People who feed their pets a raw diet are essentially trying to mimic what their pet's wild relatives eat in their natural habitat, while eliminating the unwanted ingredients of that diet/ lifestyle. Most variations of a raw food diet, eventually have more or less the same ingredients, the differences and variety can contribute to an even better balance in the diet. (Read more on diet variations)
All advocates of raw food for pets agree that the diet should be based on RMB (Raw Meaty Bones). The basic principle of RMB is that the meat and bones are served together, in their natural form to promote the ripping, tearing, gnarling and chewing. There are parts with greater ratio of bone and there are meatier parts. Since feeding whole carcasses is part of the philosophy, feeding all the parts, meaty and bony will pretty much even things. If your pet is large enough to eat a whole carcass, or half (chicken for instance), that would be the perfect bone to meat ratio. Bones should make about 10-15% of the diet and the meat 60-75%.
- Internal organs: offal is an excellent natural source of many nutrients your pet needs, and would naturally eat. The internal organs are very rich (especially the liver) and therefore should make only 5-10% of the diet.
- Fruit, veggies (and/or table scraps): As carnivores in the wild also tend to eat the stomach contents of their herbivore prey and other food they can scrape, it is agreed that table scraps or fruit and veggies should make the rest 15-25% of the diet. These provide a wide range of minerals and other nutrients less common in meat, and give another type of balance to the diet. As carnivores eat much of thier veggies and fruits from the stomach content of others (and cannot digest them well themselves) it is always advised to mush or pulverize them.
These ratio guidelines are for dogs. Cats, which are much more strict carnivores, would have a significantly smaller percentage (2-10%) of fruit and vegetables, and higher RMB content to make up for it. Cats with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) should not have any veggies or fruits in their diet. The principals though are the same.
Types Of Meat
As a general rule, the more variety the more balanced the diet. Carnivores can and should eat any animal they (or you) can get their hands on. Rabbit, pheasant, quail, venison, elk and duck are now available on a regular or seasonal basis. Wild game and fish are low fat and probably the best choice. Chicken, beef, pork, lamb etc. are fine as long as they come from a reputable source. There is a wide variety of non-medicated and organic meats if you are so inclined. Most pets will gladly settle for 'human grade' meat as well. Dogs may eat meat that is starting to go bad, they may even bury it and eat it when it's 'ripe'. Cats on the other hand want and need to have fresh meat.
The general guideline is 15-20% of the pet's ideal body weight a week or 2-3% per day.
|Body weight kg/lbs||Protein||Veggies & Fruits||Total (2%)|
|2.5kg / 5.5lbs||30 - 37.5gr||5 - 7.5gr||2.5 - 5gr||7.5 - 12.5gr||50gr|
|5kg / 11lbs||60 - 75gr||10 -15gr||5 - 10gr||15 - 25gr||100gr|
|10kg / 22lbs||120 - 150gr||20 -30gr||10 - 20gr||30 - 50gr||200gr|
|15kg / 33lbs||180 - 225gr||30 -45gr||15 - 30gr||45 - 75gr||300gr|
|20kg / 44lbs||240 - 300gr||40 - 60 gr||20 - 40gr||60 - 100gr||400gr|
|25kg / 55.1lbs||300 - 375gr||50 - 75gr||25 - 50gr||75 - 125gr||500gr|
|30kg / 66.1lbs||360 - 450gr||30 - 60gr||60 - 90gr||90 - 150||600gr|
|35kg / 77.1lbs||420 - 525gr||70 - 105gr||35 - 70gr||105 - 175gr||700gr|
|40kg / 88.2lbs||480 - 600gr||80 - 120gr||40 - 80gr||120 - 200gr||800gr|
|45kg / 99.2lbs||540 - 675gr||90 - 135gr||45 - 90gr||135 - 225gr||900gr|
|50kg / 110.2lbs||600 - 750gr||100 - 150gr||50 - 100gr||150 - 250gr||1kg|
Ideal bodyweight means that an overweight cat or dog should be fed 2-3% of the weight they should be, a day. A more active pet would probably require a bit more. Some small toy dogs also tend to have a higher metabolism and activity rate. If the ribs are starting to get prominent (and it's not a breed trait), start increasing the quantity. If they disappear, however, under a growing layer of fat, it is time to cut down on these portions. For a mature healthy dog the weekly quantity can also be divided by six, providing a day (some even recommend two non consecutive days) of fast. Puppies and kittens should eat much larger quantities and much more frequently. They may eat from 5% of their body weight up to what they would as adults (depending on their age). In some cases they should have unlimited access to food. (Read more on feeding puppies and kittens) Pregnant and lactating moms should also have extra food, 5-7% of their bodyweight per day, with extra bone content. (Read more on lactating and pregnant moms).
Since carnivores in the wild are not getting meals served to them at regular intervals, the feeding schedule is usually determined by the feeder. Once or twice a day seems to work for most pets and owners. The benefit of feeding once is the openness of the pet to try new things. Puppies and kittens should be fed up to 4-6 times a day.
