When venturing on your raw feeding journey, there is so much information to take in at once! This guide was created to be a launchpad into your raw feeding research and show you the fresh food diet framework.
Intro Reading Resources:
Ways To Transition
Slow transition -
This is method switches from processed to fresh food over an extended period of time. The slow transition is recommended for adult dogs as it takes a more extended period to introduce the dog to fresh foods. This allows the dog’s system to adjust gradually.
Immediate transition -
This method is when the dog immediately goes onto a fresh diet with no transition period. This is easiest for puppies as their systems are more adaptable, and them needing daily balanced meals.
Outlined below are the parts needed to successfully complete both types of transitions as smoothly as possible!
The transition can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the dog and the time they need to adjust. It is important to go at the dog's pace and not rush the process. When doing a slow transition, the meals will not be "complete and balanced" for a short amount of time. This is acceptable as everything will be balanced over time! The method below should be used for healthy adult dogs.
[a] Choose lean white muscle meat such as chicken or turkey breast. Muscle meat will take up around 70% of the bowl when starting. Turkey is preferred as chicken is the #1 allergenic protein. If your dog happens to be allergic to both, the rabbit can also be used.
[b] Add in edible bone such as turkey neck or chicken feet. The edible bone content should make up around 10-15% of the bowl. But it is important to note that every dog is different, and some may need more/less bone in their bowls. An easy way to tell if they are getting the appropriate amount of bone is by looking at their stool! If the poop is white and chalky, they are getting too much bone. An ideal poo should be brown, firm, and small.
Types of edible bone include:
[c] The last step is to add some fiber-based veggies to help bulk up the stool during the transition. Fibrous vegetation should be around 10-15% of the bowl. When feeding any plant material, it is prepared appropriately by either blitzing, steaming or pureeing before feeding. You can even make your DIY veggie mix at home! Another option instead of adding veggies is adding psyllium husk or slippery elm bark to help bulk up the stool and prevent diarrhea as much as possible.
Examples of fibrous veggies include:
Following this method gives the dog’s system the time it needs to adjust to fresh foods. After getting consistent solid stool, your dog is ready to move to part 2 of the transition process. Moving on from each part entirely depends on the dog. Some dogs need a few days to adjust before moving on, while others need longer.
The second step of the transition is adding red meat. During this transition period, meals will not be “complete and balanced” since the meal is still missing organs and whole food supplements. Again, this is acceptable for the time being as the dogs adjust to the food. The ratio guidelines are 35% white meat, 35% red meat, 10-15% edible bone, 10-15% veggies.
All the steps from Step 1 should be kept the same with the addition of lean bland red muscle meat. Starting with a rich cut such as heart will cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset. Adding in red meat is vital in any DIY diet as red meats are more nutrient-dense. Red meats are higher in water-soluble vitamins and supply high-quality animal fats, which provide the energy needed for many metabolic processes. Avoid feeding fatty cuts of red meat when transitioning as this can cause GI upset.
Examples of fibrous veggies include:
After 3-4 days of consistent solid stools, it’s time to move on to the next step.
At this point, you’ve introduced your dog to lean white muscle meat, lean white bone, some veggies, and lean red meat. Now, it is time to add the most crucial part of the diet… organs!
Secreting organs are the multivitamins of the raw diet. In a small amount, you can provide an immense amount of nutrients to the meal.
As the organ content increases, the fibrous vegetation should be decreased until around 5% of the bowl content. At this step, the general guideline for the ingredients should be 70% muscle meat, 10-15% bone, 10% organs (5% liver, 5% other secreting organs), 5% vegetation.
Raw liver is the staple organ needed in every raw bowl, and generally, the first organ recommended to introduce. The liver is the highest in vitamin A and other essential nutrients.
Different animals will have varying nutrient profiles, but the easiest to source and introduce are beef, chicken, and pork liver. It is best to start with only 2-3% of organs and gradually increase to 5% to avoid a tummy upset.
The next organ that is most commonly introduced is kidney. Other secreting organs are needed to provide essential nutrients that the liver does not. Raw kidney is a rich source of B-vitamins and other nutrients that the liver is lacking. The more variety of organs you have, the better since every organ has different nutritional values.
Other secreting organs include:
When introducing organs, you may get some GI upset due to the richness of the organs. Introduce slowly, and do not be alarmed if diarrhea occurs. After you get consistent stools, you can begin increasing your organ amount and variety!
Now that the dog is fully transitioned, it is time to add in more variety and supplements. “Variety” means feeding a wide range of different proteins (animals) and different cuts of meat (lung, heart, tongues, etc.) A minimum of 3-4 proteins should be fed. Providing diverse foods allows for the dog to have an array of nutrient profiles.
While feeding an unbalanced diet is okay for a short time (only during the transition period), it will lead to nutrient deficiencies that can be even more dangerous than feeding a kibble diet and is often why raw feeding is demonized.
