Please use common sense when feeding your dog and seek the advice of your veterinarian – be sure to choose a veterinarian who supports your decision to feed a species appropriate diet. Some veterinarians only had one or two nutrition classes in school and it was sponsored by one of the big kibble companies. Do not rely on them to teach you about natural rearing and raw feeding but instead find one who respects your decision to feed appropriately.
Keep meals SIMPLE! Don’t overthink this!
A raw food diet is not right for every dog. If you choose to feed raw, take the time to learn to do it correctly.
How we feed a modern primordial diet to our Staffords
PROTEINS – Variety and source is KEY!
We believe 10% organ, 10% bone & 80% muscle with low fat is a perfect balance for a complete diet. For every gram of fat you need about 2 grams of protein, fat cannibalizes protein so keep this in mind. Balance the fats to make sure there is enough ALA. Lean meats are important b/c you don’t want more than 10% fat. Otherwise your dog won’t get enough proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals or trace minerals in the diet. Ground is fine but also not feeding RMB can lead to heart liver and kidney disease due to teeth and gums not being cleaned and tartar buildup. Therefore, if you choose to feed a 100% ground diet you must also offer recreational meaty bones. Pick them up however. If they sit out they dry and become brittle.
Both omega-6 and omega-3 fats have the ability to control hormones — and the hormones they control have very different jobs. The omega-6 fatty acids produce hormones that increase inflammation, which is an important part of the immune response. They also help with blood clotting and cell growth. The hormones produced by omega-3 fatty acids also control the immune system and they work alongside the omega-6 fats in an antagonistic manner. So, balance between these fatty acids is an important part of a healthy immune system. Both fats are important and your dog needs both in his diet. But these fats must be reasonably balanced for a balanced immune system.
Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs)
The PUFAs can be divided into two main types: omega-6 and omega-3. Omega-6 fats include linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. Omega-3 fats include alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Linolenic Acid is an essential fatty acid belonging to the omega-3 fatty acids group. It is highly concentrated in certain plant oils and has been reported to inhibit the synthesis of prostaglandin resulting in reduced inflammation and prevention of certain chronic diseases.
A better alternative to fish oil if you cant feed whole wild low food chain fish, would be marine phytoplankton which is highly sustainable and an excellent source of Omegas, nourishes cells directly and contains important trace minerals. This can be grown in filtered water by the way. The brand we use is listed below but our dogs also eat whole fish at least 3 times a week.
Despite what we personally read and believed true for many years, dogs do thrive on about 5% plant matter (or 10% if you cant get the full array of organ meats, skin, fur, feathers) which can be given by way of grass fed green beef tripe or pulverized organic vegetation. Dogs cannot easily digest fruits and vegetables so if feeding directly and not through whole wild or grass fed/finished tripe, then they do require some sort of ‘pre-digestion’ before they are fed to the dog by pureeing. (cellulose can’t be digested by the dog) BUT only use ORGANIC and really asparagus and cauliflower are almost your only choices listed on the ‘Clean 15″ FDA list of those not containing pesticides (when choosing organic) OR do as we do and grow your own organic gardens for more variety. The supplement we use is listed below.
A word about plant oils since many raw feeders add products such as flax seed oil to their pets diets: They can oxidize just like fish oils because they are high in polyunsaturated fats, they are not primordial, are high in omega-6 fats, they are processed, they contain pesticides and only about %5-%15 can be converted to EPA/DHA. The processing (unless cold pressed) will extract the oils with hexane. So animal sources are much more bioavailable to the dog, especially true when coming directly from wild whole animals such a low food chain plant eating fish. Consider using 3 teaspoons ground organic flax, chia or hemp seeds instead. Flax is high in physic acid so beware this will rob the dog of some minerals. Consider adding 1 small sardine, 3 t ground seeds to any chicken meal and this will balance things out nicely. Not every meal has to be fully balanced – you can take a few days to get there so maybe feed whole fish a few times a week instead. Add liver or other organs, lean meats as well.
Puppies will need slightly higher percentages of calcium and phosphorous than adults.
Always supervise when your pets are eating! Feed frozen or mince to gulpers. Feed large portions if feeding whole. Dogs are designed to rip, tear, crunch, swallow. If you cut their food into small portions then all they can do is crunch and swallow, therefore at risk for choking. Whole wild prey is best – including all parts of the animal (organs, skin/feathers/fur, heads, eyes, brains, feet). Remember – the dog relies on the food animal to provide his vitamins so always choose whole prey wild if possible!