The So Called Balance
We are constantly bombarded with the notion that a diet should be balanced and contain all the nutrients a pet needs. While the notion is correct it is important that this balance does not have to stand the test on a daily basis (as "dog food" ads claim). If that were true, fasting, which is highly recommended, would be unacceptable. The wild animal's body (including the domesticated wild ones) is perfectly capable of creating that balance with an irregular diet. Balance should be looked at, over a periods of weeks. As long as the right ingredients were fed in the right quantities in the overall time frame, the so called balanced is archived.
Most producers of raw food for pets have whole meals that do make a balanced diet, but would still recommend variety. For example: A Beef, fruit & vegetable meal: may contain 75% beef (7-10% offal), combined with 25% fruit and vegetable mix which includes broccoli, carrot, cabbage, kelp, kale, yams, apples (no seeds), garlic, molasses (sugar extruded) and alfalfa. The same proportions of ingredients with a different kind of meat or a different choice of veggies would obviously result in different nutrients. At the same time the division could be made over time, meaning: Give different types of meat (including types and kinds of offal) 75% of the time and pure (pureed) fruits & veggies 25% of the time. The prey model will use a similar principle and recommend different RMB from a wide as possible range of animals. (Including whole carcases of pretty much anything you, or your pet, can find). In the prey model some will also use table scraps and human food leftovers as complementary to the pet's diet and therefore add to the variety. The 'recommended' proportions for a balanced diet consist of (about):
- 10-15% bones
- 5-10% offal
- 60- 75% meat
- 15-25% veggies (and fruit)
For the average pet owner these principles open a wide variety of options:
The easiest (and most expensive) choice is the pre-packaged minced portions which contain all the ingredients. Other options include each of the varieties (or combinations) in separate packages, which give the flexibility to create other (more economic) meals or proportions. For the more 'involved' pet owner there is an option to get only the 'hard to come by' (such as more exotic animals), or the hard to make (ground bones), and make the rest out of produce bought at the supermarket. Bulk meat at sale prices may make for a raw food diet at 'kibble like' budget.
The Importance Of Bones
Bones are at the very core of the raw diet. (Some would say that a pet can lead a full healthy life on RMB alone). One important benefit of eating raw (and NEVER cooked) bones is mechanical: the 'natural dentistry' effect. The chewing, crunching and ripping (in case of RMB) actions, naturally 'brush' and 'floss' the pet's teeth wile also massaging the gums. This is of course, much more evident with whole bones, and is the main reason that whole RMB are recommended as part of any raw diet. Other benefits of bones are nutritional: Bones provide a wide range of nutrients.
- Minerals: Calcium and Phosphorus among many others. Calcium and Phosphorus are not only abundant, they are in good balance to what the body needs. The bones are a living tissue (Raw bones that is) and contain all the minerals that are so important to grow healthy bones. A healthy dog eating plenty of bones will probably need no mineral supplements whatsoever. No artificial calcium can measure the effect of digesting bones. This is especially crucial for puppies and lactating moms.
- Protein: Not only is there plenty of protein, it is of high quality (unlike the protein 'extracted' from bones). This protein contains all the essential amino acids (other then one which is abundant in meat) needed. As far as amino acids, again, a diet of RMB will provide everything the pet needs.
- Fatty Acids: Bones contain plenty of fat and fatty acids mostly Omega 6. (chicken and pork are the richest in that department.)
- Fat soluble Vitamins - Raw bone's fat contains deposits of Vitamins A, D and E. (They do vanish when the fat breaks down when cooked)
- Marrow: The marrow has plenty of nutrients vital to the production of blood, mainly copper and iron
Energy: Fat and protein make a significant part of the bones, and therefore provides lots of energy (something to watch for in overweight dogs.
Bones are extremely valuable to puppies and their moms, during pregnancy and lactation.
Supplement: "Something added to complete a thing, supply a deficiency, or reinforce or extend a whole". In general a balanced raw diet gives the pet all the nutrients that he needs to maintain a healthy long life. There are many views on how and what to add, from views that "all those expensive supplements just make for expensive urine", to long lists and specifics. In a culture where 'more is better', the one thing everyone agrees about is the danger of over supplementing. Supplements in excess can cause diarrhoea, gastric distress (especially if it is plant based), and in the long run strain the kidneys.
Having said that, supplements can be a very healthy addition to any diet, especially to the weak, sick and elder pets. The thought behind supplementing should be a way to reach balance and not to disturb it. There many commercial supplements which include mixes and so-called formulas. The ingredients list is usually long and impressive. It is important to tailor/ find the supplement that is right for your pet's health and diet. For example: A dog that has no fish included in his diet could probably use a fish oil supplement rich with omega 3, or an old dog that has been fed commercial dog food all his life would surely benefit from the addition of some pro-enzymes to his diet. The key is to know your pet and add what may help him. More is not always better.