What if someone told you you’ve been feeding your beloved dogs and cats improperly all this time? And that it’s not the brand that matters, but feeding dry food at all that’s the problem? It might be hard to hear, but just as wolves and wildcats aren’t designed to eat dry kibble, neither are their descendants—our modern-day pets.
In recent years, there’s been much discussion about what makes up a species-appropriate diet for dogs and cats, and many people agree: raw is the way to go.
A raw diet for dogs includes muscle meat, raw bones, and organs fed at 2.5% of your dog’s bodyweight.
Meat should be always be completely raw, and it’s best to start by feeding only white meat (such as chicken, turkey, rabbit, or quail) as well as bone for the first week or two. After this transition period, you can begin adding red meat, organs, and raw eggs on occasion.
Note of caution: transitioning to a raw diet too quickly can lead to digestive upset and diarrhea. However, adding bone to your dog’s diet should help—just make sure to feed an appropriate sized bone for your dog’s size, such as chicken wing bones, drumsticks, or necks for small dogs and leg quarters, backs, or half breast for larger dogs.
Once your dog has fully transitioned (which takes approximately one month), he should be eating a variety of meats including the white meats mentioned above, plus pork, beef, lamb, deer, and/or goat, as well as nutritious organs such as liver, kidney, spleen, pancreas, and brain. It’s important to note, however, that organ meat should make up no more than 5% of your dog’s total diet.
Some people may choose to include small amounts of raw vegetables, seeds, nuts, and fruits in their dog’s diet. These can include kale, spinach, sprouts, and broccoli; sunflower, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and almonds; blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries.
The raw diet for cats is similar to that for dogs, with the exception the optional non-meat foods. Cats need to eat 3% of their bodyweight of meat, bone, and organs daily. They may be pickier about transitioning, but can usually do so more quickly than dogs. Always keep an eye on their stool as a guide though. As with dogs, adding Slippery Elm Powder can be beneficial.
When first transitioning your cat to a raw diet, start with bland white meat and bone. After about four days, you can introduce red meats such as pork, beef, or lamb. Adding raw eggs is also fine. If your cat doesn’t experience diarrhea, you can add organ meats after four more days.
Feeding a raw, species appropriate diet will take commitment on your part as well as patience while your pet transitions away from dry kibble food. Three important things to keep in mind are this: feed variety, feed appropriate amounts, and always use good hygiene. Safe handling of raw meats and cleaning prep areas and food bowls will be an important part of keeping both you and your pet healthy.