By Karen Ward

Many pet owners have been considering switching their pets to a safe and more appropriate diet. Some have been convinced by others that it's very complicated and difficult to feed a dog or cat a proper balanced diet, and that we should leave this to pet food companies. 

Since we have managed to learn what balanced nutrition for ourselves and our families is, consider that we might be able to manage it for our dogs and cats as well. Feeding only kibble to our pets is similar to feeding our families and ourselves only totally processed foods 100% of the time.

Human beings are different from dogs and cats in their nutritional needs, but too many processed foods are not good for us or for them.

Canine Nutritional Requirements:

Dogs and cats, being true carnivores, need a meat diet with no grains added.  Some feel that vegetables are of benefit to dogs, others think not so much, so the addition of vegetables does remain a contentious issue.

At Camp Greyhound we have been feeding raw for over 20 years to both our dogs and our cats, with great success. The success is due to the adherence to a few guiding principles, rather than any complex set of calculations and rules of nutrition.

  •  Biologically, dogs are wolves. By studying what wolves thrive on, we can know what's best nutrition-wise for our dogs.  In spite of what pet food companies will tell you, dogs have absolutely no need for grains and don't appear to benefit from vegetables, or fruit.  The best evidence to support this idea further comes from your dog's anatomy and physiology.  He or she has a very short gut, the gut of a carnivore.  Dogs are unable to break down the cellulose in vegetable cells, and grains are not digestible either.  They have evolved to eat raw meat, organs and bones. The guts of cats are even shorter.
  • Variety is the spice of life, this is especially true in the raw food diet.  While there are times when we are stuck with chicken, beef, turkey and pork, any time you have the opportunity to give a new protein, for example venison or duck, do take advantage of the opportunity. 
  • It's not necessary to give your pet the exact balance of foods he needs every day, but it is important over time that they get this balance.  For dogs, the balance isabout 80% muscle meat, 10% bone and 10% organ, with half of that being liver.  You can play with these percentages to find out what works the best for your pet. 
  • Don't overlook eggs as a great source of complete protein.  They would be included under meat.
  • If you want to add vegetables or fruit, go right ahead, just be sure to process them very finely and freeze them prior to feeding, and add only after you've weighed the meal.  

For some more great info. on the myths of raw feeding : 

Species Appropriate Raw Diet

How much to feed:

If your dog or cat is overweight , you will want to feed around 2% of their weight to help them lose a little. If they're overweight and also not very active, you may need to feed a little less than 2%. 

If you want to maintain weight, feed 2-3%.  If your dog is skinny, then bump that up a bit. 

For an example, your dog weighs 72 pounds and he's overweight.  Multiply 72 pounds by 2% = 1.44 pounds, which is about 23ounces.  This is what you would feed for a meal if you feed once a day; if you feed twice a divide that up in the most convenient manner. Since each animal is an individual, watch your dog or cat's weight and adjust accordingly.

Raw Food Calculator

Kitchen Equipment:

A good digital scale is important, as it is easy to over or under feed your pet without one. A well made sharp knife, and a pair of poultry shears will also come in handy, and a substantial cutting board. 

For Starters:

A good way to start off is to give your pet either a chicken/turkey leg quarter or breast.  Depending on how much you're feeding any of these items could be one meal. 

Buying whole chickens or turkeys and then cutting them up yourself can save a substantial amount of money over the long term. 

Once you have a good knife, make sure you check out the links below, these are YouTube videos that are very helpful,  so you can be sure you are cutting up your poultry correctly and easily. This guy really knows what he's doing!

 How to Cut Up a Chicken, Part 1

 How to Cut Up a Chicken Part 2

How Will I know I'm doing It right? 

Your most important flag is your dog's stool.  The holy grail is a small, firm stool that does not have a lot of odor. 

After transitioning, you should be seeing something close to that.  If you don't, then something needs to change. You will also see a change in your dog's coat.  Most people report an increase in shininess, softness and density of hair.  Many report less "doggy" smell.  Some report their dogs are calmer and less hyper, others report their dogs have more energy and stamina.

During transition to raw, you may see some soft stool for up to 2-3 weeks, although most do not. It's not uncommon to see have your pet throw up small bone fragments until his digestive acids have gotten stronger.

Adding probiotics will often help your dog digest his raw food and normalize his intestinal flora; digestive enzymes during this time can also be helpful, bromelain is good. Use about the dose you would for yourself or if your pet is small, for a child. Keep an eye on your pet's weight and coat.

While it is very helpful to have some guidelines when you're starting out with raw feeding, be aware that some websites and groups are extremely strict in their feeding styles.  Your pet is an individual, and it's important to remember to take that into account as well.