Raw Feeding 101
The when, the how and the what
to raw feeding
We try to do the best for our dogs and we want them to be healthy and happy. Sometimes deciphering the fact from the fiction is confusing with all the marketing that pops up all over the web, onto our feeds and on television.
About 6 months ago I began my research on raw feeding for dogs. I had always wanted my dogs on raw food but the timing never seemed to be right, as with most things though, force a change - it always works out.
One day about 4.5 months ago I changed my three dogs diet. My No 2 Bhindi was in melt-down stage - rashes getting worse followed by oral hematomas.
My research all pointed to leaky gut syndrome and whilst Eezapet was relieving the itch on her skin, the rashes were continual and coming back stronger.
I always want the best for my dogs - as do we all. I lived by the ‘you are what you eat’ motto so surely this was the same for my dogs?
My research accumulated in last month’s blog You Are What You Eat.
The changes that followed have been immense. It was evident on the health benefits and I remember thinking I had many questions at the time to ensure I was doing the right thing for my 13 year old, 9 year old and 3 year old rescue dogs.
In this blog Heather Murphy Owner/Director of Eezapet interviews Michael Murray Owner/Director of Raw Essentials to ask him the “how to raw feed appropriately” and to address some concerns I had before changing to raw food.
I hope this can answer any questions you may have too.
My dog has been on kibble all its life. Can I just change to raw all at one time or is it a gradual change that is needed?
In general, yes you can just convert your dog to raw food (a straight swap), however the transition does need to be carefully managed especially if your Dog (or Cat) is showing signs of digestive stress or under current veterinary care. At Raw Essentials we will quiz an owner about the health of their animal and put them on a feeding plan that best fits their history and life stage.
At what age should I start my puppy on raw food?
Puppies and Kittens can do very well on a raw diet from 8 weeks of age. You will need to monitor growth closely and adjust the food intake to suit (we can help track this). Come in store to chat to us ahead of bringing your puppy or kitten home. We also have guides online to help - see rawessentials.co.nz/a-puppies-kittens.
My dog is quite ‘gassy’ - will raw feeding stop this?
Farting, belching and burping are signs of digestive issues. These are often related to a microbial imbalance or leaky gut. We have a number of dietary protocols in place that can assist. It can take some time to resolve these issues (we usually go off a rule of thumb of one month for each year they have been around) but in general we see great results with the switch to raw with the appropriate protocols being followed.
Will there be a difference in my dog’s stools?
The great news for raw feeders is that when dogs change to a raw diet, their stool becomes much smaller, firmer, and less smelly! Because the stool is harder, dogs appear to strain a bit more to pass them. It can take a bit of adjusting to get the diet just right for your dog. Too much bone in the diet can lead to constipation. Too much tripe can cause a loose stool.
How do I know what meat or meat mixes to feed my dog?
Feeding a raw diet is a bit like feeding yourself: you eat a variety of foods, with the expectation that this will meet your nutrient needs over time. Our biggest tip for balanced raw feeding is to offer a mix of MEAT, BONES, ORGANS & TRIPE from a VARIETY of prey sources. As a rule of thumb, we recommend feeding from at least three different prey species over a week. Wild populations of cats and dogs eat meat, bones, organs, and often tripe. They do not just eat meat. Feeding an all-meat diet will cause mineral deficiencies, and is dangerous to your pet's health!
What does ‘novel’ protein mean?
The immune system is regulated by a healthy gut microbiome. Diet is a key factor in maintaining a healthy microbiome. If the microbiome is healthy, then inflammation is well controlled. Rebalancing the immune system by feeding raw food takes a lot of pressure off a very overloaded immune system. Feed a protein source that the dog or cat has not eaten before - a Novel Protein diet. This allows the gut a chance to stop reacting and settle, while the microbiome adjusts.
Do you recommend feeding beef to dogs?
Beef can be an inflammatory protein and we find that many pets get itchy on it, so it's often easier to leave it out of a raw diet (we don’t stock beef meat products). That said, for a healthy dog with a strong microbiome it may be an appropriate protein to feed.
Can I serve a mix of proteins in one meal?
Some care does need to be taken when transitioning onto raw food, so as not to overwhelm the gut. As a general rule we recommend feeding a variety of proteins over a week (three or four) to make sure your Dog or Cat is increasing its nutrient range. These can be in one meal or spread out.
What quantities do I feed my dog?
Amounts vary depending on life stage, current weight and activity level. We can provide feeding guides in store. As an example, for an adult dog that has an average activity level and wants to maintain current weight then we would recommend they feed approximately 2% of bodyweight per day.
Can I give my dog food poisoning? I have read on various social media sites that chicken can be dangerous – is this true?
Healthy animals deal with large amounts of bacteria (just like they would in the wild). Stomach acid, bile and gut microbes control pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria. A raw-fed carnivore’s stomach is highly acidic and there aren’t many organisms that can survive it. Factors that can contribute to Salmonella disease can include: age, poor nutrition, quality of food, presence of other diseases, stress etc. We find that the risk of disease caused by Salmonella can be controlled by having a healthy animal on a well planned raw food diet combined with sensible meat hygiene practices at home.
How do I store my raw food?
In the freezer. Many customers will buy a chest freezer to take advantage of buying in bulk. It will also last 3 days in the fridge once defrosted.
Can dogs eat frozen or is it best served defrosted?
We generally recommend feeding defrosted product, but there are exceptions. It is ok to feed frozen cubes, but you need to be sure that your dog is good at taking their time and chewing. Don’t feed frozen cubes to a ‘gulper’ as they may try to swallow it whole. Some dogs have not had much practice at chewing meaty bones and they will try to ingest them too quickly. Feeding frozen meaty bones can slow a dog down, giving them a chance to get used to using their jaw muscles properly. We usually find Cats prefer their minced products to be defrosted.
Do you recommend feeding outside?
It depends on the individual and space restrictions at home, but yes outdoor feeding can be great and is the easiest in terms of cleanliness but there are some other things to consider: i) can you supervise easily if feeding takes place outside (we recommend supervision); ii) can your pet eat food without interference from other animals; iii) if all product is not eaten and left outside then it may bring flies. If fed inside or outside, bowls are usually best as these can catch all the juices which contain valuable nutrients!
Do you need to add supplements to their meals?
In most cases there is no need to add supplements to a well-planned raw diet, which looks like this: i) sourced from NZ-grown animals; ii) a dog/cat should eat a variety of prey-sources (at least three different sources over a week); iii) the diet should approximate whole prey (a selection of raw meat, bone, organs and tripe); iv) it should include the highest quality prey sources possible (human-grade and wild products, not stripped out leftovers).
Some pets do well on a course of probiotics, or fish oils. In most cases, this supplementation is a temporary measure to control inflammation, and populate the gut with beneficial microbes in order to assist immune function. However some cats and dogs have a very compromised immune system, and a major microbial imbalance in their gut. These are the animals that will suffer deficiency even on a really good raw diet, or an AAFCO-approved processed one. Unless the gut health of these animals can be significantly improved, they may benefit from continuous supplementation.I
Is feeding raw more expensive than feeding kibble?
A Raw Essentials diet should cost about the same as a ‘premium’ veterinary diet, but this can vary with costs based on product availability, what you are feeding and the age and condition of your pet.
Can I still give my dog treats?
We recommend natural, minimally processed treats, with no additives or preservatives. They can be a great way to introduce variety into a diet (for example liver treats).
What if I travel on holiday with my dog and cannot store meat? What can I feed my dog in this case?
This is always a common one for customers. What we recommend in this case is to feed a freeze dried product if you cannot access a freezer. We have a range of freeze dried product in our stores, but there are other good bands out there like K9 Natural which provide good product. Some research does suggest that feeding a freeze dried diet long term can impair gastric acidity in Dogs and Cats (a key factor in digestion), but short term for convenience is absolutely fine.
What if I need professional advice – do you have vets or vet nurses that can help me transition?
We have a strong team in place that can help change a diet, with different levels of support (including veterinary) available depending on the complexity of the case. Come and see us in store and we can discuss your pets need.
I would Like to thank Michael Murray for taking the time to explain raw feeding to us and I trust you have found 'raw feeding 101' informative.
Personally, changing to raw food has shown huge changes in the health of all three of my dogs. I no longer buy treats and I used to supplement their kibble with many varieties. Now we only have liver treats for training purposes.
I’ve topped up with bone broths because Bhindi is a special case with her leaky gut, continual rashes and compromised system. I've also added goats milk kefir which I use as a probiotic to aid a healthy system particularly after prescription drugs etc.
My view with raw feeding is less vet visits and healthier dogs which will be great for the bank balance and less drugs which will be great for the internal balance of my dogs too! Read here to learn more on gut health
Are you thinking of a change?
Leave a comment below we would love to hear from you.
If you have any further questions you can leave a question in the comments too and we’ll get back to you with an answer.