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Why I Raw Feed My Dog

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

An animal eating dry kibble daily is equivalent to humans eating dry cereal every day. You’d get bored quickly, and the nutrients would be lacking, to say the least. That's why it's important to feed a biologically appropriate diet to your pet.

I used to get attacked, especially by vegans, because I fed my dog a biologically appropriate diet. Especially since I am plant-based, some individuals couldn’t grasp the concept that what’s biologically relevant for a human is, in fact, not biologically appropriate for a K-9. With that said, if you came here looking for a plant-based meal plan for your pet, you're in the wrong place.

Dogs prefer meat; in the wild, dogs are hunters. It's the biological process. Having a plant-based dog with the right research and supplementation is possible. I see no benefit considering dogs are not susceptible to the same illnesses and diseases as humans due to meat consumption.

Please keep in mind that while a dog technically can be plant-based, a cat cannot. Cats can't digest plant material well and require essential nutrients, like taurine, which is predominantly found in meat (1). Of course, taurine can be found in seaweed, but cats need between 35 to56 grams (2). Seaweed should only be given to cats in moderation, and it is recommended not to use it in a cat's daily diet (3). If you're looking for raw feeding resources for cats, click here.

What is Raw Feeding

How to Raw Feed & Understanding Percentages

Transitioning to Raw Feeding

What I Include in My Dog's Meals

10 Raw Feeding Myths & Facts


What is Raw Feeding

A raw diet is just that, raw. When a pet is fed a raw diet, they eat minimally cooked foods, mostly consisting of meat. There are several raw feeding choices, including pre-made options, which are quite expensive. We have looked into many brands of pre-made raw food and have not liked the prices; instead, we opted for DIY meal prep.

Prey Model Raw (PMR)

The Prey Model Raw (PMR) diet eliminates processed foods and provides dogs with a natural diet that mimics what their ancestors and wild cousins consumed. A complete PMR diet is based on whole, wild prey animals and does not include plant ingredients (4).

The Prey Model Raw (PMR) diet has two different feeding methods: whole prey or Franken prey.

  • Whole prey animals, including all internal organs, blood, and glands with fur and feathers, are still attached.

  • Franken prey uses multiple animal protein ingredients to accomplish the PMR diet ratio guidelines.

Although it is encouraged to feed whole prey animals to dogs as a part of the PMR diet, it is not recommended to feed live whole prey.

View the feeding guidelines for the Prey Model Raw (PMR) for Puppies here.

View the feeding guidelines for the Prey Model Raw (PMR) for Adult Dog here.

Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods (BARF)

BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet is an alternative raw diet designed to provide dogs with a modified homemade diet that consists of raw muscle meat and raw meaty bones, as well as vegetables and fruits while eliminating all processed foods.

Although there is only one method for feeding the BARF diet, depending on your pet's age will depend on the recommended feeding ratios. All meals will consist of the following:

  • Muscle meat

  • Raw edible bone

  • Liver

  • Other secreting organs

  • Vegetables

  • Seeds & Nuts

  • Fruit

View the feeding guidelines for the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) for Puppies here.

View the feeding guidelines for the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) for Adult Dog here.

How to Raw Feed & Understanding Percentages

The journey to raw feeding can be a long one. There is a lot of research and preparation, especially if you're embarking on a DIY journey. I have gathered all my favorite resources and put them in one place to hopefully make this transition a little easier.

First is understanding how to feed your dog, which includes understanding percentages (you will still need to transition to raw feeding but need to understand calculations first). Since I am accustomed to the biologically appropriate raw foods (BARF) guidelines for adult dogs, that is what I will discuss to ensure everything is correct.

Step 1: Calculate Meal Amounts & Calories

The number of calories an adult dog needs will depend on age, metabolism, and activity. A few simple math formulas are needed to estimate how much food an adult dog should eat in a day and how many calories they need to sustain optimal health.

