You wouldn’t feed a child junk food for every meal filled with artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, additives and fillers – the same goes for a pet dog.
Yet, if your dog is being fed dried food such as kibble or wet food from a can, you’re feeding a processed low quality food containing minimal meat or meat products. This type of diet is not sustainable or healthy.
What Is A Species Appropriate Diet?
Dogs do best eating a biologically appropriate raw food diet. I discovered this when we purchased our dog from a registered breeder who fed all his dogs a raw food diet and his animals were thriving.
Pet dogs may look different from their wolf ancestors, yet their digestive system is still the same. Mimicking a natural diet, dogs require raw meaty bones, raw offal, plus a small amount of vegetable matter.
Raw Meaty Bones
These make up the majority of the dog’s diet. In fact, 60% of the diet comes from raw meaty bones.
Raw meaty bones can be sourced from poultry necks, wings, back, frame, heads and feet (chickens, ducks, etc). It also includes meaty bones from lamb or beef ribs, spines and chop bones. And could include rabbit, kangaroo, pig or deer.
Bigger dogs can handle whole rabbits complete with the head and skin still attached, or an entire chicken. For medium sized dogs, whole chicken neck/wing size or similar are okay. Smaller dogs may need their raw meaty bones cup up with a cleaver.
Caution: Never feed cooked bones as these are hard and sharp and splinter causing major intestinal problems. Don’t feed your dog the weight bearing bones of large animals as a meal (e.g.: cow leg or kangaroo leg bones). These bones are too big to be an edible meal.
Reasons why raw meaty bones are so good for your dog:
- Bones contain a storehouse of minerals for a dog
- A source of quality protein and essential amino acids
- Contains essential fatty acids
- Has the fat soluble vitamins A, D and E
- Marrow contains important blood forming nutrients
- Keeps the dog’s teeth clean
- Helps to develop good jaw, neck, chest and front leg muscle tone from the exercise gained from eating raw meaty bones
- Keeps the digestive system healthy
- Results in less dog faeces as it is not a food full of fillers found in kibble and canned food.
Twenty percent of the dog’s diet comes from meat: mince, heart, tongue, gizzard, lung, cheek, trachea and trimmings.
Personally, I find it difficult to source meat other than mince and heart so I ensure a variety of different animal meats spread over a couple of weeks.
If you can find a butcher, abattoir, pet food shop selling fresh meat or know a hunter then you’ll be able source different meat items easily.
Whole raw fish is also a good source of meat as long as it is part of a mixed diet. We had a miniature sausage dog who devoured an entire carp with gusto!
The organs of animals contain many essential nutrients and are a vital part of a dog’s diet.
When a wild dog kills an animal, the organs are often the first thing they eat. Dogs as pets have the same nutritional requirements.
A dog needs to eat a small amount of offal – 10% of their diet – on a regular basis to maintain good health.
Offal includes liver, kidney, spleen, brain and testicles. It’s easy to get confused between what’s considered an organ and what’s considered meat. Check out the chart below to clear up any misconceptions.
Other Foods For Good Health
Surprisingly, dogs need vegetable matter to stay healthy.
A wild dog gets the vegetable matter it requires by eating the intestine of an animal. This can be difficult to replicate for a domestic dog so it helps to know what’s good about intestines.
The intestine of a herbivore is full of uncooked crushed green matter containing the vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, C, A, E, K plus biotin, folacin and carotenoids. There’s also enzymes, antioxidants and fatty acids. These are all essential nutrients.
It’s recommended that 10% of a dog’s diet contains vegetables, with a little fruit if available.
The vegetable matter needs to resemble the contents of a sheep’s stomach and intestine. The easiest way to do this is to use a food processor. Simply put all the vegetables in and blitz it until it’s finely chopped.
Any vegetables are okay but not onion or leeks. Use the left over vegetables in your fridge, the items on the clearance rack at the shops or excess home grown food.
You may decide to add a tasty nutritional topping to your dog’s food.
Useful additives to include as a topping, but not essential:
- A couple of tablespoons of plain Greek yoghurt (beneficial bacteria), OR
- Small tin of sardines in oil (omega fatty acids), OR
- Quarter teaspoon of Vegemite dissolved in a little water (B vitamins), OR
- One raw egg including the shell (quality protein)
It’s also okay to feed your dog the dinner scraps as long as there are no cooked bones or large amounts of rice, pasta, bread or grains.
