Canine Bible is reader-supported. We receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Learn more.
Are you thinking of switching your dog to a raw food diet plan but don’t know where to start? Whether you are preparing a raw diet for dogs at home or buying commercially available raw dog food, I’ve put together this raw dog food for beginners guide to answers to all your burning raw dog food questions.
Our raw feeding dogs beginners guide will give you the basics on how much raw food to feed your dog and what makes a balanced raw dog meal. It will also help you understand the nutritional nuances of creating a raw dog food diet plan for your dog’s unique needs, why everyone is so obsessed with raw feeding and why some people are opposed to raw feeding dogs.
Here’s everything you need to know about raw dog food and why you might want to make the switch. Let’s dive right in!Table of Contents 📖
- What Is Raw Dog Food?
- Raw Dog Feeding Models
- Types of Raw Dog Food
- Can Dogs Eat Raw Food?
- Why Feed Raw Dog Food?
- Is Raw Food Bad?
- How To Feed Raw Dog Food
- Balanced Raw Dog Diet Composition
- How Much Raw Food to Feed Dog?
- Transitioning To A Raw Diet
- How to Defrost Raw Food
- Raw Diet Supplementation
- Kibble vs Raw
- Best Raw Dog Food
- How To Prepare Homemade Raw Dog Food
- Can Puppies Eat Raw Food?
- How To Travel With Raw Food
What Is A Raw Dog Food?
Raw dog food is designed to mimic a dog’s ancestral diet based on the dog’s carnivorous and primal instincts. A raw diet represents what dogs ate in the wild millions of years ago. It consists of raw ingredients only.
A raw dog food diet plan typically consists of:
All the ingredients are uncooked to preserve the enzyme content, minerals, vitamins, and other vital nutrients.
Raw Dog Food Feeding Styles
There are two raw feeding styles: the BARF model diet and the Prey model diet.
BARF Diet for Dogs
BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. BARF is the most popular raw diet style, with many variations available. Here’s a basic breakdown of the BARF diet:
- 70% muscle meat
- 10% edible bone
- 8% vegetables
- 5% liver
- 5% other secreting organs
- 2% fruit
Prey Model Diet For Dogs
The prey model raw diet is often seen as the more natural diet for a carnivore. This formula is much simpler as it contains no fruits, dairy, vegetables, or carbs.
- 80% muscle meat
- 10% edible bone
- 5% liver
- 5% other secreting organs
The majority of commercial raw dog foods are based on the BARF model. The BARF ratios are adjusted by each brand depending on the nutritional content of its ingredients.
Types of Raw Dog Food
Here are some types of raw dog food you can choose from based on your dog’s needs.
Frozen Raw Dog Food
Frozen raw dog food is a type of pet food made from raw, uncooked meat. The meat is typically ground or minced and mixed with fruits, produce, organ meats and bones. Frozen raw dog food can be bought pre-made from pet stores. Frozen raw foods are generally sold in large blocks, chubs, tubs, or pre-portioned patties.
This type of raw diet needs to be stored frozen for stage and thawed before serving. You will need freezer storage space if you get this food for your dogs.
Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food
Freeze-dried raw dog food is a type of food that is made by taking fresh, raw ingredients and then freeze drying them. This process removes the water from the food, which helps preserve all the ingredients’ nutrients, flavor and texture. As a result, freeze-dried raw dog food is the easiest raw food type to store, portion and transport, making it a convenient option for pet owners. This food is popular among pet owners who don’t like handling raw meat or don’t have the freezer space to dedicate to their dog’s food. This food is shelf-stable, so you can keep this at room temperature wherever you want. Think about freeze-dried as raw nutrition in a kibble-like format.
Freeze-dried raw dog food is often more expensive than other types of dog food. However, many pet owners believe that the convenience of freeze-dried raw dog food is worth the extra cost.
Dehydrated Raw Dog Food
Dehydrated raw dog foods are another option for those who want the benefits of a raw diet but without the messy aspect of serving raw food. Using very low heat removes moisture from the raw dog food, leaving it nutrient-rich and shelf-stable. Dehydrated diets may require rehydration. Unlike freeze-dried dog food, they will not be ground as finely. Once rehydrated, the food will have a texture similar to a canned diet. Not all dehydrated dog foods are raw.
Air-dried dog foods are another style of ready-to-eat raw dog food.
In general, freeze-dried foods have a longer shelf life, lower moisture content, and taste better than dehydrated foods. Freeze-dried foods rehydrate faster and retain their original shape, texture, and color.
