RAW FEEDING YOUR DOG, DE-MYSTIFIED

It is encouraging to witness all the buzz surrounding raw feeding these days, because it demonstrates that many dog owners are questioning the long-accepted norms about how we look after our dogs, and in particular, how we feed them.

Thanks to this raw food revolution, there is a ton of info out there about raw feeding your dog. But it can be a little overwhelming, particularly if you are new to the game. So in this article I plan to bring clarity to the subject as I explain the basics.

First we’ll define the raw diet, within the commonsense framework of the “whole carcass model”. Next, we’ll look at the three major components – muscle meat; raw meaty bones and organ meat. And, finally we’ll talk about how to make up for things that may be missing from the raw foods available to us, in order to provide total balanced nutrition to our dogs.

The Whole Carcass Model

It’s probably accurate to say that, to one degree or another, every approach to raw feeding a dog derives from the whole carcass model. Advocates of this diet accept the premise that in the wild a dog consumes the entire prey; and thus, in raw feeding our dogs, we should seek to provide the same nutritional components that are found in the whole prey. To accomplish this requires going beyond simply feeding the dog whatever raw meat happens to be available at the local store.

Raw-fed Grey Wolf strongly resembling the German Shepherd.

Consider this: A whole animal carcass has bones, muscle meat and organs. Included in the latter are the stomach, the brain and yes, even the eyes – all of which are full of nutritional properties. Any of these crucial components not provided in the course of raw feeding a dog, must be compensated for in other ways. For example, you are unlikely to find brains or eyes at your local butcher, while possibly green tripe (unprocessed stomachs) would be available.

Muscle Meat, Raw Meaty Bones & Organ Meat – Ratios

Your dog will thrive, as did his wild ancestors, on a balanced mix of the 3 categories of meaty nutrition found in an animal:
Muscle Meat (often abbreviated to MM)
Raw Meaty Bones (RMBs)
Organ Meat (OM)

For maintenance, feed your dog about 2% of his body weight per day, but up to 3% in the case of puppies, high activity dogs and lactating females. For maintenance therefore, a 75 lb dog will get 1.5 lb, or 24 oz of food a day. Plan to provide 75% of that, or 18 oz, in meats of the above 3 groups and 25%, or 6 oz, in combined vegetable and fruit, grated or pureed. Provide meat in approximately the following ratios – again, we’ll use our example of 1.5 lbs per day, appropriate for a 75 lb dog:

MM – Muscle meat:  30%, or 5.4 oz
RMBs – Raw meaty bones: 60%, or 10.8 oz
OM – Organ meat: 10%, or 1.8 oz

You can feed your dog either one or two meals a day. Either way, food totals for the day should add up to between 2% and 3% of body weight, as explained above.

Making Up for What’s Missing

Eyes & Brains

Here, I’ll reprint a section from our article, Raw Food Diets for Dogs:

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), needed for healthy coat and skin, and for proper brain, joint and cellular function, are found in high concentrations in eyes and brains. Since we don’t typically have access to these organs for raw diets, it is necessary to add Omega-3 as a supplement. Good sources for this are flaxseed oil and fish body oil, such as salmon oil (but not cod liver oil). You can use capsules or liquid. If you use flaxseed oil and your dog gets an itchy skin, switch to fish oil. It’s a good idea to add Vitamin E which helps the Omega-3 to metabolize.
The dose of Omega-3 you give your dog should be as follows: Fish body oil capsules, 500-1000mg for every 10 lbs of body weight. Liquid fish oil; for dogs below 25 lbs, ½ a teaspoon; dogs 25-50 lbs, 1 teaspoon; above 50lbs, 2 teaspoons. For flaxseed oil, the dose would be 1 teaspoon per 25 lbs of dog weight.

Fruits & Vegetables

The first part of the prey that a wild canine eats is typically the stomach and its contents; the latter usually being a combination of vegetables and fruits – partially digested. Canines in the wild derive valuable nutrition from these partially-digested plant and veggie remains. How are we then to give them the same benefit? The key is to feed them fruits and veggies in a manner that is nutritious and digestible. Since dogs lack the enzymes to process the cellulose (fiber) and starch found in whole fruits and veggies, we must grate or puree this food in order for it to provide the nutritional benefit. Failure to render down the food in this way would result in its passing undigested through a dog’s G.I. tract, providing good fiber but nothing else.

Digestive Enzymes

When a wild carnivore consumes their prey’s stomach with its contents, it gets a healthy dose of digestive enzymes as part of the package. The stomachs of ruminants – grazing animals – have four chambers which use a combination of digestive enzymes, gastric juices and amino acids with which to break down vegetable matter.

Usually, we don’t get to feed our dogs with green tripe – the name for unprocessed stomachs (human grade tripe is typically bleached white, with all juices and other contents removed).

Therefore, we sometimes must supplement a dog’s raw diet with digestive enzymes. This is a recommended practice for the first week or two of feeding a raw diet, giving time for the dog to develop more of his own enzymes.

What About Freeze Dried Raw Food?

Perhaps you have read this article and everything has made sense to you and you are ready to dive in – and you understand the time commitment involved in producing the raw diet for your dog, and are OK with that! If that’s you, congrats and I’m sure your efforts will be well rewarded!

However, you may be among the many who’d love to do a raw diet, but just feel you cannot add one more labor-intensive activity into an already busy life! If that’s your case, freeze dried raw food may be just the solution for you. We’ll write more about this in a future article. But in the meantime, suffice it to say that, unlike foods that are processed with heat – such as kibble – freeze drying preserves all the nutrients contained in the raw ingredients. It is very convenient and can be served as is, or by re-hydrating with water (cool, never warm or hot).

Freeze dried raw food is expensive however, and it’s worth shopping around to find the best price/oz that you can. Many pet supply stores now carry freeze dried raw dog food. In the event it is not in your budget to switch from kibble to raw (fresh or freeze dried), consider using freeze dried as a topping to a better quality kibble. Even using 85% kibble, plus 15% freeze dried raw food will provide a worthwhile health benefit to your dog.

For a more in-depth look at freeze dried raw dog food, you can read our article, Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food: Gimmick or Godsend?, CLICK HERE

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4 Replies to “RAW FEEDING YOUR DOG, DE-MYSTIFIED”

  1. My girl is so picky, she is eating kibble, freeze dried raw as a topping with water or raw goats milk…..still not eating it. Then I Added CARROTTS AND brocolli, Topped With A LITTLE Bit Of Boiled Chicken. She’s only eating the chicken, now what????

    • Hi Suzanne,
      We walk a fine line here at GermanShepherdPlace. Wanting to provide help that’s specific and actionable on the one hand; we must avoid jumping to conclusions based on limited knowledge of a given situation! That said, let me try to point in some helpful directions. First, keep in mind that the picky canine eater can at times be playing out a clever little strategy to get extra attention from her owner! “Fuss over my food, and my favorite human fusses over me!” Sometimes a simple solution is to provide the meal and give it a “shelf life” of 15 minutes – then toss it out. 12 hours later, repeat. Often the outcome is that after one or two cycles, the dog will tuck in with gusto, rather than risk going hungry again.

      While the best outcome to this experiment is that everything gets eaten, once the game’s been figured out; there can be a secondary or alternative benefit. If something is still left out, then you may have legitimate reason to remove that ingredient and put something in its place.

      In the event that the fussy eating persists, you may find the best solution is to eliminate the possibility of your GSD picking and choosing between ingredients, simply by serving all ingredients together – with one integrated food. This of course will require that the appropriate nutritional balance be provided – which of course is the primary concern of good nutrition anyway. Per the last comment today, I recommend DogFoodAdvisor.com for comprehensive reviews and rankings of dog foods, including freeze dried options. It’s a useful resource that will at least provide a number of choices for you to work with.

      I hope some of these thoughts will be helpful Suzanne – let us know how you do!

      MM

  2. Are there recommended freeze dried brands. I have 10 year old GSD that has had IBD for last 5 years. Been on raw chicken breasts and necks for 6 months then vet suggested Bravo Beef blend sold as frozen 5 lb rolls. This is just too expensive. Any help with ideas greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Jean,
      There are a number of good freeze dried dog food brands. I recommend DogFoodAdvisor.com for thorough reviews and rankings of many of these options. To reduce overall cost of food, if necessary, consider combining one of the recommended – 4 or 5 star – freeze dried foods with as good a quality kibble as possible. Perhaps 75% kibble to 25% freeze dried raw.

      IBD conditions in dogs can seem cloaked in mystery. But help is available! To begin with, we need to understand that sometimes well-intentioned vets can aggravate the situation through deworming and other drug treatments that knock out good and bad bacteria in the GI tract of the dog. However, the good news is that a more holistic, whole-system, approach to addressing the problem, by an integrative vet, can provide a significant level of help. This will probably start with a more thorough testing regimen than is often provided, in order to accurately isolate the root cause.

      Here are a couple of further resources that I’d encourage you to take advantage of. First, I highly recommend Dr Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. Some excellent suggestions regarding treating IBD in dogs will be found by checking the index under Inflammatory Bowl Disease (you’ll see this book under the RESOURCES tab above). Also you can look at a 14-minute video by integrative vet Dr Karen Becker, at the following link: https://youtu.be/X9ap104BZzo. This 14-minute video provides a lot of useful background along with thorough treatment possibilities.
      I wish you success with this Jean!

      MM

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