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5 Benefits of Rotating Proteins in a Raw Food Diet for Dogs

When I started feeding raw, I could only buy the following:

  • chicken (quarters, thighs, legs, and wings)
  • chicken liver
  • chicken gizzards
  • chicken hearts (sometimes)

When chicken would go on sale, I would fill a cart and walk out the door after having spent $100 on nearly 100 pounds of food.  The problem was…

  • I couldn't balance my dogs' raw diet over time when I only had access to liver and no secreting organs*.
  • All of my dogs have a chicken allergy

Proteins I Feed to My Raw Fed Dogs

Today, my dogs eat a variety of proteins, including:

  • duck
  • venison
  • quail
  • emu
  • pork
  • lamb
  • beef tripe
  • bison tripe
  • sardines

I order 99% of the ingredients for my dogs' raw meals through a local raw food co-op. I order bison tripe and lamb from Darwin's Natural Pet Products.

CLICK HERE to see some of my raw dog food recipes.

Why I Rotate Proteins in My Dogs' Raw Diet

I rotate the protein I feed to my dogs every five to seven days, feeding one day of green tripe between each transition.  I began doing this because I think it's boring to eat the same thing every day.  It turns out that rotating proteins is good for dogs too.

1 – Rotating Proteins Provides Nutrient Balance

It's a fallacy to believe that beef and chicken provide the same nutrients for our dogs.

  • Beef is an excellent source of vitamin B12 and very good source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, selenium, zinc and phosphorus. It is also a good source of choline, pantothenic acid, iron, potassium and vitamin B2.
  • Chicken is an excellent source of niacin and very good source of protein and selenium. It is also a good source of protein, selenium, vitamin B6, and phosphorus. It is also a good source of choline, pantothenic acid and vitamin B12.


While the vitamins and nutrients look similar, they're not the same nor do they contain the same amounts.  By rotating a dog's protein source, we're providing a more balanced, nutrient-rich diet for our dogs.

2 – No Need for Balancing Fats

Earlier this year, Dogs Naturally Magazine broke my brain when they told raw feeders that we needed to begin balancing the fats in our dog's raw diets.  What????  After a few days of wringing my hands as I researched the best sources for walnut and chia seed oil, I was reminded that as long as I'm rotating the proteins, I add to my dogs' raw diet, I'm golden.

I do add the following fat sources to my dogs' raw diet:

3 – Reduces Chances of Protein Intolerance

So my logic here may be false, but I believe this – do you?  Years ago I developed an allergy to Bing cherries and sunflower seeds.  The cherries make me Frat Party sick, and the sunflower seeds make my mouth itch and swell.  Neither experience is a party.  I developed the allergies (or intolerances) after eating these foods on a daily basis for months.  I love cherries.  I love sunflower seeds.  They no longer love me.

I connected my experience with dogs and chicken.  I believe that the reason we so many dogs with a chicken intolerance is because chicken is in everything.  Head to a local pet store – one of the chain ones – and start reading ingredients on food and treats.  Even if the bag says venison, there may be chicken in there too.

So my logic is that by alternating proteins instead of feeding the same food day in and day out reduces the chance of an intolerance developing.

4 – Keeps Meal Time Exciting for Raw Fed Dogs

Recently, I noticed that Scout wasn't very interested in meal time.  I would have to call him a few times to get him to come to breakfast, he'd stand there looking at his dish, and I imagined that he was thinking “*sigh* – not again.”  That's when I began to add whole raw pieces (duck frames, wings, and necks) to my dogs' raw meals.  Mixing these whole pieces in with their normal ground raw diet.  Now Scout is waiting for his meal.

Alternating proteins is fun for me and the dogs.  I enjoy watching them investigate what's in their dish to decide what they'll tackle first, listening to the crunch of the bone, and the clank of the stainless steel dog dishes as the dogs lick them clean.

Adding in the whole pieces of raw does take a meal of Darwin's Pet food out of balance. However, I focus on balancing over time and mixing in a whole meal of duck frames or adding a duck neck to a meal of Darwin's Pet serves as a fun treat for the dogs while keeping their teeth clean.

5 – Rotating Proteins Takes the Pressure Off of Raw Feeders

And finally, rotating proteins takes the pressure off of me.  All too often, I see a raw feeder in my Kicked Out group stressing about calculating the 80/10/5/5 ratio (80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 5% liver, 5% offal).  I see raw feeders who are stressing about feeding enough white meat or red meat.  And I see raw feeders stressing about choosing the right supplements for their dogs.

I don't worry about any of this anymore.  Yes, all of this is in the back of my mind because I want to feed my dogs a healthy and balanced raw diet – I simply don't stress about it anymore.  When I fed my dogs 100% Darwin's Pet, I organized my orders in the freezer by protein.  Beef > Duck > Tripe > Turkey – it was a breeze to rotate proteins while feeding my dogs a balanced raw diet.

Today, my dogs enjoy lamb and bison tripe by Darwin's Pet; these proteins go into the current rotation with the DIY raw.  The only thing I'm worried about now is remembering to take food out of the freezer when I'm having a crazy busy day.

Downsides to a Rotation Diet for Dogs

Since transitioning my dogs to a raw food diet, I haven't noticed any problems when switching proteins.  However, when I fed kibble, there was always the risk of GI upset when the dogs started a new food, so I would transition slowly.  If you have a dog with a very sensitive GI system, then switching proteins can cause stomach upset, especially when the dog is new to raw feeding.  So I recommend transitioning slowly.

If your dog has a history of GI distress, you'll need to focus on getting your dog on a better diet (raw dog food) and healing your dog's gut.  I recommend the following steps based on my experience raising Rodrigo:

Start with Premade Raw

Instead of starting with DIY raw (unless you're working with a qualified and experienced holistic vet), I recommend starting with a premade raw diet of Darwin's Natural Pet Food.  If your dog doesn't have an issue with chicken, start there; otherwise, start with duck.  Feed one protein for a couple of weeks before adding in a new protein – you can go as slowly as your dog needs.

Darwin's offers chicken, turkey, beef, duck, lamb, beef tripe, and bison tripe.

Add a Probiotic and Digestive Supplement

Although there are living enzymes in raw food, if a dog has a GI issues, those enzymes may not be enough.  I add fermented vegetables to my dogs' diet and they work wonders.  You can find fermented vegetables in the refrigerator section of many whole foods grocery stores like Central Market (Mill Creek, WA) or Trader Joe's.  Be sure to compare salt content (an ingredient needed in fermentation) when choosing fermented vegetables (I look for anything below 5%).  And make sure that there are no onions.

If you'd prefer to give your dog a supplement, I recommend FullBucket Daily Canine Powder; this supplement worked miracles on my dogs.

Take Your Time

And I know I mentioned this above, but it's worth repeating.  Take your time!  Many new raw feeders feel like they have to jump into raw with both feet.  You're looking at the meals people are sharing, taking in an overwhelming amount of information – this is great because you want to continue to learn.  But don't allow all of this information to push you into moving faster than you or your dog is ready to move.

This post is sponsored by Darwin's Natural Pet Food.  I was paid a fee to share my honest thoughts and experience on this topic.  Darwin's Pet, founded in 2004, makes a point of educating pet owners about species appropriate nutrition while providing home delivery of premium raw meals across the country.  I transitioned my dogs to raw dog food with the help of Darwin's Pet's amazing customer service team and I continue to be a fan today, feeding my dogs their bison tripe and an occasional meal of lamb.

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