Things to consider before putting your pet on raw diet

Things to consider before putting your pet on raw diet

Raw diets have grown in popularity in recent years as more owners have discovered the benefits that raw feeding provides. If you’re considering swapping your pet over to a raw diet, there are a few things you need to consider.

Lots of our customers feed their dogs, cats, and ferrets a raw diet. But the learning curve can be quite significant, both in terms of learning how to feed raw properly, and other practical realizations which occur only after feeding a raw diet has started. Here at Peejay Pets, we’ve been able to speak to our existing raw customers and discover what these are so that you can start raw feeding knowing what to expect.

Storage

This is by far one of the most important considerations of anyone wanting to feed a raw diet. If you don’t store your pet’s meat properly, it can cause them to become seriously ill.

Whilst one option is to make several small trips throughout the week to collect a couple of days’ food at a time, this can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Most people benefit from storing one to two week’s worth of raw and making the occasional top-up journey in-between.

To place this into context, if you have one moderately active dog fed at 2% of their body weight daily, then the average storage space you’ll require per week would be 1,750g raw for a 10kg jack russel or 5,250g raw for a 30kg labrador. If you’re planning to feed blocks of meat, can use this handy table to work out approximately how much room you’ll need to store your pet’s dinners here.

Defrosting

A raw diet can be really easy to prepare – as simple as taking it out of the freezer first thing in the morning before going to work, and last thing on the night. Many people when they first start out on a raw diet worry about what would happen if they forgot to take their meat out of the freezer. The answer to this is relatively simple – simply pop your raw food into a zip-lock bag or tupperware container and leave it in some warm water for a couple of hours (swapping the water over a couple of times to keep it a nice temperature).

But it is important to remember: you can never microwave or oven-cook your pet’s raw mince. Raw mince designed for consumption by dogs, cats, and ferrets contains bone (which is required for a nutritionally fulfilling diet) – which is soft when uncooked. When cooked in an oven or microwave, however, this bone solidifies and becomes sharp shards which risk becoming lodged in your pet’s digestive tract or oesophagus.

Waiting a couple of hours for your pet’s food to defrost when you forget to get it out of the freezer on the night/morning is okay for many people, but if you work a tight schedule then this may cause you some problems when it comes to managing time on an evening or in a morning before work. Therefore if you work uncertain hours, you may need to consider whether this would be the easiest diet to manage or not.

Food poisoning

Whilst your pet’s digestive system has stronger stomach acids which enable them to digest raw meat, there are not immune from food poisoning or salmonella. Making sure you handle their raw dinner properly is essential to ensuring their health.

The following should always be kept in mind…

  • Never feed your dog minces that have been defrosted for more than 24 hours;
  • Don’t defrost and then re-freeze raw meat;
  • Don’t give your dog meat that has developed a layer of fur or mould.

The majority of raw pet foods will also undergo a deep-freeze treatment to help kill harmful bacteria. Minces from the supermarket, however, do not (as we generally kill the bacteria by cooking it). This is one reason why feeding minces from supermarkets is not recommended (with the other reason being that they do not contain the required offal and bone components that dogs need as part of a healthy diet).

Nutritional imbalance

Another large concern is ensuring that your dog’s dinner is properly balanced – if it is not then you could make your dog very ill. Nutritional balances are particularly risky for puppies and younger dogs as their bodies are still developing – if they do not have enough of one element of their diet (like calcium, for instance), then this deficiency can have lifelong consequences.

You’ll already be aware of the 80:10:5:5 ratio of meat, bone, liver, and offal. Making sure you get the balance right is essential to ensuring the long-term health of your dog and ensuring they do not have difficulty going to the toilet. There are a couple of ways you can approach this…

  1. Daily balance: The first option you can consider is making sure that every single meal you feed your dog contains the right percentage of each component. This is a fairly easy way to ensure your dog’s overall health.
  2. Weekly balance: This option allows you to be a bit more adventurous by spreading their intake over the space of a week. This option tends to be easier if you are feeding raw treats (like knuckle bones, chicken wings, etc) alongside a complete mince. If you decide to feed a knuckle bone, for instance, you would reach an overall balance by feeding a meat-only mince.

Whilst either option is okay, you need to make sure you keep track of your pet’s overall intake. Feeding slightly more of one component won’t make much of a difference in the short term, but if you consistently fail to balance their diet then this can cause problems in the long-term. Take liver, for instance – whilst if you overfeed slightly every now and again it won’t make too much difference, but because of the really high levels of certain minerals overfeeding on a regular basis can lead to problems like Vitamin A Toxicicosis.

You should also remember that different meats contain micro and macro nutrients. To ensure a balanced diet for your pooch, you need to make sure that you are providing a variety of different proteins, and feeding oily fish at least once every ten days.

Affordability

There is no denying that raw meat can be expensive as a long-term option. Before you commence a raw diet, you need to consider how much you are willing to spend on your dog’s food on a weekly/monthly basis, and from there make the decision as to whether it is worthwhile.

Whilst a raw diet is an excellent choice, if you can’t afford to do it properly then you risk putting your animal in danger. Trying to reduce costs by opting for supermarket minces which do not contain the required bone and offal content increases the risk of your dog suffering health problems.

Fussy eaters

Raw diets are brilliant at enticing even the fussiest eaters to their dinner. Because of its stronger smell and meaty flavour, many fussy pets will be able to be coaxed into eating.

But this goes two ways – if your pet will instantly devour anything raw, but reject other types of food, then you need to bear in mind that this could cause problems later on if you decide that you cannot feed a raw diet anymore.

Holidays, kennels/catteries, and relatives

Another consideration you should make is what will happen if you decide to go on holiday. Regardless of whether you are taking your dog camping in the Lake District, or leaving them in kennels/catteries or with a relative when you take a trip to Spain, you need to consider how you will accommodate their raw diet. This is something lots of people worry about before putting their pet on a raw diet.

Most kennels/catteries (and, indeed, relatives) will be more than happy to accommodate your pet’s raw diet – especially since it is becoming an increasingly popular way of feeding animals. But there are those that don’t.

There are alternatives suitable for raw-fed pets, however. We often recommend owners turn to the Natures Menu Country Hunter range of pouches and tinned foods when an alternative to raw is needed. As this range is lightly steamed, it is one of the closest alternatives you’ll get you a raw diet whilst maintaining the convenience of pre-prepared complete meals.

Where do you go from here?

If you don’t think that you could feed a raw diet properly, and devote the required time and money to it, then there are plenty of very good dry and wet options available on the market which we would recommend you considering first. If you’re sitting on the fence, or would like to look at the other options available, then feel free to pop in store to speak to one of our trained members of staff.

Guide to starting a raw diet for dogs

Guide to starting a raw diet for dogs

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.

Feeding guidelines

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.

For puppies

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)
5kg 125g
10kg 250g
15kg 375g
20kg 500g
25kg 625g
30kg 750g
35kg 875g
40kg 1,000g
45kg 1,125g
50kg 1,250g

The basics

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.