Ok, you've done a little reading, have an idea of what a raw diet is all about....and now want to try it! Follow our handy guide on how to start...
If you are starting puppies onto raw please use the Puppy Raw Feeding Guide - they need a different setup!
Step 1: Complete or DIY?
First decide which path you would like to take in the long run - complete or DIY? Take into account your lifestyle, number of dogs you want to feed, freezer space etc:
- The most popular route - already mixed up & packaged in the right ratios (80:10:10) you simply thaw and serve
- Can be more expensive
You are in charge of making the meals - you will need to set time aside to make a batch of meals in one go, and store in the freezer (either in takeaway containers, or zip lock bags)
You can choose what to include in the meals
Can work out cheaper, but more time consuming
To start the journey onto raw - whether in the long run you want to go Complete or DIY - you'll need to put a little time aside to make the transition onto raw. You need to allow the body time to adjust to a new raw diet (and if you have been feeding dry/wet food there is also a good chance they may go through a detox stage - see more in our FAQ's). You need time to adjust to digesting bone and offal. But, once the first few weeks are over.....you can then take either the Complete or DIY route
Step 2: Weigh That Pooch & Work Out How Much to Feed
First, take a good look at your dog - are you happy with how they look or do they need to loose a little/gain a little? You will need to do a little maths but don't panic...its a simple formula once you know how.:
If you are happy with the look of them, then start with 2%-3% of their body weight - this is called "maintaining the weight", try it for 2 weeks and see whether you need to increase or decrease
A little overweight? Start with 2% and try for 2 weeks, and then see if it needs adjusting
A little underweight? Start at 2.5% and try for 2 weeks, and reassess.
As a general guide, Adult dogs can be fed between 2-3%, while Senior can be 1-3% of their bodyweight
These are guidelines - if your dog is very active or has a fast metabolism they may need more. The same if they are less active, they may need a lower percentage - each dog is individual but its very easy to tweek the raw diet to suit them
Remember to try and put on/take off weight slowly, its much better for them if it done gradually and you will run into less problems
Ok, the Magic Formula..
.For example, I have a 10kg dog, that doesn't need to drop/or add any weight so I will be starting on 3% and I need to find out how much to feed per day:
Turn the Kg into grams: 10000 x 3% = 300g per day (split over however many meals you would like)
The Magic Formula Part 2:
Now you need to work out how much meat to feed (80%) how much bone to feed (10%) and how much offal to feed (10%). So take the amount to be fed per day:
300g x 80% = 240g Meat
300g x 10% = 30g Bone
300g x 10% = 30g Offal (15g Liver and 15g Secreting Organ)
These are guidelines and don't need to be down to the exact gram, remember the common phrase we use in raw feeding "aim for a balance over weeks" - if the bone is a little over, just remember to offer more boneless meat to the next meal to even out the bone, and poo watch - if its white and chalky, too much bone, add more boneless for the next day, and again poo watch
Step 3. It's Time To Make The Switch.....Take It Slowly and No Mixing With Dry Food!
There are many ways to switch to raw, but I have found the easiest is to get your food prepared and make the switch the next day in the morning - no mixing a bit of raw with the dry food, some dogs are ok with this and have no issues, but raw and dry digest at different rates through the intestines....dry kibble is also designed to swell to make the dog feel fuller....mixing the two could cause an upset tummy. We want to try and get the gut ready with healthy bacteria to get off to the best start on fresh raw!
An example to give you an idea of how to start:
Week 1: Start With Just Tripe...and 1 Gentle Protein..and no more than 10% Bone
BRACE YOURSELF for the smell of tripe......the reason we start off with tripe is that it is full of healthy bacteria & promotes good gut health (its hard to believe from the smell of it!)....but being completely boneless its not going to cause any constipation issues (too much bone straight away can cause this...so hence the slowly slowly...gently gently approach). Then add a gentle white meat during the first week....(such as turkey, chicken, rabbit, quail etc as these are easy on the digestive system.....we are starting to see more dogs with allegies to different meats so if this happens please see our guide). We also do this as the pH level in the stomach is beginning to change to more acidic to be able to cope with raw bones later on in the diet (the body is a clever thing). There is also no offal being included at this stage - give the body time to adjust.
Day 1 & 2 - Just tripe, boneless, either lamb or beef
Day 3 - 7 - Chicken & Tripe, no more than 10% Bone
(a good starter mix is The Dogs Butcher Chicken & Tripe, 90% Meat/Tripe, 10% Bone) Or do your own with boneless chicken mince/chunks/tripe and try a chicken wing/chicken neck....check out our FAQ's on tips to starting bones
Week 2: Add Another Protein, still 10% Bone but Still No Offal
Add another gentle, white meat protein into the diet. Check whats coming out the other end! Poo should be formed and not loose
Day 8 -15 Duck & Tripe, no more than 10% Bone
Week 3: Add Another Protein, A little Less of The Tripe, Still No Offal
Add yet another protein, and better yet try one with more meat, less tripe, just to mix it up a little. Again, poo should be firm and not loose
Day 16 - 22 - Turkey, no more than 10% Bone
Week 4: Lets Try Adding Some Offal!
Now, is the interesting week! Time to slowly add some offal...you've tried 3 gentle proteins....the bone percentage has been included.....and now the last bit. We are starting with 5% liver....but in the long run you will need to add another 5% of another secreting organ to make up the 10% needed for a balance diet in the future, but at this moment we take it gently as too much offal too quickly can give diarreha! Makes sure poos are firm and not loose, if they are loose and dark, reduce the amount of liver given until they firm up, and then slowly add a little liver and poo watch! Each dog is different, some will take to offal with no problem, while others take a little longer to settle - don't rush the offal part, you may also find you may have to up the bone percentage a little to firm up the poos to help during this time. Top tip....cut the offal as small as you can to mix in
Day 23 - 30 - Chicken, no more than 10% bone, liver 5%....start slowly!
Week 5: Add a Red Meat Protein into the Diet
During this week, look at adding another 5% of secreting organ (spleen, kidney, pancreas etc) to go alongside the Liver 5% to complete your ideal Meat 80% Bone 10% Offal 10% ratio. Again, if poos loosen up, reduce the amount until they firm up and then slowly re-introduce. White meat proteins such as chicken, turkey and duck are great as gentle starter proteins as they are so gentle on the gut - but there are some nutrients that are only found in red meat, so its important to start introducing these into the diet - for example Beef and Lamb. A good diet will have a mixture of lean & fatty meats
Week 6: Now is the Time To Either Choose The Complete or DIY Path & To Add Oily Fish
This week, add another red meat, continue to rotate your proteins every day. Now, you can either switch to feeding already made complete 80:10:10 meals, or start batch prepping for DIY (get all your ingredients and make a whole load of meals in one go and pop in the freezer). Now is the time to start adding some fresh oily fish (or tinned but make sure they in spring water/oil and not brine, brine is too salty). Go for sardines/sprats/mackeral. Add a few to meals, twice a week as they're full of Omega 3 fish oils; or try a fish complete twice a week. You can also add a raw, whole egg to a meal, twice a week for an extra boost - eggs are full of minerals & vitamins, plus Amino & fatty acids that are extremely good for your dogs skin & coat (top tip - try crunching up the egg and mix into a meal with a fork, shell & all! If your dog isn't keen on the egg shell, just feed the inside, or if your dog doesn't mind try giving him a whole egg on its own without smashing it....its good for them to figure out how to get into it! Note: You might want to try this up the garden...it will get messy!