Dog Food

Feeding Raw Dog Food: 6 Steps to Get Started

Jane Davis

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Feeding your dog a raw food diet, often known as a BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) or ancestral diet, is about providing your pet with a diet that closely mirrors what their wild ancestors would have eaten.

This includes a variety of foods, such as raw meats, bones, fruits, and vegetables, which offer a more natural intake of nutrients.

Yes, dogs can eat vegetables! They are omnivores!

Starting your dog on a raw food diet can initially seem daunting due to the details involved in preparing appropriate meals and ensuring that dietary needs are met.

It’s about finding trustworthy sources of high-quality raw ingredients, understanding the proper nutritional proportions, and gradually introducing your dog to the new diet to avoid digestive upset.

Key Takeaways

  • Raw dog food diets aim to replicate a dog’s natural ancestral eating habits.
  • Proper nutrition and safe handling are critical components of a raw food diet.
  • Transitioning to raw food should be done gradually to suit your dog’s digestion.

Understanding Raw Dog Food

When considering a raw food diet for your dog, it’s essential to recognize the potential health benefits and risks to make an informed decision best suited to your pet’s needs.

Benefits of Raw Feeding

Raw feeding, often touted for its close mimicry to a canine’s natural diet, has several benefits if executed correctly:

  • Increased Energy: A raw diet can lead to higher energy levels due to its high protein content and lack of filler ingredients.
  • Improved Digestion: Raw diets are often easier on your dog’s digestive system, leading to better digestion and smaller, less odorous stools.
  • Healthier Skin and Coat: Dogs on a raw diet may display a shinier coat and healthier skin owing to the natural fats and oils in raw meat.
  • Dental Health: Chewing raw, meaty bones can contribute to cleaner teeth and healthier gums.
  • Weight Management: Raw feeding can help maintain an ideal weight as it typically has fewer carbohydrates than commercial kibble.

Potential Risks and Considerations

While raw feeding has its proponents, it’s crucial to weigh the potential risks:

  • Nutritional Imbalance: A homemade raw diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies without proper knowledge.
  • Bacterial Contamination: Raw meat can harbor pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli, posing health risks to your dog and household.
  • Choking Hazard: Bones, if not appropriately sized, can cause choking or damage to teeth and the digestive tract.
  • Cost and Convenience: Raw diets can be more expensive and require significant preparation and storage.

By thoroughly understanding the benefits and risks, you can decide whether a raw diet is viable for your dog.

Transitioning Your Dog to Raw Food

When switching your dog to a raw food diet, it’s essential to consider their unique nutritional needs, introduce the new diet gradually, and closely monitor their health.

Determining Nutritional Requirements

Firstly, identify your dog’s specific caloric and nutritional needs based on age, weight, activity level, and any existing health conditions.

Raw diets should be balanced and may need to include a variety of meats, bones, organ meats, and possibly some vegetables and fruits to ensure they provide complete nutrition.

  • Proteins and Fats: The foundation of your dog’s diet.
  • Calcium and Phosphorus: Critical minerals found in bones and supplements.
  • Vitamins and Trace Minerals: Sourced from organ meats and select vegetables.

Introducing Raw Food Gradually

Your dog’s digestive system must adapt to the raw food slowly. Start by replacing approximately 10% of your dog’s diet with raw food and increase the amount over a week or more. This can help prevent gastrointestinal upset.

  1. Day 1-3: Feed 90% old diet with 10% raw.
  2. Day 4-6: Adjust to feeding 75% old diet with 25% raw.
  3. Day 7-9: Further adjust to feeding a 50% old diet with 50% raw.
  4. Day 10-14: Transition to 25% old diet with 75% raw until fully switched.

Monitoring Your Dog’s Health

Observe your dog closely throughout the transition for any signs of digestive issues or allergies.

Changes in appetite, energy levels, weight, coat health, and stool quality indicate how well your dog adapts to the raw food diet.

  • Stool: Should be firm and decrease in volume.
  • Weight: Maintain a healthy weight, adjusting portions if necessary.
  • Energy: Should be high; lethargy may suggest nutritional imbalances.

Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can ensure the transition is successful and your dog remains in good health.


Jane Davis

Hi, my name is Jane Davis, and I love dogs. I own a labrador retriever named Max. When I was growing up, we always had dogs at our house. They provide us with such unconditional love and companionship, and I can't imagine my life without one by my side.

This website does not provide pet medical advice. For professional advice regarding your pet's health, please consult a licensed veterinarian in your local area.