NHD RAW Diet Guide
[Julie Arnold, Naturally Healthy Dogs Ltd]
Dogs are carnivores, this does not mean they should eat only meat though. It is known that wolves and wild dogs eat berries and supplement their diets with herbs, berries etc.
The definition of carnivore is:
“ an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging. Animals that depend solely on animal flesh for their nutrient requirements are considered obligate carnivores while those that also consume non-animal food are considered facultative carnivores.”
However, it is worth knowing that science does not recognise the classification 'omnivore', only herbivore and carnivore, so there is a wide range in each classification, coming right round until they meet, and there are animals near the border from each side that do not strictly fit, such as deer that also eat birds, and wolves and wild dogs that eat berries, herbs, stomach content of prey etc.
Dogs are not obligate carnivores, unlike cats, and as a manmade species, have ‘adapted’ somewhat as scavengers, and such adaptations can make huge differences.
Even though they have adapted to survive as scavengers, we want them to thrive, not just survive, therefore according to their biological needs, and the type of digestive system they have, they require high quality fats, high quality protein, raw bone and can access some goodness from up to about 15-20% veg (5-10 if you feed fur and feathers) if prepared in the right way to break down the cell wall which, as 'adapted' carnivores they cannot efficiently totally do themselves.
They do not require, or have the ability to easily digest, or assimilate nutritional goodness from carbohydrates, and
many dogs have health issues triggered if fed grains like corn and wheat because their digestive system is not designed to have grains [unless in a partially digested and fermented form in the stomach of their prey] and they donot therefore have the right enzymes produced in the right amounts or areas of the body which omnivores do to efficiently digest them, which causes stress to the gut and therefore lowers the immune system, resulting in them suffering with inflammation, weight issues and diabetes to name a few if fed them.
There are a few breeds, such as the Border Collie, and Greyhounds, who have adapted to manage very well with the addition of some specific carbohydrates, but this is Not a free pass to all carbs and they will still not do well on a mainly carbohydrate diet, which of course will also be cooked, meaning much natural nutritional value has been lost and/or denatured, and this does not mean that they all 'need' carbs in their diet.
Health issues believed to be as a direct result of malnutrition include such issues as Distemper, Joint Dysplasia [believed to be a form of scurvy] and feline Leukaemia and kidney issues, these and many other conditions improve markedly, and even disappear on a natural, raw diet.
If, like many, you cannot feed organic, grassfed to your dogs, then the best diet you can give is going to be as follows, but you'll notice the percentages vary, as dogs are individuals and different breeds can have different needs, and some do better on less bone, and some on more, and the same with tripe and veg:
10% organ meat
Plus the equivalent of another 5-20% on top of suitable fruit/herb/veg/seaweed
(see above to know which amount is suitable for the diet you feed).
Heart is very nutrient-dense, and so it is recommended you feed only between 3-5% at a time. If in doubt, think about how much of a % of the body mass of the whole animal it came from it is likely to be and let that be your guide.
The odd raw egg mixed in with a meal 2-3 times a week.
Oily fish should make up 2-3 meals a wk, and balance is achieved over the course of the week or month.
As large a range of meats needs to be used as possible to
ensure adequate nutritional coverage.
You can use both minced/ground meat, aswell as chunks, and some whole prey – the more chunks and whole prey, the better.
- Ideally fruit/veg would be the equivalent amount of 5-20% raw or lightly steamed pulped veg (amount dependent on the type of diet you feed). Fruit & veg are beneficial for your dog, providing valuable extra nutritional balance and support as well as
We highly recommend SmartBarf as a well-researched dehydrated Fruit/Herb/Veg Supplement for your dog which can easily be rehydrated and fed and which many dogs who do not like veg still enjoy.