Homemade Raw Dog Food
Feeding homemade raw dog food might be an option, but preparing raw dog meals at home requires using the basic ratio of ingredients to create a complete and balanced diet that suits your dog’s individual needs. Preparing your own raw homemade dog food at home poses a higher risk of contamination and mis-balancing nutrients resulting in poor nutrition that could have long-term consequences on your pet’s health.
However, some of the pros of raw homemade meals allow you to source ingredients that you know are safe for your dog. Plus, it’s usually cheaper to buy your raw ingredients.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat?
Can you feed your dog raw meat? Yes. Dogs are true carnivores. They can safely enjoy and thrive on balanced raw meals. Dogs can eat raw meat and other raw ingredients.
Genetic DNA research shows dogs descended from the timber wolf approximately 15,000 years ago.1 Wolves are clear carnivores, so genetically speaking, dogs have similar and noticeable carnivorous traits. Their teeth, digestive system, and behavior account for their meat-eating capabilities.
Dogs don’t have flat teeth like humans or animals like cows, nor chew their cud from side to side. Dogs have narrow pointy back teeth, and their jaws operate in a chop-chop motion like all carnivores. Carnivores do not produce amylase (an enzyme produced in most herbivores and omnivores’ saliva) in their salivary glands. Dogs also don’t produce amylase in their saliva but in their pancreas and small intestine.2
Lastly, meat-eating animals like dogs have higher stomach acid levels; this allows them to digest protein more quickly while killing potential bacteria in decaying meat.
Dr. RuthAnn Lobos, a Purina veterinarian, says feeding a diet primarily raw meat may not provide the complete and balanced nutrition your dog needs.3
If you plan to feed raw meat to your dog, you need to do so as part of a balanced raw meal plan with your vet’s supervision.
Dogs also have a remarkable omnivorous capacity but are optimized for eating meat.4
10 Reasons Why You Should Feed Your Dog Raw
Is raw dog food good for dogs?
A raw diet for dogs is not only nutritious but can also help to improve their overall health. Here are ten reasons why you should consider feeding your dog raw
Is Raw Dog Food Good? Health Benefits
Dr. Ian Billinghurst, a veterinarian, pioneer, and top advocate of raw feeding dogs, mentions raw food has several positive effects on canine health.
Feeding raw dog food to your dog may result in shinner coats, improved skin health, more energy, lean and strong muscles, smaller and firmer stools, improved dental health, stronger immune system, lower risk for allergies, better digestion, increased agility, brighter eyer, faster nutrient absorption, weight management among others.
4 Concerns & Challenges Of Feeding Raw Dog Food
Is raw dog food safe? Generally, raw dog food is safe. However, while there are many benefits to feeding your dog a raw diet, there are also some potential risks.
How To Reduce Raw Dog Food Risks
1. Washing. Handling and storing raw dog food properly is essential to minimize contamination. Wash all meats, organs, and other raw ingredients.
2. Sourcing. Buy raw products from reputable grocery stores or butchers with high sanitary standards.
3. Raw bones. Feed only raw bones that are small with a lot of joints or ground bones. Never feed cooked bones. They become softer after cooking and are at greater risk of splintering when chewed. Avoid big bones.
4. Speak with a vet nutritionist. They can provide nutritional guidance to formulate the best [Enter Breed] raw diet or recommend a raw food delivery service.
How To Feed Raw Dog Food
Now you know the reasons for feeding raw, the risks and types of raw dog food available for dogs, it’s time to learn about the basics of raw feeding and nutrition.
Whether you cook raw food at home or buy commercially available raw dog food, below are the main topics you should understand before preparing or buying raw food for your dog. This will ensure you are feeding appropriately and that your dog will thrive on its new raw diet.
- What does a balanced raw diet for dogs look like?
- How much raw food to feed your dog?
- How to transition your dog to a raw diet
- How to handle and serve raw dog food
- Is supplementation needed in a raw diet?
We answer all of these questions in the following few sections.
Raw Dog Food Balanced Composition
What does a complete raw dog food diet look like?
A complete BARF diet for dogs consists of 70% uncooked muscle meat, 10% raw edible bone, 10% vegetables, fruit, 5% liver, and 5% other organs.
