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When researching a raw dog food diet for your dog as a beginner, it can easily become a bit overwhelming and seem a bit complicated.  

Let's start by understanding some commonly used terms and explain their meanings.

BARF

Biologically appropriate raw food ( this is a diet that is consistent with what their ancestors would have eaten in the wild)  it can also mean Bones and Raw Food.


80/10/10 (can also be referred to as Balanced)

This is referring to the ratio of muscle meat(80%), bone(10%) and offal (10%) contained within a meal.

Prey model

This diet claims to replicate what a dog would eat in the wild.  Owners that feed this way feed whole prey, for example whole rabbit or chicken with every bit of fur and feathers included.

70/10/10/10

This is the ratio of muscle meat(70%), bone(10%), offal (10%) and vegetables or fruits (10%) contained within a meal.

Complete

This is an interesting one. It is widely misused within the raw feeding community and can cause some confusion.  A Complete meal is one that provides all the necessary vitamins and minerals that your dog requires. You will find that some foods classed as 80/10/10 are labelled as complete.  It is a Trading Standards requirement for pet foods to be classed as either Complete or Complementary. This will be addressed further later on.

Changing to a raw diet

If you are changing your dog or puppy to a raw diet it is important that you transition (change) to the new diet properly.  This avoids any unnecessary tummy upsets.

There are two common ways of changing your dog over to a raw diet.

  1. 1
    Straight swop - feed your last meal in the evening and start your new diet for breakfast
  2. 2
    Gradual - feed your normal food in the morning but begin to introduce a small amount of the new food in the evening. Gradually reduce the old food and increase the amount of new food until your dog is happily eating  just the new food.

Which method you choose will depend on whether your dog has a history of tummy upsets or sensitivities and how you feel your dog will take to the new diet. 

Most raw food companies provide a starter bundle or transition box to provide the necessary food to help the swop over (ours is listed below). It is common to transition using either tripe or chicken.

Your raw dog food should arrive frozen, so you will just need to defrost the amount you need to feed and store the remainder in the freezer.  If you are unsure how much to feed then use our Raw Feeding Calculator - link below.  Spare food may be stored in tupperware containers in the fridge for up to 3 days or refrozen.  This is not necessary with our portions as you only need to defrost the exact amount you need to feed.

Whilst going through the transition your dog/puppy will not need anything else adding to the bowl.

Don't worry if your dog drinks less on a raw diet; this is normal.  The moisture content in raw dog food is much higher than dry food.  Your dog should also begin to poop less.  Once again this is normal, as your dog has much less waste to dispose of.

Once transitioned you are ready to start your raw feeding journey.

Do I need to add anything else to the raw food?

The answer to this is probably - yes!

Let us explain:

When you are considering what to eat yourself, you do not sit down with a pen and paper and work out the nutritional benefits of different foods.  You know you should feed a variety of fresh healthy foods throughout the week to give yourself a healthy balanced diet. It is no different for your dog.

In an ideal world, all our meats would be organic and grass fed. Our cattle would be fed a species appropriate diet and our fields would be lush and fertile. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the UK at present although we are doing much better than some other countries. However well the meat is sourced there is no guarantee that the nutritional profile is as complete as we would want it to be.

The concept of raw feeding is one of balance over time - just like our own diet - not necessarily in every single bowl.   Your dog needs you to provide them with as many different protein types (meats) as possible, as that way your dog will receive many different nutrients.  The key here is variety.  Aim for at least five different meat types per week.  There is no need to get hung up on exactly how often you feed the different meats, just make each meal different and you won't go far wrong. A variety also makes meal times far more interesting and enjoyable for your dog!

Confusion can sometimes arise with dog owners who have been feeding a kibble based diet and the bag always proclaims it is a 'Complete' food. As mentioned above this is a Trading Standards requirement. The only way a dry food can provide every nutrient your dog needs in every bowl is with the addition of lots of undesirable chemical additives.

The choice you have now is what sort of raw dog food should you feed - Complete or 80/10/10 (Balanced)  

We have a whole blog on this subject - link below.  In short, when feeding a raw diet, true Complete meals will have either a vitamin and mineral premix added to the raw meats, or vegetables, seeds and herbs.  This way they meet minimum FEDIAF guidelines for the requirements of a Complete Meal, meaning that nothing further needs to be added to the food. 

So when looking to purchase your food, this is one way you can identify if the food is truly 'Complete' by looking at the ingredients added. The FEDIAF guidelines were set up to ensure dry food manufacturers met a minimum level of nutrition and are not really applicable to raw foods.  However this requirement is often used as a measure within the raw feeding community and it does mean it is less important to add extras to your dog's bowl.

Balanced meals will contain only meats, usually in the 80/10/10 ratio so will benefit from extras being added to the bowl.

So whatever meal type you decide to feed, your dog will benefit from you adding a few things to the bowl:
  • Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse and well worth adding (including the shell)
  • Fruits such as blueberries and raspberries
  • Green vegetables are full of phytonutrients and well tolerated by most dogs, unlike more starchy vegetables such as carrot, sweet potato etc which are best avoided.
  • Oily fish such as sprats are a must too!

These extras need not be added every day.  Just a few times a week will enable your dog to gain the valuable nutrients they need.

If for any reason you are unable to feed a wide variety of proteins (if your dog is fussy, or has allergies), there are a number of herbal supplements on the market that use herbs and seeds to plug any nutritional holes there may be.  These are well worth considering.

So to summarise:

  • Transition your dog onto a raw diet properly, using a manufacturers guide.
  • Feed five or more different meat types per week if possible
  • If you decide to feed a 'Complete' meal, extras are not as essential as if you are feeding a 'Balanced' meal
  • Add extras such as eggs, sprats, berries and green vegetables
  • Don't over think it!

Further reading and product links

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