Many myths still exist about the raw dog food diet.
While not a one-size-fits-all solution at all (no pun intended), I wanted to shed some light on the best practices of raw feeding and help you decide whether you should feed your adult dog or puppy raw meat.
If you like ours Instagram account you probably already know that my Rottweiler Amalia has been on a raw diet since she was a puppy (after a few months of hesitation).
Needless to say, she absolutely loves it (trust me, we know for sure – more on that below).
This article should act as a (pretty) comprehensive guide to help you decide if a raw diet is right for your dog and for you.
We will also look at the different models and which model you should follow (Barf vs. Prey model).
Our raw diet journey
To give you a rough idea of what we went through until we got to our Rottie’s current diet, here is an overview.
Bear with me, below I’ll tell you how to find raw meat for your dog, along with tips explaining how to feed your dog raw on a budget (super affordable options out there!).
We started feeding her a BARF diet (which means we added fruits, vegetables, and tripe to her muscle meat, meaty bones, and organ meats).
We used ground meat that had been processed into small blobs.
Why? It is easy to prepare meals because each bag consists of the same amount of ingredients, with their respective percentages.
Our dog was never a good chewer anyway.
Many delivery services have ground (or minced) meat in stock.
If you are a beginner, it is great to use a complete menu in this form to introduce your dog to a new, softer texture, but I would not recommend this as a permanent diet.
Why miss the opportunity for your dog to use his jaw and feel the texture?
Please note that you will need to adapt the diet to your dog.
This can be a good option for a dog that eats its meals like crazy or for older dogs.
Not to mention the plus in terms of transparency that you have with whole/cut pieces of meat, because it has not gone through the grinder.
I only mention that because I have seen muscle meat mixed with organ meat and there were no percentages on the label.
She started a daily balanced diet, meaning that every day and even every meal contained the exact percentage of meat to fruits and vegetables, even though these numbers were strange.
Add meaty bones
After a while we started adding meaty bones (to stop supplementing calcium), but we quickly realized this was very inconvenient because the bones were packed in plastic bags weighing over 2 pounds.
Distribution was no longer as simple as with ground meat.
Since meal prepping was no longer as easy, we started a semi-balanced diet, meaning we occasionally ate unbalanced meals with only meaty bones.
However, we always made sure she had a balanced week.
What to Avoid: Make sure you don’t give your dog cooked bones.
You may also want to skip the weight-bearing bones or at least take them away from your dog when he’s done.
The necks are especially easy to chew, followed by turkey legs/drumsticks.
Beef bones, legs, ribs and tails can also be given, but may be reserved for the more advanced chewer depending on the animal they come from.
50/50 with high-quality kibble – Bad!
Now we had the great idea to start feeding raw with high-quality chunks 50/50.
Plenty of benefits, right? Ideal for getting your dog used to kibble when you are travelling.
Premium food consists of many good ingredients, packed in one small piece of kibble, and is easy to prepare.
What should I pay attention to when feeding or supplementing kibble (think of transition periods, especially without adding kibble)?
Your dog food should always contain a high amount of meat (>60%), to which wild herbs, berries, etc. should be added.
Should kibble be grain-free? No that’s not true. Many “grain-free” kibbles have peas as the main ingredient, which is not good at all.
Nothing against a high-quality kibble with rice third or higher on the ingredients list.
Anyway, as we neared the end of our current premium kibble bag, our dog started to hate the taste and although she was still eating, she was no longer hyped about her food at all (which, if you knew her, was a red flag).
Her coat was no longer shiny and she started to shed more. Well, back to her raw diet.
80/10/10 Prey model
We switched to the prey model, which means 80% muscle meat, 10% organ meat and 10% raw, meaty bones.
When I say prey model, I don’t mean “whole prey” but rather “Frankenstein prey” (just bits and pieces of the former animal).
Taking into account that she was quite an adult by now, we also thought that she might prefer the standard texture.
Switched to sliced meat instead of ground meat.
Plot twist: This was even trickier with meal prep, so we decided to just go for balanced weeks.
Some days there is only meat, other days there are mornings with nothing but organ meat.
What we feed our Rottie now
Ultimately we decided to start feeding her vegetables and fruit (she likes bananas and anything edible) and tripe every now and then.
Basically, we feed a mixture of the vomit and prey model.
Less vegetables & fruit and tripe than with a barf diet, but more than with the prey model.
Sometimes we also switch from sliced meat with balanced weeks to minced meat with balanced meals (multiple ingredients in one box).
To make a long story short: As long as your dog’s raw diet week is balancedyou’re fine.
Can I feed my dog raw ground beef?
The short answer is yes, it certainly can.
This is perhaps the most common meat source for dogs on a raw diet, but it is important to note that (regardless of whether it is raw or not) relatively many dogs have allergic reactions.
However, there are options for dogs with allergies, and a raw diet makes it easy to solve the problem once you know which animal is the culprit.
Where can you find raw meat for dogs
Now you probably want to know where you can find affordable raw muscle and organ meat.
- Local butcher
- Supermarket (especially chicken drumsticks, liver, etc.)
- Raw food stores (obviously)
- Delivery services (frozen minced meat and ground meat)
- Hunting (only if allowed, hardened and using the whole prey)
The local butcher often has great offers and is happy to help you. Moreover, you always know where the meat comes from.
In doing so, you support small business owners.
Options may vary depending on where you live, but talking to your butcher and explaining your situation can help tremendously in obtaining high-quality meat!
Another tip to save money on your dog’s raw diet: buy it in bulk and freeze it.
Seriously, we always buy almost 50 pounds of meat and store it in a separate freezer.
Raw diet on a budget
If you are on a budget, you should try to get bulk discounts.
If you have a local butcher, try to build a good relationship with their family business. They will be happy to help you if something is extremely cheap or even free in the short term, as many organs are just waste for the human food market. .
If you want to know more about how much I actually pay for my 100-pound Rottweiler’s raw diet, check out this article on the lifetime costs of a large breed.
Pros and cons of a raw dog food diet
Many people report similar benefits, while opponents of the raw diet mainly point to the negative effects of not balancing your dog’s diet.
Look what PetMd has to say and be sure to read the opinions of raw diet opponents to get the bigger picture.
Always do your research!
- Less loss, shinier coat
- Cleaner teeth (if you feed bones)
- More energy (observed for all ages, from puppy to senior)
- Less stool that is sturdier
Disadvantages (many of which can be avoided with a good raw diet)
- A nutrient deficiency if your dog’s raw diet is not balanced
- Danger of salmonella and other bacteria (always clean up the feeding area)
- Dogs that like to swallow can do that suffocate on bones (supervision is essential)
- Break teeth (no weight-bearing bones)
Let me know about your experiences with raw feeding and whether you have successfully transitioned your dog!
Disclaimer: This blog post does not and does not intend to replace veterinary attention. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows signs of illness, call your vet.