dog food. My GSD was a sensitive soul who could barely tolerate kibble without suffering bouts of colitis. I had adopted a Weimaraner puppy who suffered from spinal dysraphism and was going to be put down as a result. On kibble, she was growing too quickly to keep up with her crooked joints, wasn’t keeping weight on no matter how much she ate, and wasn’t compensating for her disease. I was determined to find something safer, something healthier, something that would help them all. I found raw and I never looked back - as scary as it was to start, it remains the best thing I have ever done for my dogs then, and all the dogs since.
- There are a number of sources and types of raw foods. Some prefer the ease of feeding a ready made ground product produced by a raw food manufacturer. Others like to feed whole pieces such as chicken legs or pork ribs. Still others, and perhaps the majority, choose to do both in order to keep costs manageable. Check out local boutique pet stores, butcher shops and online resources in order to make your decision.
- Plan on feeding a variety of protein sources. Beef, tripe, chicken, turkey are usually a good place to start. If you can find more, add more. There is no such thing as too much variety for most dogs, and a minimum of three should be fed in rotation.
- Start slowly. Don’t overwhelm your dog with 4 different proteins in 4 days. Pick one protein and start there for at least a week. Once your dog has shown they can handle that particular meat, add the next one.
- Many people prefer to begin with chicken as it is easy to find, an easily edible raw meaty bone, cost effective and handled well by most dogs. You can feed a pre-made ground or whole pieces – you decide what your comfort level is!
- Decide how you will make the transition. Most people have great luck simply switching cold turkey. Obtain a good probiotic to feed along with your dog’s meals to help ease him over to ‘real’ food with minimal fuss. If you still would like to feed kibble, try feeding a kibble meal in the morning and a raw meal at night rather than mixing.
- To decide how much to feed initially, figure out your dog’s ideal weight and start at 2-3% of that number. Generally it is appropriate to start larger dogs at 2% and smaller/toy dogs at around 3%. For example, a 50 pound adult dog of normal activity level would be started at approximately 1 pound of food per day. Always take into consideration your dog’s age, activity and energy level. A younger, more active or actively working animal will generally need more food. An older less active pup will need less. There is no absolute right answer, as each dog is an individual – some need more, some less. Just remember to keep them lean.
- When starting raw, don’t confuse the issue from the start by adding a large number of supplements and other items like veggies. There is time to incorporate those things later. Begin with the basics and build as you go.
- Decide what supplements your dog needs. Fish oil is generally a good choice for all dogs no matter what food they eat. Probiotics, kelp, raw goat’s milk, joint supplements – Tailor what supplements you give to your individual dog. Generally, daily supplementation isn’t necessary. If you happen to have a sensitive dog or one that has particular issues, the decision on how often to supplement can be decided on a case by case basis.
- Feeding veggies is a personal decision. If you choose to feed them, wait until your dog is acclimated to eating a variety of proteins before making them a part of his regular diet. Remember, dogs are not built to ingest whole raw vegetables. All vegetable matter must either be ground and pulped or cooked prior to feeding or they are completely wasted. Raw pulped is the most nutritionally dense, but steaming is the next best option.
Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to starting your dog out on raw. Feeding too much too soon often results in digestive upset that frustrates the dog owner often allowing them to convince themselves that raw isn’t right, when the problem is actually the way they went about it. Take it easy, take it slow and your dog will thrive as a result. Raw is the right choice for dogs of any and all ages - from baby puppies to seniors, raw can make a huge difference in their lives, especially for dogs suffering from various common canine ailments. Let us help you to help them eat the most nutritious and natural diet out there!