Raw Feeding Methodologies Explained
Some feeders strictly follow a whole prey diet, which is exactly what it reads like it is-feeding whole prey. The more common ways people raw feed, are a modified method called Prey Model Raw (PMR). Another feeding method is the Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods (BARF) diet which includes veggies, fruits, and other whole food supplements. Some feeders combine these models creating a hybrid known as PMR+. PMR+ feeders give their dogs vegetables and fruits, along with other forms of vitamins & minerals; but they add them (+) to the PMR ratios where with BARF; you reduce the amount of muscle meat you feed and count the vegetables and fruits into that ratio. PMR+ feeders take into account the Nutrient requirements for dogs (NRC standards) when building their dog’s meals. Caloric Feeding is yet another feeding methodology. When you feed your dog with the caloric method; you factor in how many kCals they should have and what kind of calories those are. This is an in depth method of raw feeding and many people use the NRC standards to decide how much of what those calories should be.
Each of these models uses what is called “feeding math” which factors your dog’s specific information to calculate how much of what you need to feed per meal/day. Visit each feeding methodology under raw feeding guides on the menu to learn more.
The Common Transition Method
Ratio feeding is the most common way to transition your dog to a raw diet. The common numbers used to feed typical adult dogs is 2%-2.5% of their total body weight. This amount is used for maintaining your dog’s weight if they are a moderately active to active adult dog. Starting with 2%-2.5% and adjusting per your dog’s weight needs is the place to start. Depending on your dog’s breed, it’s life stage + activity level and also considering its metabolism; you may need to feed more or less. Our PMR Foundation Ratios Calculator will give you the ratios for your specific dog. You can click/press the link here or visit the calculators section on the menu.
If your dog is a working dog or lives in the extreme cold, you would likely adjust up. If your dog has a slow metabolism or is prone to holding weight, you may decide you want to adjust the feeding percentage down. There are further details on how to feed the proper amount of kCals for your dog and how to use the best foods to maximize fewer items needed; but it is important to get them transitioned over, and then work out the finite details.
When transitioning an adult dog to a raw diet, it is best to start by feeding individual foods one at a time. By introducing foods this way, you will be able to more accurately determine what items your dog may or may not do well on.
SoCal Raw Fed Dogs doesn’t recommend using pre-made blends/grinds when transitioning an adult dog to a raw food diet; as you will be unable to judge what items your dog does or does not do well on.
While the end goal is to provide a fully balanced diet, you don’t want to rush straight into a broadly varying diet. It is imperative to allow your dog to become accustomed to the new foods they are being fed one at a time. Note: this does not hold true for puppies as they need a balanced diet from the start to ensure proper health and growth.
Weeks One – Two
It’s best to start with boneless white meat for the first couple of meals as they are easy for dogs to digest. Then, work towards feeding a bone-in white meat. You don’t want to go more than the first couple of meals without giving any bone to your dog. You can provide your transitioning dog with calcium via eggshell for the first couple of meals. Feed an egg with each meal in its entirety; the shell will provide calcium for the first couple of meals.
Transitioning Tip: The egg is loaded with beneficial nutrients for your raw fed dog.
While some feeders prefer to start with chicken, SoCal Raw Fed Dogs suggests starting with turkey or rabbit because chicken is a protein that is commonly problematic for dogs. Since transitioning to any new food can be stressful, it’s best to set a dog up for success and avoid the potential complications of a common protein intolerance in the first days of transition. It is a good idea to introduce chicken after your dog has three established base proteins that they tolerate well. One of which is a red meat, such as beef. Another base protein besides turkey and rabbit is pheasant.
*Note: Duck is a red meat but it is an often well-tolerated red meat, so if your dog is doing well you can incorporate duck during week two. Remove all the excess fat before feeding.
For the first few meals of the transition period, you will want to stick with one protein source. This gives your dog’s stomach time to adjust and gives you ample time to see how they tolerate said protein.
Back to the bone: If your dog is handling their boneless raw protein well for the first couple of meals, you can then start to introduce an edible bone source. Rabbit bone and turkey necks are good bone sources to start with, which is a perfect fit because those are the two introductory proteins we recommend you feed to your dog. Most small poultry bones, rabbit, and turkey tails are great soft edible bones you can offer your dog. Once a bone is introduced, you should notice your dog’s bowel movements becoming better formed, smaller, and a bit lighter in color.
