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The Home Made Raw Diet

A Beginner's Guide

One of the greatest benefits of making raw meals at home for your pet is being able to control exactly which ingredients to use. There is also tremendous satisfaction in knowing nutrients are complete and undamaged by heat processing. Before embarking on this journey, ATG has a few common sense recommendations.

First, have your pet examined thoroughly by a holistic veterinarian, including baseline blood work and fecal studies. Secondly, you should research the subject of home-prepared meals including the various methods. Decide what will work best for you and your pet. Finally, before you start, we suggest you find another raw-feeder who can advise and mentor you along the way.

If you are in the early stages of researching raw, we suggest reading our article Raw Feeding Overview.

Other Suggested Reading:

As you read over these frequently asked questions, you will notice a recurring theme. There is not a one right or only way to feed raw. You and your pet have individual needs. You must do what works best for you. Any move away from an all heat-processed method of feeding toward unprocessed food will be an improvement for your pet.

 Just remember there are many healthy ways to feed with many variations to each concept. Transitioning your pet to raw does not have to be an immediate, all or nothing switch. It is best to follow your own judgment and move at a pace that you find comfortable. When you do that, success is practically guaranteed.

 Disclaimer: We, at Against The Grain Pet Nutrition are not licensed veterinarians. Feeding a raw diet can be a controversial topic. As with any feeding regimen there can be health risks associated with incorrect feeding and preparation.

 What equipment do I need to feed a home-prepared raw diet?

Where do I purchase meat and meat products?

What type of meat products should I feed?

I have always heard bones are dangerous. Why do you recommend them?

Do I only feed meat products or should I add veggies and grain?

Why is the calcium to phosphorus ratio so important?

How do I supplement calcium?

How do I know the raw diet is complete and balanced?   

How do I introduce my dog or cat to raw?

How much do I feed?

How often should I feed my pet?

Do I switch gradually or cold turkey?

Should I fast my pet before starting a raw diet?

Can I just add raw to my pet’s kibble every now and then?

Can puppies and kittens eat raw?

My dog (cat) will not eat raw. What do I do?

What is the Detox Stage?

Why does my pet have loose stools?

My puppy or kitten came already weaned onto kibble. Do I need to do anything special to switch them over to raw?

Should I use supplements?

If your question is not asked and answered, please send Against The Grain Pet Nutrition an email at ATGPetNutrition@gmail.com     


Equipment Needed:

  • Freezer
  • Reusable Containers or Zip Lock Bags
  • Food Scale
  • Meat Scissors
  • Knives
  • Meat Grinder
  • Coffee Bean Grinder
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Refrigerator Space
  • Stainless Steel Food Dishes

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If you are only accustomed to purchasing dry bagged food or canned pet food, this way of shopping can be overwhelming at first. It does get easier with time. Most of the products you need are available through your local grocery store or butcher shop. In some cases, the manager of the meat department will work with you on special order items. Also by joining local raw groups or email lists, you can broaden your available options and possibly even submit group orders for better pricing. For pet owners who do not like to handle meat excessively, you can order Aunt Jeni’s, Oma’s Pride, Blue Ridge Beef or Primal from ATG.  Back to Top

The beauty of feeding raw is the variety of foods you give your pet. The basics include muscle meat, organs and RMBs (Raw Meaty Bones). The meat can be from just about any animal. Most often used are chicken, duck, turkey, beef, lamb, pork, rabbit and venison.

*Notice in the following chart that heart and gizzards are muscle meat rather than organs.  

