Welcome to the world of fresh and frozen food for dogs and cats and other meat eating pets!
What is the raw food diet?
It's feeding your dog or cat uncooked meat, including uncooked offal and bones, with the addition of raw or cooked vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, for dogs, if desired. Carbohydrates, although not essential for dogs, may be included in the diet under some circumstances. Cats don’t need any carbohydrates or vegetable matter. Under some circumstances, it may be advisable to provide cooked, home prepared diets. Most candidates for a cooked diet come via a referring vet we work alongside. We believe that the 'prescribing' of breed, age, condition-specific wet and dry foods is unnecessary. These diets can be replicated healthily from a raw or cooked food. This includes diets for puppies, kittens, older dogs or cats, or dogs and cats with renal support, low fat or low purine needs. We feel strongly that cats should ever only be fed a raw or a wet food diet to ensure they are receiving the amount of water they need to keep themselves healthy.
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. In this case, rabbit is a good starter protein source. If you are feeding minces, these will include bone and offal where stated. If you decide to feed chunks, the required amount of bone and offal must be provided over the course of a month. We find that easier for customers to work through. We recommend adding 'fresh' into the bowl too if it's available from your own home cooking - fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh dairy eg cottage cheese, whole eggs, shellfish and so on.
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 the dog or can must as a minimum receive omega 3 in the form fish oil (if they do not eat oily fish mince or whole oily fish) 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 in these food groups. However there is no harm in adding fruit (in moderation) and vegetables but these must be blitzed or cooked to provide bioavailability. 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 generally lactose intolerant. However, raw goats’ milk or goats' milk 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. Remember adding fresh ingredients into the food bowl is a bonus as well portion from your own home cooking - AKA table scraps and why not! Cats should not be offered any dairy produce from cows.
What about bacteria and parasites?
Dogs and cats are well equipped to handle uncooked meat, including chicken. Their saliva has antibacterial properties, they have short digestive tracts and a very acidic environment which act as colonisation deterrent.
Due to UK/EU raw pet food legislation and farming practices, raw food has to return zero traces of salmonella. Low levels of other bacteria are allowable and your healthy dog and cat is well equipped to deal with this. After all, they are scavengers and hunters by nature. Due to modern UK farming methods and best practice, there are also measures in place for the the control of parasites and their eggs. However, if your dog or cat hunts and eats wild animals such as rabbit, there is a chance they will get a tapeworm. A testing kit will provide any detection and a decision can then be made on appropriate worming. Common sense prevails just the same as when handling your own meat - three days in the fridge stored at low level. Many people end up with a dedicated pet food freezer. 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 a uncooked diet a week after finishing the course, starting with a non-poultry protein and using a pre- and a pro-biotic which needs to contain 'dog and cat-friendly' bacteria E. faecium.
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. 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.
What about bones?
Bone is essential. It must be uncooked of course. Try to avoid weight bearing bones (such as large beef bones) because they can wear teeth down. An example of a suitable 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 a month. Dry crumbly poos and/or straining suggests too much bone in one meal or too many bone-heavy meals. Add some pure meat for the next couple of days. Our own range of minces for dogs and cats have ground bone added as do most of the branded minces we stock. 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 minced 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 give them frozen. Or try the fish or fish/meat minces we sell. Oily fish is a key part of a home prepared diet and is high in omega 3 which balances the excess of omega 6 found in today’s livestock. Cats usually enjoy fish. Important: all dogs and cats must receive a source of omega 3 in their diet. If they will not eat minced or whole fish, they must receive a fish oil instead. Other sources of omega 3 are krill oil and phytoplankton powder.
What about offal?
Offal is essential. Most of our own minces have offal included and what's more, from the same source of muscle meat, making our range perfect for dogs or cat who are unable to eat certain proteins. Again, it's not necessary to get bogged down in percentages, but aim to feed about 10% offal (half of which should be liver) in each meal or on average 10% over a month. Note heart is not offal. Offal is liver, kidneys, spleen and testicles.
What about cats and specifically about taurine?
