Raw Food 101

wolf-635063_1920In the first episode of the Holistic Pet Radio Podcast, we discussed raw feeding basics for your canine companions.

What is Raw Food?

  • There are two basic types of raw food: commercially prepared and homemade. When we talk about raw feeding in store we are generally talking about commercially prepared raw food (because that’s what we carry). Commercially prepared raw food will contain a mix of muscle meat, bone, and organs, and possibly fruits & vegetables.

  • We generally recommend commercially prepared raw foods for people starting out with raw feeding because prepared will generally have a guaranteed analysis listed on the package making them a better option for new raw feeders and/or people with busy lifestyles.

  • You do need to be careful that the food is properly balanced. The raw pet food industry is unregulated in Canada meaning anyone can sell meat as raw dog “food” with no repercussions if/when an animal gets sick. Luckily there are many commercially prepared raw food diets which adhere to regulations and standards set up by other countries. For example, many follow the guidelines set up by AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials) which is the regulatory board for foods in the US.

What is Balance?

  • Should consist of a combination of meat, bone & organ.

    • For “Prey Model Feeders”: Balanced raw food should consist of breakdown close to the following for prey model: 80-85% muscle meat, 10-15% bone, 5-10% organ (with half that amount being liver)

    • For “BARF Model Feeders”~70% muscle meat, 10% bone, 10% organ (liver again being half), 10% fruits and/or veggies for BARF feeders.

    • Why does balance matter? Unbalanced food can lead to “skeletal issues, organ degeneration and endocrine abnormalities as a result of dietary deficiencies of essential fatty acids, calcium, trace minerals and other nutrients” (Dr. Karen Becker).

    • Optional: Adding fruits and vegetables for fiber, vitamins, antioxidants & minerals. This helps make up for the fact that farmed animals are often very deficient as is the earth’s soil. They also add fiber to the dog’s diet.

    • http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/10-reasons-to-feed-vegetables-for-dogs/

  • Rotation is also crucially important when feeding raw food. Feeding chicken as your only protein does not create a balanced or varied diet for your pet. There is no set rule for how much and how often to rotate the proteins your pet gets, we generally advise do as much rotation as you can within your budget and lifestyle. Other proteins are generally going to be more expensive than chicken so this does become a personal decision.

    • Ideally, your pet will switch between poultry and red meats, lean to fattier, coarse to fine grinds on a fairly regular basis. In a healthy, raw-fed dog there is usually no need to slowly transition between these proteins.

  • Supplements can be a very useful addition to your pet’s diet, in general, there are two we recommend for all pets.

    • Probiotics

      • A minimum of 70% of your pet’s immune system is housed in their gut. This means their overall health is directly related to the presence of good bacteria housed there.

      • Probiotics can be fed in many forms, some of our favorites are “Love Bugs” by The Adored Beast Apothecary and raw goat’s milk.

      • Dosing will again depend on your budget and the health of your pet. Different forms of probiotics can be safely added to your pet’s meals daily.

    • Omega-3s

      • Are an essential nutrient that must be supplied through the diet as they cannot be produced in the body

      • Omega-3s are extremely anti-inflammatory and can help with many health conditions in the body including cardiovascular health, brain development, arthritis, developing and maintaining eyesight, etc

      • Omega-3s should be added in 3-4 times a week when feeding a varied diet. When feeding a chicken only diet Omega-3s should be added in daily because the Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio is 19:1 making chicken an extremely inflammatory protein when fed daily without rotation

      • Sources of Omega-3s: Phytoplankton, Whole frozen fish, Fish body oil (avoid salmon/larger fish because of the bioaccumulation of toxins, look for sardine, anchovy, herring, and mackerel oils instead)

  • There are many other beneficial supplements that you could add into your pet’s diet but these tend to be very specific to their individual needs.

Transitioning to Raw:

  • We generally don’t recommend mixing raw and kibble together in the same meal (because of their different carb/starch contents they have dif digestion times and mixing them together can lead to gas & bloating)  

  • To transition:

    • Feed last meal of the day at night (ideally a few hours earlier than normal)

      • You want to give a minimum of 8 hours for the kibble to clear the stomach

    • Optional: Give some plain canned pumpkin purée before bed

    • Start raw in the morning, continue feeding raw as if you’ve been doing it your whole life!

  • Detox may occur, especially when switching an older dog, or one with health issues

    • Symptoms include:

      • Moderate discharge from eyes

      • Increased shedding

      • Symptoms should resolve within a week or two

  • You may also notice:

    • Your pet’s poops become smaller and more formed. This is normal as they are no longer excreting indigestible nutrients like carbs and starches and are utilizing most of the nutrients they are being fed (hooray!)

    • They may drink less water. This is normal, raw food is very high in moisture whereas kibble is actually dehydrating to their systems

Recommended Reading: http://rawfed.com/myths/switch.html

Tips for Starting Your Puppy on a Raw Diet:   http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/starting-puppy-on-raw-diet/

Feeding Amounts:

How much you need to feed your pet will depend on several factors, including their age, size, activity level, and metabolism. As a general estimate, you can calculate how much they need to eat by taking a percentage (based on their age as shown in the chart below) multiplied by their current body weight to get an idea of how much to feed them.  Note, younger animals need much more food than older ones, and you should weigh your pet frequently (especially while they are young) to calculate the most accurate feeding amounts required. Always consult with your vet before changing feeding amounts and note that disease and illness can greatly affect feeding requirements.

  • 2-4 Months: 10-8% Body Weight

  • 4-6 Months: 8-6% Body Weight

  • 6-8 Months: 6-4% Body Weight

  • 8-12 Months: 4-3% Body Weight

  • 18 Months + : 3-2% Body Weight

General feeding amounts calculator: www.raw4dogs.com/calculate

Infographic on feeding amounts: dog-feeding-guide-8×11-2

Source: http://perfectlyrawsome.com/freebies/

Holistic Pets:

  • We just wanted to make a quick note about some other things you may want to keep in mind now that you have a happy, healthy raw-fed dog

    • Titer Testing

    • Natural Flea & Tick Preventative

    • Natural Deworming Options

    • Dog beds without VOCs

For more info on these other lifestyle considerations and about raw food, in general, please check out the following resources:  

Woofs & Wags,
The Holistic Pet Radio Pack


Please note:
This content is for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.
If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately. Reliance on any information appearing here is entirely at your own risk. If you have medical concerns or need advice, please seek out your closest holistic or integrative veterinarian. Not sure where to find one? Check here: http://www.ahvma.org


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