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Raw Feeding Basics

6 Steps To Get Started

So you’ve done a little bit of research, heard people talking about a Raw diet, or you’ve heard of the term BARF. (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food). Are you a bit scared to make the switch … You likely worry your dog will choke on bones or that his diet won’t be balanced. And those are very valid concerns!

Change is scary and I know you love your dog a lot. Otherwise, you’d just be tossing some cheap grocery store food in a bowl instead of reading this. So, here is a simple of set of guidelines that will help clear up some questions you may have so you can move your dog to a safe, high quality diet. After all, a healthy happy pet lives longer, has less illness and things like allergies, dental issues, costly vet visits.

So if you’re thinking of switching to raw, then I applaud you! And I admire that you’re doing your research first and not just jumping in … An unbalanced raw diet done wrong can harm your dog. But don’t worry about that … if you follow these rules, you won’t go wrong.

The following is a summary of answers to the most commonly asked question we get on a daily basis.

Step One: Protein & Fat Rule

The staple of your dog’s meal is meat. You can buy meat from the grocery store or from the butcher. The fat content should be between 10% and 20%, including any oils you add to your dog’s meals. All of your dog’s energy requirements come from just three sources: protein, fat and carbohydrate. These macronutrients are the only source of calories (energy) for your dog.

Protein is made of building blocks called amino acids. Amino acids are important not just for energy, but to assemble tissues in your dog. They also make enzymes that fire important metabolic processes.

Fat is a rich source of energy. Kilo for kilo, fat contains double the amount of calories as protein. So you need to watch the amount of fat that goes into your dog. But make no mistake … fat is an important nutrient. It protects your dog’s cells and it’s used to make hormones and fat-soluble vitamins. Both protein and fat are essential nutrients … that means your dog will literally die without a steady supply. But carbohydrates aren’t essential … your dog will do just fine without them. This doesn’t mean some carbohydrates aren’t valuable. Some forms of carbohydrate can boost your dog’s immune system and reduce his risk of cancer and other diseases. But not all carbohydrates carry this benefit … and we’ll circle back to that in a bit.

Getting The Fat Right

The foundation of your dog’s raw diet is proteins and fat. This makes up most of his meal. It’s as simple as buying ground meat or chunks and putting them in your dog’s bowl. But balance is important. This means feeding a diet that’s about 10% to 20% fat total, including any fats like fish oil that you add to your dog’s raw diet.

The remaining foundation of your dog’s raw meals will be protein.It’s important to keep your fat within this range. Here’s why …

Too Much Fat

Fat is relatively devoid of vitamins and minerals … and it contains a lot of calories. This presents a challenge if the diet is too high in fat.If your dog’s diet contains more than 20% fat, it will cannibalize his vitamins and minerals. The resulting diet can be nutritionally incomplete. This is especially important for puppies and older dogs, who need more nutrients than adult dogs.Too Little FatIf the fat dips much below 10%, you’ll start to see dry, itchy skin in your dog. This is one of the first signs of fat deficiency. So try to stay within the 10% to 20% range most days.

Fat Content Of Common Food

So step 1 is finding the proteins for your dog and making sure the fat content is not too high or low. But before you choose the proteins your dog eats, it’s important to understand that your dog needs minerals.Bone is an excellent source of many minerals, so that means you need to choose some meats that have the bone in. And if you don’t, you need to find a bone replacement. Let’s look at this step next …

Step Two: Get The Calcium And Minerals Right

Calcium Rule

10% to 15% of your dog’s total diet needs to be bone. Puppies need at least 12% and up to 15% bone.

Your dog needs a steady supply of minerals and trace minerals. Along with enzymes from proteins, minerals are important cofactors that fire all of the metabolic processes in your dog’s body. If your dog is missing minerals, things can go very, very wrong. He can develop crippling joint disease, heart issues, seizures and more. That might sound frightening, but it’s easy to get this step right with bones.

Bone is about 65% minerals, including phosphorus, magnesium and zinc … and most importantly, calcium. Calcium and phosphorus work synergistically in your dog’s body to move his muscles and control all of his body functions. So your dog needs a steady supply of these minerals. Meat without any bone at all contains a lot of phosphorus and very little calcium. If you fed your dog an all-meat diet without calcium, he would pull all of the calcium from his bones to get enough to move his muscles and control body processes. So if the diet is too low in calcium, you’ll often see bone and joint disease … especially in growing puppies. This is where you can substite the bone matter with our JOINT SUPPORT MEAL SUPPLEMENT to ensure the calcium requirements are met.

If your dog were a wolf in the wild, he would eat whole animals like deer and rabbits. This type of wild prey averages about 12% bone with little variation. In fact, eggs are 12% shell (another source of calcium found in our Joint Support Meal Toppers).

So 10% to 15% of your dog’s total diet needs to be bone. Puppies need at least 12% and up to 15% bone to support their skeletal growth and development of adult teeth.PRO TIP

It’s important that your dog’s bone is raw … cooking bones will cause them to dry out and this can create dangerous sharp edges.

Raw Diet Foundation: Minerals

To keep your dog’s bone content in the 12% to 15% range, you need some of his meats to have the bone in them. Start with the meaty bones you can find at your butcher or local pet store.It’s important to make sure the bone matches the size of your dog. A 3 kilo Chihuahua won’t be able to chew through a beef rib bone, but a 50 kilo Rottweiler certainly can.

If your dog can’t eat all of the bone, then it’s not a good source of minerals. Make sure your dog can completely eat the bone.You’ll also want to stay away from pieces your dog can swallow whole. If your butcher cuts up his ox tails into 5 cm pieces, your dog will swallow them whole and might not be able to digest them. And they might cause an intestinal blockage.