Typically, the ancestral diet analysis, aka BARF raw diet for dogs, follows this formula:
|70% Muscle Meat||Beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and other meats, depending on what your dog tolerates. Choose lean cuts. Aim for 10% fat but no higher than 20%.||Raw meat is the main source of protein. Builds and repairs muscles and other body tissues. Needed to make new skin cells, grow hair, hormones, enzymes and more.|
|10% Raw, Edible Bone||Uncooked raw bones, bones with a lot of joints, like necks, tails, and feet. Ground bones are the safest choice. Avoid heavy or big bones - They can break teeth or get stuck in the digestive tract.||Provide essential calcium, phosphorous, and other essential nutrients.|
|5% Liver||Livers from cow, chicken, or other animals.||Great source of high-quality protein; vitamins A, B12, B6; folic acid; iron; zinc; and essential amino acids.|
|5% Other Organs||Kidney, spleen, lungs, heart, brain, eyeballs, reproductive organs (testicles, uterus), trachea, stomach, sweetbreads (pancreas and thymus), and tongue.||Organs are a great source of vitamins and minerals. The more organs you add to the diet of your dog, the better the mix of nutrients your dog will receive.|
|10% Vegetables & Fruit||Broccoli, celery, squash, pumpkin, spinach, leafy greens, and carrots. Fruit such as apples, cranberries, and blueberries. |
Fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, and oregano. (Never feed toxic fruits or veggies)
|Fruit provide antioxidants while vegetables have carotenoids, flavonoids, antioxidants, and many other phytochemicals that are beneficial to immune function and health dogs.|
If feeding the “Prey” model, this method typically consists of 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, and 10% organs (half of which is liver)—no fruits or vegetables.
There may be some small variations depending on your choice of the raw dog food brand or ingredients you choose to use. Commercially available raw dog food must meet AAFCO standards for nutritional completeness or pet nutritional standards set by the National Research Council (NRC) and the ancestral diet analysis.
AFFCO’s guidelines state that dog food should have six indispensable nutrients to support life and proper function in dogs. These nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water.
How Much Raw Food To Feed Dog?
How much raw food to feed a dog?
The body weight percentage method is the most straightforward alternative to many raw feeders (new and experienced). It’s simple, and it works with any diet.
Generally, feed your dog about 2% to 4% of his ideal adult weight. You should follow the manufacturer’s feeding guidelines to determine the amount of raw food to feed your dog. Feeding guidelines are usually located on the back of the bag.
However, be sure to consider his metabolism, activity level, lifestyle, health, and other factors to determine the perfect amount.
Raw Dog Food Calculator
You have four scenarios to determine how much raw food to feed your dog.
- Weight maintenance: Feed 2% – 2.5% of their current weight in pounds per day.
- Active dogs (canine athletes, sport dogs, or highly active dogs): Feed 3% – 4% of their weight in pounds per day.
- Senior, less active, or overweight dogs (weight loss): Feed 1.5% – 2% of their weight in pounds per day.
- Underweight dogs (weight gain): Feed 3% – 3.5% % of their current weight in pounds per day.
How Much Raw Dog Food Per Day?
For instance, if your dog weighs 50 pounds and falls in the weight maintenance category, you would multiply the 50 pounds by either 2% – 2.5%.
If your dog is inactive, you will use 2%. For an average activity level dog that receives anywhere from an hour to several hours of exercise daily, 2.25% would be the ideal middle ground. If you feel your dog is more active, you may need to feed 2.5% or more to maintain a healthy weight. Here is an example.
For an active dog who weighs 45 pounds and wants to maintain weight, you would multiply 2.5%*45 lbs (0.025*45), which equals 1,125 pounds. This is the number of pounds in raw food you need to feed your dog daily.
Adult dogs typically eat two meals per day. So, break 1.125 lbs into two meals of 0.5625 lbs each.
How To Transition to Raw Dog Food
Switching your dog’s food must be done incrementally to allow your dog’s digestive tract to adjust without suffering from stomach issues.
We recommend adhering to the following recommendations by vets:
Week 1: 25% new food and 75% old food
Week 2: 50% new food and 50% old food
Week 3: 25% new food and 75% old food
Week 4: 100% new food
Pro Tip: Never change your dog’s food abruptly. It could cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Only increase your dog’s new food percentage per week if he seems to be doing well during each transition.
Monitor weight and health closely. If you notice any adverse reaction to his new food, you should go back a week in the transition plan and proceed at a slower pace.
How to Handle & Feed Raw Dog Food
Never treat raw dog food like regular kibble!
Follow these tips to handle and feed raw dog food to your pet correctly.
Proper care and handling of raw dog food can dramatically reduce bacteria contamination. Don’t forget to wash your hands as much as needed to avoid cross-contamination from other surfaces or foods you may have touched.