Digestive Support: If your dog experiences any gastrointestinal incidents you can make a herbal digestive gruel very easily and quickly using organic (of each herb) slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, and licorice root. Add 1 tsp of each herb to 1/2 cup of boiled water. The key is not to make it too thick. You can add water if it seems to be more of a paste than a gruel. Cool before serving.
Transitioning Tip: Bring in an oily fish on meal five if all has been going well.
About oily fish: Oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, and anchovies; are all valuable for the Omega 3 fatty acids they offer. Salmon is another fish that is an excellent choice. The caveat to feeding salmon is it ought to be cooked. Yep. You read that right. When raw feeding your domesticated dog, you should cook their salmon. The salmon is a fish that is prone to infection of a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. It has been found that the parasite itself is not the issue for dogs but rather the Neorickettsia helminthoeca, which is a microorganism that causes salmon poisoning. Dogs are the only species susceptible to salmon poisoning.
Weeks Two – Three
If your dog is doing well on the single protein/bone source and is having good bowel movements, it is time to start introducing red meat to your dog.
Red meats are rich in essential amino acids, vitamins, and nutrients that our dogs need to thrive. Duck, pork, beef, lamb, and goat are all great red meat options to choose from. You want to introduce the next protein source in small amounts over the period of a few days. Note: adding red meats may cause your dog’s stool to become slightly darker, this is totally normal.
Transitioning Tip: Goat is a hot protein so if your dog tends to run warm, this would not be a good fit for your dog.
As your dog proves to handle their new foods well, you can continue to introduce new protein/bone sources. Remember, it is vital to slowly introduce each new protein and keep an eye on your dog’s bowel movements to help judge how they handle each one. Don’t rush.
Take note if your dog becomes itchy, rashy, or gassy after eating a new protein. While your dog may not be allergic to these proteins they may be intolerant to them and it best to remove said protein from their diet. After your dog is eating at least 3 proteins and bone sources you can continue on the organ phase of the transition.
It is now time to introduce the all-important secreting organs also called OSO. Secreting organs are a very rich source of essential nutrients and vitamins, giving too much too fast can cause a digestive upset.
Liver, kidneys, spleen, testicles, sweetbreads, brains, pancreas, and eyes are all to be fed secreting organs. Note: while commonly confused with secreting organs, hearts, gizzards, stomachs, and lungs are to be fed as Muscle Meats. While yes, these are organs, they are part of the muscular system.
We suggest starting with a small amount of liver and gradually increasing the amount over a period of a few days until you reach their recommended amounts. Organ meat will cause your dog’s stool to become darker, but as long as it is well-formed this is ok.
If your dog experiences loose stool: reduce the amount of organ you are giving, you can slightly increase the bone content for a few days to help the stool firm up. Once your dog is eating and handling a liver source well you can start to introduce the other secreting organ (OSO).
After this base transition period, your dog should be eating at least 3 different protein sources, soft edible bones, liver and at least one other secreting organ.
From this point forward, you want to feed a balanced diet daily. You may wish to introduce whole prey, vegetables, fruits, and other whole food supplements to your dog’s diet. It is important to remember to introduce any new foods one at a time and observe how your dog handles them.
Provide your dog with gut support by feeding natural homemade kefir. We suggest you make it yourself to accurately control what it’s made from and it’s fermentation period. Kefir is a natural probiotic and bring many benefits to your dog’s bowl. Simplified: It is a natural gut soother and yeast fighter.
Be sure to bring in important vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals through foods or whole food supplements. Sea plants such as organic kelp and spirulina are important.
Beef liver is the most valuable liver choice you can feed with duck coming in as a good runner up.
Different types of eggs offer different values so we’ve linked an easy to read and very informative article about the different types of eggs commonly fed by raw feeders. You can read about it here: Comparing Different Types of Eggs.
Watch the values of what you feed. Meaning, if one food is extremely high in a specific nutrient then don’t feed another food with it that is extremely high in that same nutrient. You want to balance your dog’s meals.
Remember each dog is an individual and while one dog may do great on a food another may not.
Citation for Salmon Poisoning: Greiman, Stephen & Kent, Michael & Betts, John & Cochell, Deborah & Sigler, Tiah & Tkach, Vasyl. (2016). Nanophyetus salmincola, vector of the salmon poisoning disease agent Neorickettsia helminthoeca, harbors a second pathogenic Neorickettsia species. Veterinary Parasitology. 229. 10.1016/j.vetpar.2016.10.003.