This blog topic can be answered in one sentence: You just start feeding raw.
There is no transition, no mixing, very little weighing, and you start with one protein. Raw feeding has rules but is very simple in general.
Most people start with chicken as it is a relatively easy protein to find a very reasonable price. Personally, I find the best prices and highest quality meat at Fresh n Easy. This is typically the ONLY raw meat that I buy at Fresh n Easy, however. I can find better prices and more variety on everything else elsewhere. For the beginning few weeks, though, Fresh n Easy will become your best friend.
Aren’t You Supposed to Change Food Slowly?
When kibble feeding, yes. With switching to raw food, NO. Kibble is a high carb, low moisture food. It digests slowly (relatively) in the body and takes a lot of strong metabolic process’ to digest as it is not what the body is built to digest. Raw meat, bone, and organ is high protein and high moisture. It is exactly what the body was built and designed to digest. Therefore, if you feed raw food and kibble you run a higher risk of digestive upset and other not so pleasant responses by the body. The kibble backs up the raw food that is ready to move on.
Toy and Small Dogs:
For toy and small dogs, I suggest feeding chicken necks, chicken wings, and bone in chicken breast. Some small dogs can successfully navigate a chicken leg or leg quarter but it is a large bone for the size of their mouths. I do not suggest feeding chicken backs to any toy or small dog.
Example: I have a client with a 10lb Miniature Pinscher and a 30lb. Coonhound mix. The Min Pin can navigate chicken wings and necks successfully but the Coonhound is not fed those parts. However, a 10lb. Min Pin that is a gulper should not be fed wings or necks either as they can still swallow them whole. KNOW THY DOG.
Medium Dogs and Larger:
For medium and larger dogs (dogs 25-30lbs and larger) the entire chicken is appropriate to feed. Know your dog! If your dog is a gulper or doesn’t chew his food very well, do not feed a large dog a small chicken neck or wing that they will swallow whole and not chew. Evaluate your dog’s tendencies first by feeding larger cuts. If you dog self regulates (eats an appropriate amount of food and stops on his own) feeding whole chickens without dismantling is a good way to avoid them swallowing wings and necks without chewing.
How Much Do I Feed?
The general rule of thumb is to feed 2-3% of your dog’s ideal body weight each day. This does not have to be down to an exact science and it is perfectly acceptable to feed a little more and a little less as long as it averages out. I do have clients whose dogs are extremely active and need 4-5% of their ideal body weight per day. If your dog gets too skinny, feed a little more. If your dog gets a little chunky, feed a little less.
Overall, the food should be balanced in a 80/10/10 rule. 80% muscle meat, 10% edible bone, and 10% organ (5% liver and 5% other secreting organ). Muscular organs like the heart and gizzards should be fed as muscle meat. Liver, spleen, kidney, sweetbread, etc can be fed as organs. You should not feed large weight bearing bones (such as marrow or soup bones, knuckle bones, and other bones that support the full weight of a multi-thousand pound animal). Those are frequently called WRECK (W-REC-K) bones and have the potential to crack or break teeth. They should only be fed a recreational chew bones if your dog is not an extremely powerful chewer.
After a while, most raw feeders stop weighing their food before feeding it. Currently, Scott and I weigh and bag our purchases in ~10 ounce increments.
Example: Sadie is a 30lb. dog and eats 10 ounces (2%) each day. Nara is a 40lb dog and eats ~25 ounces per day (4%). Nara is a high energy dog and Sadie is a low/low-medium energy level dog. Overly sensitive, fearful, insecure, or nervous dogs also frequently need more than 2% due to the stress and calories that those behavioral instabilities burn.
My Dog Is A Puppy!
That’s fantastic! That means your dog will grow and develop exactly how he/she should because you are feeding them the best diet during their most critical growing period! For puppies there are two methods of thought. Typically, you start by feeding 3-4 times per day and you feed 10% minimum of their CURRENT body weight. This may mean a few extra trips to the vet to get your puppy weighed (this should not cost you anything other than the gas to drive there) or make sure you get on the scale frequently as puppies grow quickly. Most puppies will self regulate after ~1 week of raw feeding. Trust your dog! If you dog has hunger pukes (throwing up bile or foam) you are not feeding you dog frequently enough or enough volume of food…so feed more!
Example: Gandalf arrived at 11lbs. He was eating ~25-30 ounces per day instead of the 18 ounces (10%) spread out over 4-5 meals per day. We attribute this extra nutrient intake to having surgery and being a giant breed. He is now 19 weeks, 40lbs, and eating consistently 2-4 pounds per day depending on the day. We now feed him 3 times per day.
How Much Does It Cost?
Fresh n Easy prices seem to be relatively stagnant across Ventura County. Their normal whole chicken prices are $1.29/lb and their leg quarter prices are $0.99/lb. Boneless chicken breast normal price is $2.99/lb but you can frequently find it for $1.99/lb or cheaper. Sprouts and regular supermarkets are also good places to look. Personally, I do not like the chicken from Vallarta Supermarkets. The biggest thing to look out for with chicken is you should not exceed 100mg of sodium per 4 ounces of chicken. Most chicken will have this on the label if you look closely.
Can I Feed Just Chicken Forever?
NO! Variety is the most important thing about raw feeding. Just like we need a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, so do our dogs. The body has to acclimate to each protein. The most frequent mistake that new raw feeders make is to introduce too much variety too soon. Be patient! Once your dog has healthy, formed poops, you can introduce a second protein (beef is a frequent choice). Then, wait again! When the poops return to normal again, introduce liver from one of the protein sources you are already feeding. You can introduce new proteins in this manner from there. Do not overwhelm their systems…take your time.
Example: Scott and I currently feed the following proteins: chicken, cornish hen, turkey, mice, rat, beef, pork, lamb, duck, trout, quail, salmon, and tilapia. We are currently looking for sources to purchase goat, rabbit, pheasant, deer, alpaca, and others. The more variety the better!
Good luck! Feel free to follow our raw feeding journey on Instagram @pawfectmanners or post comments here. We also update information on raw feeding frequently on our Facebook.