Raw Feeding Calculators help pet parents identify the amount of food needed to feed their dog or cat a home-prepared diet. All you do is enter the following information:

  • Animal's weight

  • Average daily activity

  • Raw diet model (BARF or PMR)

You can also choose to have the results emailed to you for future reference.

Step 2: Understanding Raw Meaty Bone (RMB) Percentages

Raw meaty bones (RMB) are essential to raw feeding. Not having enough bone will result in loose stools, while too much will result in constipation. To prevent this, I recommend using a calculator.

Raw Meaty Bone Calculators take the guessing game out of how much bone is in the food you feed. All you do is enter the following information:

  • Animal's daily intake (you should have got that in step 1)

  • Raw diet bone percentage (may be different than a daily edible bone recommendation based on your pet's individual needs)

  • Daily edible bone recommendation (you should have got that in step 1)

  • Raw meaty bone percentage (you can find that information here)

  • Raw meaty bone total weight (you should have got that in step 1)

Step 3: Understanding Food Options

What you feed your dog is absolutely up to you. Check out this resource here if you have a dog going through an elimination diet. If not, it's easy to accommodate most dogs, even if they're picky eaters (check out this resource here), because there are so many options.

As mentioned earlier, BARF diets should consist of muscle meat, raw edible bone, liver, other secreting organs, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruit. But what exactly do those groups consist of? Let's discuss expectations for an adult dog:

  • 70% of muscle meat includes boneless muscle meat, raw animal fat, animal tongue, heart, green tripe, lungs, gizzards, and connective tissue (5).

  • 10% of raw edible bones can come from beef, chicken, duck, lamb, pork, rabbit, turkey, or veal (6).

  • 7% of vegetables can include spinach, kale, microgreens, butternut squash, beets, sweet potato, pumpkin, and more. It is recommended to purée vegetables (7).

  • 5% liver is necessary for essential fat-soluble vitamins and can come from any animal (8).

  • 5% of other secreting organs are on top of the 5% liver and can include the kidney, spleen, brain, pancreas, thymus, testicles, or ovaries (8).

  • 2% seeds or nuts can include hemp seed hearts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, brazil nuts, or pine nuts. It is recommended to soak and chop or grind seeds and nuts (9).

  • 1% fruit can include blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, and more (10).

Now that we know the basics and percentages let's discuss transitioning your dog to a raw feeding diet.

Transitioning to Raw Feeding

You must transition your dog to a raw feeding diet if you have an adult dog. You cannot just change your dog's meals completely, as it may cause some digestive problems. The transition process will not match the BARF or PMR model ratios. Some people will add these foods to their dog's current meals or transition away completely. These ratios are starting guidelines, not rules, so you can modify these as per your dog's needs. Be sure to let your dog set the pace, and remember, there is a learning curve to raw feeding.

Step 1: Add Simple Meats

The first step of the raw feeding transition is not nutritionally complete and should not be fed long-term. Proceed to step two once the dog has maintained firm and consistent stool for a minimum of 3-7 days (11).

  • 70% lean muscle meat (boneless chicken or turkey)

  • 20% vegetables (butternut squash, spinach, kale)

  • 10% edible bone (raw meaty bones from chicken, rabbit, turkey, or duck)

Step 2: Introduce Red Muscle Meat

The second step of the raw feeding transition introduces more muscle meat variety. Meals from Step 1 should already include lean white meat, raw meaty bones, and vegetables, so decrease the lean white meat percentage to add some red muscle meat, eventually eliminating completely before moving on to the next step (12).

  • 70% muscle meat (add boneless pork or beef)

  • 20% vegetables (butternut squash, spinach, kale)

  • 10% edible bone (raw meaty bones from chicken, rabbit, turkey, or duck)

Step 3: Introduce Secreting Organs

The third step of the raw feeding transition introduces the liver and other secreting organs, which provide important essential nutrients. Meals from Step 2 should already include red muscle meat, raw meaty bones, and vegetables (13).