Poultry – Dogs can mostly consume whole. Its generally higher in polyunsaturated fats and linoleic acid than beef but the omega 6 to 3 ratio is not great so add ruminant to poultry to balance fats. Caution – in America it can be enhanced – injected with salt solution – and that’s not healthy for dogs as well its usually also washed with chlorine – studies show this puts risk for allergies and asthma – avoid! Go to local sources instead of the market for chicken. Other notes on poultry – duck is super fatty, while game birds are lower in fats – be sure to trim fat if needed or calories add up. I do not trim fat for puppies and older dogs.
- Turkey (thighs, backs, frames, most organs – be VERY cautious feeding the gizzards – these are a choking hazard) *BEST protein to begin with!
- Quail (all parts – whole is best)
- Duck (all parts – whole is best but watch fat)
- Chicken – frames, thighs, leg quarters, liver, offal – ALL PARTS (unless allergic)
- Cornish Hen (whole for adults, cut into 1/4 or 1/2 for puppies)
- Eggs are the most complete source of amino acids, nutrient rich but factory farmed eggs shells get sprayed with waxy substance so only go to local. The whites do contain avidin which is a concern to some b/c that binds to biotin and create deficiency if fed too many. As well avidin is deactivated by heat and heat denatures protein. The yolk contains biotin – Please limit eggs to a few a week.
- Beef (most parts, no weight bearing parts – but frozen meaty marrow bones for pups make terrific teething tools but toss once dried out) Beef Hearts, kidney, liver, eyes, brain, pancreas & cheeks (soak kidneys first). Beef is pretty lean but low in ALA – stick with lower fat grass fed meat, organs and large recreational bones. Brain is a great source of DHA but 29% fat so like heart don’t rely on more than 2% of diet. Green tripe high in manganese and contains predigested plant matter and wide array of vitamins and minerals but always use only grass fed and grass finished. Pizzles and testicles also are important but only feed as 1% of animal.
- Veal (all parts except legs)
- Bison (no weight bearing parts)
- Buffalo (wild – no weight bearing parts)
- Rabbit (all parts – whole is best). Rabbit is naturally quite lean and can be fed whole. It is an excellent addition to diet – but if wild – caution – the digestive tract contains worms so freeze.
- Emu (all parts all parts except legs)
- Lamb (all parts except legs)
- Goat (all parts except legs)
- Mutton (all parts except legs), Lamb and Goat are similar to beef but very fatty. Also sheep can contain tapeworm so freeze first. Be sure to trim fat or pair with very lean meat.
- Venison – all parts (except legs) including offal *terrific starter protein! Freeze first.
- Pork (all parts except weight bearing) pork kidney good source of Selenium. Pork is high in fat and super high in omega 6 linoleic acid. Freeze first for 4 weeks minimum, and don’t just rely on pork and poultry – get some ruminant into diet as well.
- Cavies, rats, mice, chicks – all can be fed whole or whole ground – check your sources always however – know what they were fed or what the parents were fed.
- Beaver (all parts including tails)
- A note regarding feeding fish: Feeding whole fish can balance out fatty acids that ruminant meat which is low in polyunsaturated fats adds to diet. Fish is high in ALA, and contains glands and organs, but also contains heavy metals in the higher food chain species. Radiation has been found in Pacific fish so try to avoid high level predators. Despite this, properly sourced, fish is an excellent addition to raw diet, it is high in selenium which binds to mercury. Toxins settle at sea bottom which are not digested by fish so tend to increase as you move up food chain. Use plant eating fish. Don’t use salmon or pacific fish as a general rule.
- Whiting/Salmon/Herring/Lake Trout (whole, ground, fresh, frozen first for at least 3 weeks in deep freeze – check sources for heavy metals and parasites)
- Mackerel (whole, ground, fresh, frozen)
- Whole Sardines (not the tinned ones too much salt – whole fresh or frozen only)
- Oysters (for Selenium)
- Mussels (for manganese)
*Feed grass fed grass finished Green Tripe from beef or lamb (not the bleached from the grocery) for manganese which can be difficult to source.
Remember – fat cannibalizes protein so watch the amount of fats you are feeding – Dont skimp on the organs! Organs should make up 10% of the complete diet – Weekly – add beef, turkey or chicken offal/organ meats and Green Tripe to meal – start slowly – variety is best so rotate liver, heart, kidney, brain and eyes. An easy way to feed liver is to buy fresh pasture raised chicken liver and place one or two pieces in each section of ice cube trays and freeze. When frozen dump them into freezer bags for storage. Our dogs love their ‘Liver-cicles”. You can also use a dehydrator or your oven to dry beef liver for treats and snacks. Dry chicken hearts the same way. Makes great bait and training treats! Chicken liver is a natural source of folic acid, terrific for bitches who are to be bred.
