If you have only started to feed some healthy, uncooked food to your dog or cat but are still unsure, here are some top tips to help you and your pet carnivore make the transition a stress free one.
- Weaning onto a natural raw diet is usually the easiest way to do things. I find minced or ground meat and bone perfect for this as it gets your pet used to the smell and texture first. It also helps your pets stomach acid become stronger over a number of days, preparing it for when they become full time carnivores. Feeding your minced or chunked meat in a separate meal from the processed stuff also helps your dog process and absorb the new food more easily. A lot of dogs naturally will wean themselves onto a natural diet this way and start to refuse to eat dry kibble through this process.
- Texture can be a strange phenomena to some dogs. Bigger pieces of meat on bone can sometimes be daunting and tackling this new food source is a big learning curve. The big tip is don’t put pressure on your dog by standing over them, watching them like a hawk. Let them take their own time to work it out, ultimately they will. I’ve found some dogs, like my own terrier, Bracken don’t like her teeth to sink into bigger pieces of meat like chicken thighs, I get over this by feeding her chicken either frozen or partly thawed for an hour before I give it to her. She eats this without a problem and with gusto!
- Veg and supplements, there are always debates on any forum you read about whether to feed veg or to supplement certain vitamins. My big tip here is to do your research. Read as much as you can from the leading books and feed what you feel comfortable with. If you or your dog were to eat the same food day in and day out, 365 days a year then of course you would only be getting a limited amount of vitamins and minerals. Having a varied diet gives you and your dog a balanced diet. If you decide to feed veg then they should only make up no more than 25% of their food ration.
- Fats for canines are of high importance, they provide extra calories, they are necessary for fat soluble vitamins, they help satiate the appetite and they are an excellent source of fatty acids. If your dog needs to lose weight don’t limit the amount of fat they eat, just reduce the amount of food they eat per day. Then your dog will still be getting all their essential elements for healthy weight loss or gain.
- Feed ‘Meaty Bones’ as often as possible. These act as natural tooth brushes for your pets mouth. Chewing and gnawing on muscle, sinew and bone massage gums, keeping blood supply healthy. It acts like dental floss, removing any bacteria build up between teeth and gums and of course all that chewing releases those essential Endorphins, those ‘feel good’ hormones which help to make your dog feel happy and content.
Please feel free to browse the archive posts on the right as there are many articles about raw feeding, myths and further tips to help you get the most out of feeding a natural diet.
I would love to hear from you if you found this article useful or you have any questions you would like me to answer, please comment below.
Bernie The Dog Owners Coach
A lot of people I know would love to try their dog on a raw diet but their belief in rumours and old wives tales are stopping them from actually seeing for themselves how this healthier way of feeding their pet could save them money in the long run and be better for their pets.
Myth 1: Bacteria in raw food will harm my dog
Handling your dog’s raw food should be dealt with the same way you handle your own raw food.Use common sense and a good hygiene plan for raw food in your kitchen. Wash hands, clean surfaces with a good antibacterial cleaner and keep chopping boards for meat separate from those you use for veg and other things.
As for bacteria that your dog eats, firstly their saliva has an enzyme which has antibacterial qualities called lysozyme. Secondly your dog’s stomach acid sits at a pH of 2, this is a very acidic environment where a lot of bacteria cannot survive, it is so strong that your dog’s stomach juices can break down bone! Thirdly, the dog’s digestive tract is a lot shorter than a lot of animals, including ourselves, leaving bacteria very little time to colonise in this acidic environment. There is just as much chance of picking up Salmonella from dry dog food as there is from raw so do wash your hands after handling all types of pet food.
Can I just add here that if you think of some of the things that our dogs eat out on a walk on a daily basis like other animals droppings, dead or rotting things and it can lick itself with no ill effects, then you will find we worry for no reason.
Myth 2: Feeding bones to my dog is dangerous and they can splinter
This myth is especially prevalent when I talk to people about feeding my dogs raw chicken, this is the question I get ‘ Isn’t chicken bones dangerous?’, I always answer by saying I think you’ll find that’s cooked bones. I don’t feed cooked chicken bones, I feed whole raw pieces of chicken, bones wrapped in meat. Cooking bones changes its structure making it more likely to shard or splinter. Even those cooked bones in the pet shops will splinter with a strong pair of jaws around them!
The idea of feeding Raw Meaty Bones is that the dog gets to use all the tools he was given naturally which sit in his mouth, to rip, tear and chew his way through a meal with precision and professionalism. I am always in awe when I watch my dogs eat their way through their raw dinner as to how easy and natural they make it look! As mentioned in myth no 1, the dog’s stomach acid is very capable of breaking down bone and all the meat making their digestive tract a very efficient system.
Because of this efficient digestive system a raw diet is 90-97% digestible compared to 40-70% digestibility of dry kibble diets (due to fillers or fibre). A dog on a raw diet will excrete a firm, odourless stool two thirds smaller than that of a kibble fed dog. I think that says not only does the dog get to use all of his food but what comes out the other end is a bonus to the owner cleaning up behind him!
Myth 3: Dog’s get the ‘taste for blood’ when they are fed a raw diet
I’m sorry but this makes me laugh, as I must have 4 blood thirsty hounds living with me! This has to be the biggest old wives tale of them all! Lets not forget the canine is a predator first and foremost as is our other 4 legged companion the feline. The dog is hard-wired to chase and we have used this to our advantage over the past centuries, breeding and honing them to herd, retrieve and race.
Have we forgotten this in the 21st century, that our pets roots are based in the wild? But we have also domesticated this predator and bred more likeable features, like herding dogs not to eat their charges but protect them or for our working gun dogs not to run riot when they see game and kill everything in sight! Indeed I know a number of gun dogs who are fed on a raw diet who are quite happy to bring shot game back all day, un-chewed and eat his raw meal when he gets home.
It is easier to blame a dog’s diet for its behaviour rather than the relationship between it’s owner and the likelihood that the dog was never shown or trained to be around livestock or other small pets, hence the dog then relies on its instincts. I am just adding here that I keep chickens in my garden for fresh eggs and my dogs are fed on chicken, this does not mean they understand the link between what they eat and the birds they chase up and down the fence line on a daily basis. Here’s a great LINK to what I mean.
Myth 4:Dogs fed on raw are at a higher risk of worms and parasites
This is true if you feed your dog wild game or wild fish. Most people don’t, they feed human grade food bought from supermarkets, butchers and other suppliers where they buy their own food. If you feed human grade food, parasite levels are negligible. If you are worried about parasites then deep freezing usually kills these off. For 24hrs for fish or for up to a month with wild game like rabbit.
Usually it is down to the animals’ own immune system and it’s health as to whether it will be affected by worms or parasites. Parasites hate a healthy host. You can also worm your dog using a homeopathic wormer so as not to upset the chemical balance a raw diet brings to your pets health. I use a very gentle homeopathic wormer and rarely have to use any products for external parasites such as fleas or ticks on my own dogs.
Myth 5: A raw diet is more expensive and inconvenient than commercial dog food
What is convenience worth? If you ate fast food all your life what would be the cost to your health?
Nowadays there are so many raw food suppliers that it makes it a lot easier to source your raw food, which at first can be what makes feeding raw cost a little bit more. Talk to other raw feeders to find good sources, I find the fridge section at the supermarket where they sell short date items cheaper a great source for bargains of fish and meat. Ask your butcher about off-cuts and sourcing what you are looking for, most butchers are happy to help. Of course if you can find a supplier dealing exclusively with raw pet food then cost and convenience should be within everyone’s budget.
As a supplier myself I can offer owners a great variety of high quality raw food within most people’s budgets, for instance;
- Toy breed <5kg Costs £3.50 per week or 50pence a day
- Terrier size <10kg Costs £5 per week or 71 pence a day
- Spaniel size < 15kg Costs £7 per week or £1 a day
- Lab size <20kg Costs £7.50 per week or £1.07 a day
- Large breed <30kg £8.50 per week or £1.20 a day
- X large breed <40kg £12.50 per week or £1.79 a day
How much does your commercial dog food cost you?
Dont forget, on a raw diet your dog will have a stronger immune system, a healthier body and more vitality so your vet bills will also become less over time, saving you more money. Click HERE to see my website for supplying raw pet food in Ireland.
There are lots of information out there for anyone interested in feeding a natural raw diet, here a few sites I like
I look forward to your comments or questions about this post and I hope you will think about giving raw feeding a try
Bernie – The Dog Owners Coach