Why Make the Switch?
It is not uncommon for dogs and cats to react poorly to kibble, as they are simply not designed to eat these highly processed diets. Historically, canines and felines have thrived off of diets consisting primarily of live and decaying prey, while occasionally foraging for scraps. The introduction of cooked and processed foods into their diets is relatively recent in their evolutionary timelines. The teeth, gut and digestive physiology of these animals strongly support that they are carnivores. In fact, the modern dog’s entire DNA sequence differs from a wolf by only about 0.02% (in comparison, the dog differs from the coyote by about 4%). Therefore, it is a mistake to think that a dog’s diet should be much different than a wolf’s.
Kibble typically consists of at least 60% carbohydrates, which directly conflicts with the fact that these animals are carnivores. To put this into perspective, a wolf’s diet is, on average, 3% carbohydrates. Due to this and the over-processing of ingredients, the moisture content of kibble is also significantly lower than raw food, at an average of 10% vs. 70%. This is why many owners notice their pets drinking significantly less water once switched to a raw diet.
Another characteristic of kibble that tends to cause issues with those that consume it, is the amount of synthetic vitamins that are added. This is done in an attempt to add nutritional value back into the food after packing it full of low quality, over-processed ingredients. Synthetic vitamins behave very differently in the body in comparison to natural vitamins, as they are chemical isolates, or fractionated pieces of the whole vitamin, oftentimes making them less effective and bioavailable. Raw foods undergo little to no processing, meaning that the nutritional content is natural and much more available for absorption.
Additionally, a raw diet offers control so that allergens can be easily identified and avoided. Kibble is packed full of a long list of ingredients, and it only takes a single one to cause an adverse reaction in your pet. When you feed your pet a raw diet, you have the ability to easily control each ingredient that they consume, allowing you to determine what does and does not work for their individual needs.
These are only some of the benefits that a raw diet offers!
Recommendations on getting your DOG started
We recommend feeding a diet consisting of roughly 80% meat, 10% bones and 10% organ, including a wide variety of different parts and protein sources to meet these ratios. To determine the quantity of food to feed each day, there are a few things to consider.
First, how old is your pet? For an adult dog (68+ weeks), we typically recommend feeding 2-3% of their ideal body weight. This means that if your dog weighs 70lbs but should only weigh 60lbs, your feeding calculation should be based on 60lbs, as that is their ideal weight. However, this is just a guideline. Activity level and the individual needs of your pet must also be taen into consideration. For example, a dog that goes on 3 hour hikes every day would obviously have greater caloric needs than a dog that only goes on a 30 minute walk a day. Some pets also just naturally have lower or faster metabolisms, activity level aside. Thus, 2-3% is a great starting point that may require adjusting as you start to understand the individual needs of your pet.
For puppies, we recommend the following feeding guide:
7-10 weeks - 10% of current body weight
10-16 weeks - 8%
16-20 weeks - 7%
20-24 weeks - 6%
24-36 weeks- 5%
36-56 weeks - 4%
56-68 weeks - 3.5%
68+ weeks - 2-3%
We recommend splitting the amount of food into 2 feedings per day for adult dogs, and 3 per day for puppies, if possible. When making the switch, it is best to fast for at least 12 hours before offering the first raw meal. This gives the body time to digest any leftover food and clear out the gastrointestinal tract so that the raw meal is fed on a “clean slate”, better facilitating the adaptation of the digestive enzymes and pH levels in your pet’s stomach.
It is best to start with one protein at a time. This can be done by introducing a new protein week by week, to better determine if your pet is going to have adverse reactions to certain proteins. With that being said, allergies can sometimes take weeks or even months to develop. Additionally, if your pet is currently experiencing allergy symptoms, it does not mean that they are inherently “allergic” to these proteins but rather, they may have developed an intolerance due to environmental factors, health issues, lack of variety, etc. which could compromise their digestive system. (See: “Addressing Allergies”).
