All About Raw Dog Food Diet
Pet Care Advice

All About Raw Food Diet for Dogs

Feeding dogs a raw food diet, also known as the BARF diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food), has become increasingly popular in the past several years and stems from the idea that raw food diets depict how dogs ate in the wild, before they were domesticated. Proponents of raw food diets claim that the diet offers benefits including cleaner teeth, shinier coats, improved digestion, and smaller stools. As a matter of fact, dogs raised for athletic performance, such as greyhounds or sled dogs, have traditionally been fed raw food diets.

BARF Diet - Biologically Appropriate Raw Food Diet - Example Foods
BARF Diet – Biologically Appropriate Raw Food Diet – Example Foods

However, most veterinarians agree that there needs to be further scientific research done on the safety and benefits of raw diets. Some concerns vets have with feeding pets raw or unprocessed meat, eggs, and milk include the exposure to harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. Coli, and whether a raw diet is nutritionally balanced.

When considering a raw diet for your dog, it’s always best to consult with your vet. They can help you decide the best diet for your dog, based on their breed, age, and general health. The most important things are that the diet is safe and that it meets the nutritional needs of your dog.

The Raw Feeding Veterinary Society is an organization that supports raw feeding; you can learn about their position here:

Now that we’ve discussed some concerns around feeding your dog a raw diet, we’re going to discuss raw meats and meaty bones specifically.

Table of Contents:

Can Dogs Eat Raw Chicken?

Chicken offers several benefits to dogs. They include:

  • Low-calorie source of energy.
  • High protein to build lean muscle.
  • Omega 6 fatty acids that help keep the skin and coat healthy.
  • Essential amino acids for strong bones.

These benefits make chicken a great option to include in their meals. But what about raw chicken?

Most healthy dogs are unlikely to become ill from eating raw chicken. In fact, in a 2018 study published in the Journal of Animal Science, researchers from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences worked with the company Freshpet to see how their fresh and raw chicken-based diets worked as far as palatability, digestibility, and increasing the dogs’ activity levels. They found that the grain-free roasted diet and the raw diet given to healthy beagles were more digestible and resulted in lower blood triglycerides than the kibble diet, despite being higher in fat. Researchers also noted a change in the intestinal flora in the roasted and raw diets, when compared to the kibble. This could suggest that the acid in a dog’s stomach becomes stronger, allowing them to kill off harmful bacteria present in raw meat.

Dogs Can Eat Raw Chicken
Dogs Can Eat Raw Chicken

If you choose to make your own raw food for your dog, you can avoid harmful risks to yourself and your pup by handling and preparing the chicken properly.

Pay attention to “Best By” dates and avoid serving your dog meat that has passed it’s expiration. Be aware of the proper storage temperatures to prevent bacteria growth. Additionally, be sure to disinfect any areas that the chicken touches. This includes the countertop or cutting board used to cut the chicken, your dog’s dish, and your hands.

Feeding Your Dog Raw Chicken Bones

We’ve covered whether it’s safe to feed a dog raw chicken. Now we’ll talk about feeding your pup raw chicken bones. We’ll answer questions like, can dogs eat raw chicken bones? Are raw chicken bones safe? Are they beneficial?

Experts agree raw bones are generally safer than cooked bones when it comes to your dog’s safety and health. Cooked bones become brittle and easily break into sharp pieces that can do significant damage as they pass through the digestive tract. Therefore you should NEVER feed your dog cooked bones.

Dogs can eat Raw Chicken Bones with Marrow, Meat and Cartlidge - NEVER feed your dog Cooked bones.
Dogs can eat Raw Chicken Bones with Marrow, Meat and Cartlidge – NEVER feed your dog Cooked bones.

When feeding raw bones as a part of your dog’s diet, it’s important that they ingest bones that contain marrow, meat, and cartilage, to meet their nutritional needs. Bones are a great source of calcium and phosphorus. It’s recommended that raw bones for nutrition, such as chicken, are put through a meat grinder, eliminating choking hazards, broken teeth, and digestive tract issues that could arise from sharp bone edges. This is typically done with bones like chicken necks and wings because they’re softer and more hollow.

Another benefit of feeding raw bones to dogs is to clean their teeth. And let’s not forget about the mental stimulation that chewing provides for canines. Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, recommends giving your pooch a raw bone that is roughly the size of your dog’s head and always monitor your dog while they’re chewing on bones.

