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Basics of Raw Feeding

Module 1: Basics of Raw Feeding

  • What is Raw Feeding?

Raw Feeding is the principle of feeding a dog a natural diet that is aligned to what they would naturally chose to eat and which their digestive systems are best able to process. This is feeding a diet of raw meat, or as it is sometimes known, BARF: Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding or RMBD: Raw Meaty Bone Diet.

  • What are the benefits of Raw Feeding?

Cleaner Teeth

We have all seen dogs and cats with plaque and bad breath but we may not have associated this with their diet of kibble and/or canned food. People generally believe that because their pets have to chew their kibble, they are cleaning their teeth at the same time. This approximates to us feeding our children hard biscuits and looking for the benefits!!

It is a fact that around 80% of domesticated cats and dogs suffer from periodontal disease requiring veterinary intervention at an early age. Recreational bones will give your dog an enjoyable time, but provide no benefits to removing plaque. Dogs should be eating raw meaty bones that they have to chew through, thus scraping the plaque from the teeth and providing a gum massage which increases circulation.

Any dog or cat that exhibits the signs of periodontal disease, i.e., commonly known as ‘dog breath’ is in danger of this causing systemic problems in the body due to the constant presence of bacteria in their system. 

Better Digestion

Unlike humans, dogs and cats have a very short digestive system which deals with their food intake quickly and effectively, greatly reducing the threat of bacteria. Thus, when we feed the heavily processed meat, grains and fillers, the dog’s digestive system is not built to deal with this. They do not have the digestive enzyme amylase which is required to digest grains. The pancreas is then put under a huge strain, working overtime to break down the foods the body is not designed to deal with.

Because dry food absorbs the moisture from the gut this can lead to diarrhoea and long term bowel problems. Chronic dehydration from years of eating a dry diet can contribute to crystals and kidney disease. By feeding a species appropriate diet of raw meat, bones and organs, the digestive system works with the food they are designed to eat and does not become worn out by years of over-exertion.

Less Poop

Because raw meat, bones and pureed vegetables are digested more completely than cooked grains and meat, this means less waste. The stools will be smaller, fewer and harder as well as being chalky in texture. When left out in the sun for a few days, they will generally turn to dust.

Pets that are fed a commercially made kibble diet, will have extremely offensive smelling faeces.

Your Pet’s Coat

The difference in your pet’s coat will show within two weeks on a raw diet. It will become softer, shinier and very silky. Animals will often detox through their skin, culminating in a greasy, smelly coat. On a raw diet, this noxious smell will disappear.


It is a sad fact that in recent years, more and more pets are showing signs of skin allergies. The grains, fillers, dyes and preservatives in a commercial dry diet can culminate in this type of allergy. Pets may also become allergic to different types of proteins as well. However, it is possible that they may be allergic to a cooked meat, but not in the raw form.

Many pets suffer with severe itching all their lives and will then be treated by their vet with antibiotics and steroids, when a cure may be as simple as switching to a biologically appropriate diet.

Arthritis and Bone Disease

Arthritis and bone disease can be caused by genetics, but in the main, are largely due to an inappropriate diet, high in carbohydrates and low in essential fatty acids. It has been found that diets high in essential fatty acids and omega fatty acids, decrease the inflammation and ease the pet’s suffering. Raw diets are full of these nutritional benefits.

Bone disease begins with puppies and kittens. When puppies are grown too fast, they will begin to experience structural problems. Many kibble diets are often too high in calories and certain minerals which can cause rapid growth spurts and uneven growth. This can potentially lead to joint disease such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Dogs fed a raw biologically appropriate diet tend to grow more slowly and steadily without the growth spurs and uneven bone growth.

Visiting your Vet

This is probably the most notable benefit. Preventative medicine is a common phrase these days, nutrition being the cornerstone to health and vitality for every species.


  • 80/10/10 and is it correct?

80/10/10 is the way the majority of raw 'Complete' dog foods are composed, It means that the food comprises of:
80% MEAT
10% BONE

The 10% Offal can be made up of any of the following: Liver, Kidney, Testicle, or Spleen.

Typically, 5% at least will be Liver. Importantly, these are all SECRETING organs, so whilst a traditional butcher would refer to tripe or heart for example, as being 'Offal', they are only offal in a human diet rather than in a dog's diet, where they are classed as meat*.

Whilst this combo of meat, offal and bone is widely discussed as a complete diet, there is rising acknowledgement that dogs - if placed in a wild setting - do elect to eat more than this, such as scavenging for apples and other fruits and vegs, grass and other parts of prey, such as hooves and hair. 

So actually, whilst 80/10/10 forms the basis of a main raw food diet, it's not necessarily the full picture of a diet for a healthy dog. 

When asked what a complete dog food comprises of, Dr. Nick Thompson BSc (Hons) Path Sci., BVM&S, VetMFHom, MRCVS states:

"80:10:10 is the foundation of a dogs diet, but to make it a complete offering, you need to add a) blended fresh raw or lightly cooked green veg, b) vitamins and minerals and c) omega-3 fatty acids."

  • How much needs to be fed?

In simple terms, the answer to this question is... A healthy adult dog (not overweight/underweight) requires 2.5% of their bodyweight in raw food per day. 

Whilst this is the most straightforward answer, there are variations to be considered.

1) Puppies. 
Puppies require more than 2.5% of their current weight as they need additional food to help them grow to their expected size. There are two ways we can therefore work out how much to feed a puppy.  One is to calculate based on the expected weight of the puppy when a fully grown i.e. the target weight. The second way is to start with 10% of bodyweight for a young puppy (up to 3 or 4 months old) then gradually drop that percentage down each month until reaching 2.5% by the time the dog is 12m old. 

2) Underweight dogs
Underweight adult dogs should be fed 3% of their body weight per day, but this can also be enhanced by selecting higher calorie meats, such as lamb or duck.

3) Overweight dogs
An adult dog that is overweight needs to eat the appropriate amount for their exercise levels as well as their need to reduce weight. They should therefore be fed 2% of their bodyweight per day. You can also select lower calorie meats, such as Turkey, but bear in mind the different manufacturers select different cuts of meat, so refer to the analytical composition on the label for further information. 

Dog weight chartWorked Example for RAW FOOD:


'A customer has asked how much she needs to feed her 3 year mixed-breed dog. The dog weighs 18kg and the customer is happy with the dogs weight at present.'

18 x 0.025 = 0.45kg = 450g

It is worth asking the customer if they feed once or twice a day, and clarify that the amount stated is a daily allowance, so may need to be split between the number of meals fed per day. 


Whilst this calculation seems very technical, this is always a GUIDELINE amount to feed. If a dog has a particularly energetic day, with longer-than-usual walks, then they may need a bit more that day. This calculation is based on a chicken diet, as a benchmark. Different meats have different analytical compositions, so this is just a guide to help an owner feed an appropriate amount. 

*In the UK and Europe, since Mad Cow Disease, the feeding of nervous tissue like brains and spinal cord, and the feeding of glands like thyroid or adrenals has been banned.

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