Feeding a raw diet is safe and beneficial when done properly. In this section we will explain how to compose a raw diet and how to switch your dog from a processed diet to a raw one. A raw diet is made up of 4 basic ingredients:
- Raw meat (80%)
- Raw bones (10%)
- Raw offal (10%, half of which is liver)
- Raw vegetables, fruit, herbs, nuts and seeds (on top of above)
Raw meat and fat in the UK mainly come from cattle, sheep, pigs, turkey, chicken and salmon. Other forms of meat may be sourced but can be seasonal and more difficult to obtain such as duck, rabbit or venison. Meat cuts from these animals can come in the form of heart, tongue, fillets, cheek, skirt, lung, diaphragm, trachea, gizzard, green tripe, brisket, and penis. These usually come minced and should make up around 80% of your dog’s diet. It is good practice to alternate different meat varieties as they will contain different trace minerals and antioxidants, ideally rotate between at least 4 types. Oily fish such as salmon, herring, pilchards, sardines, mackerel, and trout can be added or given as meals 2-3 times per week as a source of omega 3 and 6.
Raw meaty bones are an excellent source of nutrients and great for cleaning the teeth. Suitable bones to give your dog are chicken and duck wings; lamb or pork ribs; duck, chicken or turkey necks; or a full or half carcass of chicken, pheasant, duck or wood pigeon. Bones should make up around 10% of your dog’s diet. You can supply your dog with its bone content by feeding a complete raw food that contains minced/crushed bone or by giving them raw meaty bones 2-3 times a week or a mixture of both. This is discussed in more detail in the feeding bones section.
Offal is a term used to describe the internal organs of an animal. Offal suitable for dogs to eat are liver, kidney, testicles, spleen, and pancreas. Offal is an excellent source of nutrients and digestive enzymes; it should make up around 10% of your dog’s diet with half of that being liver.
Offal can also be provided within a pre-mixed raw meal for you so you do not have to source it yourself.
Suitable vegetables for dogs are carrot, parsnip, turnip, swede, spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin, squash, and celery. Suitable fruits are apples, watermelon, banana, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Vegetables should be fresh as they lose their nutritional value over time. They can be grated or put through the food processor. Some vegetables such as a carrot or fruit such as apple (core removed) can be given whole as they are great for cleaning the teeth when given this way. For fussy dogs you can mix the vegetable content in with the meat, so it isn’t left behind!
Other ingredients are needed to make a diet complete and balanced such as egg, oily fish or certain oils or botanicals. If you are feeding a pre-made balanced raw product your dog should be getting everything they need from their food. If you are feeding an 80:10:10 diet you will need to add extras to make the diet complete such as a vitamin and mineral pre-mix or whole foods.
How much raw food should I give my dog per day?
A healthy adult dog (over 10kg) should eat 2-3% of their bodyweight per day, usually split into two meals, so a 20kg dog will eat around 400-600g per day.
This percentage can be modified depending on your dog’s weight and activity levels, for example an overweight dog can be fed 2% or a very skinny dog 3.5%. Working, racing and active dogs should be fed 3-6% of their body weight on the days they are working or active and the usual 2-3% on their rest days.
The easiest way to monitor your dog’s weight is to use something called a ‘Body Condition Score’ or BCS. This is a scale vets use to score a dog from 1 to 9 based on their shape and fat deposits, if you score your dog as a 4-5/9 then you are feeding the ideal amount of food. This is a great tool for you to be able to monitor your dog’s size and adjust their volume of food accordingly. An easy guide to BCS is shown below:
To feed dogs under 10kg we need to adjust our percentages slightly:
Dogs weighing 1-2kg – feed 10% of body weight
3-4kg – feed 7% of body weight
5-8kg – feed 5% of body weight
9-10kg – feed 3% of body weight
11kg and over – feed 2% of body weight
We advise feeding your dog two meals a day, this is especially for larger breed dogs who are at risk of gastric torsion if their stomach is empty for long periods of time. Some small breed dogs may only want to eat once a day; this is fine as they are at much lower risk of this. Do not leave raw food down, if your dog doesn’t eat it, take it away, cover it and put it back in the fridge and try again at the next meal time, adopt an eat it or lose it approach.