If your pooch is having trouble with fleas, try adding 1 or 2 cloves of garlic to their daily meal.
How Much Food To Feed?
The general rule of thumb is to feed 2% of a dog’s ideal adult weight in food everyday. This also applies to puppies.
Adults can eat their quota in 1 or 2 meals a day. (My dog will only eat a dinner meal and refuses breakfast. So it’s once a day for him.)
Puppies will need their daily quota given as 3 to 4 small meals a day.
Just like people, if you have a very active dog he or she may need up to 5% of their body weight in food per day. It will be up to your judgement, as with feeding any dog food, how much to feed your dog based on their energy requirements.
Calculating Amounts Of Food
I have a male adult labradoodle with an estimated ideal adult body weight of 25kg (he weighs 24kg but is a fussy eater – likely the poodle in him!)
To figure out his daily food requirement, I convert 25kg to grams.
In each 1 kilo there are 1,000 grams, so therefore 25kg equals 25,000 grams.
Then I calculate 25,000 x 2% which is 500g. This means my dog needs 500g per day in food.
Of that 500g, I’ll need to divide it up as 60% raw meaty bones, 20% meat, 10% offal and 10% other (vegetable matter).
- Raw meaty bones: 500 x 60% = 300g
- Meat: 500 x 20% = 100g
- Offal: 500 x 10% = 50g
- Other 500 x 10% = 50g
Keep your dog’s food calculations in a safe place as you’ll need to refer to them every time you purchase more food for your dog.
I find it easiest to make up two weeks of dog food at a time and freeze it until needed. It’s the job of my seven year old to grab a container of frozen dog food each morning to defrost in time for the evening meal.
Portioning The Food
When portioning the food, I set out 14 containers on a table and divide the raw meaty bones, meat, offal and food processed vegetables between them.
For the first year I used to measure the amount for each day. Now I divide it up between the containers without measuring as I know the total amount for the two week period is correct.
In the beginning, I put the dog food into reusable aluminium containers and tore off a piece of greaseproof paper for a lid. Eventually, with repeated usage, the aluminium would degrade and blood would leak from the container as the food defrosted – not hygienic at all.
Now we use glass containers with a plastic lid. Ideally, I’d use stainless steel containers, however they are too expensive to purchase.
If you’re able to get everything needed from the butcher, abattoir, pet shop etc put in your own containers, you’ll be able to make Zero Waste Dog Food and that would be a wonderful boon to the environment.
Raw Food FAQ
How much does it cost?
The answer depends on the size of your dog and its activity levels. For my 24kg dog fed at 2% of his ideal body weight, it costs around $35 per fortnight.
How long does it take to make?
Aside from the time shopping, it takes about one hour to prepare two weeks worth of food.
Will feeding my dog raw meat make it aggressive?
“People often hear that a taste of fresh meat or blood creates blood-lust aggression in dogs, when the complete opposite is the case. Eating fresh meat is proven to calm dogs (Mugford 1987), actually making them more suitable to be around young children, than dry fed dogs.” Dog’s First.
Will I end up with food poisoning from preparing raw dog food?
Preparing raw meat for your family’s meal, or for a dog, is no different providing you practise the same good food hygiene practises.
Keep any raw meat away from fresh food for people, wash your hands after preparing raw meat and disinfectant any areas the raw meat has been in contact with.
Isn’t commercially processed dog food better for a dog? Isn’t it balanced and complete?
Watch this documentary trailer, or the full film on Netflix, and you decide:
Where can I find more information about feeding my dog a raw food diet?
I highly recommend reading ‘Give Your Dog A Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs For a Long Healthy Life’ by Dr Ian Billinghurst.
A raw food diet for dogs is recommended for maximum health, low cost and a lower impact on the environment than commercially produced cooked and processed pet food.
Disclaimer: this information is supplied on the understanding that it is not designed to take the place of your veterinarian. Any application of the raw food diet for dogs it at the reader’s discretion and risk. You are solely responsible for any decisions made in regards to feeding your dog.
Looking for other zero waste ideas?
Find out how to make your own produce bags for purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables.