Raw Meat Diet for Our Dog
Updated: Feb 19
2022 Update: We are now feeding two dogs with the raw meat diet, and it is going great! We have added cooked vegetables into our dogs' raw meat diet for fiber and additional nutrition. See below for more info.
Why We Switched to a Raw Meat Diet
When we adopted our dog Marley from the shelter 3+ years ago, I researched healthy dog kibbles, and settled on using Victor Super Premium Grain-Free Dog Food. Marley seemed to do fine with the Victor food for awhile, but then a couple years ago he got a yeast infection in his ear after swimming in the river. I tried treating the ear infection naturally, but it just wouldn't go away. And it lasted for months.
In learning about dog ear yeast infections, one thing kept coming up in my research: dogs don't need carbohydrates in their diets! Carbs feed the yeast, so one way to cure a dog's yeast infection is to cut out the carbs. Even though we were using a "high-protein", high-quality dog food, Marley was still consuming a lot of carbs because his kibble still contained about 50% carbs.
After many hours of research, I finally decided to take the plunge and try a raw meat-and-bones diet for Marley. A raw meat diet more closely approximates the diet a dog would have evolved to eat as a wolf, and thus it provides super nutrition. Cooking greatly diminishes water soluble vitamins such as B vitamins and Vitamin C, as well as destroying valuable enzymes. Animal feeding studies, such as Pottenger's Cats, have shown that raw meat is far superior to cooked meat, with cooked meat leading to a degradation of health and eventual infertility.
Within a few weeks of switching Marley to a raw meat diet, his ear infection finally went away! Now Marley has been eating a raw diet for over 1&1/2 years, and we'll never switch back to kibble. Marley is healthy and thriving on this diet.
How We Feed Marley a Raw Meat Diet
"Replacing kibble, and with it starch, leads the way toward healthier gut bacteria, balanced blood sugar and a better endocrine system- and that’s just the beginning." 
I'm no expert at crafting a balanced raw meat diet for our dog, but thankfully I don't have to be! The Dogs Naturally website has tons of information about what comprises a healthy raw diet for dogs. Their guidance has made it easy for us to feed Marley a raw diet. In addition to the handy guide below, I found the Raw Feeding Primer and Raw Feeding Video Guide to be perfect for getting started with this new way of feeding Marley. (My kids loved watching the video series, too!)
The general goal is to aim for a diet of 50% raw meaty bones, 35% muscle meat, and 15% organ meats. The organ meats act as vitamin-rich superfoods, and the bones ensure that the dog is consuming the right balance of calcium and phosphorus. Although conventional wisdom says that chicken bones are dangerous to feed to dogs, that warning is really related to cooked chicken bones, which can easily splinter. Raw bones do not pose such a hazard.
2022 Update: VEGGIES! In addition to raw meat, bones, and organ meats, we are now also feeding our dog cooked vegetables as part of his daily meal. This has helped to resolve some occasional stomach upset that was linked back to not enough fiber in his diet. We typically feed cooked green beans, broccoli, carrots, and/or butternut squash alongside the meat and bones. There is a full list of which vegetables are safe for dogs to eat here: https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/what-vegetables-can-dogs-eat/
Raw Meat Diet Cost Comparison
We are strong believers that great nutrition can help prevent costly vet bills in the future. One big consideration when switching Marley to a raw meat diet was cost, because the "premium" kibble we were buying was already fairly costly. We wondered if it was going to be much more expensive to feed Marley a raw meat-and-bones diet.
I've tracked our dog food expenses for the last 1.5 years, and the answer is that Marley's raw meat diet is actually CHEAPER than his previous Victor kibble! In one year, we'd spend ~$209 on kibble, but only ~$171 on raw meat/bones/organs.
Note that I don't buy organic meats for Marley. If we had an unlimited budget, I certainly would buy organic (just as I do for our family), but nonetheless Marley's meat diet is still leaps and bounds above kibble in terms of nutrition. When I have leftover bones, giblets, or meat scraps from the organic meat our family eats, I feed those to Marley, but I haven't included those in this cost comparison because I would have given those to him regardless of whether he was eating Kibble or the raw diet.
Practical Tips for Making a Raw Meat Diet Easy
Besides cost, one other concern I had about switching to a raw meat diet was the ease of it. Feeding a dog kibble is really, really easy, and I didn't want the raw meat diet to turn into a time-consuming ordeal. I've figured out, though, how to make the raw meat diet very simple and easy to do:
Periodically buy a large amount of raw meat/bones/organs: About once every 3-4 months, I buy a large amount of raw food for Marley. I generally focus on beef, chicken, pork, and organ meats, but it really depends on what is on sale!
Freeze in single serving portions: I package up all of the meat, bones, and organs into single serving portions. For me, the easiest way to do this has been to use gallon-size Ziploc freezer bags. I make sure to leave plenty of space between each raw food item, so that the pieces won't get stuck together in the freezer. Then I make sure to freeze the bags lying flat. Once the raw food has become frozen, it no longer matters whether the bags are stored flat.
2022 Update: Veggies Once every few weeks, I cook a up a pot of frozen vegetables with some salt and a little butter or bacon grease (to increase palatability for our second dog, who doesn't like plain veggies). I freeze the veggies in a gallon-size freezer bag and then break them up into smaller portions once they are mostly frozen.
Thaw each day's food on the counter: Each morning, I pull out Marley's food for the day and let it thaw on the counter for a few hours. (If you prefer, you could thaw it overnight in the fridge.) On days when I forget to pull Marley's food out in the morning, I can thaw it quickly by placing it in the toaster over set at 200 degrees F for 20 minutes, and then allowing the food to sit in the still-warm toaster oven until it is completely thawed.
Feed once per day only: Previous to his raw food diet, Marley ate twice a day. However, once on raw food, it became clear that if Marley ate raw food from late afternoon onwards, he would wake me up at night needing to go out to poo. Waking up every night to let the dog out? No, thank you. So we switched to feeding him just one meal per day, and that works fine. Early afternoon works best for us, as it prevents Marley from being too hungry at bedtime. (An unexpected side effect is that Marley now knows that "It's two o'clock!" means it is his favorite time of day: meal time!)
Feed outside: Because Marley's raw food is moist, and sometimes dripping wet, it works best to feed him outside to prevent any mess in the house. That also gives Marley the opportunity to lie in the grass while he chews on his raw bones.
Transitioning to a raw meat-and-bones diet was easier than I expected, and it is uber healthy for Marley! We've had no problem continuing to feed him raw-meat-and-bones while camping and travelling, so long as we take a cooler along. A raw meat-and-bones diet is healthy for dogs and easy to do!
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