Try to choose bones that have a lot of joints, like necks, tails and feet … and bones that aren’t weight bearing. Weight bearing bones can break teeth or get stuck in the digestive tract. Meaty bones with a lot of small bones and joints are the safest choice for your dog.


Dogs have a built-in mechanism for bone safety. If your dog swallows a piece of bone that’s too large to digest, he’ll often just throw it up for a second pass!

Typical Bone Content

Here’s the bone content of common meaty bones you can find at your butcher or local pet store:

Obviously, if you fed your dog nothing but bone-in meats, he would get too much bone. So, in order to give your dog 10% to 15% bone, you need to mix the above bone choices with his meat.You can do this with a little guesswork, or you can do the math.

Find The Percentage Of Bone

The simplest way to figure out how much bone is in your dog’s diet is to know the percentage of bone in the foods you feed.

Let’s say you feed your dog a half a kilo of meat in the morning and a half kilo of chicken necks in the evening. Using the above numbers, you know that chicken necks are 36% bone. So if they account for half of your dog’s food, then his diet would contain half that amount … or 18%. That’s a bit high, so if you fed your dog 750gm meat and 250gm chicken necks, now he would be eating 12% bone, which is perfect!

Here’s another example …Let’s say you bought duck feet on sale at your local pet store. Using the above list, you know that duck feet are 60% bone. If you feed duck feet as half your dog’s meals, his bone content would be 30% … too high! But if you half that again, your dog would get 15% bone. Perfect! So you would feed 3/4 meat and 1/4 duck feet to get to 15% bone.

This is usually all you need to do … it’s fine to estimate the bone content since you don’t have to be exact with the amount of bone to feed. If you’re a bit off, your dog will be just fine. Just make sure you have at least 12% bone for puppies … they need a good supply of calcium to support their growth.

Calcium Replacements

If your dog is too small to consume bone or you have a dog who struggles to crunch through bone, you can give a bone substitute. Seaweed and coral calcium have a bit more calcium, but the same rule applies. OK, if you’ve followed the first two steps, your dog’s basic protein and mineral requirements will be met. Next, you’ll want to make sure he gets enough vitamins.

Step 3: Add The Organ Meats

Organ Meat Rule

Liver should be 10% of the diet.

Heart should be 5% of the diet.

These organs are essential.

You should also try to get kidney, pancreas, spleen, lung, eyes, brain, sweetbread and green tripe. These can be an additional 5% to 10% of the diet, if your dog can tolerate it.Not all proteins are made the same. Some are richer in vitamins and minerals than others. Enter the organ meats … they’re Mother Nature’s multivitamins!

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to get enough vitamins and minerals in the raw diet without organ meats. And the organ that supplies the most, pound for pound, is the liver.Add LiverAbout 10% of your dog’s diet should be liver. This will supply most of his vitamins (such as vitamins B and C) and many of his minerals including copper and folate. The main mistake raw feeders make is only adding liver. There are many other organs you should feed your dog … and your job is to source as many of them as you can.

Here are some organs you should try to get into your dog’s diet:

Add Heart

Heart is a major source of taurine so should be included in your dog’s raw diet. Not all dogs can make enough of this conditionally essential amino acid, so taurine must be in your dog’s raw diet. Taurine deficiency can cause heart disease.

Feed about 5% of your dog’s raw diet as heart.

Kidney, Pancreas, Spleen

Feeding your dog organs isn’t just for nutrition. Glandular therapy is based on the principle that organ meats support the corresponding organ in your dog.

For example, pancreas is rich in enzymes. If your dog has pancreas disease, he will have trouble making enzymes. So feeding pancreas will supply him with the enzymes he needs. Another example is brain. Your dog needs DHA for healthy brains and nerves, especially puppies. And brain as an organ meat is rich in DHA, so it supports healthy brains and nervous systems.

Kidney, pancreas and spleen can be about 5% of your dog’s raw diet.

Lung, Brain, Eyes, Sweetbread, Green Tripe

These are other organ meats you can try to find. These other organs can also be about 5% of your dog’s diet. If you buy tripe, try to get green tripe from grass-fed animals. If the animal is fed corn, then pass on the tripe, as it will be too rich in unhealthy omega-6 fats.

Adding Organ Meats

Because organ meats are so rich in nutrients, they can cause digestive upset if you add too much, too soon. Start with about 5% of the diet as organs and gradually work up to 20% if your dog can tolerate it.

Step 4: Balance The Fats

Fat Balance Rule

Fats should be 10% to 20% of your dog’s diet. But not all fats are created equal!

There are two fat properties you need to consider in the raw diet:

Saturation (this just refers to the number of double carbon bonds in a fat)Omega family (whether the fat is an omega-6 or omega-3 fat)Saturated FatThere are three main types of dietary fats: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The meats you feed your dog will have a combination of all three, but mainly saturated and polyunsaturated.

In the wild, grazing animals would normally eat grasses, while most birds would eat grasses, seeds and insects. But the animals we feed our dogs today typically eat a different diet that’s rich in grains. And that’s not good for your dog.

Grain-fed animals will contain more saturated fat than their grass-fed counterparts. Too much saturated fat can cause an imbalance of your dog’s gut flora or microbiome, so you need to limit the amount your dog gets.

Keep Saturated Fats Low

To limit the saturated fats in your dog’s diet, follow these tips:

Try to source grass-fed animalsIf that’s not possible or affordable, mix beef and poultry. Poultry is naturally higher in polyunsaturated fat and lower in saturated fat.

Feed low fat meats and add polyunsaturated oils.