Chico, my almost 8 year old Boxer, has been on a raw food diet since he was about 3 years old; and he still has the energy and health of a young pup. If you have been thinking about trying a raw food diet for your dog, I have a few tips from 5 years of experience.
When chico was a puppy I fed him a variety of dry dog foods from the grocery store. Some of them would give him hives, some of them made him vomit, and others backed him up or gave him diarrhea. He really didn’t like them either, I mean who would considering the effects, he would walk away from his bowl, or only eat half. Back then I probably spent about $30-$40 a month on dog food, sometimes more when I would buy the really fancy expensive brands; he seemed to like those a little better.
As I started to learn more about healthy food choices for Dominick and myself, I started to learn more about Chico as well, that’s when I came across the BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diet. The barf diet just sounds terrible, but it actually makes sense to feed dogs predominately what they would naturally eat in the wild, raw meat.
Now of course, Chico wouldn’t find a lot of the things I give him in the wild, but he lives in a house and has a human taking care of him, so undoubtedly the scenario has changed! 😉 My main goal, since reading about alternative dog food, was to get his diet as close to nature as possible and to heal his digestive issues. This concept made sense, and it coincided with my goals to eat foods closer to nature as well, as I was also trying to heal my digestive issues.
Even better, I probably spend just as much or less on raw meat, vegetables, and supplements per month as I did on bagged food he didn’t care for, and we share a lot of the items. Now he gets super excited for his food, and he has a smoothly operating digestive system.
Usually he gets whatever vegetables I’m already preparing, and only one’s that he likes. If I’m not preparing vegetables at the time, I will usually add in spirulina and a vegetable powder, or one of the other supplements listed below.
- 2 cups ground bones, meat, and a little fat.
- 1/2 cup pure water
- 1/2 cup raw cucumbers; diced
- 1 tsp spirulina
- 1 tsp beet powder
- 2 cups chicken wings
- 1/2 cup pumpkin; steamed & mashed
- 1/2 cup sweet potato; steamed & mashed
- 1 tsp fresh minced basil
Raw Dog Food Guidelines
Our dogs are all unique in preferences, so what works for Chico may not work for your pup. They key is to experiment with a bunch of different options, and get to know what is not an option for your pup.
There are many different foods you can feed your pup on the raw food diet, here are just a few guidelines.
Feed 2%-3% of Body Weight
Chico weighs about 40 pounds. I feed him about 1-1.5 pounds of food per day.
Each meal is about .75 pounds.
Your pup’s meals should be about 60%- 80% raw meaty bones.
I’ll add in a liver, heart, kidneys or other unusual parts at least once a week.
Fish is a rarity, but when our local market has wild Maryland catfish for about $5.00 a pound, I’ll give some to Chico.
Raw vegetables should be blended so they are easier to digest, unless your dog likes to chomp on raw fruits and vegetables, like apples and carrots, which helps clean their teeth and gums. Some steamed or roasted vegetables are also good for your pup.
Chico won’t chomp on a raw carrot, he would prefer it blended up and mixed in with his ground meat, every dog has their preferences.
This is a simple list of vegetables that agree with most dogs.
1 Serving: 1/2 cup – 1 cup
- Carrots; raw, steamed or roasted
- Cucumbers; raw
- Sweet Potato; steamed or roasted
- Pumpkin; steamed or roasted
- Beets; raw, steamed or roasted
- Spinach; raw or lightly steamed
- Tomatoes; raw or cooked
Many of the same natural supplements I use, Chico can use. I give him spirulina every day, everything else I cycle through a few times a month. This is just a basic example list.
- Spirulina powder; 1 tsp
- Coconut oil; 1 tbsp
- Basil; 1 tsp
- Rejuvelac (probiotic); 1/4 cup
- Flax Seed Gel; 1 tsp flax seed + 1/4 cup water
- Chia Seed Gel; 1 tsp chia seeds + 1/4 cup water
- Milk thistle; 2-3 drops alcohol free extract
- Eggs; 1-2
- Egg shell powder; 1 tbsp
Fruits & Nuts
I give Chico limited fruit, maybe a couple times a month, most fruit makes him toot.
I use cashews as dog treats, he loves them!
Making The Switch
When introducing new foods to your dog’s diet you’ll want to take it slow, introduce one thing at a time to make sure it agrees with his/her body. Allow their digestive system to get used to the change. Your dog may develop detox symptoms for a few weeks after switching.
1. Find a meat source.
Don’t make the mistake of buying meat from a grocery store, it’s expensive and unless it’s organic, it’s probably not the best quality.
Many local butcher shops have free meat scrapes, all you have to do is ask, and if they do, ask them if they can start freezing it for you and give them a time that you’ll come back and pick it up.
I get about 40-50 pounds of free meat from the local butcher every month. Some of it is usable, some of it I end up throwing away. Either way, when someone helps me out, I like to leave a tip for their time.
The key is to go to a meat market that actually cuts the meat to order. They usually have a lot of left over scrapes from customers wanting a certain cut. Sometimes I’ll have to cut some of the fat away myself, but I find a good pair of kitchen scissors gets the job done easily.
Other times the butcher will have excess meat that they just couldn’t sell, so instead of them throwing away slightly older meat, they put it in the freezer along with the other scrap meat they save for me, you can see some of it mixed in with the ground meat above. Sometimes it’s bags full of that dark red meat or organ meat, in which case I’d have mix it together with more bone meal.
The other type of meat I get is from the meat saw, it spews out scrap meat into a bucket underneath. This ground meat is usually filled with a mixture of bone, fat, and meat. It’s what is pictured above, and it’s the easiest way to make sure chico is eating enough bones.
If you’re in a city, a local Halal meat market is probably your best option, since they usually have good quality local meat. If you’re in a small town, you may have a good local place right around the corner. Keep in mind some places sell off their scraps, but it’s usually pretty cheap; something like .30 cents/pound.
My dad gets his 8 year old boxer a case of chicken necks for about $30-$40/box and it lasts about a month. So even if you do have to pay for it, at least it’s way fresher and comparable in price.
The Farmer’s Market
Many of the farmer’s have dehydrated bones, pig ears, ground up and shaped meat treats, chicken necks, and other good stuff for sale. You just have to ask.
Some of the “prepared right there” meat vendors have free trays of big smoked bones, or you could ask them to bring any big bone scraps they have in the future.
If you want to learn more about feeding your dog raw food, check out this extremely informative website.