If you must feed a commercially manufactured raw diet then watch for the following:
- Avoid HPP foods (they may not be raw)
- Food must be analyzed on a caloric basis not dry matter basis
- Watch the fat content!
- Avoid synthetic vitamins and minerals
- Avoid raw foods with fish oil added
Join a local raw feeder co-op and you can buy meats by the case for very reasonable prices. If you are on a budget you can also talk to your local butcher and ask for any off cuts, scraps or ask if they will order meat for you by the case at a discounted price. This is not the best source but will do in a pinch. Just be sure to use the notes above to help you balance the diet when not feeding wild whole prey. Talk with local hunters or local farmers. Dont be afraid to ask. Sometimes local grocery store chains or ethnic markets will have sales. Do yourself a favor and invest in an extra freezer so when you do find a bargain you have room to store it. Everyone does things differently but what we do is take each case of food and thaw it partially. Then we will place 2-4 meals worth in gallon sized freezer zipper bags, marking each one with date and contents. Then place in the freezer. This makes it easier to know what you have and to keep a variety of meats to feed each week.
When traveling by car just package up enough meals for how long you are gone, bag and freeze. Take the frozen meals with you in coolers using ice or dry ice. We take two coolers, one for us and one for the dogs. You can always stop at a local grocery along the way also if you need something. We have fed dogs at rest stops, in grassy fields along the road, behind hotels, at show sites or in their crates. Just bring some non-toxic spray (we use Young Living Thieves Household cleaner) to clean up afterwards if you need it. We always travel with plenty of towels for clean ups too. If you plan to travel by air just wait until you arrive and pick up food there. You can always find meat no matter where you go!
Our dogs will eat fruit and veggies as a snack OR we will add a scoop of the BioStar Buckaroo’s Stew so if you choose to feed fruit or veg you must pulverize so it can be used by the dog. Every dog is different so experiment and see what works for you and your dogs.
If you choose to use supplements I have listed them below – we dont always use them and we dont use all of them all the time when we do supplement our dogs – learn about what each has to offer and find the right combo for your dogs – keep in mind the best way to know what a dog needs is to pay close attention to things such as – coat, eyes, poop, energy, and condition etc.
- BioStar US Buckaroo’s Stew Cooling Formula, and Warming Formula as needed. (good source of phytonutrients and probiotic)
- Fermented sour kraut – great source of probiotic, make your own or choose organic only!
- Bio Star Asta Zan 14 K9 Antioxidant for Dogs
- Local Eggs w/shells (feed raw) – they have fun with these ‘toys’ figuring out the fun prize inside!
- Local Organic fresh raw Goats Milk (great for puppies and nursing mothers)
- Kelp, Spirolina & Chlorella (Organic sourced only, buy in bulk, mix equal parts and pour into shaker) – we tend to use Adored Beasts Phyto Plankton because its environmentally friendly to produce and heavily filtered. Its grown on land, with filtered ocean water. We add this only on days they do not eat fish.
- Raw Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar (Bragg brand – just a capful)
- Raw Cold Pressed Coconut oil (stuff into marrow bones and Kong toys along with ground meats and organs)
- Local Organic raw pastured butter – (mine get a slice daily of fresh butter from a local grass fed herd)
- Probiotic & Digestive Enzymes – Check the expiration date on any probiotic you buy for your dog; if the product doesn’t have one, don’t buy it! (whole fat organic yogurt also works. A few brands of pro/pre-biotics we like are Rogue, Probios, Jarrow’s Pet Dophilus, Adored Beast Love Bugs) We switch this up often.
- Canine Immune System Support (Standard process brand)
- Immune Tree Colostrum 6 – Bovine colostrum for immune support
- Bovine Gelatin if you need to replenish a blown coat
- G4 by Synovi
- Turmericle® Powder – turmeric, coconut oil, resveratrol, and ground black pepper
- CBD (we like PetAboutIt) or other trusted source – don’t buy cheap or just because its convenient. Look for a truly trustworthy source. I am luck I have a MMC so can buy from the dispensary. Check the source!
- We LOVE the Four Leaf Rover products especially Guts and Glory
**A word about adding fish oil – Your dogs should get these benefits from whole animals not a synthetic product which easily oxidizes, has been heated and processed, is not sustainable and lacks selenium and minerals. Feed low food chain vegetation eating whole fish instead. Oxidation creates free radicals in the body which in turn creates chronic inflammation and other health concerns.
We feed mostly a modified prey model diet, meaning we do not grind meat – we feed large pieces for the dogs to chew, tug and eat – it keeps teeth healthy and clean and is very cheap and easy – BUT we do also feed a whole animal ground product sourced locally by a farmer we trust who uses no antibiotics or additives and his animals are raised and slaughtered humanely. We also buy from the following small companies: (Viva, RFM, BJ’s Raw, Green Valley Pride, My Pet Carnivore, Hare Today). Please give our names as referrals when you buy from them.
Remember, ground foods have more surface for bacteria to grow & its not natural for them to eat ground foods. We do however, offer ground to puppies when first getting them started onto raw foods and will sometimes use ground when traveling or for our veterans. Ground is also handy for pet sitters. We pre portion all meals ahead of time and freeze. Then just label which supplements each dog gets to make it easy for the pet sitter. ***UPDATE 2023*** Our older dogs all eat mostly ground now due to choking issues.
Keep in mind to feed large pieces of raw meaty bones. Some say the size of the dog’s head is best. (about 1/2 – 3/4lb a day for an adult Stafford more or less depending on the dog – puppies and growing youngsters can eat 2-3 x that) There has been some confusion as to why we would say to feed chunks the size of the dogs head – it is not to measure portions but rather to keep you from feeding small pieces which could be swallowed whole and not chewed same with necks which are the same size and shape as the dogs esophagus. If you feed larger chunks then the dog will have to rip and tear and chew, but a dog will mostly crush and swallow like a conveyor belt.
It is up to you and your dogs whether or not you feed once, twice, 3 or 4 times per day. Puppies up to a year old here get fed 2-3 times a day and get more supplements than adults until they let us know they aren’t hungry for that extra meal – and they WILL let you know.
Watch stool to see if you need to add more bones (too soft) or more meat (too hard, straining). Also – for diarrhea or constipation you can feed a few tablespoons of canned pumpkin. (not pie filling, the real deal). Keep in mind that you can regulate this with more or less bone in the diet. Especially when you first start only feed one protein for several weeks. The first few days may be loose or gassy but they adjust quickly – you can add a probiotic to help. I switch all dogs here cold turkey to raw – even fosters. Sure makes yard clean up a cinch!
We always supervise the entire meal. Never walk away while they are eating. (see blog post on choking) If they stop and don’t finish pick it up and place it in a bag in the freezer for next time. You don’t want anything to sit around and get dried out – dried bones are harder and sharper…plus you don’t want them choking on a small chunk. This is also why we rarely feed wings or necks except to baby puppies.
Bone Marrow Broth – we buy fresh local beef bones from cows that have not had any antibiotics or hormones and have been grass fed. We slowly steep the bones for two days in a crock pot, adding a bit of Bragg ACV (UPDATE* 2023 – BRAGG has sadly been sold and we no longer trust its quality.) and good quality sea salt. Adding fresh parsley from our garden towards the end. Strain the mixture and freeze in quart bags. This broth which is very rich in Vitamin K. Vitamin K is commonly known to aid in blood clotting. Vitamin K helps the body absorb the beneficial mineral calcium. Recent studies have suggested that vitamin K can help prevent or treat osteoporosis and the loss of bone density. Recent studies suggested that vitamin K also has preventive and treatment benefits for cancer. Vitamin K also prevents the hardening of the arteries, which aids in preventing heart disease and heart failure.
YES I know I have repeated portions of this page of information in places. The topics I repeated are IMPORTANT and I know that people tend to skim large pages of text. Additionally, I am in no way connected financially to any product I recommend. I offer the information here as a person who has tested and tried the products mentioned and feel they are beneficial to our own dogs and you may find the same results.
Books and Publications:
Dogs Naturally Magazine – Dana Scott
Raw Meaty Bones – Tom Lonsdale
Dogs Are Carnivores (Article courtesy of The Whole Dog)
Grow Your Pups With Bones – Ian Billinghurst
Give Your Dog a Bone – Ian Billinghurst
Foods Pets Die For – Ann Martin
Ultimate Diet – Natural Nutrition For Dogs & Cats – Kymythy Shultze
Raw Dog Food – Corina Beth McDonald
Links to more info on Species Appropriate Nutrition:
(Thank you to all who contributed the following information. Please visit their links and support our contributors. We do not profit from any place linked to here but the profit comes from knowing this information is being provided with good intent for the health and well being of your pet)
Links to Articles:
Removing the Fears Associated with Raw Feeding
Dogs: The Omnivore-Carnivore Controversy
Kibble is Kibble is STILL Kibble!
Cooked Vs. Raw Foods
Transitioning Your Dog to a Raw Diet
Raw Diet Article
Dispelling the Myths of Raw Feeding
What Are We Really Feeding Our Pets?
The Raw Truth
Dogs Are Carnivores
Species Appropriate/Specific Nutrition: The Foundation of Good Health
100% Complete & Balanced Nutrition
Natural Rearing Vs Survival Of The Fittest
What’s in Cat Food?
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