  • 70% muscle meat (boneless pork or beef)

  • 10% edible bone (raw meaty bones from chicken, rabbit, turkey, or duck)

  • 10% secreting organ (raw liver and raw kidney)

  • 10% vegetables (butternut squash, spinach, kale)

After successfully transitioning your dog through Step 3, you can add in 2% seeds or nuts and 1% fruit.

What I Include In My Dog's Meals

My dog, Fiona, is a 65lb. American Pit Bull Terrier Mix is a retired service dog. She is fed a biologically appropriate raw foods (BARF) diet. Since Fiona is a drop overweight, she is provided roughly 900 calories a day, once a day (she chooses to eat once a day). Below is a picture of Fiona's meal prep for two weeks. Not pictured is a gravy topping consisting of goat milk, flax seeds, almonds, turmeric powder, ginger powder, kale, seaweed, and cod liver oil.

We freeze the entire batch, taking three out at a time and defrosting the first one she will need on the counter. Each of Fiona's meals consists of roughly:

  • 12 oz. frozen kale (vegetable)

  • 8 oz. goat milk (extra)

  • 5 oz. ground flax seeds (seed)

  • 5 oz. raw almonds (nut)

  • 5 oz. pork butt (muscle meat)

  • 4 tsp. turmeric powder (extra)

  • 4 tsp. ginger powder (extra)

  • 4 tsp. cod liver oil (supplement)

  • 4 full seaweed sheets (extra)

  • 3 oysters (muscle meat)

  • 2 apples (fruit)

  • 2 oz. ground chicken (muscle meat)

  • 2 chicken necks (raw meaty bone + muscle meat)

  • 2 chicken feet (raw meaty bone + muscle meat)

  • 2 tbsp. puréed pumpkin (vegetable)

  • 1 oz. beef liver (liver)

  • 1 oz. organ mix (other secreting organs + muscle meat)

  • 1 oz. dried cranberries (fruit)

  • 1 sardine (muscle meat)

  • 1 tbsp. pinto beans (vegetable)

  • 1/2 boiled egg (muscle meat)

If you're interested in a full breakdown of my dog's meal plan, check out How I Raw Feed My Dog, which includes the cost to do so compared to the kibble I was previously purchasing.

10 Raw Feeding Myths & Facts

These raw feeding myths and facts are brought to you by my favorite raw feeding resource, Perfectly Rawsome:

1. Raw feeding will make pets become aggressive toward humans.

Feeding raw meat to pets does not result in aggressive behavior when a balanced diet is provided. However, an improperly balanced raw diet lacking the essential amino acid tryptophan can negatively impact serotonin in the brain. This can result in aggressive behavior as a symptom of tryptophan deficiency. These effects can easily be reversed with a properly balanced raw diet that supplies the recommended allowances for tryptophan.

2. Raw meat makes pets “bloodthirsty” and likely to kill animals.

Dogs and cats are carnivores, and therefore, they are natural hunters. Hunting is what they are designed to do. Even when dry food is fed, dogs and cats have been known to hunt and kill small prey animals such as mice, rats, small birds, etc.

There are breeds with a higher instinctual drive to hunt and kill prey – so some pets will naturally hunt while others may never hunt. The foods pets are fed are not a determining factor of whether they will hunt prey or not. Prey drive is determined by a combination of breed genetics, obedience training, and how a pet’s behavior is managed.

3. My pet will get salmonella from raw meat.

Salmonella can only survive in higher pH conditions (4-8+) and requires at least 12 hours to incubate. The hydrochloric acid in a carnivore’s stomach is a protective component against pathogens. Their stomach is highly acidic (about a pH 1), and their digestive system is short and lacks complexity. Bacteria are typically killed when ingested and passed within 4-6 hours as waste. Since the time to complete digestion is very short, the bacteria does not stay in the body for long. It is important to note that multiple dry foods and other commercial pet foods have also been recalled for Salmonella and E. Coli.