Muscle Meats

 

Organs

 

Raw Meaty Bones

 

 

 

 

 

Beef Heart

 

Beef Liver

 

Chicken, all parts including wings, backs, necks, and leg quarters

Lamb Heart

 

Beef Kidney

 

Duck necks

Chicken Hearts and Gizzards

 

Lamb Liver

 

Turkey necks, cut up

Turkey Hearts

 

Lamb Kidney

 

Pork necks, breast, tails and feet

Ground turkey, lamb, chicken, beef, rabbit, goat, venison 

 

Pork Liver

 

Lamb ribs, neck and breast

Fish

 

Chicken Liver

 

Rabbit, all parts including front and hindquarters and back

Tongue

 

Turkey Liver

 

Canned fish with bones, such as mackerel, pink salmon and sardines

 

 

 

 

 

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You should NEVER feed cooked bones of any kind to your pets. These are brittle and have a tendency to splinter. Only feed raw meaty bones to your pets. These bones are softer, pliable and more digestible. If you are uncomfortable feeding bones, you may buy them already ground or purchase a grinder and grind them yourself.  Back to Top

Yes. Pacific Northwestern raw salmon has the potential to carry a bacteria-like organism that can make dogs very sick. It is commonly referred to as Salmon Poisoning Disease (SPD). Cats seem to be immune to the germ. It is easily destroyed by cooking. Alaskan salmon usually does not carry the bacteria.

Do not feed weight-bearing bones from cows, buffalo or elk. Dogs have the potential to break teeth on these bones because they are designed to carry around up to several thousand pounds.

Stay away from oddly shaped or cut pieces of bone, like T-bones. These bones are more likely to cause a blockage. Back to Top

Grains are not necessary at all in a dog or cat’s diet. With raw feeding, you have the choice to leave out ingredients that do not provide your pet with optimal nutrition. Vegetables and fruits can provide some benefits if prepared correctly. It is best to puree fresh vegetables for easier digestion. *Excessive vegetable content will produce large stools and gas. If you decide to feed veggies, wait until your dog is eating a variety of RMBs and different meats before you add them to the diet. Back to Top

Phosphorus binds with calcium. Too much phosphorus will deplete your pet’s calcium reserves, which are stored in the bones. Calcium is especially important for bone and heart health. Muscle meat is high in phosphorus whereas bones are high in calcium. RMBs fed as 40-50% of your pet’s daily ration provide the correct ratio. If an all meat diet is fed with no RMBs or ground bone, then calcium must be supplemented to prevent an imbalance. Back to Top

The easiest way is to use eggshells. Let them dry overnight and grind them into a fine powder with a coffee bean grinder. ½ teaspoon equals approximately 900 mgs of calcium. Add this amount to one pound of boneless raw meat. Back to Top

The natural, complete and balanced diet of a carnivore is just what they would eat in the wild in prey form. Mostly meat, some bone and the occasional vegetable or green plant. Raw food is nutrition in its purest form and the best nutrients are found in whole, unprocessed foods.

An alternative question could be, “How do I know a commercial pet food is complete and balanced?” Keep in mind that the properties of cooked food (be it human or pet food) are always altered by heat processing in one degree or another. It is nearly impossible to know to what extent each ingredient in each particular batch is affected. Ingredients might go into a product in a complete and balanced recipe but the end-result is a heat damaged pet food.   Back to Top

It is important to choose the right sized RMB for your pet. Dogs do not chew and chew on their food as people do. They chew 3 or 4 times just to make it small enough to swallow. If the RMB is small enough to be swallowed without chewing, then it is too small.

Be sure to introduce one protein source at a time. Feed chicken for a week, then beef for a week, and so on. This way you can easily detect a protein allergy. Once the food is properly introduced, you should have no problem varying meat daily during the week. Back to Top

Start by offering your cat or dog 2-3% of their ideal body weight in raw foods per day. Example: a 100-pound dog would receive 2-3 pounds of raw food daily. Monitor your pet’s weight. If she is gaining too much weight, cut back. Feed more if your pet is losing too much weight. When feeding puppies or kittens you would feed 2-3% of their ideal ADULT body weight.