Eventually, the goal is to establish a wide menu of proteins and parts that agree with your pet. Remember, we provide the building blocks so that you can tailor a diet that best suits the needs of your pets. A raw diet MUST include various proteins, preferably including both whole and ground options. Feeding only ONE protein long term will deprive your pet of valuable nutrients and has the potential to cause health issues.
Recommendations on getting your CAT started
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they are designed to eat meat and meat only. All of the nutrients that they require can be met through a diet of muscle meat, bone and organ.
One primary difference between feeding cats a raw diet, compared to dogs, is that cats require an extra essential amino acid. This amino acid is taurine, which contributes to brain, nerve, eye, heart, digestion and immune function. Cats cannot produce taurine on their own, so it must be obtained through their food or supplementation. Taurine can be compromised by exposure to oxygen, so feeding whole pieces of raw meat provides more access to this amino acid than feeding finely ground meat. Taurine is found in especially high concentrations in hearts, so it is very important that your cat’s raw diet includes plenty of whole, raw heart! This amino acid may also be supplemented to ensure that adequate amounts are being met.
Another difference between feeding a raw diet to a cat versus a dog, is that cats MUST eat everyday. Whereas it is not harmful for a healthy, adult dog to miss a day of eating if they are being picky or feeling unwell, cats have unique metabolisms which can cause them to suffer from hepatic lipidosis, also known as feline fatty liver, if they do not receive adequate amounts of food. If your cat is refusing to eat when offered raw for the first time, mixing in some commercial food may be necessary so that they get something in their system while their taste adjusts.
We recommend feeding a diet consisting of roughly 80% meat, 10% bone and 10% organ. This is just a guideline and as your cat gets adjusted to their new diet, you will learn what works best for them and may tweak these numbers.
To determine the quantity to feed each day, consider the age and activity level of your cat. For adult cats, we recommend feeding 2-3% of their ideal adult body weight. If they have an active lifestyle, feed 3%, and if they have a more sedentary lifestyle, feed 2 or 2.5%.
For kittens, we recommend the following feeding guide:
4-12 weeks – 10% of current body weight
12-16 weeks – 8%
16-24 weeks – 7%
24-32 weeks – 6%
32-48 weeks – 5%
48-72 weeks – 4%
72+ weeks – 2-3%
Just like a dog, a healthy raw diet for a cat should include an abundance of parts from a wide range of proteins. Including as much variety as possible will ensure that your cat is receiving adequate nutrients. It is best to begin with one protein at a time, to rule out immediate adverse reactions such as severe allergies. Eventually, the goal is to establish a wide menu of proteins and parts that agree with your cat. Remember, we provide the building blocks so that you can tailor a diet that best suits the needs of your pets. A raw diet MUST include various proteins, preferably including both whole and ground options. Feeding only ONE protein long term will deprive your pet of valuable nutrients and has the potential to cause health issues.
What Changes Will I Notice?
At first, your pet may appear to be hungry
A dry commercial diet expands in size during digestion, stretching the stomach and giving your pet that ‘full’ sensation. Your pet’s raw servings may seem smaller than you are used to feeding, but this is simply due to the fact that there are no ‘empty calories’ – every bite is typically much more calorie and nutrient dense in comparison to commercial foods. It may take some time (typically, a week) for your pets stomach to adjust and become used to the new serving sizes.
Decreased water intake
Raw food contains a lot of moisture and provides natural hydration, so you may notice your pet visiting their water bowl less often. This is especially likely if they are switching from a kibble diet, which tends to be dehydrating.
There is much less waste associated with a raw food diet as the body can process and absorb much more of what is being ingested. Processed foods tend to be full of many unnecessary ingredients that end up bulking up the stool. Feeding a raw diet will result in significantly firmer, smaller, and less smelly stool.
Should I Feed Carbohydrates?
While most of your dog’s nutritional needs can be met with a diet containing a variety of protein sources, a diversity of organs, and an adequate amount of bone – including whole, natural plant ingredients can be extremely beneficial. In addition to providing an abundance of vitamins, plants also contain phytonutrients which play a significant role in preventing and treating disease. Plants use phytonutrients to stay healthy and protect themselves against damage. Thus, when our dogs consume these phytonutrients, they gain these protective benefits. A wolf’s diet consists of, on average, 3% carbohydrates. Keep this in mind when considering how much to feed your dog.
If you would like to include carbohydrates in your dog's diet, they must be pureed to provide any worthwhile nutritional benefit. Dogs cannot break down plant cell walls the same way that we can, so carbohydrates need to be ‘pre-digested’ to be fully beneficial.
Cats are obligate carnivores and therefore, carbohydrates are not necessary.
Should I Feed Supplements?
Supplements can be very valuable in filling any nutritional gaps in your pet’s diet. An important thing to consider when selecting supplements to incorporate into your pet’s diet is whether they contain synthetic or natural ingredients. These both behave very differently in the body as synthetic vitamins are chemical isolates, or fractionated pieces of the whole vitamin, oftentimes making them less effective and bioavailable.
We recommend the Feed-sentials family (dogs only) of supplements as they contain whole, natural ingredients that are safe and effective in providing valuable nutrients.
Many people decide to switch to a raw diet because their pets are experiencing allergies. It is true that raw diets can be incredibly beneficial in avoiding allergens as it allows you to be in total control over what ingredients you are and are not including in your pet’s diet.
Commercial diets, such as kibble, are packed with a long list of ingredients, and it only takes a single one to cause an adverse reaction in your pet. When feeding raw, it is much easier to avoid known allergens or do an elimination diet to determine what may be causing issues.
Giving medications to treat allergies are only band-aid solutions which mask the underlying problem by suppressing the immune response; the best approach to take towards allergies is to determine what the allergen is so that it can be avoided. Additionally, medications that are prescribed for allergies are typically not healthy to be taken long term.
Some allergy symptoms may not actually mean that your pet is inherently “allergic” to something, but rather an intolerance may have developed due to reasons such as environmental factors, health issues, lack of variety, etc. which can lead to compromised digestive systems.
So, where does that leave you and your pet?
There are many factors that could cause allergy symptoms in your pet.
Over vaccinating a pet can lead to inappropriate immune system responses that can express themselves through digestive symptoms. Vets often recommend that our pets are vaccinated yearly. This is a practise that has recently become increasingly questioned. For example, in 2017 in the United States, yearly vaccines were switched to every 3 years. This is still not the case for many vaccines in Canada. We highly recommend you do thorough research and educate yourself to help better understand all the risks the come with over vaccinating.
For more information:
Oral and topical preventatives work to make your pet toxic to parasites. Although we definitely do not question the harm that ticks, heartworms, etc. can pose to your pet, the preventatives given to avoid these parasites should be approached with caution. Many of these drugs have long lasting side effects which can present themselves in the form of immune and digestive system upset.
We recommend that you do thorough research to learn the benefits versus risks regarding these drugs on your own before you decide to administer them to your pet(s).
For more information:
Safe Food Handling
We recommend to keep raw food frozen until use, and thaw as needed.
Keep covered and refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.
Sanitize all preparation surfaces and bowls after each meal.
Wash hands throughly after handling raw food.
Links of Interest
The following links contain information we have, in past and in present, included as reference material to our clients. Although we have found these links to contain beneficial information, we may not agree fully with all the information provided. Some of the opinions expressed may not match those of the owners and staff at Country Lane Pet Resort, so please use this information at your own discretion.
Dogs Naturally Magazine
Healthy Pets with Dr. Karen Becker
Please note that none of us at Country Lane Pet Resort/Primitive Raw Pet Foods (2020) Inc. are medical professionals. Our recommendations come based on thorough training, research, and the lengthy combined experience of our staff members. We always recommend doing whatever you are comfortable with and think is best for your pet based on your own research.