Raw Meat Diet For Dogs
Many dog owners are turning to a more natural diet for their furry friends. There are several similar philosophies, but they all come down to raw food. The differences are mainly about whether to feed vegetables with meat or not. This article focuses on the prey model diet, which attempts to mimic what domestic dogs' ancestors, wolves, eat in the wild. The basics of the prey model are to feed dogs a diet of raw meat, organs and bones. Here are a few things to know about feeding your dog a raw diet.
Bones, feathers and furWe've all heard that dogs shouldn't have chicken bones, but larger bones are commonly purchased from pet stores for chewing. Wolves do not debone their feathered prey before eating. The problems associated with chicken bones are actually true of all cooked bones. Cooked bones splinter, creating needlelike shards that can puncture a dogs digestive tract. Raw bones are ground and crushed by dogs' teeth and actually digested by their potent stomach acids. All but the thickest, densest bones of larger animals, like beef, can usually be consumed. Be careful giving dogs with weekend teeth large, dense bones. They could possibly damage a tooth.
In the wild, canines eat some amount of fur and feathers from their prey. It generally acts as fiber as it passes through their systems. Whether to leave fur, feathers or skin on when feeding your pet is up to you.
Serving size and ratioIf your dog were in the wild, meals might be sporadic, so he or she would likely gorge when the opportunity arose. However, as a domesticated animal, meals are much more regular. Some dogs even know when it's meal time better than their humans. So how much do they need to eat? Portioning a raw diet, unless you buy prepackaged or ground food, is a bit different than scooping out kibbled dog food from a bag. It varies for different dogs, but generally a dog will eat 2-3 percent of their body weight per day. A 100 pound dog will need 2-3 pounds of food, and a 10 pound dog will need 3.2-4.8 ounces. Younger dogs and very active dogs will need more. Monitor your dog's weight, and adjust portions accordingly. If you don't have a scale, you should be able to feel your dogs ribs with your hand. If, however, you can easily see them, depending on the breed and age, you may need to feed more.
Another aspect of the prey model diet that comes from nature is the ratio of meat, bones and organs. A typical prey animal, or at least the parts that will be consumed, consists of about 10 percent bones, 10 percent organs and 80 percent meat. Commonly fed organs include kidney, liver, pancreas and tripe. Because it's a muscle, the heart is considered meat.
VarietyJust like humans require a varied diet to meet dietary and nutrition needs, dogs do as well. Mix up the types of food you give your dog to ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need. Just about any type of meat humans can consume, dogs can too. They'll even eat some that many humans would rather starve than eat. Raw diets commonly include the following: chicken, turkey, beef, pork, buffalo, deer, elk, pheasant, quail, rabbit, whole eggs, various types of fish and much more. Some species of salmonid from the pacific ocean carry a parasite potentially fatal to dogs, however.
SourcesDepending on your local area, finding affordable sources for your dogs raw diet can be tricky. Grocery store specials are great for stocking up. Contact local butchers to ask about what they do with scraps. Also ask if they know anywhere to get non-human grade meat. There are many raw feeding groups online. They are a wealth of knowledge about sourcing meat for your dog. Some even do group-purchases to get better prices. Some people even have luck posting classified ads looking for free freezer burned meat. While it may not be considered good for human consumption, it's just fine for dogs.
StorageBecause of the nature of finding great deals, many people buy in bulk when they can. For those with large dogs or even their own small pack, storage is practically a necessity. Cheap upright or chest freezers can often be found in classified ads. Bags and tubs also come in quite handy. It is often easier to divide the meat, bones and organs in to meal-sized portions before freezing them. Working with large chunks of frozen meat can be difficult.
Whether to thaw out meat before feeding is entirely up to you. Most dogs will eat their food frozen, but it will take them longer to finish. Depending on the size of the meal, it can take up to a day or longer to thaw.
BenefitsRaw feeding owners report all sorts of benefits after switching their dogs to a raw diet. They can take a couple weeks to several months to notice, though. Teeth often become cleaner as they're polished by chewing on bones and connective tissue. Breath and body odours become less unpleasant as their system flushes the fillers often put into kibble. Coats can become softer and shinier as they get nutrients they may have been missing. Some owners also notice their dogs' temperaments become more calm. Dogs' bowel movements usually become more firm and formed on a raw diet as well, often becoming almost chalky.
PrecautionsThere are some things that you should be careful about regarding any raw diet for dogs. Always supervise feeding time. Some dogs may eat too fast, creating a potential choking hazard. It is especially important when feeding bones.
While it's important to give your dogs a good variety of types of meat, make sure that there are no additives. Salts, flavourings and preservatives added to some meat products can be harmful to dogs. Always check labels of packaged meat products. Some people also prefer to feed only meat that is antibiotic and growth hormone free. Some go further and only feed organically raised meat to their dogs.
If you're considering a change of diet due to behaviour, symptoms or medical concerns, consult your vet to make sure there are no other underlying issues.