Suitable Fruit/Veg: seaweed, lettuce, parsley, celery, beet tops, turnip tops, kale, chard, squash, carrots, cilantro, dandelion, tomato; apple, pear, banana, watermelon, berries, yams, red/yellow peppers, sweet potato, papaya, nettle, brocolli, spinach [in small amounts], cucumber is good, but some dogs struggle to digest the skin so be aware of that.
Fruit/Veg to Avoid: beans, cabbage, turnip, sprouts, onion, peppers, large amounts of spinach, potato, avocado, raisins, grapes, beansprouts, rhubarb
Root veg contain high amounts of sugars which can cause yeast issues and weight gain. Too much spinach can interfere with thyroid function.
The most important thing with everything in a raw diet is variety' - don't over-do it on any one thing.
Supplements can be beneficial and we discuss specific ones which may help dependent on your pets individual needs.
In this day'n'age we do need to look at not just what our pets digestive system is designed to have, but also the amount of toxins in the car fumes [at most pets head level] and toxins in the air etc. and so donot have any chemicals in the home at all, and understand that supplements can make a difference and be just as beneficial for them as for us, even if you are able to feed grassfed, organic whole prey.
So, an example - a typical days meals for 1 GSD would be :
* chicken wings
Possible natural treat during the day
* minced meat or chunks
[different type every day rotating through at least 5 types]
* SmartBarf fruit/herb/veg mix
* 1 chicken carcass [what's left once butcher has taken his lot]
half the amount of minced/ground with heart/liver chunks added
- whole small prey [rabbit/fish etc.] can also be fed.
Many adult dogs can further be dropped down to just 1 meal per day, which is further beneficial to their health
as it allows their stomach acid to be at full strength for a
longer time, thus working to prevent internal parasite issues, and keep them healthy and free from possible bacterial isses.
* Please check with whoever supplies your minced meat whether it has bone included in it and the % of bone as this
will affect how you work out your ratio's.
This is VERY important as all suppliers are Not the same,
and bone % can vary from Nil right up to 50%, so if yours is higher and you are working on the assumption it is lower this will cause constipation for your dog which can be serious if left.
If you are unsure, find out the % direct from the Supplier.
General Added supplements
Raw egg a few times a week.
Adjustments to suit health and individual needs
An animal who is ill, in recovery or pregnant will need more food, but this needs to be governed so as not to unduly stress organs.
Transitioning to a Natural, Raw Diet:
Before changing your dogs food to raw, miss couple of meals so their stomach has a chance to empty and rest and this will then minimise any chance of diarrhea, which is always a possibility with any diet change, not too many, you don't want them so starving that they gulp it down - usually I would say to someone, 'feed their 'breakfast['which is usually a smaller meal of the two for dogs fed twice a day], then nothing the rest of the day and start the raw the next day, or if you can, even miss off the breakfast [but some dogs bring up bile and are not comfortable missing the breakfast meal so you may not be able to].
There are various different ways which people advise for feeding raw, but the way we advise is to put your dog onto Chicken&Tripe mix for that 1st week.
For the 2nd week, add 1 new type; for the 3rd week, plus 1 new type, and keep going like this until your dog is on a full range of different proteins, initially starting with the 80%meat:10%offal:10%bone ratio's, (which is why we supply DAF minces, as they are already prepared to these ratios for you), but then tweaking as you find necessary for your own individual dog until you find their own comfortable bone level. We are looking for firm enough that if you were to pick it up, you could do that easily using simply your thumb and forefinger and barely any trace would be left behind, but not rock-hard. Firm enough that upon exit it will also empty the anal glands for your dog, but not be difficult to pass.
For dogs with a history of sensitive digestion, this may simply be slowed down, or we might suggest some supplementation to help support their digestive system in the transition stage.
We will advise which we feel would be best, depending on
your dogs past digestive history, breed and any other
There are very specific, and important reasons why we use the above method, and not other methods people advise, so if you are unsure, please read our Blog here which explains why we advise the way we do:
The adding of fruit/veg may be delayed further for some dogs where a yeast issue is suspected.
