Raw Info for Dogs
Raw feeding is about feeding a dog as close to Mother Nature's model as possible. Dogs have a DNA which is 99.8% identical to a gray wolf.
More info on raw diets:
How to Transition and Where to Start
For more info on how to transition go here: Beginner Guidelines for Transitioning & Feeding Your Dog a Raw Diet (thewholedog.com)
Do your Homework and review the information on our Resources page if you have health related concerns, while always consulting with your trusted Veterinarian, preferably a Holistic Vet.
- You know your Dog(s) best and I always suggest Starting a Raw Food Journal
- A journal can help keep track of the weight of your dog, date proteins are started, bowel movements, etc.
- Determine where you will be feeding and keep in mind safe handling techniques, more information provided below under "Handling Raw Food" and "Cleaning".
- Picky dogs are created, a little tough love can go a long way when it comes to meal time for dogs in particular.
- Tips for helping to entice dogs at meal time: Warming meat a bit with a warm water bath can be helpful, make sure the meat is in a sealed contained and place the container in warm water. This brings out the natural juices of the meat and helps to entice them to eat. NEVER cook bones or microwave. Freshness of meat helps too, 1-2 days in fridge.
When you first start your dog on raw, introduce one protein source at a time. Carefully select one protein with a higher bone content, this will help keep stools firm during transition. I go into more detail on this on the Questions and Answers below.
Fast your dog for 12 hours so all kibble has been eliminated from the stomach and start on raw.
Every pet will transition a bit differently and it can take anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks typically to fully transition to a raw diet. I have been successful with the cold turkey approach, fasting as mentioned above and carefully select one protein at a time, but some animals require a more slow and steady approach.
If digestive issues present themselves, transition slow and steady, replacing a small portion of the normal diet with raw and see how that goes. Then, gradually increase raw and decrease previous diet over time.
Stools are good indicators of the diet.
Red meat can cause dark brown stools. When incorporating more red meats in your dog's diet, expect the stool to become darker in color.
Also, multiple meals containing a lot of blood can result in black stool. Excess blood from the diet oxidizes in the colon, resulting in very dark stool.
White chalking stool or very hard stools can be an indicator of too much bone in the diet and on the contrary loose stools can be an indicator of too much secreting organ in the diet. What do we mean by secreting organs? Check out the information here at the bottom of the page.
If your dog has very hard stools on a regular basis, look to increase fluid intake and gage the amount of bone in the diet. Fiber can be helpful to regulate stools.
Here is our 6 month old Lab on a fully raw diet, eating her first whole prey to include fur and all. Adding fur to a carnivores raw diet can be beneficial in so many ways:
- It is a good source of fiber and aids the cleaning of the digestive tract
- When the digestive tract is clean, it can improve nutrient absorption and can support the immune system
- Fur can help eliminate worms and parasites
- Added fiber can help bulk stool and naturally assist in expressing anal glands
Before jumping into whole prey, make sure the raw diet is well established, ensuring a low pH, or highly acidic stomach which is important for our Domesticated Carnivores because digestive enzymes work best in an acidic environment and the acidic nature of the stomach helps to sterilize pathogens and bacteria. This is also important to break down bones.
Remember that urine pH levels should be around 6-6.5 for healthy dogs and pH levels can occur naturally at this level when fed a prey model diet.
Feeding puppies is just as easy as feeding large dogs... I start puppies off at 2%-3% of their expected adult body weight. Puppies up to 6 months should be fed 3 meals per day. 6 months -1 year 2 meals. Over 1 year 1 meal a day. Some people choose to feed adult dogs 2 meals a day which is fine but no nutritional reason to do so unless dealing with specific health issues where more frequent feedings may be needed.
Quick links to help you with your Dog's Raw Diet:
- Ice cube trays can be extremely helpful in portioning out small dog's meals or for adding variety. For example, I like to add our Ground Beef Gullet to ice cube trays so I can quickly add to meals. Beef Gullet has known anti-inflammatory properties, believed to ease the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. One standard ice cube is ~1 oz. Check out these trays as well which hold 3-4 oz. of raw meat per cube.
- Pyrex 3-cup storage rectangular dishes provide a tight seal, keeping meat fresh, longer and are safe to use in the refrigerator and freezer. Each dish holds approximately 20 oz. of raw meat.
- This Pet Feeder, with ice pack included, makes feeding while you are away a little bit easier. Each tray can hold up to 300 ml. or roughly 10 oz.
Below are the basic guidelines for raw feeding:
- At least 80% of a raw diet should consist of muscle meat.
- 10% diet edible bone
- 10% of the diet secreting organs [liver, kidney, spleen, etc] with 5% of the organs being liver.
Review this resource to help with ratio calculations: https://hare-today.com/raw_food_ratio_calculator
You should NEVER feed any type of cooked bone to your dog!
Cooking softens the bone tissue and can lead to bone splinters puncturing the digestive tract.
Additional Feeding Information
Vitamins and Supplements: Cats need some basic supplements. Dogs do not if fed a good variety. The only supplement I have ever fed my dogs is either salmon oil or sardine/anchovy oil [also good for cats] as this is high in Omega 3 fatty acids and great for the skin and coat.
If you have a dog with mobility issues, recovering from an injury or an aging dog I also recommend the green lipped mussle powder.
How much to feed: On average, a dog will consume around 2% of their ideal weight. Puppies will need more, senior dogs less. Feed calculator here.
A note on bacteria: Raw meat is not safe for humans because of bacteria like e-coli and Salmonella. But carnivores’ digestive systems have some natural immunity to bacteria, and can handle the bacteria in meat without issue, when in good overall health. Truth be told, bacteria is everywhere (take a sample of kibble and have it analyzed sometime, you would be amazed!) Dogs eat poop, road kill and lick their behinds every day. Their system is different from ours. If we ate the stuff they did, WE would get sick. Dogs have a short digestive system made to handle raw meat and bones, the bacteria that is present isn't a problem for a healthy dog.
Handling Raw Food
Follow safe handling practices just the same as you do when preparing meat for your family.
Fridge time: 2-3 days
Freezer time: If a freezer stays at 0 F or lower, meats will keep for 1 year minimum
Defrosting: Do not defrost frozen meat and poultry products at room temperature. Keeping the products cold during defrosting is the key to preventing bacteria from growing.
Thaw in fridge. I find it is easier to open the chub bags while frozen by cutting down the side and putting the frozen meat in a bowl to thaw. You want to feed the blood as well.
To defrost meat or poultry products in cold water, do not remove original packaging. Be sure the package is airtight or put it into a leak-proof bag before submerging the product completely in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes so that it continues to defrost.
Wash hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water before and after handling meat and other fresh foods.
Wash all utensils, cutting surfaces and counters with hot, soapy water after contact with meat and poultry. If possible, use a separate cutting board for fresh meat and poultry products.
Keep fresh meat and meat juices away from other foods, both in the refrigerator and during preparation.
Questions and Answers
Q: I have a couple questions. I find myself looking at more & more raw feeding forums, to be honest, confusing the heck out of myself!
Some say feeding ground meat is fine, other say no. One thing I am afraid of is a dog having a problem chewing bones. You sell both ground and whole meats, heck I see you sell whole animals! Is ground that bad?
If I decided to try raw, what is the best thing to start with? I'm so afraid of doing something wrong and I'm very afraid of my two dogs not getting all they need to be healthy. You have such an assortment of proteins, I'm at a loss of where to start and what to do. Is there a "starter kit" for newbies such as myself?
A: You will find conflicting info from different raw feeders. You have the whole prey feeders that believe you should never feed ground, you have people that will tell you to add fruits and vegetables so yes it can be confusing.
This is my opinion. Do dogs need ground up food? No, this is a human issue not a dog issue as canine teeth are very capable of chewing bone except leg bones of large ungulates.
However, do I think it hurts to feed ground meats/bones/organs... no. The reason some people say not to feed ground is due to more bacteria being on the surface of ground meats compared to non ground. Also, the nay sayers will tell you that you don't know what is in ground and so you are better off feeding whole pieces as this way you have more control. Both these points are valid points, but I believe you have to trust the source.
Many raw food companies grind backs or necks and then add fruits or vegetables to the grind. In my opinion this is not a good option. Pieces of meat such as backs or necks are way too high in bone and not enough meat and in order to keep the food from causing major constipation issues they add the vegetables and fruits. To me this is a way of "cheaping out" and is not needed in a carnivore’s diet. There is no nutritional need for carbohydrates, fruits or vegetables in a dog or cats’ diet.
I believe our business is the exception to the rule here. Number one, I only grind meat, bones, organs and/or whole carcasses and do not add vegetables or fruits, ever. We ground whole carcasses such as whole rabbit, goat, pheasant, alpaca and llama. Our beef/bone/organ/tripe mix is ground specifically to mirror nature, as I cannot grind leg bones in my grinder as those are too dense. Poultry such as chicken, turkey and duck are naturally high in bone content, so those are specifically ground to the 80/10/10 feeding recommendation, for health and ease of feeding.
At Hare Today we grind everything frozen. My grinder is a 25 h.p commercial grinder [pictures on the face book link] and is capable of grinding frozen. The ground mix is immediately put into the stuffer where it portions out in the appropriate weights needed to fill the chub meat bags. As soon as it is stuffed the food goes into the walk in freezers which is kept between -5 and -30 degrees.
What I typically recommend to people starting out is to do what makes you feel most comfortable. Most people do start out with ground products. Once feeding for a while you evolve, and you should feed meaty edible bones also. The benefit of feeding meaty bones is jaw exercise as well as the benefit of teeth cleaning. By ripping and chewing the meat the teeth also get cleaned [natures toothbrush].
When feeding meaty bones especially if you have a dog that gulps food the secret is to feed bigger pieces. If you feed very large pieces the dog cannot swallow this whole and will have to work at chewing the food.
What I personally do is feed a combination of both ground meat/bone/organs, some meaty bones and then also I feed some boneless meats and organs. Variety is the key to raw feeding. You are not aiming to feed a "complete and balanced" meal at every serving but to achieve the balance over time by feeding variety. You should aim for 80% meat, 10% edible bone and 10% organ meats. Out of the 10% organ meats 5% of this should be liver as liver is the largest organ in the body.
On our ground meats ratios will vary a bit as different meats have different bone contents, ratios can be found within our product descriptions. Again, keep in mind that by feeding variety, balance can be achieved over time. This is not rocket science. Your dog is a wolf in designer clothing. Their DNA is 99.8% identical to the gray wolf. Feed your dog how wolves eat. Primary meats of a wolf would be red meats, and this should be the staple of the diet. Some examples of red meats would be beef, goat, sheep, pork, venison, bison, etc.
Can you feed poultry, fish, rabbit? Certainly, as wolves would eat what they can find but the staple would be red meats, and this is how I feel a dog should eat.
How to start. Rabbit is typically suggested to start with. Even though eventually you will be feeding more red meats then white, rabbit is a good start as it has a bit higher bone content and will help keep the stools firmer doing the transition.
Feed this only for 3-5 weeks. After that add a second meat source such as beef, pork or goat. Alternate the 2 for a couple weeks. Then add a third meat source and so on and so on.
When determining the amount to feed you base it on the dogs’ IDEAL body weight. My experience has been that smaller dogs typically eat 3% of their body weight per day. Larger dogs eat 2% per day. If after a couple weeks you notice the dog is losing or gaining weight on the amount you are feeding increase or decrease the food a bit.
Q: I have fed my dogs raw with success but wanted to try my own feeding instead of Premade, or other type manufacturers. I have dogs, and one has horrible allergies. I have spent quite a bit of money and many anxious days trying to find the right foods for him. He is definitely allergic to poultry, and most likely grain, but until he's allergy tested, I won't know for sure.
I like raw but have started seeing a holistic vet who recommended putting him on 'cool' meats such as goat or rabbit. Rabbit/goat is hard to find, so I've been using freeze-dried raw for practical reasons. Having recently rescued another dog, I want to put them all on the same diet, and really can't wait to get them started with your products. I really think feeding them the straight raw diet will eliminate his ailments.
Sorry for the lengthy email, here's my questions. Do you recommend switching your meats? I read where you said variety is the key.
My husband is squeamish about the raw to begin with, and he gets queasy when he watches them eat meaty bones. SO (sigh)...do you think the ordering rabbit and goat (with bone and organ) would be enough variety? I think beef/bison would be okay, but I'll double check with the vet; I'm also going to show her your other meat sources, that aren't poultry, and get feedback. Is it okay to switch daily, or do you recommend switching meat sources daily, weekly, monthly, etc.? Lastly, thank you for making this product and info available.
The number of vets pushing kibble is ridiculous; one I went to hadn't even really heard of any raw diets. When I adopted these sweet babies, I wanted to give them the best possible. I truly believe you will help me do that, thanks again!
A: I am not a vet but Hare Today has over 20 years in the industry and that goes a long way as well. Emails like yours I get pretty much on a daily basis. I cannot tell you specifically what you should do with your pets as I am not a vet but will share my experiences and resources with you and you can make your own decisions.
When people tell me their animal is allergic to poultry it typically is not the poultry [or other meats] that is the issue.
- A lot of the poultry [as well as pork] offered these days are enhanced. An enhanced solution is injected into the meat. Typically, this is salt, sugar, possibly MSG, etc. The solution is what causes skin and allergy issues NOT the meat itself. It is very rare for an animal to be allergic to meat. Read sodium contents if purchasing meat form the grocery store or contact the manufacturer if buying pre-made, the sodium content should be less than 100 mg per 4 ounce serving. Any more than that it is enhanced. Even labeling can be tricky as some producers label all natural and still enhance with salt which is a natural ingredient. Also, if buying kosher meats this also is very high in sodium.
- Premade raw or dehydrated products usually contain added ingredients [my products do not]. These added ingredients are fruits, vegetables, herbs, yeast, etc. You must read ingredients. Fruits and root based vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes are high in sugar. Sugar converts to yeast which can cause skin and ear issues. There is no nutritional need for either in a carnivore’s diet.
Cooling foods: This is based on Chinese medicine. Personally, I don't buy into that and would only try that as a last resort once all inappropriate ingredients where eliminated and was feeding a proper raw diet for 6 months minimum and then if there were no improvements then possibly try that as a last resort. Also, vaccines can cause long term immune issues. If vaccinosis is suspected a classic homeopath needs to be consulted. This is NOT the same as a vet advertising as holistic. Just because a vet advertises as holistic does not mean they are knowledgeable on a raw diet or vaccine issues. I have met a few that have had no clue!
Allergy testing: Unreliable and I would not waste my money. Only way to know of a true allergy is by doing an elimination diet. An elimination diet is feeding one meat only [with bones and organs] for 2 months. Ideally using a novel protein, the dog has not had before. After that you introduce 1 new meat into the diet every couple weeks. This way if your dog has a true allergy it is very easy to pinpoint but again this is very very rare.
Switching meats: Variety is the key to raw feeding and with dogs red meat should be the staple. Your dog is a wolf in designer clothing and has a DNA which is 99.8% identical to a gray wolf. If you research what wolves eat in the wild their primary source of food is large ungulates [red meats] I have a sample of how I feed my dogs at the bottom of the page.
When first starting raw you do not want to add too much variety, too soon. You will work up to this as you progress. Start with one meat protein for the first couple weeks. If you don't want to start with poultry which is recommended because of higher bone content [see above question] you can certainly start with another meat such as goat, llama, rabbit, etc.
This is good info on wolves diets. Dr David Mech is the foremost authority on wolves and this is his research http://www.wolf.org/learn/basic-wolf-info/wolf-faqs/#r
Squeamish partners: If you choose to own a carnivore then you must do right by them and feed them as mother nature intended. If your comfort level is to start with ground products, then do that. Try to work up to at least some meaty bone meals as you dog will benefit from ripping and chewing which helps keep the teeth clean.
How I Feed My Dogs
I get a lot of emails asking for a sample of how I feed my dogs.
Here is a 2 week sample of what I feed. My dogs are all adults and are fed once a day.
- Sunday: Beef trim or heart
- Monday: Large goat bone
- Tuesday: Ground beef/bone/organ/tripe
- Wednesday: Pork heart with pork liver
- Thursday: Ground tripe/spleen
- Friday: Ground/pork/bones/organs
- Saturday: Beef gullet and ground beef organs
- Sunday: Ground tripe/spleen
- Monday: Pork trim or heart
- Tuesday: Ground venison/beef blend
- Wednesday: Ground llama/bones/organs
- Thursday: Chicken necks with some boneless poultry added
- Friday: Meaty beef or mutton bones with beef kidney
- Saturday Ground beef/bones/organs/tripe
I also give them salmon oil or sardine/anchovy oil for the Omega 3 fatty acids. On days that they are not fed ground meats that I can squirt the oil in I give them a raw egg with the oil. I also supplement with the GLM powder for my older dogs which is either mixed with ground meats or added to an egg.
Variety is the key to raw feeding. You are not aiming to feed a "complete and balanced" meal at every serving but to achieve the balance over time by feeding variety.
I also highly recommend including our prey model grinds (less stomach and intestines) whenever possible. Examples include:
Ground Goat/Bones/Organs - Entire whole dressed goat including heart, lung, liver, spleen, tripe and kidney along with bones.
Ground Beef/Bones/Organs/Tripe - this is approximately 82% meat [to include muscle meat (73%), heart (2%), lung (2%), gullet (2%) and tripe (3%)], 9% bone, and 9% organ [liver and kidneys].
Ground Alpaca/Bones/Organs - includes meat, bones, heart, liver, kidney, tripe and spleen.
Ground Llama/Bones/Organs - includes meat, bones, heart, liver, kidney, spleen and tripe.
Ground Rabbit/Bones/Organs - Whole ground rabbit includes meat, bones, head, and organs (liver, heart, lung, thymus, pancreas, thyroid gland, spleen and kidneys). The fur, stomach and intestine are removed.