What is prey model raw feeding, and why feed it?
Prey model raw is just what its name implies. The diet is modeled on the prey our dogs would eat in their natural, wild environment. In short, prey model raw is biologically-appropriate for dogs. What exactly is a dog's natural, wild environment? We need only look to the wolf.
Since dogs have been classified as a sub-species of the wolf (Canis lupis familiaris), and because their digestive anatomy and physiology are identical to that of the wolf, prey model raw-feeders feed their dogs as wolves. Since most of us cannot offer our dogs a truly "whole prey" experience (think whole rabbit or deer carcasses), we "piece" together an approximation of that prey animal, striving to feed as close to whole prey as possible.
Prey model raw operates on the knowledge that dogs, like their lupine counterparts, are carnivores, NOT omnivores. Specifically, dogs are what it is known as facultative carnivores. This means that dogs are anatomically and physiologically designed to eat the meat and bones of animals, and though they can and will eat vegetation and plant matter when their ideal food is unavailable, they merely subsist on such food and can by no means thrive or be healthy on it.
Vegetation & Prey Model Raw..
The vegetation issue is where prey model raw diverges from another form of raw-feeding known as the BARF diet (bones and raw food). The BARF diet espouses the feeding of vegetables. Why doesn't prey model advocate vegetables in the dog's diet? Let's take a look at the canine digestive system.
Open your dog's mouth. You'll see a set of sharp, pointed teeth: canines, incisors, and carnassials, all designed for ripping and tearing. What you won't see are flat, powerful molars designed for grinding. Additionally, a dog's jaw moves only in a "scissors" bite, up and down, and not side-to-side as is required for the grinding of plant matter.
Dogs do not possess the necessary enzymes in their saliva or in their stomach to break down the cellulose in plant matter. If the cellulose cannot be broken down, the nutrients within the plant matter cannot be utilized. Furthermore, when faced with the digestion of plant matter, the dog's pancreas is taxed because it must produce the necessary enzymes to deal with the starches and carbohydrates present in the matter. When eating raw meat and bones, by contrast, the ripping and tearing of the dog's teeth activate the naturally-present enzymes in the meat and bone and thus digestion can begin in the mouth.
Dogs have a relatively short and smooth digestive tract. Food passes through quickly. Our dogs do not have the long cecum (as do cattle and horses, for example) required for the digestion of plant matter, which must remain in the gut for a long time in order to be digested.
In short, plant matter offers zero bioavailability to your dog. So, why feed them as a regular part of his diet?
What food makes up a prey model raw diet?
Three things: meat (which includes muscle, flesh, skin, fat, and connective tissue), bone* ("bone" always means fully edible, raw, meaty bone), and organ.
TIP: It is important to note here a difference between prey model raw and general raw-feeding.
General raw-feeders utilize the term "raw meaty bone", or simply RMB. Prey model raw does not necessarily utilize the term RMB. The bones we feed are always raw and meaty, of course, but prey model raw thinks in terms of actual bone content, rather than in terms of a whole RMB. Many general raw-feeder's menus consist of around 50% RMBs. The actual bone content of such a diet is much, much higher than the actual bone content of a whole prey animal. A species-appropriate whole prey animal for our dogs would consist of approximately 10% actual bone. This is where that percentage comes from, as we are modeling our dogs' diet after an actual prey animal. Many prey model raw-feeders give the excellent analogy of comparing your hand to your dog's meal. If your hand represents the meal, your pinkie finger represents the 10% bone content, while the rest of the hand represents the meat.
To simplify this, feed mostly meaty meat with some bone-in meat. You can utilize the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory to ascertain the nutritional breakdown of raw meats and foods, including bone content. Be sure to include the word "raw" in your search string.
Prey model raw does not advocate the grinding of food. We are offering our dogs more than just a nutritional experience. The challenge of eating whole and close-to-whole parts is physical and mental, too. Additionally, ground food does not offer any dental benefit.
How much of what meats?
With prey model raw we are modeling our dogs' diet after a biologically-appropriate prey animal. Therefore, we follow a guideline that mimics the bone-meat-organ ratio of a typical prey animal:
- 10% bone
- 80% meat
- 10% organ (5% of which should be liver)
These percentages are guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. They are designed to give you an idea of the appropriate amount of each component to feed. To make it even simpler, feed MOSTLY meat, SOME organ, and SOME bone. Additionally, these guidelines can be achieved over time: a week, say, or spaced out over a month. For newly-switched dogs, it may help to feed a slightly higher bone content and feed a little bone in every meal to stabilize the stool. Not every meal, though, needs to contain meat, bone, and organ. The thing to remember in feeding a proper prey model raw diet is balance over time and through variety. Each and every one of your dog's meal does not need to be balanced. There is no such thing.
Meat rules in a prey model raw diet. Bones and organs are critical and absolutely necessary, but a little goes a long way. Some examples that fall under the meat category:
Beef and pork boneless roasts, any cut - Beef, pork, chicken skin - Beef, pork, and poultry hearts (heart is very nutritious; an excellent source of taurine) - Venison - Poultry breast, thigh, hearts, gizzards - Rabbit - Goat - Lamb - Bison - Ostrich.
Remember, by "bone" we always mean edible, raw, MEATY bone. Think a little bone wrapped in a lot of meat. Bare, naked bones are inappropriate in a prey model raw diet. Some examples of raw meaty bones:
Chicken leg quarter - A whole fryer, quartered - Chicken necks, drumsticks, wings, thighs (recommended for smaller dogs) - Turkey wings, necks, and drumsticks - Pork ribs (avoid "country-style" ribs), necks (avoid those cut small), tails, feet - Whole rabbit with bones - Lamb ribs and shanks - Goat ribs.
