Raw diets have been growing in popularity over recent years as more owners are seeking a healthier, chemical-free diet for their pets. But starting a raw diet for dogs can be quite a minefield if you’ve not fed raw before. Here’s our quick guide for getting started with a raw diet.
A raw diet can be an excellent choice for many dogs – many people consider it one of the most natural options on the market! By switching to raw, you are helping to provide your dog with better access to beneficial proteins, enzymes, and essential fatty acids – without all of the additional filler ingredients found in many dry and wet diets.
Because you’re completely in control of what you feed them, switching to a raw diet can also be an excellent choice for dogs with nutritional allergies and intolerances.
Other benefits to a raw diet include:
- Fresher breath;
- Less hyperactivity;
- Better appetite;
- Helps anal glands;
- Less flatulence;
- Assists with joint issues;
- Better, smaller poos that are less smelly.
Is it dangerous?
Feeding a raw diet isn’t necessarily dangerous – but you need to ensure you do it properly. Dogs have entirely different digestive systems to humans which allows them to process bacteria which would make us sick. But you are still feeding them raw meat which is a breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria, and if you are careless then the chances of your dog becoming ill (in some cases grievously) are dramatically increased.
Most of these dangers are generally preventable through the following…
- Never feed cooked bones (raw bones are soft – cooked bones can splinter and get trapped in the digestive system);
- Ensure that you are providing your dog with a diet that takes into account their unique needs (whilst humans don’t need bone and offal in their food, your dog does as part of a healthy and balanced diet);
- Supervise your dog whilst eating;
- Don’t re-freeze raw meat, or leave it defrosted for more than 24 hours (as this gives harmful bacteria the opportunity to breed);
- Always clean your dog’s bowl thoroughly after feeding.
One of the first things many people notice when they transition their dog onto a raw diet is just how little your dog actually needs to eat! This is because of the high-protein nature of the diet. When moving your pet onto raw for the first time, the difference can be quite dramatic!
The following are provided as a general guide for feeding a raw diet. Like with any diet, remember that your dog’s overall levels of activity may require more/less than the guidelines given.
Growing puppies require more nutrition and calcium in their diet to help with healthy growth and bone development. As the puppy gets older, they will not require as much – so the amount you need to feed reduces.
|Age (weeks)||% of raw proportionate to body weight|
|7 to 10 weeks||8% to 10%|
|10 to 16 weeks||7.5% to 8.5%|
|16 to 20 weeks||6.5 to 7.5%|
|20 to 24 weeks||4.5% to 3.5%|
|36 to 56 weeks||3.5|
|68 weeks and over||Adult guidelines|
For adult dogs
Adult dogs only require around 2% to 3% of their body weight per day (depending on how active they are). This can be given in either one large or two smaller meals.
|Weight||Amount of raw (g)|
80/10/10: The golden ratio
Lots of people considering a raw diet will come across the “80/10/10” feeding ratio – but might not understand what it means. As explained above, this accounts for…
- 80% meat (used for energy);
- 10% bone (used for calcium and stool-regulation); and
- 10% offal (used for nutrients).
This is a great starting point for if you haven’t got a lot of experience with raw before. The quantities of meat, bone and offal you provide will have a significant impact on your dog’s general health – and their poo will offer a good indication as to this (see below). Just remember that these are only rough guidelines – there is some room for manoeuvre if you are careful and ensure that your dog will still be provided with the right amount of food. If you are struggling with this, please feel free to visit us in store and speak to a member of staff.
Fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates
Dogs don’t derive as much nutritional benefit from fruits and veg as they do from meats – but that’s not to say that they cannot be a great addition to a varied diet and help with stool consistency. Some great options include…
Raw bones, treats and chews
Raw bones are a fantastic source of nutrition – being rich in glucosamine, calcium, phosphorus, and many even contain Omega 3 fats too! Chewing on bones is an excellent way of cleaning teeth and keeping your dog entertained – they’re also necessary for ensuring healthy poo that isn’t runny.
Just don’t forget that raw bones and treats do count towards your dog’s daily intake – they can gain weight from them just as easily as they can from their complete mince. Offer as a treat or reward, but remember not to overdo it.
Your dog’s poo… it’s important
When feeding a raw diet, your dog generally won’t poo as much as on conventional kibble diets.
But you can monitor your dog’s nutritional needs by keeping an eye on their poo. Here are a couple of common indicators…
- White and crumbly: Too much bone – offer a meat only option or boneless treat.
- Black: Too much offal/iron – reduce intake of offal, liver and spleen (but don’t forget that some meats, like beef or tripe, will naturally darken the colour also).
- Yellow: Normal for a diet that is high in chicken and poultry meats – expect yellow poo during the first week or so if transitioning to raw using chicken or turkey mince.
- Runny: Not enough bone and fibre. Give raw bones, increase intake of fibre rich vegetables, and ensure you are feeding a complete mince option.
Starting with raw
In the first ten days…
We recommend starting a raw diet with an individual, white meat protein source – we’d generally say start off with turkey for this purpose (simply due to the number of dogs who suffer reactions to chicken). But, of course, if you have a dog which is reactive to multiple different types of meat and you know that they can tolerate one type (for instance, duck), then start from this point.
Just remember to monitor your dog’s behaviour and overall health during this transition.
After the first ten days…
After ten days have passed, you can begin introducing other meats into your dog’s diet. Just be careful not to introduce too many different meats in one go – as this might overwhelm your dog can cause and upset stomach.
Because different meats contain different micro and macro nutrients, it should be your long-term goal to introduce a wide variety of protein sources to your dog to ensure they get a fulfilling and nutritious diet overall.
After successfully introducing three or four proteins…
You can then introduce oily fish. From this point onwards, ideally you should be feeding oily fish mince to your dog three to four times per week for optimum nutritional value.
Frequently asked questions
Can I mix it with dry?
No. Not only does your dog not gain anything from the addition of dry to the raw diet, but it can put your dog at risk due to the slower rate of digestion of dry food – in a worst case scenario, the raw food will sit on top of the dry, and harmful bacteria will be able to thrive in your dog’s warm stomach.
If you really must feed your dog dry biscuits at any point when feeding raw, we generally recommend waiting 12 hours.
Do I need to add supplements?
Supplements can be really beneficial for targeting specific areas of your dog’s diet. Some supplements can be ideal for joint health (such as cod liver oil), coat maintenance (such as salmon oil) and general health and flea prevention (such as garlic tablets). You can also find a number of Superfood blends which help provide useful additional nutrients for your dog.
Probiotics can also be particularly useful to have on hand when you start a raw diet for your dog, as they help restore normal gut function. During stressful times, it can also promote non-sloppy stools.
Other things you should consider
Before swapping your dog over to a raw diet, there are other practical factors you should really take into account. Take a look at our article on Things you should consider before swapping your pet to a raw diet.