Putting Your Dog on a Raw Diet
If you notice your (young or middle aged) dog slowing down, or gaining weight, his diet is likely to blame. Most dogs gain weight slowly over the span of their lives, and while you may think a pound or two is cute, or no big deal, extra weight can mean huge problems for your dog’s joints and quality of life as they age. Overweight dogs are more prone to heart and lung strain, shorter life expectancy, and other health problems.
Many studies have been done that show the positive effects of a raw food diet on dogs.
So what do you need to know about making the switch?
What does a raw diet consist of?
You don’t have to buy lots of fancy, expensive steak to put your dog on a raw food diet. Here’s what a raw diet typically consists of.
- Muscle meat, often still on the bone.
- Bones, either whole or ground.
- Organ meats such as livers and kidneys.
- Raw eggs.
- Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and celery.
- Apples or other fruit.
- Some dairy, such as yogurt.
Keep it Starch-Free and Calcium Rich
Grains, potatoes, peas, and other starchy foods cause your dog to produce a hormone called insulin (the same is true for you, too!). This causes your dog to store food as fat, which may be opposite of what you’re trying to do if your dog is overweight.
Whether your dog is overweight or not, starchy foods just aren’t necessary.
What is necessary is calcium, usually found in highest concentration in bones.
Adult dogs and growing puppies need calcium and phosphorous to stay healthy. And wouldn’t ya know…bones contain both calcium and phosphorus!
You can’t substitute bones for meat. Meat is high in phosphorous, but missing calcium. The ideal concentration of bones in your dog’s diet is about 12-15%, or about one-third of what he’s eating.
The Best Bones to Feed Your Dog
- Chicken necks, legs, wings, or thighs
- Turkey necks
- Beef tail bones (great for larger dogs)
- Lamb or goat necks or ribs
What About Getting Enough Vitamins?
Organ meat is a powerhouse when it comes to getting your dog the vitamins he needs. Here are the best ones:
- Pancreas & Thymus (these are usually called sweetbreads in the butcher shop)
What Else Should I Include in this Diet?
With bones making up about one-third, and organs making up a small percentage of the rest of your dog’s diet, meat should be about another third of your dog’s raw food diet. These are protein rich, lower in fat, and have the enzymes needed for your dog to stay healthy. You could use:
- Beef (ground beef, cheek meat, stewing beef)
- Beef heart (but not more than 5% of the diet as it’s very rich)
- Bison (ground bison, stewing bison meat)
- Turkey (ground turkey, boneless thighs, breast meat, tenderloin)
- Lamb (stewing lamb, ground lamb, shoulder or breast meat)
- Pork (pork shoulder or butt, cushion meat, boneless rib meat, loin)
- Chicken (boneless thighs, breast meat)
What About Fruits & Veggies?
Fruits and veggies aren’t essential to a raw food diet. If you stick to a low/no starch, low fat, high calcium & phosphorous diet of bones, meat, and organs, your dog will be getting a nicely balanced raw diet.
But if you want to give your dog a little variety in texture, flavor, or nutrients, you could incorporate:
- Tomatoes, carrots, red cabbage, watermelon (high in lycopene, which slows cancer)
- Kale, broccoli, papaya, oranges (high in lutein, which protect the eyes, skin, heart)
- Squash, carrots, papaya, cantaloupe (high in carotenoids, which slows aging, and disease)
It’s Not an Exact Science
You don’t need to calculate fats, proteins, calories, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, etc. If you switch your dog’s source of bones and protein, your dog will enjoy a diet that’s balanced over time. If a raw food diet is prohibitively expensive for you to adopt full time, try doing anywhere from one raw meal per day to one raw meal per week. Even replacing a few of your dog’s processed dog food with something raw can provide benefits to your dog’s health.
Do you feed your dog a raw diet? Let us know what your dog eats in the comments below!