This is where your food scale comes in handy. Seasoned raw feeders can typically eyeball the appropriate portion size. In the beginning, you should measure.  Back to Top

This really depends upon the pet. As a general rule of thumb, feed a medium or large adult dog two meals per day. A 100-pound dog would receive 1 – 1.5 pounds of raw food per meal if fed morning and evening which equals 2-3 pounds per day. Small breeds tend to have a higher metabolism so they may do better on three meals per day OR just a little more than 2-3% of their body weight. Puppies and kittens need to eat more often, usually 3-5 meals per day depending upon their age and size.

Some folks prefer to feed adult pets once daily and that is ok, too. When doing so just remember to “balance over time”. You can feed one day’s meal as ½ muscle meat and organs and the other ½ RMBs. Alternatively you can feed muscle meat and organs on day one followed by a meal of RMBs the next day. Back to Top

Switching can be done whichever way you are most comfortable. The gradual switch is made by adding a bit of raw food to the dog's meals each day, in increasing amounts while decreasing kibble.

Keep everything very simple for the first few weeks by introducing one protein source at a time. Make sure your dog is digesting everything properly (no diarrhea or vomiting) before you add another type of food. It is probably wise to hold off on supplements for the first few weeks unless you are treating a specific condition. Back to Top

That is a personal decision that really depends upon the individual pet. Sometimes a day of fasting will encourage them to eat the new food eagerly. Keep in mind that young puppies or kittens should not fast more than 8 -12 hours at a time. Always have fresh water available. Back to Top

Sure, you can. However, you should not add carbohydrates because kibble already contains more than enough. You can add a little fresh meat such as beef heart, ground beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork or canned sardines, salmon and mackerel. You can add up to 50% of fresh muscle meat without upsetting the calcium balance of the kibble. You can also add plain yogurt, cottage cheese or eggs.

*NOTE: Feeding in this manner is ok as an occasional practice but remember that raw meat digests at a faster rate than kibble. If you do want to feed kibble and raw daily, we suggest you make the morning meal of one and the evening meal of the other.  Back to Top

Yes, they can be weaned directly on to raw from their mother’s milk. When given this opportunity little ones take right to it having never known any difference.  Back to Top

There are several reasons why a pet may turn his nose up to raw. The most common reason is the temperature of the food.  Try feeding foods at room temperature rather than right out of the refrigerator. However, DO NOT EVER put RMBs in a microwave even for a minute. Even a short time will begin cooking the food from the inside out – meaning the bone will become brittle and unsafe to eat. To heat up cold food, set the bag or container in a hot pan of water for a few minutes.

If you are anxious about switching to the raw diet, your pet can detect your apprehension. This is one reason we advise going at a pace with which you are comfortable. Make mealtime a stress free time.  

In some cases, the pet may not know that a piece of raw chicken is food if they have been eating dry kibble all their life. You may need to use your imagination at first. Sprinkling parmesan cheese or lightly browning some ground hamburger meat usually will get them eating.  

A healthy dog will not starve itself to death. Skipping a meal here or there is not a cause for alarm. Of course, if you have any doubts about your dog’s health please consult with your health care professional.

Cats on the other hand are known be more stubborn about eating and can hold out until it makes them sick. Do not let a cat go more than a day or two at the most without eating. Have some food that you know they will eat on standby and continue to encourage the raw gradually. Back to Top

Some raw feeders believe there is a period of a couple of weeks that a pet rids their system from all the stored up chemicals and unnecessary ingredients of commercial foods. The signs of detox can be diarrhea, mucous from eyes, vomiting and a variety of other symptoms. Whether it is detox or simply transition, there can be a few minor upsets initially.

If your pet appears ill (has no energy, will not eat anything or keep anything down), see your health care specialist to rule out illness. Keep in mind that a large majority of traditional veterinarians are unfamiliar with home-prepared raw meals and may not support your decision to go against commercial pet food. Back to Top

The most common cause of diarrhea or frequent loose stools is overfeeding. Dogs can be quite convincing sometimes that they need more to eat. Stick to the guidelines of feeding 2-3% of your pet’s ideal body weight. If, over time, you see that your pet is losing weight, then you can increase feedings.