However, it is never appropriate to purposely feed spoiled meat or meat that has not been stored and handled properly. Always practice safe food handling and dispose of any spoiled ingredients.

4. Feeding cooked meat is better than raw.

Cooking meat destroys or alters some proteins, vitamins, fats, and minerals. In contrast, other nutrients are liberated via cooking as they are not bioavailable in their raw form. Therefore, cooking food makes some nutrients less available and others more available.

Due to the nutrient losses when cooking meats and organs, cooked diets will require professional formulation to ensure all essential nutrients are provided. While it is possible to balance a raw diet without supplements, cooked diets require supplementation to compensate for the nutrient loss.

5. Raw bones are dangerous because they splinter. A very common misconception about feeding bones is that all bones are dangerous. In reality, many raw bones are great for pets and are totally safe! Raw bones are softer and easier to digest than cooked or dehydrated bones. Cooking or dehydrating bones removes the moisture from the bones, making them hard and brittle. They can splinter when eaten and be difficult to digest, resulting in harmful intestinal perforations or blockages. This is where the idea originates that bones are dangerous.

6. Puppies and kittens are too young and small to have raw bones. The same rules for feeding raw bones to adult pets apply to puppies and kittens as well. Giving raw bones to puppies and kittens is totally safe when providing the appropriate size of meaty bones for the size and age of the pet. Additionally, meaty bones are a source of calcium and phosphorus, essential nutrients for growing pets.

Smaller bones are recommended to start with and work up to larger bones as the pet grows. If the puppy or kitten is weaning from the mother, raw grinds with bone ground in is ideal in the very beginning until they can begin chewing whole foods.

7. Large and giant breed puppies should not be fed raw because it will affect their growth.

Large and giant breed puppies are no different than any other puppy in their nutritional requirements. Like all other breeds, large and giant puppies must grow very slowly to avoid developing joint and bone issues. They do have specific recommendations to maintain balanced calcium to a phosphorous ratio closer to 1.2:1, whereas small breeds have a bit more flexibility here. However, this does not mean that large or giant breed puppies cannot eat a raw diet during their developmental periods. Remember, each dog (and puppy) is an individual – the guidelines provided are just starting points. The diet should be adjusted to provide sufficient calcium and phosphorus and a balanced Ca:P ratio.

8. Dogs cannot digest vegetables.

Dogs can fully digest and absorb the nutrients from plant ingredients when they are prepared in a method to support optimal digestion. Puréeing raw, non-starchy vegetables is the easiest and most recommended preparation method. Additionally, lightly steaming or fermenting vegetables are alternative preparation methods for optimal digestion. If starchy vegetables are selected to feed, they must be thoroughly cooked before feeding. Boiling or baking starchy vegetables until fully cooked makes the starch digestible for dogs.

9. Vegetables and fruit are not needed for essential nutrients.

It is correct to say that vegetables and fruit are not needed for essential nutrients, but they do play a beneficial role in completing nutritional requirements in diets. Vegetables and fruit provide carbohydrates that can be used as a source of energy and fiber to support vitamin K synthesization and colon health. Vegetables prove useful when completing nutrient requirements in PMR meals. Leafy greens are high in magnesium, which is a nutrient often deficient in PMR model meals. Additionally, specific diets with ingredient restrictions rely on plant ingredients to complete nutritional gaps where needed. An example is low purine diets where organ meats are not fed. Therefore, plant ingredients are warranted to create a complete and balanced diet.

10. Plant ingredients are not beneficial.

Vegetables and fruit contain carotenoids, flavonoids, antioxidants, and many other phytochemicals that benefit immune function and health. These phytochemicals are not found in any other food sources other than plant ingredients.

⚠️ Always remember to wait 30 minutes after feeding, before allowing your pet to lick you.

Have you ever thought about raw feeding your pet?



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