Updated: Feb 17
Raw food - you either love it, or you hate it. There doesn't seem to be an in-between. I'll be honest, I fed my beagle raw food, for almost a year. But he stopped eating it, and then the pandemic hit and we needed the freezer space and something that could be delivered by Amazon.
In this post I will share my own experiences of raw feeding, the good and the bad, the pros and the cons. I'll also talk about costs and storage, and all the things no-one tells you but that you need to know (the maggots!).
But I want you to be able to read this and make your own decisions about whether raw feeding is for you. And if you need some more help to decide you can always book in for a free 20 minute consultation call to ask me anything you need to know.
Where did raw feeding come from?
In 1993, an Australian vet came up with the idea that domesticated dogs would benefit from eating a raw meat based diet, just like racing greyhounds and sled dogs. The thinking behind Ian Billinghursts statement was that adult dogs would thrive on an evolutionary diet based on what they would have eaten before becoming domesticated pets.
Billinghurst published a book called Give your dog a bone, and since then dozens of other raw food based diets have surfaced. These include:
Frozen raw completes
Freeze dried raw food
Fresh raw meat combined with table scraps and/or vegetables and grains
What is a raw diet?
Let's start with the basics. A raw diet is a combination of muscle meat, organ meat (offal) and bone. You can also add in eggs, vegetables, fruit and yoghurt, but these are not necessary at all.
A raw diet should be 80% muscle meat, 10% offal and 10% bone. Complete meals are made using this ratio, but if you are prepping meals yourself you would need to work this out. This is why completes are generally the most popular option available.
Do I have to feed offal? Yes, you do! Offal is packed full of nutrients that are very important in your dogs diet. Offal contains:
Vitamins: A, B, D, E, and K
Minerals: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, iodine, potassium, sodium, selenium, and zinc
Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA
Pro's and Cons of Raw Feeding
We'll begin with the pro's of raw feeding, and I will start by saying none of these are guaranteed! The potential benefits of feeding a raw diet may include:
A shiny coat
Higher energy levels
From my own experience, yes Obi did have a lovely coat, teeth and poo when he was fed raw, there is no doubt about that. But did that change when we stopped feeding him raw? No, it did not (apart from the poo, which now varies!). Do I think therefore that some/all of these benefits can be achieved feeding a different diet? Yes I do. And a part of me thinks that a lot of the benefits could be coincidental.
That's not to say of course that any of this is bad! No-one would say that having a shiny coat and white teeth was a negative, but I think we need to be more transparent on how that is achieved.
In it’s basic format, raw food is a natural product, with no additives, colourings, flavourings or nasty stuff. That’s why we started feeding it. You know what goes in it. It’s also great if your dog can only tolerate certain proteins, because it’s very easy to exclude those when raw feeding. As a food type, I think it’s great. But with raw food there’s a lot of time and effort that comes with it that you don’t get with ‘regular’ dog food.
You need to makes sure that you are feeding the correct proportions of food. Particularly if you are not feeding complete foods as you can run the risk of an unbalanced diet.
Chalky white poo means you have too much bone
You can cause vitamin A toxicity from feeding too much liver
Too much heart can cause an upset stomach
And yes, it’s true that dogs poops on a raw diet are smaller, firmer and less whiffy. However, in some dogs this firmer poo can cause blockages and problems.
From my personal experience with raw, you will also need to consider things like storage space, as buying in bulk is the cheapest way to feed a raw diet. This usually requires a separate freezer, I wasn't too keen on storing the raw green tripe alongside my frozen chips and Magnums.
I also found we had issues with flies and maggots in the summer, both from uneaten food and from the packaging. Once I started finding them in the kitchen it was a no brainer from me to switch to a different food. I guess there is a way around this, but nothing we tried seemed to make any difference!
So you have got to this point and decided that you want to try raw. Now lets think about the costs, how much to feed and what to feed.
The cost of feeding raw
The cost can vary wildly depending on which brands you buy, and if you DIY or not. I found the best place to buy from was a local specialist raw feeding shop, so if you can find one near you then please pay them a visit. I've found most will happily talk to you for hours on end about raw feeding!
Feeding raw food generally costs more than kibble, and as a general rule, it will cost you around 80p to £1.50 per 10kg of your dogs weight depending on which brand you purchase.
In 2020, the site Nimblefins carried out a study on the cost of feeding raw. They gathered prices from Wolf Tucker, Nutriment, Natural Instinct (Natural), Luna & Me, Nature's Menu (Original, Country Hunter and True Instinct) for frozen, complete meals composed of 80% to 90% meat and bones, plus 10% to 20% vegetables, fruits, oils, essential vitamins and minerals, etc. Prices were gathered for 500g packs, where available, since these are the most common and convenient (versus 1kg or larger packs).
Feeding raw food on a budget
Feeding your dog with raw food typically costs more than feeding with an average, processed wet or dry food. If you want to feed raw but find it expensive, here are some tips to save money feeding raw.
Type of Meat: Buy lots of chicken meals, since chicken is generally the cheapest type of raw dog food. For instance, chicken meals cost around 33% less than lamb in Nimblefins raw food pricing study.
Brand: If you're very price conscious, pick a brand that offers lower prices per gram, such as Durham Animal Feeds, Benyfit Natural or Natural Instinct.
Buy in bulk: Some companies offer savings for buying on repeat or buying larger packs of frozen food. For example, at my local raw pet food specialist they offer a deal for 14 454g packs for £14 instead of £28, saving 50% on each box.