Warning: Beef bones and bones of similar large ungulates are generally too dense for a dog to chew.
Liver is the key player here. Whether it be from beef, chicken, pork, or venison, liver is critical because it contains many nutrients not found in significant amounts elsewhere, such as the B-complex vitamins. Other suitable organs include:
Lung, kidney, spleen, tripe, (Some prey model raw-feeders feed tripe as a meat meal).
TIP: A note on tripe.. Always be sure to feed unprocessed GREEN tripe. The white tripe one finds in commercial grocers is bleached and by no means nutritious for a dog. You will not be able to purchase green tripe in any establishment selling food for human consumption, but you can get it through a variety of online retailers. Green tripe should be a part of the prey model menu. It is an excellent source of natural enzymes that aid in digestion. While raw food in general contains these enzymes (it's worth noting that the cooking process destroys these enzymes), green tripe is an especially viable source.
Generally, if you feed liver and occasionally add in something like kidney, you're doing fine. Note again that heart and gizzards are not fed as organ meat, but as muscle meat.
To supplement or not to supplement..
For an otherwise healthy dog with no special issues, prey model raw does not advocate the addition of supplements. You can read one prey model raw-feeders excellent reasoning as to why not here. The only "supplement" many prey model raw-feeders add is salmon oil as a source of Omega-3 fatty acids. This is because most of us have access only to commercially-raised meat, which is over-abundant in its Omega-6 content and therefore lacking in its Omega-3 content. Salmon oil is a rich, species-appropriate source for fatty acids.
HOW do I feed prey model raw?
Keeping in mind that raw-food is mostly water, you'll want to start by feeding two to three percent of your dog's estimated ideal adult body weight. So, if your dog should weigh 100 pounds, you can start by feeding him two pounds a day. Your eye will tell you if you need to increase or decease this amount; the 2-3% is just a place to start. If your dog looks ribby, increase the amount; if he's looking too thick, decrease the amount. It's really that simple.
Growing puppies and active, working adults may require closer to 4 percent of their weight. The only difference in feeding a pup is that you'll want to divide the food into several meals. Pups up to six months should be fed at least three meals a day, pups six to nine months can handle two meals a day, and between the ninth month and a year, he should be ready to transition to once a day. You can either start out by feeding the pup 2-3% of his estimated ideal adult weight, or feed him 10% of his current weight until that amount exceeds the 2-3% of his estimated ideal adult weight.
Many people continue to feed adults twice a day, and that's fine, too. It's whatever works best for you and your dog. Remember that feeding raw is different than feeding kibble in that raw meat and bone passes through the gut quickly; they do not require the complex and taxing digestive processes as plant materials do. Raw meat and bones don't have to hang around and begin the fermentation process, which releases gas in the digestive tract, as does kibble. This is why it's safe to feed raw in one large meal. In fact, it's beneficial to feed as large a meal as your dog can tolerate. This is because a full stomach is a more efficient stomach in terms of digestion. The food presses against the walls of the stomach, releasing enzymes that facilitate the digestive process.
When feeding prey model raw, it's convenient to have your dog eat in one place. You can feed him in his crate, outside (weather permitting), or on an old towel on the kitchen floor. Feeding out of a bowl is generally unnecessary, because we are feeding as-close-to-whole-as-possible parts here. Some prey model raw-feeders will serve their dogs meal in stainless-steel bowls, but the dog will often take the food out of the bowl and eat on the ground.
How do I start a prey model raw diet?
For the first few weeks, it's best to stick to one meat source. Chicken is a good choice because it is bland, easily digestible, and cheap. You can either purchase some chicken leg quarters or go out and buy several fryers and quarter them yourself. Feed these for the first week or so to your dog. When your dog's stool becomes consistent, you can slowly add in variety. Remember, a raw-fed dog's stool differs greatly from that of a kibble-fed dog's. Raw-fed dog stool will be smaller and will eventually break down into a loose white powder. If your dog's stool is loose, stay with chicken and try adding bonier parts. If your dog's stool is white, chalky, and crumbly, you're feeding too much bone and need to feed meatier parts.
After a couple weeks, you can add in pork or beef, and go from there. If you start to notice loose stools, back off on the new meat and go back to something you know can be fed to bowel tolerance. After a month, you should be ready to add in organ meat. Organ meat doesn't need to be fed every day. You can start by offering a few ounces every few days, and go from there. Remember that organ meat is very rich!
Helpful links for the prey model raw-feeder.
The Raw Myth Index A wealth of additional information for the prey model raw-feeder.
General info on prey model raw with a variety of links, including those to the Yahoo! Group "rawfeeding". This is an invaluable resource and network, especially for the new prey model raw-feeder. You can post a specific question to thousands of prey model raw-feeders and get practical answers.
Last and Most Important..
This is EASY! What could be easier than feeding a natural, species-appropriate diet? Take your cue from nature. Mother Nature has done all the homework for us and taken out all of the guesswork. Dogs and their wolf counterparts have been eating this way for millenia. If it did not work, they would have gone extinct ages ago: proof that this diet was intended for them.
Prey model raw boils down to two simple concepts: feed mostly meat, some bone, some organ. Feed a variety of parts from a variety of animals; feed this variety over time.
There's a lot of informational overload out there on canine nutrition, some of it correct and most of it misinformed or incredibly biased on the part of the pet-food industry. Remember that Nature does not have a bottom line to answer to. We are more than capable of feeding our animals a species-appropiate diet to ensure their optimum health. We do not need degrees in nutrition to feed ourselves or our children; nor do we need them to feed our dogs! Read the guidelines, then apply them to your personal situation and what works best for you and your dog. The beauty of this diet is that, while staying within a few general guidelines, you can easily tailor it to perfectly suit your individual dog.