Do not feel your dog might need some 'fibre' to help it be 'regular' - this is a myth - 'regularity' for people and dogs, is achieved by consuming the right amounts of good fats, and not vast quantities of carbs.
If your dog has never been given bones before, we may need to re-educate them to eat bones nicely. This usually applies to dogs who ‘inhale’ their food and tend to gulp without a crunch or chew first; it is not difficult, but may take some time and is necessary.
Every time you give a bone to a dog who needs to re-learn how to eat them nicely, either give it as whole prey [like a whole chicken] which is larger than your dogs head, so the bone is covered in lots of meat to work through and eat at the same time; or hold the bone and only allow your dog access to a small amount at a time.
To work out how much food to feed your dog, you will need to know his/her weight, then decide which amount is suitable to his/her needs.
Amounts to feed:
Percentages based on current weight of animal.
2% - for weight loss/ inactive animals
2.5 - 3% - to maintain current weight
3.5% -for weight gain
4-8% - pregnant/lactating bitches
Feeding amounts for puppies are different so please contact us with your puppy's weight and age for help here.
Puppies will usually self regulate with their food, and are all individuals with different energy levels, so all amounts are only an approximate guide and some will appear more hungry, and some will appear less hungry, and cut themselves back foodwise as they are ready, so you should mainly feed to your puppies appetite being aware that your puppy's self-regulating of food may be affected by previous food experience (welfare cases who were starved) or the perceived threat of other dogs in the house wanting their food.
Once this is done, divide the weight by 100 to find out what 1% is, then multiply by whichever amount above you have chosen for your dog.
As the minced meats often come in lb weight, I find it is easiest to convert the weight of the dog and work totally in lbs.
i.e. Dog weighs 70lbs
I have chosen 2.5% as suitable for the dog.
1% of the dogs weight is therefore 70 / 100 = 0.7lbs
2.5% is therefore 0.7 x 2.5 = 1.75lbs
So the dog will need 1.75lbs of food for 1 whole day, and you can then work out how much meat/bone/organ by multiplying 1% by the %’s for each; or this can also be done
by the week rather than by the day – each single meal does not need to be perfectly balanced as long as it balances out over the course of the week or month.
One of the fun things that starts upon changing your dog to a raw diet, is poop-watching! This is not as bad as you might think, because on a balanced raw diet, once settled, dog poop is much less in quantity, well formed, firm and easy to clean up, barely leaving a residue; but it IS quite important, Very important when in the transitional stage, as it is a Very accurate marker as to whether you have got the bone content right or need to tweak it:
hard/white/crumbly/difficult to pass = too much bone
soft/no shape or form/sloppy = not enough bone
Whether you choose to feed 1 or 2 meals a day will depend on your dogs age and individual needs.
It can be beneficial for dogs to be fasted occasionally as this gives the gut a rest and is normal for a carnivore, as mentioned above.
Cats must NEVER be fasted - it is very dangerous for them - they are obligate carnivores and not the same as dogs.
Many natural feeders fast their dogs for 1 day every week,
and this is beneficial in giving the gut a rest, and further ensuring optimum gut acid strength is reached.
If you are going to follow this, choose a day which is a day when you will easily be able to do that, like a day when you are at home and not working, or do not have definite routines which need to be adhered to.
This is following as close to how the ancestors and cousins of the dog feed, and where-as we know that some adaptions have occurred within the species of ‘pet dog’ which man has created, but no actual evolvement has from their ancestors, and why change what has worked in nature for centuries.
Beef should always be frozen for at least 24hrs before being fed, Fish for 3-4 days, simplest thing is to just freeze everything before feeding then you don't need to worry about what you do, and what you don't.
Raw and cooked foods are digested at different rates, so if kibble is being finished off, it is important for this to be done Before you start feeding a raw diet.
Please see this Blog for more info. on the importance of this: