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Whenever I meet people who are new to raw feeding, the question always comes up about the nutrients. People are so used to seeing a laundry list of synthetic vitamins on bags of dog food that they assume that we have to do the same for a raw food diet for dogs.
As long as we're feeding a balanced raw diet, our dogs are getting everything they need. I no longer add a multi-vitamin, nutrient blend, or depend on a base mix to balance my dogs' raw diet because it's not necessary. Thankfully, I have access to muscle meat, bone, liver, and organ meat – so I'm good to go.
Feeding a Balanced Raw Food Diet
But how do you make sure you're feeding a balanced raw food diet? You can do this by starting with the following ratio:
You can do this by starting with the following ratio:
- 80% muscle meat
- 10% bone
- 5% liver
- 5% offal (secreting organs like kidneys, spleen, pancreas)
I consider this a starting point because not every dog is the same. While 10% bone may be perfect for one dog, another dog may need a little more or less. The longer I feed a raw diet, the easier it is to know what each of my dogs needs. And while I know how to calculate the ratio when making raw dog food, I prefer to balance over time and alternate proteins.
What is Balancing Over Time?
The reason balancing over time is easier is because it requires less work. I used to spend half of a day, twice a month, calculating, grinding, and mixing up balanced raw meals. It's not a big deal, but the storage containers take up a ton of freezer space. When I balance over time, I can better stock the freezer and just pull out what the dogs need from day to day.
For example, if I feed duck frames (the body of the duck, no wings, neck, or feet) tonight, I understand that this is a high bone raw meal; so tomorrow, our dogs will eat muscle meat and organ meat only. The theory is that by the end of the second or third day, their diet is balanced.
How I Balance through Variety
The idea of balancing through variety is that every food (protein, organ meat, vegetable, etc.) brings a different set/number of nutrients to the diet, so if we're alternating proteins and other ingredients, we have a better shot at covering everything our dogs need in their diet.
This isn't very scientific, but it doesn't make a crazy sort of sense to me especially after I began looking into the nutrients in different foods I feed to our dogs.
But this may not be enough for many people and that's understandable. After engaging in many discussions on raw feeding and balance, I was encouraged to create a spreadsheet that tracked the nutrients in my dogs' diet and it gave me the assurance that I was feeding a balanced diet. I still balance over time and through variety, I simply do so with more confidence.
So, How Does a Raw Fed Dog Get Their Nutrients?
While I'm rambling on about balancing a raw diet for dogs, I haven't answered the initial question, have I? A dog gets their nutrients from their diet, but for many people, that statement isn't enough. So here is a list of common foods that I feed to my dogs with a list of nutrients that they'll get in their diet.
- Duck Wings – protein, fat, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E.
- Venison – protein, fat, iron, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12
- Organ Blend (heart, liver, kidneys, pancreas, spleen) – protein, fat, copper, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Niacin, Zinc, iron, riboflavin
- Sardines – protein, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, iodine, copper, choline
- Eggs – protein, fat, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B12, selenium, phosphorus, folate
- Spirulina – protein, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, copper, iron, chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, potassium
- Kelp – iodine, Vitamin K, folate, magnesium, calcium, iron
- Raw Goat's Milk – protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc
- Zucchini – Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, fiber, manganese, riboflavin, potassium, folate
- Collard Greens – Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin
- Broccoli – fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium
- Cabbage – fiber, Vitamin, Vitamin C, folate, manganese, Vitamin B6, calcium, potassium, magnesium
Overwhelmed yet? Yeah, I can't remember all of this so, with the help of a friend, I created a spreadsheet to help me track my dogs' nutrients and seeing the food and nutrients laid out in this fashion helped me see wholes in my dogs' raw diet and I made adjustments were necessary.
- My Nutrient Spreadsheet (you'll have to request permission to view)
Is This All My Dogs Really Need?
Maybe. Maybe not. My dogs are doing great, and once a year they are subjected to blood work, and I review their diet with their vet. I also now do annual nutrient testing to confirm that my dogs are getting everything they need in their diet (they are).
I've learned that it's important to know that every dog is different and some dogs need additional supplementation. This is something that an integrative veterinarian experienced in raw feeding can guide you on, AND it's something that many raw feeders figure out as they learn more about their dogs and raw feeding.
- Check out my Supplements Page to learn what I add to my dogs' raw diet.
While raw feeding can be intimidating and overwhelming, it's amazing how quickly you learn what your dog needs.