It seems almost everyone just getting into RAW is a bit apprehensive, afraid that in their attempt to better their dogs (or cats), they will somehow inadvertently mess up and hurt their dogs. This is normal! As far as mainstream pet care and feeding goes, RAW is way outside the box so your apprehension is understood but trust me.. with our beginners guide to RAW You can do it!
Feeding RAW in a nutshell means we are giving our dogs their naturally designed diet. It is how their body was designed to operate. Dogs are carnivores. Carnivores cannot digest grains, and the processing used in commercial food basically cooks out the good enzymes as well as good bacteria.
BEGINNERS GUIDE TO RAW
What do I feed them? RAW unprocessed food. Food that was designed for a carnivore's digestive system. This will consist of Raw Meaty Bones (RMB), Muscle Meat, Organ Meat, and Recreational Bones.
RMBs: Are bones with some meat on them that can be consumed completely. The dog will ingest and digest the
Muscle Meat: Is any meat that does not have bone in it.
Organ meat: Is any organ, (liver, kidneys, etc).
TIP: The heart is a muscle and therefore muscle meat.
Recreational Bones: Are bones the dog will gnaw on. They will chew on them but not eat them.
TIP: Regarding recreational bones, watch for them to dry out as they can become brittle. That is when you need to replace them. They last much longer if you keep them frozen and allow your dog to gnaw for an hour or so.
HOW MUCH OF WHAT?
The first thing every new RAW feeder asks is "how much of what?". The simple beginners guide to RAW answer is ideally, you want to strive for 50/40/10 ratios (RMBs/meat/organ) in the diet. However, for most people that still leaves them a bit shaky. Since many people do better with examples I'll use a chicken leg quarter with this beginners guide to RAW. Chicken leg quarters are very well balanced and serve as a great staple. The meat to bone ratio on this cut of meat is pretty close to the 50/40 ratio we're after. This leaves an easy 10% to make up with organ meat, let's use beef liver as an example.
Later, we'll substitute chicken with other meats for variety and to offer different protein / fat sources (after the first month). This will happen naturally in the future when you start mixing things up but for now you can assure this easily by doing one of two things. #1, Add add cod liver oil to the meal. - #2, Feed red meat at least twice a week.
As a beginners guide to RAW for the new RAW feeder, I always recommend feeding chicken for the first month. Specifically, a staple leg quarter diet if available as chicken is pretty cheap and easy to come by. After the first month, you will begin adding variety to your staple. Not only variety in the types of meat but also the cuts. You can include ground meats and large chunks of flesh with and without bone. You will want white meats and red meats.
You may also want to feed fish if you can find it. There is an issue of heavy metals from farmed fish, canned fish, and fish from polluted waters. These heavy metals are toxins in the body of the fish that are passed into the dog. I normally reason it like this.. will you eat it? If you eat canned tuna, then you probably should not have a conviction against feeding it to your pet ;)
Another common question with a beginners guide to RAW is about feeding wild game. Most are acceptable, but you should be weary of any wild game meat. Wild game can have parasites, so if you feed wild game make sure it is frozen solid for 48hrs and do not feed your pet the spinal column. Also if you hunt, be sure there's no buckshot or lead left in the game.
WHEN SHOULD I START?
You can start RAW as soon as today! As with everything in life, it's easy to say later but now is the time of action. After all your research, build a two week diet plan and buy the stuff, then switch. That said, do not wait until your entire bag of existing kibble is gone. Try to switch while you have some kibble on hand that way if the dog refuses to eat you have a way to feed them and second, if you have to tempt them into eating at first sometimes mixing kibble in the bowl helps. That said, I would not have an entire large bag on hand because hopefully your dog will take to it and you do not want to waste the kibble. If this does happen some have fed two meals a day, kibble in the AM and raw at night (or switched the other way). I personally do not recommend this but it is an option with our beginners guide to RAW and this is for you to decide.
WHERE SHOULD I FEED MY DOG?
Feeding RAW is no different than preparing RAW meats for cooking, except a dog tends to take the food down to floor level and this can get messy. If you have young children or a toddler crawling the floors, bacteria can also be a major concern.
Some folks feed RAW in the crate which makes sense by keeping any mess contained. Yet you can feed on any hard surface that's easy to wipe down. What I've done is conditioned my dogs to eat on spot. Two of my Danes eat standing at their elevated stations while my Miniature Pinscher bring his RAW to a small feeding box that I built.
Those in moderate climates can feed their dogs outside. Many just feed on an old place mat in the kitchen or right on the kitchen floor. It's not as much of a problem as one would think and the dogs usually lick clean the spot where they were eating. A quick blast of disinfectant spray and a paper towel and there's no issues with bacteria.
HOW SHOULD I START?