The cost of DIY raw feeding may feel cheaper, but it rarely is. For instance, you can buy 450g of Turkey mince for £1.89 from Lidl. Add to that some vegetables like broccoli and sweet potatoes and you can create 500g of raw food for around £2. But frozen raw dog food chicken meals cost only £1.99 on average for a 500g tub, with some brands costing as little as £1.55. Prepared, frozen raw dog food is not only cheaper in most cases but it is also less hassle—all you have to do it thaw and feed.
There are, of course, premium raw food brands which cost much more than others, such as Naturaw, Cotswold, Paleo and Butchers Block.
How to calculate how much to feed
One rule of thumb is to feed 2-4% of your dogs body weight. Smaller dogs will require a higher percentage of their body weight, while larger dogs will require a smaller percentage of their body weight. The daily portion should be split between morning and night.
A 12kg dog will eat around 2.5kgs of food per week, and a 22kg dog will eat around 3.6kgs of food per week, or 500g per day, split between 2 meals. On the cheaper food this would cost around £2 per day for the larger dog and £1.50 for the smaller dog, and on the premium brands up to £4 per day for the larger dog, and £2.80 for the smaller dog.
There should be no transition over to raw, you should stop your old food and start on 100% raw the next day.
I had previously always believed that you should not mix raw with any other type of dog food, particularly kibble, as these digest differently in the stomach. However, I have carried out a bit of research and found that this has mostly been debunked.
There's a really interesting article here: https://canine.care/nutrition/raw-feeding-myths-can-you-mix-with-kibble-and-raw
Dogs also drink less water when eating a raw diet, so don't be too concerned if your dog starts drinking less when you switch over.
My local supplier has some really useful information on their website which will help you work out what you need to feed:
The magic of green tripe...
Green tripe is a very nutritious food for dogs of all ages. Raw green tripe offers beneficial bacteria and enzymes. It has a desirable calcium:phosphorus ratio of 1:1. Green tripe's pH is acidic, the protein is 16.2%, and the fat is 12.1%. It also has the correct proportions of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
One of the best constituents of raw green tripe is lactobacillus acidophilus. This is one of the intestinal bacteria that keep unwanted bacteria such as e-coli, salmonella and listeria from overpopulating and causing health problems. A balance of microflora in the gut is extremely important to maintaining good health. These probiotics help keep the animal’s immune system in top shape. Digestive enzymes. The enzymes that help the ruminant digest its meal will give the pet the same benefit. Dogs do not naturally produce amylase, so the nutrients present in vegetative matter are not readily available to them. Raw green tripe contains these digestive enzymes. Tripe is a highly nutritious meal and contains the following vitamins and minerals:
Vitamin A (Retinol), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid), Vitamin B12 (cobalt/choline), Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Zinc
Feeding a variety of proteins
Providing that your dog doesn't have any allergies or intolerances, it's a good idea to try and feed a variety of proteins. However, it's worth mentioning that some proteins are considerably higher in fat than others, so if you are trying to manage your dogs weight you will need to take this into account. If you are unsure if your dog has any allergies, it is worth conducting an allergy test before starting your raw journey.
High fat meats:
Some cuts of beef
White fish (cod, plaice, haddock)
Feeding raw bones and treats
I have always given Obi raw frozen chicken wings, and yes, at first I was so nervous that he would choke on it! The best thing to do is to hold one end of the wing with a pair of pliers until they learn that they are to chew the wing. You can also feed duck or turkey wings.
Frozen raw chicken wings can also be used to help alleviate issues with anal glands.
Other raw bones that you can feed include marrowbones, chicken necks/feet, duck necks, lamb ribs/necks, pigs trotters and raw rabbits ears. A quick search on the internet will show you the extreme end of raw feeding, and if I'm honest, we never went this far! But there are companies like Kiezebrink that sell whole frozen rabbits (with fur), day old chicks and horse meat.
Remember though, if you are feeding bones and treats these should come out of the daily food allowance, and not just fed on top of. This is an easy mistake to make and can result in the dog gaining weight on a raw diet.
The subject of supplementing your dogs food is a complex one, because in theory you shouldn't need to, but, depending on the food you are feeding you may need to. It's worth really looking at what you're feeding to determine what's missing (if anything) from your dogs diet. This is particularly key with raw food as it's just meat, and therefore you may need to add other nutrients to ensure your dog is getting everything it needs.
I'll be doing a whole post just for supplements, so keep an eye out for that!
Budget brands to check out:
Durham Animal Feeds (DAF)
The Dogs Butcher
Mid-range brands to check out:
High end brands to check out:
Bella & Duke
Natures Menu (only expensive because of the amount you have to feed!)
Of course, there are hundreds of brands to check out, this is only a small selection as a starter to help you.
There are several useful Facebook groups dedicated to raw feeding:
Another good source of information is instagram, and some of my favourite raw feeding accounts are @rawfeeding, @perfectlyrawsome and @workshop_raw.
This article also has a list of 35 instagram accounts for raw feeders to follow: https://keepthetailwagging.com/33-instagram-accounts-raw-feeders-must-follow/
Still not sure? Book in with me for a free 20 minute consultation.
Disclaimer: This post is about my experience and opinions on raw feeding, others will have other opinions. Raw feeding is one of the most controversial topics in the dog world. Your opinion may differ, and that’s OK.
I am also not affiliated with any brands or supplier, and all opinions are my own.