Cats require a high water content, meat-based diet only, in particular to keep their kidneys healthy. They have some cat-specific requirements which are ~ feed smaller cuts, must eat something every day, must be fresh and preferably room temperature or warmer. If you feed our own minces, supplement with minced beef heart for taurine. We also sell a taurine powder supplement. Taurine is essential and it must be in the diet. Branded kitten and cat raw food has taurine added in already. If you are feeding a chunk-based diet with no taurine supplement added, the diet must include plenty of dark red meats to provide taurine.
What about my veterinary practice?
Most practices are supportive of clients feeding a balanced, responsible homemade cooked or raw diet and will work with you and support your choice. We promote responsible feeding and welcome customers who have been recommended to visit Healthy Pet Store by their veterinary practice.
Why does my dog or cat have funny poo?
Making a dietary switch can cause some changes in bowel movements. This is normal. 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. For dogs, we suggest spooning goats' milk, goats' milk kefir or goats' 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. You can re-freeze and defrost your dog's meal once. Cats on the other hand do need to eat something every day and regularly so if your cat is refusing food, you should make the switch more gradually by mixing in the existing food with the new food and gradually phasing the previous food out. Cats can become fixated on a food type and sometimes of course, they refuse food because they are full or unwell. If you are concerned about persistent food refusal or unusual behaviour around food, consult your vet or a skilled behavioural trainer.
How much will it cost?
You’ll be surprised how cost effective it is, even when feeding one of the ready-made, pre-prepared raw foods. 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 want to put together a home prepared diet, having looked at all our ranges, our aim is for you and your dog or cat to succeed, and to enjoy their food and feel happy and healthy.
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 puzzle toy stuffing) and then come to see us where we’ll help you get started. You may find your dog or cat appears 'finicky' or unsure as you start, but he/she may never have been offered a 'real food' meal like this before. You can add some goats' milk kefir, goats' milk or goats' yogurt, or bouillon 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 should go no longer than 48 hours without eating. Therefore, if they have not made the entire switch to raw, make it more gradual for them by mixing in the existing food with the raw food and simultaneously phasing out the previous food as slowly as it takes. Some cats take weeks or even months to transition simple because they need to learn the recognise the new food as edible.
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 example, a 20kg dog eating minces will eat 400g per day. A 20kg dog eating chunks of meat, offal and bones will get through 12kg of meat, 600g of bone and 600g of offal in a month. The percentage is a guide and can be altered depending age, activity level and neutered status of your dog or cat. 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 really helpful to hold onto bones in an attempt to stop this. Gulping usually settles when they realise they are going to get such great food every day so there is no need to rush, or if they are given a regular place to eat at. Food guarding is a normal behavioural trait of all animals, but could be made worse due to bowl sharing during weaning (trough feeding), inappropriate training advice or being disrupted during mealtimes. The main point is this diet is not the cause. Please see the advice of a skilled behavioural trainer.
How do I feed puppies and kittens?
Puppies and kittens simply will eat more of the same food an adult will eat. Feed 2-3% of your puppy’s or kitten's anticipated adult weight. If you’re not sure what that will be, feed 10% of his current weight at 8 weeks. Drop a percentage for every month older until you reach 2% at one year old. Watch to see if he gets too fat or too thin and adjust accordingly. Feed puppies several small meals over the course of the day. Kittens can be free fed as much they want throughout the day. There are pre-prepared products for puppies and kittens, if preferred. For kittens, if you would like to introduce meaty bones, tiny body parts (eg chicken wing tips) 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 fresh over a period of a few days and use goats' milk, goats' milk kefir, bouillon, or 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 and fresh feeding to do a check on the dog or cat’s teeth. You may feel more comfortable feeding a pre-prepared raw food or bone-in minces if there are serious dental concerns. Cats unfortunately can become quite addicted to unnecessary carbohydrates needed to make dried foods or they simple do not recognise raw as something they can actually eat. For some cats, it can take weeks or even months to successfully transition.
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.
We hope you enjoy preparing your pet's meals and watching them enjoy their nutritious food.