Thankfully, mother earth has an abundance of whole food sources to fill in the most common nutrient gaps in a ratio diet.
While this may seem intimidating, food is food! It is not something that needs to be utterly complicated and frustrating to deal with. Not every meal needs to meet the exact NRC guidelines. As long as you provide all you can to meet essential nutrient requirements, you are heading in the right direction. During your raw feeding journey, expect to make lots of mistakes and take the opportunity to learn from them!
Raw feeding does take energy, commitment, and work, but I know you can do it! And it is so worth seeing the improvements of your dog genuinely coming alive when on their proper ancestral nourishment. You can read more about using whole foods to fill nutrient gaps here.
step 1: 70% muscle meat + 10-15% edible bone + 15% veggies
step 2: 70% muscle meat (white & red meat) + 10-15% edible bone + 10-15% veggies
step 3: 70% muscle meat + 10-15% edible bone + 5% veggies + 10% organs
step 4: 70% muscle meat + 10-15% edible bone + 5% veggies + 10% organs + supplements
In this method, you feed a 100% “complete & balanced” raw diet without any transition period. This is best for younger dogs as their systems are much more adaptable. You can start by making your DIY meals, but it is often easier for beginners to start with a premade raw. To learn more about quality premade, click here.
For dogs under a year, simply start feeding 100% raw. There may be some stomach upset, but puppies adapt the quickest. For healthy adult dogs (1+ years), fast the dog for 24 hours and provide fresh water. After 24 hours, introduce the 100% raw diet. This method is not recommended for dogs with serious health problems or seniors due to their systems needing longer to adjust.
When transitioning from a highly-processed diet to a fresh diet, there can be some GI upset. This is a normal part of moving off of processed foods. To help the process, you can supplement digestive enzymes and probiotics to help the body adjust and accumulate beneficial gut flora.
Adored Beast, Healthy Gut | Digestive Enzyme [use “GSDSTORMY15” to save!]
Adored Beast, Love Bugs | Pre & Probiotics [use “GSDSTORMY15” to save!]
You can also feed slippery elm bark powder or marshmallow root to help soothe the GI system. Both of these herbs are a mucilaginous product that functions as a demulcent (anti-inflammatory) agent. The mucilage of these herbs is a complex polysaccharide that becomes a gel-like substance when mixed with water.
Huger pukes are white or yellow foamy vomit that is caused due to excess bile build-up from the anticipation of food. Unlike kibble-fed dogs, raw-fed dogs stomachs empty much faster as the food does not expand (like kibble). The main culprit of hunger pukes is scheduled feeding. For example, the dog is fed at 7 am and 7 pm on the dot every day. And when the owner misses the time for feeding, hunger pukes happen due to the body anticipating food and releasing bile.
To avoid this, you can:
Vary feeding times, so the dog’s system does not anticipate food at a particular time.
Feed small snacks during the day to give their system some sustenance.
How Much to Feed
Depending on your dog's age, weight, metabolism, and activity level, the general guideline is around 1-3% of their body weight. But this can fluctuate. It's essential to keep in mind that every dog is different and you must cater to their individual needs. The amount fed will change depending on the dog’s activity level, age, metabolism & more. Here is a calorie calculator for a general estimate on how much to feed.
There are many places to source raw food nowadays. Great strategies to find great deals are joining local raw feeding Facebook groups and finding any Co-ops near you. You can also source locally from grocery stores, Asian grocery stores, and more. Here is a sourcing series to guide you and a compiled list of raw feeding suppliers.
Many dogs are picky with organs at first. For this, it is recommended to change the texture of the slimy organs. Freezing or lightly searing organs can change the smell, texture, and taste of dogs and entice them to eat it. Eventually, this technique can be phased out as the dog adjusts to the organs.
The Poo Tells All
The “perfect poo” is something that all raw feeders are familiar with as it shows how well the dog is adapting to the food and if any adjustments need to be made. On a scale from 1-10, 1 being a puddle and 10 being a cigar, a healthy raw fed poop should look like a 7-10. A raw fed poop will be like a small cigar with no smell and relatively small. A kibble-fed stool will be more of a 3-4 and look like soft serve, be big, and very smelly. Be aware when a dog in transitioning stools is loose.
Stool tells you information about what is happening inside your dog’s system. Below is a guide with the most common poos and what they mean.
White/Grey/Chalky: White/chalky stools mean that the dog had too much bone content. For this, skip bone for a meal and then slightly reduce bone content overall.
Yellow: Yellow stools are present when the majority of the meal is poultry. This is most common when transitioning.
Tar-like/Liquid: If the poo is tar-like or liquidly, it means that too much organ was fed at one time. Adjust organ amount to make it less rich.
Dark Brown/Red: When stools are this color during transitioning, it is due to the addition of red meats.
Black: If the dog ate something high in blood content, such as spleen, it would result in black stools. This is because blood oxidizes in the colon, turning poo a darker color.