1. Separate raw dog food from human food. Use separate cutting boards and cooking utensils to prepare and serve raw dog food. Store raw dog food away from human food to cross-contamination.
2. Freezing and storing. Keeping frozen raw dog food at a consistent temperature of 0 °F. This prevents the growth of microbes (including mold and yeast ) and kills parasites if frozen for up two weeks.
3. Never use water or the microwave to thaw frozen raw dog food. Thawing in water can cause the nutrients to leach into the surrounding water, and microwaving cooks the food—Thaw raw dog food by placing it in the refrigerator or a bowl on the countertop. The temperature must be 40 °F or below if placed in the refrigerator for thawing. Ideally, 35 °F. According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), “bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140 °F, the “Danger Zone.”
4. After thawing, you have 1 to 2 days to feed the food to your dog. FoodSaftey.gov and raw dog food manufacturers recommend storing the food in a container with a lid and placed in the refrigerator for no more than 24-48 hours. You have two days to feed Fido raw food that’s been thawed. Keeping food refrigerated for 3 to 4 days might not hurt, but it increases the chances of cross-contamination and spoilage. Freeze-dried food can be stored at room temperate.
6. Don’t leave raw dog food out for too long. Throw away leftovers from the day. If your dog doesn’t finish his raw food, pick it up right away, cover it, and put the food back in the refrigerator to feed at the next meal. Dispose of any uneaten food at the end of the day. Do not leave raw food in the bowl for long periods, especially during the warmer months. It can result in spoiled food and bacteria growth. Following these tips ensures food freshness and potential digestive upset in dogs.
7. Always sanitize prep space, tools, and area where the pet eats before and after cooking and serving. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. Use hot, soapy water to wash utensils and bowls after each use. Never use the same dishrag to wash your dishes, or you could contaminate them with raw food particles. Get a separate dishrag that’s specific for your dog’s dishes.
Pro Tip: Always handle raw dog food the same way you handle raw chicken cooked for your family. Consider using a dog’s bowl made from stainless steel like this one. Other materials like plastic and porcelain can trap germs over time due to the porosity of their surfaces.
How To Defrost Eaw Dog Food (Video)
If you’ve never handled or fed frozen raw dog food to your pet, this video will show you how to thaw and serve raw meals.
Thawing raw dog food is recommended. Frozen food can be difficult and dangerous to digest in dogs. Watch and learn how to defrost raw dog food quickly.
Raw Dog Food Supplements
Most commercial raw diets that adhere to AAFCO’s nutritional guidelines do not require additional supplementation.
Like the ones we’ve reviewed above, pre-made raw dog food has all the nutrients our dogs need.
Before adding supplements to your dog’s diet, consult a veterinary nutritionist to ensure your recipe covers all your dog’s dietary needs. You must also review the packaging to ensure the product contains the right vitamins, minerals, and other necessary ingredients.
If you’ve determined your pup needs supplementations, these are some of the best raw dog food supplements.
- Calcium and phosphorous, especially for puppy diets (NaturVet Calcium Phosphorus Dog Powder)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (Earth Animal Daily Raw)
- Trace minerals like iodine, selenium, and zinc
- Vitamins including Vitamin A and Vitamin B12
Raw Dog Food vs Kibble
Is raw dog food better than kibble? Both diets have pros and cons, but it all comes down to what’s best for your dog.
If you still have lingering questions or concerns about raw feeding dogs or the whole kibble versus raw debate, here is a glance at how they stack up against each other.
|Kibble is made with fillers, preservatives, additives, colorants, |
and other harmful chemicals.
|No additives or any type of chemical is added.|
|Cheaper than a raw diet||Homemade raw food is equally expensive or cheaper. Commercially|
available raw food is a bit more expensive than kibble.
|Low standards for what can and cannot be included|
in commercial pet food,
|Typically, raw-based diets use high-quality meats and fresh ingredients.|
Quality standards for safety, hygiene, and manufacturing tend
to be more rigorous due to the raw nature of the food.
|Longer shelf-life and doesn’t spoil quickly.||Raw food doesn’t last long after being served. Leftovers for the|
day need to be discarded.
|Easy to store and carry when traveling||Requires freezer space and only the raw-freeze dried option|
is suitable for traveling.
What Raw Dog Food Is Best?
For pet owners who are interested in feeding their dogs a raw diet, there are a few different options available. Some pet stores now carry various raw dog food brands, and many of these brands can also be ordered online. In addition, many online companies specialize in raw dog food, and these companies often offer a wider selection of products than what is available at a pet store.
To get your dog’s first raw meal, look at our list of the best raw dog food brands. Then, read our reviews and compare formulas to find the best option for your pup.
How to Prepare Raw Dog Food
Many dog owners are interested in preparing raw dog food at home but are unsure of where to start. There are a few things to remember when preparing raw dog food. Check out our homemade raw dog food guide to learn how to prepare healthy and delicious raw dog food at home.
Can Puppies Eat Raw Dog Food?
Preparing a raw diet for puppies recipe is different than a BARF recipe for adult dogs.
Puppies require more protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorus than adult dogs. Feed puppies 15% bone and less than 20% fat to make sure they get enough nutrients and minerals. Raw food for puppies need to include a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, water, and vitamins per AAFCO guidelines.
When your puppy is growing and developing, it is not advised to skip meals.
Can Puppies Eat Raw Meat?
Puppies can eat raw meat. Many raw-fed breeders wean their puppies directly onto raw from their mother’s milk. You can begin feeding raw the day you bring your puppy home or do a combination of both worlds (raw food + dry kibble) until your puppies reach 12 months of age. After 12 months, you can transition to 100% raw dog food.
How Much Raw Food Should Puppies Get?
Puppies need more calories than adult dogs. Puppies should eat about 5% to 10% of their current weight to support their growth.
As a general raw feeding guideline for puppies feed:
Puppies 2 to 3 months: 8% to 10% of body weight daily
Puppies 4 to 5 months: 6% to 8% of body weight daily
Puppies 6 to 8 months: 4% to 6% of body weight daily
Puppies 9 to 12 months: 3% to 4% of body weight daily
Puppies should be fed 3 to 4 times per day. When they mature (12 months & up), you can feed them twice a day.
How To Travel With Raw Dog Food
If you’re traveling with your dog, there’s a good chance you’ll need to take some of their food with you. While dry kibble is relatively easy to transport, raw food can be more challenging. Here are a few tips to help you travel with raw dog food:
Travel With Freeze-Dried or Dehydrated Raw Dog Food
The convenience of dehydrating, freeze-drying, and air-drying raw foods make it easier to feed raw when storing the food in the freezer or refrigerator isn’t possible. They are a convenient alternative style of raw dog food for traveling or for last-minute meals and can also be used as treats or meal toppings. Moisture is the only thing missing from these diets. To fix this, you can take and pour some bone broth for dogs.
Travel With A Cooler
The first step is to find a safe and convenient way to transport the food. This may mean using an insulated cooler or packing the food in freezer bags. Once the food is packed, it is crucial to keep it cool and dry. When you reach your destination, make sure to keep the food stored in a cool, dark place. If you are traveling by car, you may want to bring along a small ice pack (or better yet, dried ice) to keep the food frozen.
Bringing Raw Food While Traveling By Air
Is it possible to bring dog food from Canada or other countries into the US? Unfortunately, you can’t. All pet food entering the U.S. via air is required to be shelf-stable, meaning no refrigeration is required. Further, the USDA prohibits the importation of sun-dried, freeze-dried, or raw products for personal use. If you are traveling with a raw-fed dog, look into some kibble-style dog foods that use very low temperatures, such as a gently cooked dog.
To avoid any surprises during your flight, you are better off calling ahead to find out what’s allowed before getting stuck at the border.
Should You Feed Raw Food To Your Dog?
You should not feel intimidated by choosing a raw diet once you have the proper knowledge. Putting your dog on a balanced raw diet can help you provide the best life for your pet so that they can continue to bring joy to your home.
Opting for well-known brands like BARF World and Insntic Raw Dog Food offers the convenience and peace of mind that you are feeding your pet the best possible raw dog diet without the hassle of preparing it yourself and worrying about feeding your dog an unbalanced diet.
Consider dehydrated raw dog diets if you’re not quite ready for the mess and fuss of frozen raw dog diets. The scoop-and-serve system is a great way to transition your dog from kibble to raw simply and easily.
If your dog suffers from allergies, digestion issues, or other health problems, you want to explore brands like Darwin’s. They offer health-specific raw recipes for specific conditions.
If you’re thinking about switching to a raw food diet for your dog, it’s important to do so gradually to avoid stomach upset. Even though your vet might not fully support raw feeding, it’s important to talk with your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist about the best way to make the switch and what type of raw foods are best for your pup. As long as you’re providing your dog with a balanced raw diet, your dog should benefit from it.