The 8 Essential Rules of a Raw Dog Food Diet

Better nutrition provides an overall boost in the immune system and improved health over the long term with less stress on the pet's organs. It is important that your pet's raw dog food diet is developed, prepared, and implemented properly to ensure your pet is getting the most beneficial results.

Dogs, puppies in particular, need a solid source of minerals; especially calcium and phosphorus. Your dog wouldn’t survive without them.

If you incorporate bones into your dog’s diet, you’ll mostly get the minerals right. The most important ones to worry about are calcium and phosphorus.

Both dogs and growing puppies need plenty of calcium in their diet. They also need some phosphorus to go with it because these minerals work closely together. Bones contain both calcium and phosphorus. Meat is high in phosphorus, but too low in calcium. An all-meat diet will cause bone and nervous system issues in your dog and severe bone issues in growing puppies. Thus, your dog needs bone in their diet.

To get enough calcium and keep a healthy balance of minerals, your dog’s raw diet needs to contain about 12% to 15% bone. To make things simpler, this means about 1/3 of his diet should be nice meaty bones. Here are some good choices for meaty bones:

  •     Chicken wings, necks, legs or thighs
  •     Turkey necks 
  •     Chicken and turkey carcasses
  •     Beef tail bones (great for larger dogs)
  •     Lamb or goat necks or ribs
  •     Whole fish

The second most common mistake raw feeders make with their dog’s diet (I’ll talk about the #1 mistake soon) is not feeding enough organs.

Organs are the most nutrient-rich parts of the animal. Without them, your dog could be missing important vitamins.

You’ll want organ meats to makeup anywhere from 10% to 30% of your dog’s diet. This depends on how much and what type of organs you can get. It is important to consult with a nutrition specialist to discuss your pet’s diet and ratios of organ meat, as this can vary greatly depending on which organs you are incorporating and your pet’s specific needs. 

Organs would include:

  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Spleen
  • Pancreas*
  • Thymus*
  • Brain
  • Lung
  • Testicles

Once you get your meaty bones and organs in place, the rest of your dog’s diet should be nice lean meats.

That means half to a third of his total food, depending on how much organ meat you can get your hands on.

These are the protein-rich component of your dog’s diet. He needs proteins to build strong tissues. It also supports the hormones and enzymes he needs to survive and thrive. Consult a nutrition specialist to discuss the best lean meat choices for your dog.

Fat is healthy for your dog. It helps with nerve and immune function and is critical for skin health.

Unfortunately, fat also has a downside: It contains twice the number of calories as protein, yet very few vitamins and minerals.

Feeding too much fat is the most common mistake made when preparing a raw food diet.

If your dog’s diet is too high in fat, he isn’t possibly taking in adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, since most of the calories are being used up with fat. You may even start to see some long-term health issues if the fat content is too high. Your dog needs fat but not so much of it that it robs him of other important nutrients.

A nutrition specialist can recommend meats with proper fat content to suit your dog’s needs. 

Should you add fruits and vegetables to your dog’s raw diet?

Fruits and vegetables carry some unique benefits your dog can’t get from animal products.

In the wild, your dog’s ancestors ate a reasonable amount of grasses and berries. We believe that they ate them for a reason. Animals are very good at sourcing out the foods their bodies need.

So what benefits do fruits and vegetables offer that can’t be found in meat?

Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers. They feed important little bugs that live in your dog’s gut (called probiotics).

Chlorphyll is the green pigment in plants. Chlorophyll makes your dog’s cells healthy. It also detoxifies the liver and digestive system and can protect against cancer.

Carotenoids are important antioxidants that protect your dog from aging and disease. Carotenoids are found in yellow, orange and red colored fruits and vegetables. Things like squash, carrots, papaya, cantaloupe.

Lycopene is another powerful antioxidant. It can play a role in preventing and slowing cancer. Lycopene gives many vegetables their red color. It’s found in tomatoes, carrots, red cabbage, watermelon.

Lutein is another antioxidant that’s known to protect the eyes, skin and heart. It’s found in dark leafy greens and in yellow plants, including kale, broccoli, oranges and papaya.

Flavonoids or bioflavonoids can regulate cell signaling. They also have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In general, the more colorful the plant food, the higher it is in bioflavonoids.

Consult a nutrition specialist to learn how to source and prepare fruits and vegetables to make sure they are a beneficial part of your dog’s diet.


Starchy foods like grains, peas and potatoes aren’t suitable for your dog or for you for that matter.

Dogs do have the ability to digest some grain content. Their diet can include a small amount of grains in training treats but try as much as possible to limit their use.

Starchy foods cause your dog to continually produce a hormone called insulin. This causes them to store a lot of his food as fat, so if your dog is on the chubby side, avoiding grains will help. Diets high in starches can also lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.

The biggest reason to ditch the starch is that it only adds calories to your dog’s diet. While your dog would die without protein or fat, he has no need for starch or carbohydrate. Eating too much can disrupt the colonies of microbes that live in his digestive tract. These little bugs make up most of your dog’s immune system and even help him produce vitamins. When they’re disrupted your dog can suffer from allergies, yeast, and inflammatory health issues.

In a nutshell, if your dog doesn’t need them, why would you feed them? There is no benefit to starch and the risks outweigh the benefits. Most of the health benefits of the raw diet aren’t necessarily because it’s raw; it’s because every other diet is so high in starch. Don’t overlook the importance of cutting starch out of your dog’s life!

Just like us, dogs need a variety of wholesome foods to provide them with a wide range of nutrients.

It is important to feed a wide variety of different foods, including different sources of meat. Not to mention the fact that it’s boring to eat the same foods every day!

Although a lot of raw feeders do, We never recommend giving our dogs fish oil.

It can easily turn rancid (even high quality oil) and cause inflammation in your dog. It’s not environmentally friendly and it’s a heated, processed product. We feed dogs a high quality, raw diet to avoid the unhealthy consequences of heating and processing.

There are great alternatives to fish oil that can easily be added to your dog’s raw food diet!

Additional Pet Nutrition Resources

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