Dog Food: The Basics Of Feeding Your Dog A Raw Diet

Rose Chewing on a Meaty Bone: Image by Wonderlane, FlickrRose Chewing on a Meaty Bone: Image by Wonderlane, FlickrA raw diet is a fantastic way to give your dog the nutrition he needs. Keep reading to learn the basics of feeding your dog a raw diet.

Why Try A Raw Diet?

The primary reason to switch your dog to a raw diet has to do with the fact that it's the way your dog would have eaten in the wild. It's more natural, and will provide your dog with more essential nutrients than the average commercial dog food. Not only do you have control of all the ingredients (instead of struggling to read a long list of ingredients from a bag), but your dog can more easily absorb the nutrients that come from those ingredients.

For example, dogs absorb about 50% of nutrients derived from commercial preservative-free dog food, where they absorb closer to 95% of nutrients from a balanced raw diet. (Source: Canine Raw Food Diet Basics, by Dr. Tamara Hebbler). Plus, your dog will love you for it!

The Cons Of Dry Food

  • Contains quite a few unnatural preservatives and chemicals.
  • Less nutrition due to baking time and storage life.
  • Many dog foods contain grain that can cause food allergies.
  • Difficult for older dogs to chew and consume. 

The Pros Of Raw Food

  • All natural.
  • Provides nutrients in a whole, unprocessed form.
  • Improved energy levels.
  • Better dental health.
  • Better overall health.
  • Smaller, less smelly stool
  • Shinier, healthier coat and skin.
  • Better digestion.
  • Healthier weight.
  • Zero chemicals or preservatives.

What To Include In A Raw Diet

A raw diet means exactly that, raw food. You might be wondering if raw meat can potentially harm your dog, but the answer is no. Dog's bodies are designed to digest raw meat, and their teeth are designed to grind raw bones into a digestible powder. For optimum health, your dog will need a well-rounded diet with a variety of meat, no grains, and some vegetables.

  • Red Fresh Health: Image by PhotoXpressRed Fresh Health: Image by PhotoXpress65-80% raw meat and bones. Chicken, turkey, beef, rabbit, and fish (no fish bones) are all great choices. Note: You can choose not to feed your dog raw bone, but you'll have to supplement with calcium. Never feed your dog cooked bones.
  • 5-10% raw organ meat, like the liver, kidney and heart.
  • 20-30% raw vegetables.
  • Essential fatty acids rich in Omega-3, found in fish oils like Grizzly Salmon Oil All-Natural Dog Food Supplement.
  • Raw egg twice a week.
  • Small portions of yogurt, introduced gradually into the diet.
  • Calcium supplementation if you choose not to let your dog have bones.
Be sure to feed your dog his meal at room temperature. How much you feed him per meal will depend on his weight. As a general rule, you can expect to feed him about 1 pound of food for every 50 pounds of body weight.


It's generally recommended to have your dog fast once a week to help detoxify his liver. Have him fast for about 12 hours, and then gradually increase the time to 24 hours for larger dogs. Supply plenty of fresh, cool water during fasting time. (Source: Canine Raw Food Diet Basics, by Dr. Tamara Hebbler) 

How To Transition To A Raw Diet

Now that you know what to feed your dog, you might be wondering how to transition him to a raw diet.

The Cold Turkey Method

The cold turkey method is probably the most simple method out there to switch your dog to a raw diet, however, it should only be used for healthy dogs who aren't particularly picky about what they eat. Simply feed your dog his regular food one day, and switch to a raw diet the next. However, the gradual method (listed below) might yield the best results. 

The Gradual Method

To transition your dog gradually, begin substituting his commercial dog food with raw food slowly over a week's time. Start by substituting about 1/8 of your current dog food with raw food. Double the amount every 3 meals or so until your dog is eating completely raw. If your dog seems okay with the raw food, there's no need to do any more. 

Your dog will love his new, raw diet. Have you ever tried a raw diet for your dog? What were your experiences with it?

Also read: Cat Food: The Basics Of Feeding Your Cat A Raw Diet, or Give Your Dogs Barf On The Barf Diet for more information about raw diets for your pets. 

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Aug 5, 2012
by Anonymous
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Thanks for your article. I

Thanks for your article. I have been feeding raw for nearly 40 yrs with a break inbetween when I was taken in by the vets and advertising...but no more!! I help other owners make the transition and EVERY one of them have been so happy with the results, there is no going back. However there are some who watch their dogs suffer and refuse to even try it. One case is of a dog with suspected EPI...his owner wont get him tested further and refuses to see all the symptoms of the disease so while his dog slowly starves to death...he feeds kibble. So sad!
I have a Q for you, if dogs are carnivores, why do you rec so much veg? How do you feed it?
If you feed whole oily fish, there is really no need to supp unless your dog has issues although a small amount a few times a week wont hurt.
THanks again for your article...I love reading those who are obviously not blinded by the pet food cos.
An independent thinker!!

Aug 6, 2012
by Savanna Y Lujan
Savanna Y Lujan's picture
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Hi there, Glad you've been

Hi there,

Glad you've been feeding raw! I'm sad to hear about the dog with symptoms of EPI. If he doesn't think raw food is the best option for his dog, he should switch to completely organic food (grain-free), and get him checked out by a vet ASAP.

Including a vegetables in a dog's raw diet is a debatable topic. Some argue that dog's are closer to omnivores than carnivores, which is why it's recommended to include at least a small amount of vegetable pulp (consisting of carrot and healthy greens like kale and spinach) in a raw diet. However, it's best to avoid feeding a dog corn or grains because they're harder to digest and can cause food allergies. Unfortunately, most kibble includes both. 

I agree about the fish. Salmon and anchovies especially contain omega-3. However, when feeding your dog fish you should always be mindful of the fish bones because they're not as easily ground as chicken or other bones, and can potentially cut a dogs throat or stomach. Anchovies should be okay, however.

Thanks for commenting! 

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