Welcome to the world of raw feeding for dogs and cats and other meat eating pets!
What is the raw food diet?
It's feeding your dog or cat raw meat, including offal and raw bones, with the addition of raw or cooked vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, for dogs, if desired. Cats don’t need any vegetable matter.
What do I feed?
Feed one protein source to start with, such as chicken. For example, minced chicken, a chicken carcass and chicken wings or legs. Introduce new proteins after a week. Green tripe (beef or lamb) is also a good starter meal. You can feed almost any ‘body part’ or mince and we have a vast range in store to choose from. These are clearly labelled so you can avoid picking proteins you know your dog or cat has an allergy/intolerance to.
What about supplements?
Supplements fall into two categories; those that are daily tonics, oils or powders for general health and wellbeing and those that are for specific remedies or support for ailments. It's your choice if you want to feed a daily supplement for general health, but we recommend as a minimum to add a fish oil and a superfoods/greens powder (dogs only). We stock a large range of supplements for specific support, to combat ailments, or for parasitic control.
What about fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and dairy (dogs only)?
Many people who feed what's called a prey model diet will not add these foods in. However there is no harm in adding fruit (in moderation) and vegetables but these must be blitzed to provide more nutrition. Seeds and nuts – again, it’s personal choice. In all these, there are useful vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Dairy from cows is not necessary and dogs are lactose intolerant. However, raw goats’ milk or kefir can be given as a topping or for puppy weaning and contains useful probiotics and enzymes. And cheese is lower in lactose and in tiny pieces, is good for training.
What about bacteria?
Dogs and cats are well equipped to handle raw meat, including raw chicken. Their saliva has antibacterial properties, they have short digestive tracts and a very acidic environment which act as colonisation deterrent. Common sense prevails just the same as when handling raw meat for humans. Please note, if your pet has recently started or has finished a course of antibiotics, your pet's 'friendly bacteria' will be depleted therefore we recommend the following: switching to raw a week after finishing the course, starting with a non-poultry protein and using a pre- and a pro-biotic which needs to have the 'dog and cat-friendly' bacteria E. faecium within it (we stock these)
What do I need to start?
You could pop in to buy your food every couple of days and then defrost it in your fridge. You could clear a small section of your freezer for a small amount of food or many people buy a second hand freezer dedicated to their dog or cat’s food which allows you to buy in bulk. See our noticeboard for local freezer sales. You'll need some stainless steel bowls as these are easier to keep clean. You may also like to have a stock of latex gloves if you feel happier handing meat that way. We stock these in our ‘Essentials’ section.
What about bones?
Bone is essential. It must be uncooked of course. Avoid weight bearing bones (such as large beef bones) because these contain too much marrow and they are too wearing on the teeth. An example of a meaty bone would be a chicken leg or a duck neck. An example of a meal with higher bone content would be a chicken carcass or lamb ribs. It's not necessary to get bogged down in percentages, but aim to feed about 10% bone in one meal or on average over time. Dry crumbly poos and/or straining suggests too much bone in one meal or too many bone-heavy meals. Add some meat or offal for the next couple of days. The pre-prepared complete raw food products for dog and cats have ground bone added. Some of the minces also have bone added and the percentage is marked on the label. Raw meaty bones given in whole form are what keep your dog’s and cat’s teeth clean. So even if you decide to feed a pre-prepared, complete raw food, you should offer your dog or cat a raw meaty bone once or twice a week for teeth cleaning purposes.
What about fish?
Some dogs enjoy whole fish; some don't. It can be easier to feed them frozen or semi defrosted in the latter case. Or try the fish or fish/meat minces we sell. Oily fish is high in omega 3 which balances the excess of omega 6 found in today’s livestock. Cats usually love fish.
What about offal?
Offal is essential. Again, it's not necessary to get bogged down in percentages, but aim to feed about 10% offa (half of which should be liver) or on average 10% over time. Note heart is not offal. Offal is liver, kidneys and spleen.
What about cats and specifically about taurine?
Cats require a high water content, meat-based diet only to keep their kidneys healthy in particular. They have some more specific requirements which are summarised as follow: feed smaller cuts, they must eat something every day, it must be fresh and preferably room temperature or warmer. If you feed a mince, supplement with beef heart for taurine. Pre-prepared kitten and cat raw food has this added in.
What about my veterinary practice?
Some practices are supportive of clients feeding a balanced, raw diet and will work with you and support your choice. Likewise we, at Healthy Pet Store, welcome practices which refer clients to us and which encourage learning in this area.
Unfortunately, there is a quite a lot of ‘bad press’ in general about veterinary practices and diets mainly because, currently, veterinary practices gain their nutritional knowledge via a limited and sponsored nutritional element of training at veterinary college and then the practices sell the brands which provided this biased nutritional training. Commercial dried pet food, in particular, is a relatively new industry, driven by consumer demand for convenience.
