This is a page dedicated to helping people get a
better idea of the raw diet according to the prey model found in
nature. It is highly recommended that you become a member of the Yahoo!
group, as this will provide you with access to lots of information on
the raw diet as well as a support network to help you along your way
and answer questions. In addition to using the information on these
pages, I encourage you to go through the Raw Diet FAQ on the
Raw Learning webpage.
This page covers the following subjects:
WHY PREY-MODEL AND NOT BARF?
Make sure to look through the omnivore and stomach contents
myth pages. These contain valuable, documented information that help
dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding dogs and their dietary
needs. Also, please read through the Prey Model vs. BARF
page for greater detail.
BARF diets falsely assume dogs are omnivores. Dogs do not need vegetables and fruits, and neither do they need a bunch of supplements. Those are not species appropriate and are simply "safety nets" to make owners feel better about feeding raw. Also, BARF diets advocate feeding 50% bone—this is way too much bone! Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation tells us that the bones and skin of an animal compose no more than 25% of the animal's weight (pg126). In the larger herbivores a wolf brings down, not all of the bones are consummable, which means the percentage of bone a wolf actually receives is less than 25%. BARF diets claim to be correct in an evolutionary context, but evolution and nature clearly demonstrate that wolves are carnivorous animals and that no prey animal that wolves eat is 50% bone and X% veggies (since wolves do not eat stomach contents). A species appropriate raw diet models the prey killed by wolves in the wild, recreating this complete and sufficient diet for our dogs (why feed our dogs as domesticated wolves?). So take the money spent on supplements and veggies and buy some whole rabbits for your dog. You will save a lot of time, too. But if you have your heart set on feeding veggies, then feed veggies. Just recognize that your dog has no use for them if you are feeding a wide variety of raw meaty bones, organs, and/or whole animals. If you want to feed veggies and fruits (many dogs and wild canids enjoy the occasional piece of fruit) as occasional treats, then by all means do so, especially if they are useful training treats. The occasional fruit or vegetable is not going to hurt your dog or throw off its feeding routine. Just be certain to avoid fruits and vegetables that are toxic to pets (like onions and raisins).
WHAT DO I FEED, THEN?
You can feed just about any prey animal that can run,
swim, or fly. For examples of certain raw meaty bone "recipes", please
visit Raw Fed Dogs. Here are
some suggestions as well as helpful notes:
Here are some other helpful notes:
If you are feeding wild game, it is recommended that you check it thoroughly for shot and that you freeze it for at least 24 hours prior to feeding to kill any parasites. If you know your source, however, the freezing is not always necessary. It is just recommended. Be aware that upland game birds (quail, pheasant, dove, etc.) are all shot with lead shot. If a dog or cat ingests the lead pellets, lead poisoning can occur. So if you feed these animals, check them thoroughly for lead pellets. Wild game is a wonderful addition to any carnivore's diet.
Pacific salmonids carry a toxic parasite that can make dogs very sick. Freeze fresh raw salmon, steelhead, trout, and other salmonids for at least 24 hours before feeding to your dog; this thoroughly kills the parasite. Cooked salmon (or canned) is perfectly okay to feed. Fish is the only food that can also be fed cooked, as the bones remain soft and the meat keeps much of its integrity. When feeding whole fresh fish (especially fish that you just caught from a lake!), it might be worthwhile to cut open the belly and check for hooks swallowed into the stomach as well as hooks in the throat or mouth. If the fish has any sharp spines (like catfish or the dorsal fin on bass), you should cut them off before feeding the fish to the dog. Avoid feeding too much carp, smelt, herring, and catfish, since these fish contain an enzyme that binds Thiamin, or Vitamin B1. They make an excellent addition to any raw diet as long as they aren't the bulk of the diet (i.e. do not feed it every day!).
Wild rodents (squirrels, rats, mice, etc.) and lagomorphs (rabbits) can contain numerous parasites and diseases, including tapeworms and the plague (which affects you, not the dog). If you want to feed your pet wild rodents, freeze the rodents for one month or more before feeding. You can get good quality frozen rats and mice from reptile suppliers and other sources. Frozen rabbits can also be shipped from suppliers (check the internet for suppliers).
Avoid feeding the weight-bearing bones of large herbivores—femurs, knuckle bones, etc. These bones can easily break a dog's teeth. These, among chicken necks and wings, are the most complained about bones.
Also avoid feeding those small bony pieces as a stand-alone. This means wings, chicken backs, chicken carcasses that have all the meat removed, etc. The idea is to feed BIG raw meaty bones that provide a good workout and force the dog to chew thoroughly. And the other key word is "meaty". Think of lots of meat wrapped around some bone. If you feed a bony meal, make sure to add some supplementary meaty-meat to prevent constipation.