This beginners guide to RAW is the real thing! Should you go cold turkey or gradual? RAW Kibble or Pre-Mix? Preparing the food? How much? You too can get past these things! Most will do great with a 100% switch, but some dogs will not take it right away. In these cases you normally just have to teach them that it is food; and, that it is okay for them to eat it. The easiest way I have seen is to cut chunks of the meat off and feed it by hand and then work up to dropping it into the pan and then bigger and bigger chunks. Most will take this. For the particularly stubborn dog, ground turkey often works well. With this beginners guid to RAW I recommend just feeding the same basic leg quarter meal for the first month.
RAW parts vs. pre-mix is a personal choice but the pre-mix will cost way more! So it is a matter of how much it will cost you versus your time. But once you get used to parts, it actually does NOT take anymore time than feeding pre-mix. The reason being once you have a system, you will learn how much to buy (and where to buy for cheap) and how it divides from the package and serve it up fairly fast.
One of the biggest fears everyone has is how much? My first answer to this question is always, "You dog will tell you how much". You see with RAW changes happen quickly, simply adding or subtracting a mere half pound per day will affect your dogs weight and appearance within days. If you feel your pup is a bit ribby, simply add a bit to each meal and vice versa if they look too heavy.
Begin with the percentages as detailed below and go from there, adjust amounts as needed keeping an eye on your dog for feedback. Shoot for averages meaning, some days you can fed more than others as long as you're hitting your weights. For example.. if your percentages come up to 3.5-pounds a day, 3-pounds on Monday and 4-pounds on Tuesday averages 3.5-pounds. Perfect!
So where do we start? Let's look at percentages.. The rule of thumb is 1% to 3% of desired body weight for adults and anywhere from 3% to 10% for puppies. Of course this will vary slightly based on your dog's metabolism and activity level. Also, males seem to need a bit more RAW daily than females do to maintain their weight. A good place to start with our beginners guide to RAW is 3%, so here is how you get there: Take your dog's desired weight Multiply their weight by .03 for 3%.
Example: Koda is 125 pounds.. I multiply his weight times .03 to get the feeding amount of 3.75 pounds. I round it up to 4 pounds. Feeding Koda over time I've learned that 4 pounds is too much as he would leave a half pound or so at each meal. This is a perfect example of what we mentioned before and that there really isn't any set rule. I now feed Koda 3 pounds per day, one meal per day. This works for me and my Dane Koda. So to sum it up, percentages are simply a base line to get you started. Every dog is unique! Weights, menu, feeding frequency and schedule are different for every RAW fed dog.
TIP: You will know if your dog needs more or less by there look. Do not go by there action. The first week or so they will feel hungry due to the fact the grains swell in the gut and they are used to feeling fuller. If your dog starts to become ribby then up the amounts and make sure you are covering their fat needs. Fat is NOT bad, it is quite necessary.
Now that we have covered the what/when/where/why/hows of our beginners guide to RAW at a high level, I want to address some common concerns. Supplements.. Do you need them? Should you use them? That is a BIG question. I personally do not add veggies. I supplement salmon oil only to provide essential fatty acids and omegas as admittedly I don't feed much fish. Like me, If you're not going to feed fish, consider using an omega 3/6 blend to add EFA (essential fatty acids) back into the diet.
If you are switching a long time kibble fed dog to RAW there may be a detox period. Detox can last a week to a month and symptoms depend on the quality of the kibble your dog was fed. You may notice any of the following, this is normal.
Some symptoms of detox include • loose, mucus covered or odd colored stools • shedding • sneezing • gas • laziness (more than usual) • loss of appetite or finicky eating (They're learning it's food) • anything can happen.
While these issues can cause concern, if they are otherwise acting normal, eating, drinking and it is coming out, don't worry too much. Speaking of drinking, it is normal for a raw fed dog to stop drinking all together. Those that do still drink will drink very little.
BUT THE VET SAID..
While the majority of Vets endorse some brand of kibble, some are now jumping on the RAW band wagon. However, you will come across Vets that will absolutely school you against RAW. No one knows everything and no one is trained in everything. Nutrition is something that veterinarians are not trained in great depth on. Furthermore, what training they do get is normally sponsored and there are kick backs involved, (the US is not the only one I am sure this holds true for but suspect it to be true everywhere). If your Vet does not agree but does not protest, let bygones be bygones. If he/she says it is bad and will hurt/kill your dog or says it will make them "turn", I personally, would seek a more open minded Vet.
TIP: For additional helpful information in addition to our beginners guide to RAW, see "in text" and "related" articles on our "Feeding Great Danes" main page. Use the breadcrumb trail below to get there or your browser's back button if you came from that page:)
I hope you found our beginners guide to RAW feeding informative and enlightening. Should you choose to go RAW I trust like me, you'll never look back at kibble based diets.