So yes, dogs can eat raw chicken bones safely when the proper guidelines are followed. Here are a few simple recommendations to maximize the benefits and reduce the risks:

  • Source your bones from a trusted local butcher or other respected supplier and be diligent in following proper food hygiene. If you or someone else in your home has a compromised immune system, a balanced home-cooked diet may be a better alternative for your pet.
  • Consult with a veterinary nutritionist to make sure you’re providing the right amount of nutrients, based on your pup’s needs.
  • Thoroughly grind soft bones like chicken necks before adding to your dog’s meals.
  • If your dog is new to chewing raw meaty bones, it’s recommended to start with frozen marrow bones and allow your dog to chew for 5 to 30 minutes for the first few times. This helps acclimate them to the fat content

Can Dogs Eat Raw Beef?

Beef is a very common protein found in commercial dog foods. It’s nutritious, economical, and tasty. But what about serving your dog raw beef?

According to raw diet advocates, dogs should eat lean muscle meat such as hamburger. Lean meat offers an abundance of protein and essential amino acids while limiting fat. Limiting the fat in your dog’s food will help aid digestion and result in healthier stools.

Dogs can Eat Raw Beef
Dogs can Eat Raw Beef

Some other lean cuts of beef that can be incorporated into a healthy raw diet include 90% or leaner ground beef, round steak (top or bottom), and sirloin.

However, just like with raw chicken, you must offer more than just protein to make sure their nutritional needs are met. It’s advised to include ingredients like canine-safe vegetables, legumes, fruits, limited grains, and supplements in your dog’s meal to balance nutrition. You also want to be sure to follow the proper handling and safety guidelines, to minimize the risk of being exposed to bacterial contaminates.

Feeding Your Dog Raw Beef Bones

Now that we know that lean beef is fine to feed your dog as part of their raw diet, we’ll answer questions like, can dogs eat raw beef bones? Are they beneficial? Are raw beef bones safe?

Dogs Can Eat Raw Beef Bones. Chewing on bone provides mental stimulation. Watch your dog when they are gnawing on raw bone.
Dogs Can Eat Raw Beef Bones. Chewing on a bone provides mental stimulation. Always supervise your dog when they are gnawing on a raw bone.

Dogs can eat raw beef bones. In fact, they’re part of a well-balanced raw diet. Raw beef marrow bones, raw beef knuckles, and beef tails are among some of the most popular raw beef bones for dogs. Beef bones are harder and therefore considered recreational bones for chewing, as opposed to being ground up in their food.
Some benefits of chewing raw beef bones include:

  • Good natural source of calcium and other minerals
  • Provides mental stimulation and gives them a positive outlet for their chewing, which is natural for a dog
  • Improved dental hygiene – chewing on bones helps keep teeth clean & prevents tartar buildup

For safety’s sake, it’s advised that you provide your dog with a bone about the size of their head and always supervise your dog while they’re gnawing on a raw bone in case it breaks into smaller pieces, you’ll be able to take it away from your dog before any harm can be done by ingesting the broken pieces. It’s also recommended freezing raw bones before giving them to your dog, to minimize risk of bacteria growth.

Feeding Your Dog a Raw Diet on a Budget

Raw diets are typically quite a bit more expensive than even the priciest of kibbles. However, there are ways to feed your pup a raw diet without breaking the bank. Here we’ll discuss cheap raw dog food available commercially, tips for making your own raw food, and other options to keep the costs down while feeding your dog a raw diet.

Commercial Raw Food

Nulo Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food for all Ages and Breeds

This food is available in several flavors- beef, lamb, duck, salmon, and turkey. Freeze-dried raw formula is grain-free and includes at least 80% meat, organs, bone with fruits and veggies. Includes probiotic support for dogs with food sensitivities.

Nulo Freeze Dried Dog Food: Freestyle Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food - Natural Grain Free Formula with GanedenBC30 Probiotics for Digestive and Immune Health - Lamb Recipe with Raspberries - 13 oz Bag
  • LAMB & RASPBERRIES RECIPE - Grain free and protein packed formula to help your dog's allergy relief and weight control with a real meat taste they'll love 13 Oz bag
  • HIGH MEAT/LOW CARB - Our proprietary formula contains up to 83% animal-based protein, more amino acids, and better flavor Nulo uses fewer carbs & low glycemic ingredients
  • UNBEATABLE NUTRITION - BC30 probiotic supports healthy gut flora to aid digestion and also supports metabolism and immune response
  • GRAIN-FREE DRY KIBBLE - Feed your furry family right Nulo Grain-Free dry dog food is made with the right ingredients to help your pup maintain a balanced diet, healthy weight, and shiny coat
  • MANUFACTURED IN THE USA - Based in Austin, TX, Nulo Pet foods contains no corn, wheat gluten, soy, artificial preservatives, colors, or flavoring

Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food

Available in real beef or cage-free chicken. This formula includes 85% meat and organs & 15% non-GMO fruits and vegetables; vitamins & minerals and is made without grain, corn, wheat, soy, legumes, artificial colors or preservatives. Made in the USA.

Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Meals Grain Free Recipe Dog Food, chicken, 9.5 Ounce
  • UPGRADE FROM KIBBLE TO FREEZE DRIED RAW: 3x more real meat & nutrient-rich organs than kibble. More animal-based protein in each bite for better nutrition and meal time excitement. 100% complete & balanced meals.
  • NEVER COOKED: Raw foods are never cooked, preserving the integrity of the ingredients and their nutrients, for 100% complete & balanced meals.
  • MINIMALLY PROCESSED: Our raw recipes are freeze-dried for a less processed food than cooked kibble - which means better digestion and nutrient absorption.
  • WHY RAW: Feeding raw supports healthy digestion, lean muscles, strong bones, vibrant skin & coat and overall energy and vitality. Made without grain, corn, wheat, soy, legumes, artificial colors or preservatives.
  • POWER OF RAW INGREDIENTS: Our dog food is made with the pure, real nutrition of raw. Raw is natural, made from real meat & whole food ingredients, protein packed & minimally processed. Made in the USA with the finest ingredients from around the world.

Stewart Raw Naturals Freeze Dried Dog Food

This limited-ingredient recipe contains no fillers and includes 80% single-source protein (beef), 18% fruits and vegetables, 2% vitamins and supplements with the addition of ground bone as a source of calcium. The Fresh to Home beef recipe has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Sourced and produced in the USA.

Stewart Raw Naturals Freeze Dried Dog Food Grain Free Made in USA with Beef, Fruits, & Vegetables for Fresh to Home All Natural Recipe, 24 oz.
  • HERITAGE OF TRUST: For over 44 years, we’ve been building on our heritage of trust by bringing you innovations like freeze dried dog food that locks in freshness
  • BEEF IS #1 INGREDIENT: Our limited-ingredient recipe contains no fillers and is 80% single-source protein, 18% fruits and vegetables, 2% vitamins and supplements
  • GENTLY PROCESSED USDA-certified ingredients
  • HUMAN-GRADE ingredients with the addition of ground bone as a source of calcium. Our Fresh to Home recipe has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
  • MADE IN THE USA: Thoughtfully sourced and produced in the heart of the Midwest

Tips for Making Cheap, Raw Dog Food at Home

In most cases, you can put together a diet that will satisfy your dog’s overall needs, more affordably, by making their food at home. Admittedly, this is more time consuming, so you’ll need to determine if you have the time necessary to dedicate to your dog’s raw diet.

Here’s a list of raw ingredients that can typically be purchased cheaply.

  • Chicken feet, chicken necks, chicken backs, chicken carcasses and chicken quarters. Some grocery stores offer sales on large quantities of chicken quarters
  • Beef lungs, beef heart, beef kidneys, and beef pancreas
  • Eggs and plain raw yogurt
  • Canine-safe fruits and vegetables from your own garden, bruised fruits and veggies from a local grocery store. You can also use peels from fruits and veggies by blending them in a blender or food processor
  • Anything you’re able to source locally: whole fish, venison, rabbit, and lamb
Inexpensive Raw Ingredients. Top L: Beef Lungs; Top R: Fruit,  Vegetable Peels; Bottom L: Chicken Carasses: Bottom R: Eggs
Inexpensive Raw Ingredients. Top Left: Beef Lungs; Top Right: Fruit and Vegetable Peels; Bottom Left: Chicken Carasses: Bottom RIght: Eggs

Tips For Raw Feeding on a Budget

Use Raw Foods as a Treat

Swapping raw treats for conventional, commercial treats is a great way to test the benefits of raw feeding while familiarizing yourself and your pet with this type of diet. Raw food makes for a tasty treat and will be much more affordable to incorporate into your pet’s diet.

Dried Beef Lung Can be Used as a Treat
Dried Beef Lung Can be Used as a Treat

Provide One Raw Meal a Day

When watching the budget, a lot of people find that one raw meal a day provides serious benefits at about half the cost.

Feed Raw as an Occasional Meal

According to Steve Brown, top canine nutritionist and consultant, the benefits of feeding your dog species-appropriate raw food are valuable enough that even a once-a-week meal is well worth it. And you might be surprised at how affordable a raw diet can be when only given once a week!

Buy in Bulk

Keep an eye out for sales at your local grocery stores and stock up when you find cheap ingredients. You’ll need to be able to dedicate enough freezer space to safely store raw food items, so make sure to plan ahead in order to store ingredients properly.

Whether you’re looking for commercial raw dog food or you’d like to make your own, it’s important to discuss your dog’s nutritional requirements, such as protein, fat, and vitamins, with your vet or a veterinary nutritionist. They can advise you on the risks of a raw food diet, especially if your pup is young, old, pregnant, or has another special condition.

How to Feed a Dog a Raw Diet

If you’re considering transitioning your dog to raw food, don’t worry, we have you covered. Here we’re going to discuss some simple ways to transition to a raw diet for dogs in the healthiest way possible.

Transition Slowly

Raw Bistro recommends fasting your dog for a half to a full day before their first raw meal. Start small with the first meal, to see how your dog handles the raw food. If everything goes well, continue substituting a little of the original diet with the fresh food.
Often the complete transition can be done in a week. But it’s essential to go slowly.

Transition Slowly from Kibble to a Raw Diet for Dogs
Transition Slowly from Kibble to a Raw Diet for Dogs

Puppies can often transition within a few days because they typically have healthier digestive systems. Older dogs need to be transitioned more slowly- the older the dog, the longer the transition should take.

Always monitor your pet while transitioning to a raw diet. If you notice your pet has loose stools, wait until the stool is firm once again before continuing with the transition.

Feeding Guide

Per Raw Bistro, rule of thumb for adult dogs is to feed 2-4% of the pet’s body weight. This daily portion should then be split between two meals- morning and evening- unless you’re choosing to only supplement raw food, in an effort to save money.

If you’re transitioning from dry kibble, be aware that it’s fairly common for a dog to lose significant weight in the first week or so. This is primarily water weight. As always, it’s recommended that you work with your vet to keep track of your dog’s weight loss.
Puppies require 2-3 times the amount of food an adult dog of the same weight would eat (e.g.- a puppy weighing 10 lbs would eat approximately 4-7.5 pounds per week).

Determine How Much to Feed Your Dog Based on its weight
Determine How Much to Feed Your Dog Based on its weight

Older puppies should be fine with two feedings per day. However, puppies that are very young should be fed 3-4 times per day.
You’ll still need to take into account the various factors that play into how much food your puppy needs: age, weight, breed, overall health, and more. Your veterinarian can be an invaluable resource when establishing a raw diet meal plan.

Handling Raw Products

Following proper safety and handling guidelines, just like you do when serving fresh meat to your family, will help minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of a raw diet. These include:

  • Keep raw products frozen until 24 hours before serving to your dog.
  • Thaw for about 24 hours in the fridge.
  • Use defrosted food within 3 to 4 days.
  • Wash your dog’s food bowl after every meal, using warm/hot soapy water.
  • Wash your hands and be sure to disinfect any areas that the raw food comes into contact with, including cutting boards, countertops, and any utensils.

Raw Feeding While Traveling

You may be thinking that traveling with a raw fed pet may be unattainable. We’re here to tell you it’s not. There may be a few challenges, but it is possible. All it takes is a little planning. Read on for tips on how to feed your pet a raw diet while on a road trip or when flying somewhere with your pooch.

Feeding a Raw Diet While on a Road Trip

You have more options while driving a car with your raw fed dog. A good quality cooler is essential. You can load it up with regular ice, gel freezer packs, or even dry ice if you can find it. There are even electric coolers available these days, which allows you to completely ditch the ice if you prefer.

Divide your dog’s food into portions, putting each meal into a separate freezer bag and then rolling it up, for easy packing into the cooler. Make sure your dog’s food is completely frozen when transferring to a cooler. The food should stay good for 12-14 hours. If you have a large dog or several pups, you might not be able to pack enough for the entire trip. If this is the case, we recommend doing a Google search before you leave for local pet stores or grocers in your destination town, or along the way, who sell commercial raw food.

Raw Diet While Traveling. Divide your dog's food into individual portions and keep it in a cooler.
Raw Diet While Traveling. Divide your dog’s food into individual portions and keep it in a cooler.

It’s always best to avoid feeding your dog while in a moving vehicle, to avoid him getting sick. When you take a break from the road to rest, take your dog on a walk or quick jog before offering him his food.

Whether you stay with family, friends, or at a hotel, put the remaining frozen meal bags into the freezer.

Flying With Your Raw Fed Dog

When flying with your furry companion, it’s recommended to refrain from feeding them for 4-6 hours before the flight. This minimizes your dog’s need to go to the bathroom while on the airplane, as well as prevents nausea and vomiting for dog’s with motion sickness.

Just like with driving, you can check a cooler with gel freezer packs and your dog’s frozen raw food. However, checked luggage fees vary and if you have a large dog that requires a lot of food, or will be traveling for an extended time, this could be a very costly option.

Our suggestion in this case would be to check out commercial raw options at your destination ahead of time. You can also try out freeze-dried raw or fresh food from a grocery store.

Typically, feeding commercial raw food while traveling is well tolerated, even for dogs who are usually fed a homemade raw diet.

And there you have it! Traveling with your raw fed dog doesn’t have to be a big deal. Simply choose what works best for your dog, your family, and travel schedule.

Your Pet Will Love Its Raw Food Diet
Your Pet Will Love Its Raw Food Diet

Last update on 2022-01-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API