Do not overdo the organ meat! Organs are incredibly nutrient rich and are a necessary component of an appropriate raw diet, since these are a vital source of vitamins and minerals for your pets. Too much organ meat can lead to loose stools and a bout with diarrhea (which clears up quickly when the next meal comes through).
I hope you do not feel overwhelmed, although I realize that after years of just measuring out dried pellets and putting them into your dog's bowl, this might seem like a lot of work and things to know. Just take things slowly, and make sure to find a place (like the Yahoo! Raw feeding group) where you can safely ask questions and receive good answers. No one said you had to do this alone! The biggest thing to keep in mind is "prey model". A prey animal has meat, bone, and some organ meat. Start here, and then branch out. Do not be discouraged, but take heart in the fact that your pet will be much healthier and happier with a raw diet.
HOW/IN WHAT FORM DO I FEED RAW MEATY BONES TO MY PETS?
There are many options, and it depends on the size, age, and personal preference of your dog. You must know your dog and select accordingly.
You can feed raw meaty bones and whole carcasses partially frozen, totally frozen, or totally thawed. Some dogs prefer their organ meat frozen as well. Frozen RMBs (raw meaty bones) are good for teething puppies, dogs that are learning to chew their food, and dogs that gulp their food. Feed the RMBs in as large of a piece as you can. If you have a big dog and you want to feed beef ribs, feed the whole slab of ribs joined together. If you have a little dog and you want to feed a chicken leg, feed the whole thing as a big piece (like a chicken quarter), rather than cutting it into smaller pieces. Small pieces encourage choking and do not promote thorough chewing. One commonly used standard is to feed something bigger than the dog's head. If the dog does not eat all of the food, simply pick up the leftovers, refrigerate or freeze them, and feed it the next day. Or you can let your dog bury the leftovers so it can eat it when the meat is "ripe." Cats, on the other hand, must have fresh food.
When feeding whole animals, you can feed the ones that are completely feathered and furred, or you could feed skinned ones. It depends on your dog's preference and on its level of expertise (i.e. I would not suggest feeding a dog brand new to raw feeding a whole feathered chicken). When you do feed feathered prey, you might need to pull out the large primary feathers at first so that all is left are the soft feathers that are not going to poke your dog's mouth, etc. If you are feeding a whole animal, you may need to make a little incision to expose the 'goodies' inside the first time you feed it, as pets do not always recognize it as food. Once your pet realizes it is food, you typically do not need to do that anymore.
When feeding your pet, simply take the meal and hand it to your pet. A dish is not needed unless you want one to put whole eggs or organ meat or canned fish in. Some people feed a little bit of organ meat every day; some feed a whole meal of organs, and some feed it every few days. The choice is yours. Just remember that organ meat can make a dog's stools loose and that too much liver can result in too much Vitamin A (one of the reasons Cod Liver Oil is not recommended as an Omega 3 supplement). As long as you feed a variety of organs and not just liver day in and day out, your dog will be quite healthy and happy. For a brief list of the nutrients contained in different organs, see Table 4.3 on pg. 124 in Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. For a more detailed discussion of switching a dog to raw foods, please see Switching Your Dog to a Raw Diet.
WHERE DO I FEED MY DOG?
This can also vary and depends on your personal preferences and local climate. Here are some suggestions.
Feed your dog in its crate without a crate pad. This makes for easy cleanup, as most dogs clean up the crate themselves, and works well if you have multiple dogs that must be separated from each other.
Feed outside if the weather allows. You are bound to get some interesting looks from neighbors, but just smile and wave.
Feed in a corner of the kitchen, garage, or laundry room.
Feed on a towel in the living room. It is fairly simple to teach the dog to stay on its towel. If the dog is trained to eat on a towel, then you can have it eat anywhere in the house—just move its towel. Wash the towel as needed, or use more than one towel and rotate. Or, feed on a plastic dropcloth or a plastic-type table cloth, and wipe it down when your dog is done. The prerequisite to all this, of course, is teaching your dog to stay in one spot. Whenever the dog starts edging off the table cloth or towel, simply pick up the raw meaty bone and place it back on the appropriate spot, repositioning the dog as necessary. You can add a phrase like "Stay on your towel" or "Place" or whatever you wish. After a few times of this, the dog should get the idea that it is supposed to stay on whatever you have it on.
A slick surface can be easily cleaned up by you or your dog. Regular soap and water or white vinegar work well for cleaning and will not contribute to "superbacteria" as much as various antimicrobial or germicidal cleaners will.
WHEN DO I FEED?
This depends on your schedule and your dog. You can
feed in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the evening. Feed whenever
you have the time to let your dog spend 10-30 minutes eating its
delicious meal of raw meaty bones. Many raw feeders choose the evening
as the mealtime for their pets since they are home for work and it is
just easiest for them to feed at that time. Choose what works best for
you and your dog.
HOW OFTEN DO I FEED?
Some of this depends on your dog, but here are some general "guidelines". Start off with the suggested schedule here, but make adjustments as necessary. Your dog will tell you/show you what it prefers; for example, if you feed twice a day and it starts refusing a meal, feed only once a day.
For puppies under 4-5 months of age, feed 3 times a day. If your pup consistently refuses one of the meals, move to 2 times a day. If your pup needs 4 meals a day, then feed 4 meals a day.
Dogs over 6 months of age can eat 2 times a day. If your dog indicates that it only needs one meal per day, then switch to one meal per day.
A dog can be moved to one meal per day a) when it tells you it is ready, or b) after it has finished its period of rapid growth (usually around one year), or c) never. Some dogs do much better on two meals a day, and some prefer one meal a day. Let your dog dictate how often you feed it. Many raw feeders generally feed one meal a day so that the dog can get as big of a raw meaty bone as possible, but all follow the rule of thumb—KNOW YOUR DOG! Their dogs told/showed them that they preferred or did better on one meal.
A dog that is out of puppyhood and over one year of age can safely be fasted for a day as long as more food is fed on the other days to make up for that day without food. Fasting is implemented by many raw feeders with great results, and mimics a condition seen commonly in wild canids. Fasting is known to have wonderful benefits in cleansing and toning the body while helping the dog lay down muscle, not fat. The fast also allows raw feeders to feed bigger raw meaty bones on the other days and gives the digestive system a "break".
One technique commonly used with fasting is called the "Gorge and Fast"
technique. The dog receives a large meal the night before the fast, and
then fasts the entire next day. Some people give a light breakfast the
morning after the fast, while others just wait until evening to feed
the dog its full meal. Some feeders incorporate this technique even
further by having several fasts per week, each preceded by a gorge
night (where the dog may eat something like a whole chicken or a whole
turkey or half a goat in one sitting). This mimics a more natural way
of eating and allows the dog to actually eat until it is full, allowing
the stomach and intestines to fully function as they were designed to.
Regardless of what method you choose, once the dog is old enough/ready,
at least one day of fasting should be incorporated. Often the dog will
dictate this for you, particularly if it has had a large meal the day
before. If your dog eats sporadically—heartily one day, then picking at
food the next—incorporate a fast day on the day your dog would usually
be picking at its food. Also keep in mind that canids are incredible
fasters and can go for weeks without food (Wolves: Behavior,
Ecology, and Conservation.).
HOW MUCH DO I FEED?
This will also vary with your dog. A dog that is more active and has a higher metabolism will eat more, while a less active dog or one with a slower metabolism will eat less. Puppies will typically eat more than adults, since they need to fuel their rapidly growing body.
The recommended food amount is 2-3% of your dog's desired body weight per day. So for a 100lb dog, you will be feeding 2-3 pounds of food a day. If you are gorging and fasting, you may be feeding 6 pounds or more on a gorge day. A highly active dog may need closer to 3%, while a dog with slower metabolism may need closer to 2%.
How do you know if your dog is too fat or thin? You should be able to easily feel your dog's ribs and even see the outline of the last few floating ribs at the end of the ribcage that attaches to the vertebrae of the spine closest to the hips. You should not be able to see ALL the ribs, or the hip bones, or the vertebrae of the spine, just the outline of the last few floating ribs. If you stand above your dog, he should have a definite waist between his hips and ribcage. Remember that dogs are built differently from each other, so some may have a naturally stocky body that will not give you a waist no matter what you do. Know your dog!
For a puppy, feed 2-3% of his expected adult body weight per day. Puppies under 4 months of age are very good at self-regulating their food intake, and can be given the opportunity to eat at a carcass or raw meaty bone until they are full at each meal. Pick up the leftovers and feed them later. If the puppy starts gorging himself to the point he has a huge, swollen, distended belly, or if he is getting fat, regulate his portions at 2-3% of his adult body weight per day. If the pup is looking very skinny and is not putting on weight, get a fecal sample done to make sure he does not have worms, and then up his food intake if needed. Keep in mind that puppies grow at a slower, more regulated rate on raw food than on commercial foods. This translates to less chance of developing the bone and joint problems seen in puppies fed commercial foods. Do not force feed your pup in an effort to make it grow faster or bigger.
For an overweight dog: determine the desired body weight and then feed 2-3% of that ideal body weight per day. For an underweight dog: determine the desired body weight and feed 2-3% of that desired weight per day. For maintenance: feed 2-3% of the dog's current body weight per day and adjust the food amount as needed.