Benefits of Whole Prey
Updated: Feb 23
Whole prey tends to be less popular in the raw feeding world as it is usually harder to source and is not for the faint of heart. But whole prey is an excellent addition to a fresh food diet as it adds variety, fiber, enrichment, and more.
What is Whole Prey?
Whole prey is the whole prey or the whole intact animal. Intact means what the animal would look like if it were freshly killed. The animal fed includes the skin, fur/feathers, head, feet, intestines, etc.
Whole prey does not mean feeding a live animal to your pet. It is feeding an already deceased animal. Live feeding is NOT whole prey feeding. Animals that are used as whole prey should be humanely killed before feeding.
Whole prey includes the skin, fur, blood, organs, and more in one neatly wrapped animal bento body box. This means those small prey animals such as rabbits and quail count as a whole balanced meal! Smaller whole prey animals pretty much meet all the NRC guidelines except iodine (kelp) and vitamin E (depends on the quality). The nutrients not found in whole prey can be balanced over time.
Feeding whole prey also gives your animal excess to all the organs in the body, not just two at a time like the ratio DIY diet. This means brain, eyes, liver, kidneys, pancreas, ovaries or testicles, spleen, and thymus. This does not mean that feeding only two organs is bad but highlights the variety that whole prey gives.
Additionally, whole prey is a great source of insoluble fiber due to the fur and feathers. Insoluble fiber is not enzymatically digested, does not dissolve in water, and ferments in the colon making it useful for bulking up the stool.
Finally, the most entertaining benefit to feeding whole prey is enrichment. The "feel-good" hormones oxytocin & serotonin are released when dogs chew, chomp, and tear. And the motion of tearing and ripping flesh also helps floss your dog's pearly whites. Dogs will often "play" with the whole prey sometimes, which provides great mental stimulation. Whole prey is a great sensory enrichment tool just by itself.
What Counts As Whole Prey?
Whole prey means the whole animal. Prey animals such as:
Whole Guinea pig
Whole Cornish hen
Introducing Whole Prey
When first introducing raw whole prey, most dogs are resistant to their food's new texture as they're not used to eating fluffy meals. Click here for a whole prey troubleshooting guide to help you and your dog successfully tackle whole prey meals.
While sourcing can be a bit tricky, here are some top tips...
1. Local Showers: reach out to local rabbit showers as they will usually be more than happy to sell (or give) their deceased rabbits to you.
3. Hobby Farmers: If you have friends with their own chicken or quail that raise their own animals, you can often get animals that have passed to feed as whole prey.
Respecting The Animal
Whole prey takes a high tolerance for gruesomeness, but it also takes high respect for the animal fed.
Acknowledging that the animal allows our carnivores to eat a truly ancestral and biologically appropriate meal is just one of many practices that can give gratitude to the animal feed. Enforcing a zero-waste policy is important since the whole animal is a perfect meal; therefore, none of it should be wasted. Also, making sure to source humanely dispatched animals is another way to be as humane and respectful as possible.
If you are feeding a freshly caught fish or rabbit (any wild game), it must be frozen at -0.4°F (-18°C) or colder for a minimum of 3 weeks or more to ensure that any parasite or worms in the animal are properly killed to make fit for feeding.
Another precautionary step is removing the animal's intestinal tracts, as this is where the parasites and worms will reside. If purchased through treat companies or raw suppliers, this step will sometimes be done.
Skinning & Gutting
If you choose to skin & gut your whole prey, here is a video on how to skin & gut whole prey.
It's vital to understand that a pet owner who chooses to feed whole prey is not doing it for their enjoyment but to allow their pets to eat as ancestrally as possible and gain all the benefits mentioned above. You do not have to feed whole prey to have a "complete & balanced" raw diet, but it is a great addition if you choose to do so.