We believe that breed, age, condition-specific wet and dry foods are a marketing ploy. These diets can all be replicated healthily from a raw food diet. This includes diets for puppies, kittens, older dogs or cats, or dogs and cats with renal support, low fat or low purine needs. Cats should never be eating a dried food as they are unable to drink enough water like dogs can for their kidneys to process the diet and this is why many develop kidney problems. If you have any concerns or questions at all, please come in to see us so we can guide you through switching your dog or cat over.
Why does my dog or cat have funny poo?
Making the switch can cause some changes in bowel movements. This is normal and don’t worry. The dog’s or cat’s system has to acclimatise to the fresh diet. After some loose movements, you should begin to see poos firm up and become smaller. If your dog or cat gets an upset tummy for whatever reason, we sell a range of supportive remedies.
Why does my dog or cat drink less?
This is normal. It means he/she is getting more moisture from the food and does not need to drink as much to counteract the dryness of kibble.
Why is my dog or cat refusing food?
Sometimes, dogs and cats can find the new diet out of the ordinary, if they have been used to another diet for a long time. You can try spooning kefir or yoghurt, or a small amount of runny honey over the minces or meaty bones. Dogs will not starve themselves so if your dog refuses to eat, simply take up the bowl, put it in the fridge and offer again at the next feeding time. Please persevere. Come in to talk to us if you are having concerns. We are here to help you and your dog transition. Cats on the other hand do need to eat something every day and regularly so if your cat is refusing the raw food, you should make the switch more gradual by mixing in the existing food with the raw food and gradually phasing the previous food out. Sometimes of course, they refuse food because they are full or unwell.
How much will it cost?
You’ll be surprised how cost effective raw feeding is, even when feeding one of the ready-made, pre-prepared raw foods. Pop in to the store and we can work the figures out for you and compare them to your current brand so you can make a decision either way. If you decide you try a raw food diet having looked at our full diet ranges in store, our aim is for you and your dog or cat to succeed, and to enjoy their food and feel happier and healthier.
How do I swop over?
We recommend making the change in one go, especially for dogs. So use up your dry or wet food (or keep it as treats or for Kong stuffing) and then come to see us where we’ll help you get started. You may find your dog or cat appears finicky as you start, but he/she may never have been offered a raw meal like this before. Be patient and persevere. You can add some kefir or yogurt over the top of the food to tempt him/her to start (dogs only). On the other hand, you may find your dog or cat suddenly become very interested in his food and pulls it away to eat it out of sight or gulps it down. See below ‘How do I stop my dog or cat from gulping’. If you have any concerns or questions at all, please come in to see us or call us so we can guide you through switching your dog over. Cats need to eat something every so if they are slow at transitioning, you should make the switch more gradually by mixing in the existing food with the raw food and phasing out the previous food.
How much do I feed?
2-3% of body weight for a healthy adult dog or cat. For weight loss, feed 2-3% of the target weight. There is no need to be too clinical about it though. Go by the look of your dog or cat – you should be able to feel the ribs with a thin layer of fat, he/she should have a waist and a tuck underneath. Feed once or twice a day. For feeding puppies and kittens, please see ‘How to I feed puppies and kittens?’
How do I stop my dog or cat from gulping?
They gulp the food down because the food is higher value than they've ever had before and they want to devour it before anyone can take it off them (perceived or otherwise) To help avoid this, ensure your dog or cat has a quiet place to eat in peace and is not disturbed. It is not helpful to hold raw meaty bones in an attempt to stop the bolting. Gulping also usually settles when they realise they are going to get such great food every day so there is no need to rush.
How do I feed puppies and kittens?
Feed 2-3% of your puppy’s anticipated adult weight. If you’re not sure what that will be, feed 10% of his current weight. Watch to see if he gets too fat or too thin and adjust accordingly. Feed kittens and puppies several small meals over the course of the day. There are pre-prepared products for puppies and kittens, if desired. For kittens, tiny body parts will be a good start, making sure he/she is eating the bone as well, and add in tiny bits of offal quickly.
How do I feed older dogs or cats?
Making a change to a raw diet can take more patience with older cats and dogs. You may need to mix commercial and raw over a period of a few days and use tuna and tuna juice to make the raw more interesting until their taste patterns change, for cats. Be patient and persist. If older dogs and cats have been eating commercial dry or wet for a while, seek the advice of a vet who supports raw feeding to do a check on the dog or cat’s teeth. You may feel more comfortable feeding a pre-prepared, complete raw food or bone-in minces if there are serious dental concerns.
Where do I feed?
You can feed wherever you feel comfortable. However, make sure your dog or cat has safe and quiet places to eat in peace, especially if you have more than one cat or dog or have children who may interfere whilst your pet is eating. Some people like to feed on a plastic mat. This is useful for when cats pull out their food from the bowl which is normal. Many people feed their dogs or cats outside.
Where can I find more information?
There is an amazing and supportive network of help and advice available for new starters or even seasoned raw feeders, looking for extra help. There is a good Facebook group called Rawfeeding Rebels and a site called www.rawfed.com. And there are many excellent books which we stock in store.