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Raw feeding for dogs has gained popularity in recent years as pet owners seek natural and wholesome ways to nourish their furry friends. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the concept of raw feeding, its benefits, and how it can help you save costs on both food and medical expenses for your pet.
What is raw feeding?
Raw feeding is a diet for dogs that mimics their ancestral diet in the wild. It typically consists of uncooked meats, bones, and other unprocessed ingredients. Numerous elements make up the raw feeding diet, also known as B.A.R.F (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) which sets out things like ratios, supplementation and minerals needed to give your dog the most nutritionally relevant and bioavailable food.
- Ingredients: A typical raw dog food diet includes raw meat, organs, bones, and occasionally vegetables or fruits. This diverse range of ingredients provides a spectrum of nutrients necessary for your dog’s well-being.
- Variety: Offering a variety of protein sources is essential to ensure balanced nutrition. Different meats like chicken, beef, or even more exotic choices like kangaroo can be included to provide various nutrients.
- Avoid Fillers: Raw feeding avoids common dog food fillers like grains and artificial additives. This means your dog’s diet is free from potentially harmful additives, promoting a healthier, more natural eating experience.
The advantages of raw feeding
Raw feeding offers a myriad of benefits that align closely with a dog’s natural dietary needs and overall well-being.
Firstly, a raw diet mirrors a canine’s ancestral eating habits, embracing the evolutionary aspect of dogs as carnivores. By incorporating raw meat, bones, organ meats, and vegetables into their diet, dogs receive a rich source of nutrients, including essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals crucial for their optimal health.
This nutrition-packed diet can contribute to improved digestion, stronger immune systems, healthier skin, and a shinier coat.
Additionally, the chewing action involved in consuming raw meaty bones promotes dental health by naturally cleaning teeth and strengthening gums, reducing the risk of periodontal diseases that commonly affect dogs fed on processed diets.
Furthermore, raw feeding has shown promise in addressing specific health issues in dogs, such as allergies and intolerances linked to processed or grain-heavy diets. Many pet owners report a decrease in allergic reactions and digestive problems once they switch their dogs to a balanced raw diet.
Beyond physical health benefits, raw feeding may also positively impact a dog’s behavior and energy levels, fostering a more active and content lifestyle.
Overall, this approach to feeding dogs is hailed for its potential to support a dog’s overall health and longevity by providing a diet that closely aligns with their biological needs.
Additionally, raw food diets have much longer lifestyle and health benefits for your dogs, including:
- Improved digestion: A diet rich in natural ingredients can promote healthier digestion and reduce the risk of allergies. The absence of artificial additives can be particularly beneficial for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
- Healthy coat and skin: Many raw-fed dogs exhibit shinier coats and healthier skin. This can be attributed to the balanced and nutritious ingredients in their diet.
- Weight management: Proper portion control and nutrition can help maintain a healthy weight for your dog, reducing the risk of obesity and related health issues.
- Dental health: Chewing on raw bones can improve dental health by reducing plaque and tartar. It’s a natural way to keep your dog’s teeth clean and strong.
- Saving costs on food and medical expenses: Raw feeding isn’t just great for your dog’s health; it can also be cost-effective in the long run.
- Reduced vet visits: A healthier dog may require fewer visits to the vet for health issues related to poor diet. Common issues such as obesity and allergies can be mitigated through a balanced raw diet.
- Long-term savings: While quality raw ingredients can seem pricey upfront, the long-term savings on medical bills can offset the costs. A healthier diet can extend your dog’s lifespan, reducing the frequency of medical expenses.
- Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the risk of obesity-related health problems. Avoiding the costs associated with treating these issues is another financial benefit of raw feeding.
Additional tips for raw feeding:
- Consult with a Vet: Before starting a raw feeding diet, consult with your veterinarian to ensure it’s the right choice for your dog. They can provide guidance on your dog’s specific nutritional needs.
- Food safety: Practice safe food handling and storage to avoid contamination. Make sure to properly store and handle raw ingredients to prevent foodborne illnesses.
- Gradual transition: Transition your dog slowly to a raw diet to minimize digestive upset. Gradually introduce raw foods to their existing diet to allow their system to adapt and reduce the risk of digestive issues.
Is a raw food diet beneficial for your dog?
Certainly! A raw food diet comprising raw meaty bones, muscle meat, organ meat, and raw nuts, fruits, and vegetables can provide numerous health benefits for your furry companion. Despite initial reservations about serving raw food, it can significantly enhance your dog’s well-being. Here are some of the key advantages:
- Superior bone and joint health: A raw diet can promote stronger bones and joints in dogs.
- Strengthened immune system: It helps boost your dog’s immune system, making them more resilient to illnesses.
- Improved skin condition: Expect your dog’s skin to improve, becoming healthier and more vibrant.
- Softer and shinier coat: A raw diet often results in a softer and shinier coat, which your dog will love.
- Superior dental health: Chewing on raw meaty bones can naturally clean your dog’s teeth.
- Reduced stool volume and odour: Your dog’s digestive system can become more efficient, leading to smaller, less smelly stools.
Transitioning your dog to a raw food diet should be done gradually. While some breeds can handle an abrupt switch, most will benefit from a slower transition. Begin by introducing one type of meat to your dog’s diet over at least a week. This approach allows you to detect any potential allergies and determine your dog’s preferences.
Over several days, reduce the amount of kibble and increase the raw meat until your dog’s diet is entirely raw. You can repeat this process with different types of meat, rotating the protein sources. Keep an eye on your dog’s stools daily to monitor the transition. Loose stools might indicate the need to slow down the introduction of raw food. Black stool indicates too much iron or organ meat in your mix, and too much white in the stool suggests too much bone.
The amount of raw food to feed your dog largely depends on their body weight. As a starting point, most adult dogs consume between 2-3% of their body weight daily. However, it’s important to consider your dog’s body condition and adjust the amount accordingly. Active dogs might require more raw food, while less active ones should have less.
Remember that treats, bones, or other snacks given during the day should be considered when calculating the daily food intake. It’s all about maintaining a balanced diet for your pet.
Puppies have different nutritional needs as they are growing. For puppies under 12 months old, you can follow this guideline:
- 2 – 4 months old: 8-10% of body weight (divided into 3-4 meals)
- 4 – 6 months old: 6-8% of body weight (divided into 3-4 meals)
- 6 – 8 months old: 4-6% of body weight (divided into 2-3 meals)
- 8 – 12 months old: 3-4% of body weight (divided into 2-3 meals)
The type of raw meat you feed your dog is crucial. Following the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) guidelines can help. The recommended ratio includes 70% muscle meat, 10% raw edible bone, 7% vegetables, 5% liver, 5% other secreting organ, 2% seeds or nuts, and 1% fruit. While this may seem complex, ready-made raw meals can simplify the process and ensure your dog receives a balanced diet.
Starting your dog on a raw food diet can transform their health and happiness. Make the transition gradually, adapt the feeding amount to your dog’s needs, and don’t forget to account for treats. Your dog’s well-being is worth it!
6 steps to get started with raw feeding your dog
Raw feeding ratios
Step 1: Balance the fat & protein
- The primary components of your dog’s raw meal are meat and fat.
- Aim for a fat content between 10% and 20% in your dog’s diet, including any added oils.
- Your dog’s energy comes from protein, fat, and carbohydrates, but carbohydrates are not essential for dogs.
- Maintaining a balanced ratio of protein and fat (10% to 20% fat) is crucial. Too much fat can lead to nutritional imbalances, while too little can cause dry, itchy skin.
- Different meats have varying fat percentages, so choose meats that fit within the desired range.
Step 2: Get the calcium and minerals right
- Include bone in your dog’s diet, making up 10% to 15% of their total food intake. Puppies may need up to 15% bone.
- Bone is an excellent source of minerals, particularly calcium and phosphorus, essential for muscle function and overall health.
- Feeding bone ensures that your dog doesn’t deplete its own calcium reserves, preventing bone and joint issues.
- Choose bone-in meats that match your dog’s size and chewing ability.
Step 3: Add the organ meats
- Include organ meats in your dog’s diet, with liver making up about 10% and heart about 5% of their total food intake.
- Liver provides essential vitamins like B and C, while other organs like kidneys, pancreas, spleen, lung, eyes, brain, sweetbread, and green tripe can be added if tolerated.
- These organs are rich in vital nutrients, support specific organs in your dog’s body, and are crucial for a well-rounded diet.
Step 4: Balance the fats
- Ensure that fats make up 10% to 20% of your dog’s diet, but not all fats are the same.
- Consider the saturation and omega fat properties in the meats you feed your dog.
- Saturated fats can lead to gut imbalances, so aim to limit them.
- Balance omega-6 and omega-3 fats by choosing lean meats, poultry, and adding sources of omega-3 fats, like green lipped mussels or fish oil.
Step 5: Raw dog food needs vegetation
- Incorporate fruits and vegetables into your dog’s diet, making up around 10% of their total food intake.
- Organic options are preferred when available.
- Fruits and vegetables contain essential polyphenols that have immune-boosting properties and aid in overall health.
- Avoid starchy carbohydrates like grains and legumes and opt for low-sugar fruits and berries.
Step 6: Balance
- Ensure that your dog receives adequate vitamin D and manganese.
- Foods like whole raw fish, egg yolks, vitamin D rich mushrooms, green lipped mussels, oysters, and shellfish can boost vitamin D and manganese levels.
- Vitamin D is essential for your dog’s overall health, and manganese supports ligaments and connective tissues.
In addition to ensuring the correct ratios are applied, I also add a probiotic and raw dog food supplement.
I choose to use this product because the Belinda, whose namesake is the brand name is an equine and canine nutritionist. The product is formulated in Australia and contains all the important vitamins & Minerals, antioxidants, prebiotics, omega 3 & complementary herbs that help support your dog’s health.
This supplement contains the following important nutrients and is used as a compliment to raw food diets:
Ingredients; Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, Vitamin B1, B2, B6, B12, Calcium, Biotin, Folic Acid, Niacin, Choline Chloride, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Iodine, Selenium, Parsley, Diamond V XPC, Ascorbic Acid (vit C), Omega 3 powder, Grape Seed Extract
This bundle is comprised of the following products from APO:
- 1x Digestive Health Supplement Powder 480g
- 1x Digestive Health Treats 150g
- 1x Daily Wellbeing Vitamin Chews 250g
Packed with natural pre-biotics and probiotics to support Supaw™ gut health for all dogs, and especially soothing for buddies with sensitive, gassy or troublesome tums. Good health starts in the gut and the APO Digestive Supplement is designed to aid healthy digestion and metabolic function while supporting optimal gut microflora for your dog.
My raw feeding recipe
My raw feeding recipe is simple. I stick to the ratios under the 6 steps heading as it gives me flexibility to switch out ingredients in case I can’t get something. I prefer to use poultry organ meat, so I do get chicken heart, liver and giblets. For the muscle portion, I get a minced pet meat comprised of kangaroo, chicken and beef, with added thiamine and taurine. I also add mixed vegies and either pumpkin or sweet potato, and I do add some brown rice in the mixture.
Outside of the mixture when it comes to serving, I add fatty fish – something like mackerel, sardines or salmon. I add a farm fresh egg from our chickens, and fruit and fresh vegies when I have it.
What does it cost me to raw feed my dogs?
With the economic issues since the spicy flu hit our shores, I have had to add a high-quality kibble back into their diet to extend the amount of food I get for the money it costs. I use Black Hawk Working Dog due to its higher levels of protein overall, better quality fats and low levels of carbs which are higher quality for good, sustained energy release and insulin regulation.
A bag of this food can cost anywhere from $142 to $196. Shop around online and try to find bundle deals that include free postage. The second last bag I purchased was $142, whereas the bundle I just got averaged out to $150 per bag. This used to cost between $110-150 and often you could buy the bag with discounts for under $100, so be mindful that this current cost is an inflated cost to what we used to pay for this food.
Based on a dog weighing 30kg, 440g of this kibble is the recommended daily amount, meaning at current costs that would equate to $3.66 AUD for a bag costing an average of $166.50. You can use the Black Hawk sites own calculator here to check costs for different weights.
I usually buy 18-22 days’ worth of meat to create the dog food. The prices listed below are prices as of November 2023 and obviously if you can find any of the items cheaper then that will help keep costs down.
- V.I.P Paws Fresh Adult Chilled Fresh Dog & Cat Food Lean Mince 3kgx2 – $17.00 – $0.57 / 100G
- Woolworths Rspca Approved Chicken Giblets 500gx4 – $3.75 – $7.50 / 1KG
- Woolworths Rspca Approved Chicken Hearts 500gx4 – $3.75 – $7.50 / 1KG
- Woolworths Rspca Approved Chicken Livers 500gx4 – $3.75 – $7.50 / 1KG
- Woolworths Brown Rice Grain 1kg – $2.50 – $0.25 / 100G
- Deep Cove Sardines In Oil 125g – $0.90 – $7.20 / 1KG
- Essentials Frozen Mixed Vegetables 1kg – $2.80 – $2.80 / 1KG
- Baxter’s Adult Fresh Chilled Dog Food Roll Chicken With Rice 3kgx2 – $6.50 – $0.22 / 100G
TOTAL: for all listed items above would be $138.50. This would average out at a daily cost of $6.28-7.69, which would be $2.09-2.56 per dog, per day, remembering I have 3.
With the addition of the averaged-out cost of $3.66 for the kibble, the total cost to feed 3 dogs with homemade raw food would be $5.75-6.22 AUD per day. This obviously varies seasonally and as the cost of different items goes down or up. Weekly average combined cost for 3 dogs would be about $105 AUD per week.
Looking at some of the companies offering raw dog food for purchase, these costs are already showing as cheaper for the weight of my dogs and the amount I personally need. The cheapest price I found was $8.35 for a 1kg bag for a dog weighing 30-40kg. My current price costs me around $5 a day per dog and I definitely think I can get it cheaper. This is just an averaged cost.
The transition to a raw feeding diet for your beloved dog is more than just a dietary shift; it’s a journey toward better health and vitality. By embracing the natural diet that aligns with your pet’s biological needs, you offer them a host of advantages, including improved joint health, a fortified immune system, enhanced skin and coat conditions, superior dental health, and even a reduction in stool volume and odor.
Remember, transitioning your dog to a raw diet demands patience and attention. Slowly introducing raw foods, monitoring their digestive adjustments, and adjusting portions according to your dog’s individual needs are crucial steps in this process. The balanced proportions of muscle meat, organ meat, bones, fruits, and vegetables in a raw diet mirror what dogs would consume in the wild, providing them with the necessary nutrients for optimal health.
Whether you opt for a homemade raw diet or explore ready-made raw food options, always prioritize your dog’s well-being. Raw feeding isn’t just a trend; it’s a transformative approach that unlocks a healthier and happier life for your furry companion. As you embark on this journey, consider consulting with a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist to tailor the diet to your dog’s unique requirements. With your dog’s best interests at heart, raw feeding becomes more than a dietary choice—it becomes a commitment to their lifelong health and wellness.