The meat source could be too high in fat. If you are not overfeeding, try cutting back on fat.

Another cause could be trying to add too much variety too quickly.

Canned pumpkin or fresh pulped pumpkin is a natural stool forming remedy. Large dogs would get a maximum dose of 1 tablespoon. Medium sized dogs 1 teaspoon and toy breeds ½ teaspoon. Back to Top

Most of the rules for feeding adult pets a homemade raw diet are the same for puppies. Little ones often do best with the quick switch method onto raw food. If he will not eat raw, try mixing some ground meat (no bone) into his kibble. Bone is high in calcium and commercial food does not need additional calcium. Too much calcium for puppies is detrimental. Back to Top

Most people use supplements to one degree or another. Here is a quick break down of the most commonly used dietary supplements.    

Calcium: If you are not feeding 40-50% RMB’s in your pets raw diet then you must supplement with calcium carbonate (or calcium citrate) at 900 mgs per 1 pound of boneless meat. Other sources of calcium are plain yogurt and cottage cheese. However, they contain enough calcium to balance themselves but not enough to balance an entire meat meal.

Eggshells are a natural source of calcium carbonate. After breaking the eggs, rinse the shells and let them dry overnight on the counter. The next day, grind them finely with a coffee bean grinder and save in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

*Bone meal should not be used as your calcium source. It also contains phosphorus and a raw meat meal is already high in phosphorus.  

Digestive Enzymes: These usually consist of amylase, protease and lipase. Amylase helps break down carbs, protease breaks down protein and lipase digests fats. Digestive enzymes can be particularly useful in the first 4-6 weeks of feeding raw as your pet’s system gets accustomed to this new way of eating.

Recommended: Berte's Zyme Digestive Enzymes from B-Naturals

Probiotics: Probiotics provide good bacteria, such as lactobacillus acidophilus and bulgaricus. They occur naturally in buttermilk, yogurt and some cheeses. These balance and neutralize bad bacteria thereby promoting effective digestion and a healthy digestive tract.

Recommended: Berte's Ultra Probiotic Powder from B-Naturals

EFAs: This stands for essential fatty acids and the two most important ones are omega-6 and omega-3. Omega 6’s are plentiful and do not need to be added to a raw diet. Omega 3 EFAs on the other hand are not as available and should be added. Fish body oil such as salmon oil is the best choice. Fish oil is very fragile to light and air and should be refrigerated or better yet, used in capsule form.  It may be best to wait until you pet is fully transitioned onto raw before adding EFAs.

Recommended: Berte's EPA 180-120 Omega-3 Fish Oil from B-Naturals

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is needed to efficiently metabolize omega 3 fatty acids and should be used in conjunction with fish oils.

Vitamin/Mineral Supplement: Begin using these after the few first weeks of transition and continue using on a daily basis. Be sure the product has trace minerals, not just vitamins. The best source of trace minerals are sea vegetation such as kelp or blue/green algae. As with all supplements, ATG recommends the selection available through B-Naturals.
Berte's Daily Blend contains vitamins A, C, D, E, B, and selenium, as well as kelp and alfalfa.
http://www.b-naturals.com

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Against The Grain Pet Nutrition is a company that does things differently. We are a small business that is excited about offering pet owners better choices in pet nutrition. We believe that choosing appropriate pet food (be it commercial, raw or home prepared) is the most important factor in any pet's preventative health, convalescence and longevity.  Our name - Against The Grain - reflects our strong passion to provide pet owners with the knowledge to make healthy decisions about pet care even if we go ‘against the grain' of popular thinking.


To contact us:

www.ATGPetNutrition.com
1024 County Road 109
Montevallo, AL 35115

Phone: 205-665-9026
Fax: 205-665-5683
ATGPetNutrition@gmail.com