Raw Feeding Basic Guidelines

1. Why feed raw?

– Prey model feeders feel that dogs are physiologically carnivores. Dogs have been shown by geneticists to be a variation of the grey wolf. They differ by 0.2% in the mitochondrial DNA (and I suspect much of this difference has to do with coloring and shape and size).

– David Mech, the forefront wolf biologist who has studied them intensely in their own natural habitat (not an artificial wolf colony), has observed that as natural carnivores, the wolf’s diet consists mostly of large prey, and supplemented by smaller prey in leaner times, and very occasionally, he’ll notice some vegetation grazing, but again only during extremely lean times. Wolves are carnivores. They CAN subsist on non-meat products, but by and large, they need raw prey to thrive and reproduce.

– So by trying to appropriate a whole prey through feeding of various body parts, we feed what the dog has been designed by nature to eat. Because the dog’s physiology is designed to be carnivorous, this is what we feed them.

– Physiology:

  • no grinding molars (all sharp scissor like teeth),
  • strong wide jaws to really open up, take in a large piece, and crunch down and gnaw,
  • no amylase in the saliva to begin digestion, and therefore,
  • very acidic stomach juices (at about 1 – 2 on the litmus scale, 7 being neutral – humans’ stomach acidity is only around 5),
  • very short digestive tract to keep food moving along out
  • not to mention they are natural hunters – every dog has an instinct to hunt – this instinct is part and parcel of being a carnivore. I don’t see wolves stalking a berry branch…

– By that logic, because a dog/wolf is designed to feed the way they do in the wild, evolution has shown us this is path of least resistance. To ask your dog to eat what they’re not biologically designed to do is therefore providing obstacles along the path of least resistance. To many rawfeeders, this is basically asking for trouble.

2. How much to feed?

– Essentially, most dogs require about 2 – 3% of their body in raw food to maintain good health and weight. Working dogs may require more, some furry couch warmers may require 1%.

– This amount that you determine what your dog does well on is a trial and error kind of thing. Most people start with 2%, then either feed more or back up depending on how their dog’s body feels.

– The amount does NOT have to be the exact same amount every day. Some days you can certainly feed more, then feed slightly less the next day to compensate for the larger amount of food prior. Some people feed the gorge/fast method, where they allow their dogs to eat two or three times the daily amount, then just fast their dogs the next day or however long, to compensate again for the larger amount.

– Know your dog. I have a self-regulator on my hands who generally will only eat about twice the daily amount even though there may be five days worth of food sitting in front of her in the form of a goat leg. She won’t fast herself the next day, she’ll just eat slightly less than normal. Again, use the dog’s body and energy level as a guideline. Looking porky? Back off on the amount, and feed slightly less fatty if necessary. (Although fat is an integral part of the diet…)

– You can feed once a day, or twice a day. It’s up to you.

– Puppies? Most raw prey model feeders feed 2 – 3% of the projected adult body weight. So a little GSD puppy, who may grow to be 80 lbs, will still be fed about 2% of the 80 lbs as a puppy. Just spaced out over a few feedings since puppies do better with more frequent feedings. Once they hit about 6 mths, you can back off to twice a day, and once a year old, you can do once a day, or even the gorge/fast if that’s what you prefer.

3. What to include in the diet?

-Prey model feeders don’t generally feed anything other than raw meat, edible bone, and organs. We don’t think veggies form a necessary part of the diet because a) we subscribe to dogs being carnivores following their physiology; b) veggies and fruit form only about 1% of the grey wolf’s natural diet – it’s more like grazing on a sweet berry if it’s there. Kind of like the way I like to nosh on candy.

– The ratio of meat/bone/organs is 80%/10%/10%. Half the organ allotment is liver, following the notion that the liver is the largest internal secreting organ. We use this ratio as kind of the general ratio that most prey animals are in their makeup. It may vary, of course, and again, this 80/10/10 ratio is a guideline, but really most animals are made in ratios not too far from this one.

– Meat: this is muscle meats. Muscle attached to bones, and also parts of the body that are organs, but are muscular in nature (non-secreting). This includes, tongue, heart, gizzards, trachea, skin (yes skin secretes, but it secretes waste through water and salt aka sweat OUT of the body, so we don’t count that, hee.) I count stomach as a muscle meat, but in keeping to form with the whole prey, I don’t stomach as the main part of the meat ratio – so despite how much Karma adores green tripe, she only gets it a couple times a week.

– Edible bone: we consider weight-bearing bones of large animals as purely recreational and not very edible. Marrow bones, soup bones, knuckles, femurs and the like should be given for recreational chewing but are not intended for consumption. Please always provide adequate supervision. Edible bones tend to be less dense, more porous. Depending on the size of the dog, edible bones range from chickens, to turkey, to duck, to fish, to rabbit, to pork, to goat, to lamb. Some power-eaters do manage to chew off the ends of beef ribs. Karma devours them completely, whereas a smaller dog may have these as a treat, gleam the meat from the bone and toss the rest. It’s a Know Thy Dog situation.

– Secreting organs: liver should be half the organ allotment. The rest can be made up of kidney, spleen, thymus, pancreas, lung, testicles (mountain oysters), brains.

NOTE: remember, we call it prey model, because those of us who can’t feed whole prey, we try to appropriate the whole prey through various body parts at various times. It’s a prey built over time. Frankenprey, as many people call it.

So again, this ratio can be met over time. It helps me to know how much Karma eats in a week, roughly, then cut up hunks of organs that make up 10% of the weekly amount. Then these organ hunks can be fed throughout the week. This way, I know in each week, Karma is getting 10% of organs in her diet, and half of this is liver. (So the 10% organ amount is divided into 4 smaller hunks, and twice a week, she gets a liver hunk, and twice a week she gets other organ hunks. I space out the variety to give it more balance.)

Another note about edible bone – most store bought cuts of meat with bone in them tend to be high in bone. So even if you see a nice pork shoulder roast covered in gobs of meat, the bone in there probably makes up about 15 – 20% of the piece. Store bought whole chickens have been gutted and de-feathered, so the bone ratio tends to be a little higher than real whole prey. I like to feed more meat when I find what I’m feeding Karma may possibly have too much bone in there. (Which is most of the time.) How to tell? Look at the writing in the poop! If your dog is straining slightly, and the poops come out crumbly and powdery and once they hit the ground, they fall apart, that’s generally too much bone. If the poops are squishy and have no form (NOT diarrhea), then feed a tad more bone. It doesn’t take a huge bone tweak to make a difference in the poop.

These are just really basic ideas to get started on. Raw feeding is not rocket science, but there are some basic principles that must be understood in order to meet your dog’s nutritional needs. Interested in feeding your dog a raw diet but unsure where to start or how to transition your dog? Contact me for a personalized diet plan based on your dog’s age, weight, breed, and needs.