When considering a raw diet, the switch can be very daunting and even put some people off. Today’s blog post is an extract of Honey’s Natural Feeding Handbook for Dogs courtesy of Jonathan Self from Honey’s Real Dog Food.
When it comes to raw food manufacturers, Honey’s are hard to beat. Their friendly staff are more than happy to help you with all aspects of raw feeding, even if you never ever plan to become a customer. It’s their ethical stance which really makes them stand out though. Honey’s only use ingredients of the highest quality, and only free-range or wild animals. All meats are guaranteed to come from British farms (most of them local), and will always avoid factory-farmed animals.
Not only that, but Honey’s also sell a 100% certified organic range which is free from preservatives, colouring, additives and chemicals of any kind. From more information about their ingredients and ethics please click here.
A simple but effective feeding plan for adult dogs
Switching a dog to a natural diet couldn’t be simpler and if you are concerned that raw feeding will be complicated, time consuming, risky or expensive please put such thoughts right out of your mind:
- All you need to know to be a successful raw feeder is what ingredients are suitable for your dog and in roughly what proportions.
- With a little bit of planning it won’t take you any more time than opening a can.
- Dogs are biologically designed to eat raw food and it is 100% safe for them to do so (remember: their stomach acids are so strong that they would burn your fingers).
- Your dog doesn’t need prime steak! He or she will thrive on all sorts of inexpensive ingredients, as explained below.
Unless your dog has certain health issues (see below), there’s no reason not to make a straight switch. Having said this, there are a few dogs (maybe one in a hundred) who don’t take to natural feeding immediately, in which case you’ll want to read the next chapter.
Incidentally, if you can withstand the looks of reproach it is no bad idea to fast your dog for a day before the switch. This will help your dog to rid its body of toxins built up while on a diet of processed food.
A simple three-step plan
Our straightforward feeding plan for adult dogs is a summary of decades of experience and it rests on three basic ingredients:
- raw meat
- raw bone
- raw vegetable
The plan itself can be distilled into three simple steps:
- Take any meat (chicken, beef, lamb, pork, whatever) minced or diced.
- Grate vegetables into it (anything but potato) so that it is roughly ⅔ meat and ⅓ vegetable (you can put the vegetable through the food processor if you have one).
- Get some meaty bones from the butcher and give your dog one every day or two (see Chapter 5 for buying information).
For portion sizes follow the instructions below. Vary the types of meat and vegetables you use. That’s it. The rest of this chapter contains supplementary information, tips and various refinements but the simple diet described above is difficult to improve upon.
Do all dogs thrive on a natural diet?
With only a very, very few exceptions all dogs thrive on raw food.
Indeed, the only dogs that shouldn’t eat a 100% natural diet are those with a compromised immune system or that have recently had bowel surgery.
What’s more, a well-planned raw diet can really help dogs with health issues. If you would like to know more about how raw food can benefit a poorly dog see Chapter 12. Remember, too, that Honey’s Chief Veterinary Surgeon is available to supply dietary advice, free of charge and without any obligation on your part.
What dogs need from their food and how they get it
Food has two core functions. It provides energy and it helps the body to remain healthy. With regard to energy the amount required will depend on a
variety of circumstances, including how old the dog is (growing dogs need more, elderly dogs less), the amount of exercise being taken, whether the dog is pregnant or feeding puppies and the temperature (weirdly, dogs in really hot climates can need more energy as panting uses up more calories than you would imagine).
Interestingly, dogs do not need a lot of carbohydrates or simple sugars for energy (although a small amount of complex carbohydrate can provide useful fibre), as they can’t digest it. Their core dietary requirements are fat (it provides energy and protection and it enables the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins), essential fatty acids (Omega 6 and Omega 3), protein (with essential amino acids) and a wide range of minerals and vitamins.
What a dog needs for energy is obtainable in its natural diet. All processed dog food companies are trying to do is replace what dogs ought to be eating with low-quality, inadequate, adulterated and inappropriate ingredients.
Suitable raw ingredients to feed your dog
Below is a list of all the different things you can feed your dog. An asterix (*) means this is vital to your dog’s health. The other ingredients are more by way of providing additional nutrition.
t Lean muscle meat*
Chicken, beef, lamb, venison, rabbit, turkey, pork &c.
Can be minced or diced.
t Internal organs*
Heart, lung, liver, tripe &c. Liver should never be more
than 10% of the total diet. Don’t feed beef liver where
the animal has been fed rape.
Any fish but especially fatty fish such as herring, salmon, pilchards and sardines. If you can’t find fresh fish then once or twice a week you may like to add a tin of pilchards or herrings to the food.
Cheese, probiotic yoghurt, goat’s milk and/or small amounts of cottage cheese.
Any type of whole egg, as an egg two or three times a week is an excellent source of protein, vitamins and omegas.
Ideally raw, meaty bones and including chicken/turkey carcasses.
- Leafy vegetables*
Spinach, winter greens, broccoli, cauliflower.
- Root vegetables*
Carrots, parsnips, swede, turnips &c. but not potatoes, which are high in starch.
- Fresh fruit
But not grapes or avocados and be sparing with dried fruits as they have a high sugar content.
- Vegetable extracts
Brewer’s yeast, kelp and/or a modest quantity of molasses.
- Extra oil*
Once or twice a week you may care to add some cod liver, safflower, hemp, flax seed or sunflower oil.
You will notice that we are vague on the amount of, say, cod liver oil to add. Use your own judgement. For a small dog a teaspoonful will be enough, whereas for a really large dog you may like to add a tablespoonful.
Some useful tips
- The easiest way to meet your dog’s nutritional needs is to serve them meat, offal and vegetables in their bowl and give them raw, meaty bones on the side.
- There is no magic proportion when it comes to the percentage of meat, o fal and vegetable. I recommend ⅔ meat and o fal and ⅓ vegetable. Others will suggest that 90% meat and offal is better, with just 10% vegetable. Treat dogs as individuals and take their likes and dislikes into account.
- Any raw meat will do – beef, lamb, pork, chicken, rabbit, venison, tripe, squirrel – anything, in fact, so long as it comes from a reputable source.
- Grate in the vegetable or put it through your food mixer. Any vegetables will do, but not raw potatoes.
- Vegetables should always be fresh. Vegetables really begin to lose their nutritional value a week or so after they have been picked.
- Mix the ingredients up well, as some dogs have a small child’s aversion to vegetables.
- Don’t forget to buy your dog raw, meaty bones. These contain vital nutrients, ensure healthy teeth and keep their stools firm.
- If you are going to make your food up yourself, you will probably find it saves you a lot of time to prepare a decent supply in advance and freeze it. One good way to do this is to shape it into rough patties or hamburgers.
How much to serve
To begin with, you will need to monitor the quantity of food quite closely but once you get the hang of it, providing your dog is about the correct weight and looks fit, you can do it by feel. Lots of successful raw feeders simply watch their dogs carefully and adjust the quantity as they go.
There is no hard-and-fast rule but for a dog over 10kg roughly 2% of their body weight in food (including edible bones) every day should be about right. In other words, a 20kg dog should be eating roughly 400g. If you have a working dog, an underweight dog or a dog that exercises a great deal then up this amount to between 2% and 5% of body weight per day.
If you have an elderly or overweight dog then reduce the amount to between 1% and 2% of bodyweight per day. You can serve it in as many meals as you want and at whatever time, but it should never be left down for the dog to eat when he or she feels like it. You might be interested to know that because wolves exercise so much they need about three times as much food as a typical dog.
If you are looking for a convenient supply of ethically sourced meat and bones try Honey’s Real Dog Food: www.honeysrealdogfood.com.
For dogs under 11kg in weight try:
- 1–2kg: 10% of bodyweight
- 3–4kg: 7% of bodyweight
- 5–8kg: 5% of bodyweight
- 9–10kg: 3% of bodyweight
- 11kg+: 2% of bodyweight
If you would like more detailed advice please get in touch with Honey’s. These percentages are for guidance only.
Please don’t support intensive farming
For the most part farm animals lead short, painful lives in appalling conditions. They are kept indoors, in tiny cages, mutilated and transported hundreds and even thousands of miles before being killed. Furthermore, the way they are slaughtered is invariably drawn out and cruel.
The photographs and imagery used by farmers, producers, food manufacturers, butchers, marketing boards and supermarkets create, by and large, entirely the wrong impression. Only a tiny percentage of farm animals lead relatively happy and natural existences.
Unless the meat you buy meets certain criteria, the chances are that it has been intensively reared. To buy it is to support cruelty to animals. Of course, it is cheaper than meat from compassionately farmed animals: having a conscience does cost a little bit extra. But if you love animals, it is money well spent. What’s more, intensively reared meat is much more likely to be packed with harmful chemicals since intensively farmed animals are given many more drugs to keep them alive.
To ensure that the meat you are buying has not been intensively reared insist that:
- Chicken, pork and turkey are free range.
- Rabbit and venison are free range or wild.
- Lamb and beef have been grass fed or are free range.
If you are buying organic meat, providing it is properly certified, you can be confident that it has been reared with animal welfare in mind.
It is much better for the environment and less wasteful to buy British. It is insane to buy lamb from, say, New Zealand when we have our own here at home. Also, beware of labelling. Ridiculous EU rules allow businesses to buy chickens in, say, Thailand but by cunning means describe them as being British.
If you would like to learn more about intensive farming, you might like to contact: Compassion in World Farming (www.ciwf.org.uk), which was started by an ordinary British farmer; the World Society for the Protection of Animals (www.wspa.org.uk), a leading pressure group; and/or the Soil Association (www.soilassociation.org), the UK’s leading campaigner for higher standards of animal welfare.
A word about hygiene
Dogs may have stomach acids so strong that they would burn your fingers, but humans don’t. Raw food does have bacteria on it that could cause health issues for humans. Keep it separate from the food you are going to eat, thoroughly wash any surface it comes into contact with (including utensils, storage containers and so forth) as well as your hands. Use an anti-bacterial soap or mild disinfectant and/or wear rubber gloves. If you don’t want to use harmful chemicals, vinegar is a natural alternative.
If you’re looking for an ethical supplier who truly values the lives of not only your dogs but the animals which go into their food, then look no further than Honey’s.