Ten Simple Rules to Follow When Introducing your Dog to a Raw Diet

Written by: Lindsay Giguiere



Time to read 4 min

Health is at the forefront of our minds with the current state of the world, and our pets deserve the same devotion. 

As we pay more attention to what we eat and lean towards a more natural diet, we want our pets to join us on our journey to a healthier lifestyle.

A raw diet for dogs has gained popularity over the years and if you’re preparing the raw menu yourself, there’s a lot that goes into the process.

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Why Opt for raw diet for dogs?

Raw is the most natural state of food as it’s untouched and unprocessed. Those who support raw food diets believe that the benefits include shinier coats, healthier skin, improved dental health, increased energy, and smaller stools.

In 1993, Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst introduced the concept and referred to it as the BARF diet, which stands for Bones and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. Not a very appetizing acronym but luckily, pets can’t spell.

Billinghurst’s theory was that a diet based on what canines ate before they became domesticated would be more beneficial than kibble created in a factory. While the concept does make sense, it’s not without risk.

In contrast, AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Jerry Klein says, “Dogs are not wolves and shouldn’t eat raw meat and bone like them. Through the thousands of years and generations of becoming domesticated, dogs became omnivores who evolved to eat what we people eat.”

If you do decide a raw diet is the way to go, there are important rules you need to be aware of to ensure the health of your pet and yourself. 

Rule #1: Be careful with raw diet ingredients

When handling raw meat, it’s always important to make sure you’re aware of the dangers.

If you have little ones around, be extra cautious they can’t access your pet’s food bowl, especially with raw meat present.

Always wash and your pet’s bowl after each raw meal to prevent bacterias from harming your dog and others.

Rule #2: Educate yourself

Research as much as possible to learn everything you can about a raw diet.

Join social media raw diet groups to learn about raw food before you jump in and to gain support when needed.

Learn about the negatives and positives of raw pet food from other pet parents.

Rule #3: Talk to your veterinarian

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Your veterinarian will educate you on both the benefits and dangers of a raw diet.

They know the health of your pet and if a raw diet is the right choice for your pet’s food journey.

Ask about prepping, feeding, and cleaning to protect everyone in the house, furry and not.

Find out what signs to look for if your pet isn’t thriving on a raw food diet.

Rule #4: Take it slow

You can’t just switch from kibble to a raw diet as there’s a transition period that needs to occur.

The best schedule to make the switch will depend on the breed, weight,  and age of your dog. 

Rawfddogs.org recommends choosing a meat like chicken to start off with since it’s easy to find, inexpensive and nothing too weird that might freak you out.

See how your furry friend does with a small portion and increase from there.

Rule #5: There’s a method to the madness

You want to ensure your dog’s raw diet has the proper nutritional balance to develop properly. You can’t just throw a steak in a dog bowl and call it a day.

A balance of fat, protein, calories, calcium, vital minerals, and more is a must. 

The kind of meat, amount of bones versus meat, and portion amount will depend on the age and size of your dog.

Rule #6: Keep a watchful eye

If your dog isn’t thriving from the new diet, call your vet and make a change.

Look out for hair loss, lack of energy, weight loss, whining, and other abnormal signs your dog is malnourished.

Raw bones don’t splinter like cooked ones, but always make sure your dog doesn’t swallow a large chunk and suffer from a blockage.

Rule #7: Some foods are off the table

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A raw diet doesn’t mean access to all raw foods.

Learn which foods are harmful to your dog and can even lead to death.

Avocado contains persin which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Garlic and onions kill a dog’s red blood cells, causing anemia.

Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure, even in small amounts.

Peach and plum pits have cyanide, which is poisonous to people and dogs.

Raw eggs can contain salmonella or E. coli so check with your vet before including them in your dog’s raw diet.

Raw fish can have parasites leading to a sick dog.

Rule #8: Raw is not easy to stomach

We’re not talking about your dog.

The concept of consuming raw food that as humans, we always cook, can be a hard one to swallow, literally.

If you can’t get on board with chicken feet and stomach lining, you can either keep it simple or stick to a different diet.

There are several brands who sell raw pet food which means less prep for you.

Rule #9 Don’t be a hero

Sticking with and managing a raw pet food diet is a large undertaking.

The food you feed your dog can either add years or shorten them so if you’re in over your head, recognize it and find a new solution.

Don’t be too proud to purchase pre-made raw dog food that will still provide your pet with natural options.

Rule #10 Limit the licks...for now

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It’s recommended not to make out with your dog right after it finishes its raw meal.

Bacteria from raw meat, fish, and eggs can be transferred from pet to human.

It’s recommended you wait at least 30-minutes after your pet eats for kisses, which will give its saliva ample time to kill dangerous pathogens.

Kudos to you for being a great pet parent and choosing raw to keep your dog healthy. It’s not for the faint of heart, takes a lot of research and knowledge, time, and trial and error. Feeding your dog a raw diet certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, or in this case, a bowl of raw turkey wings, but if it works for you and your pet, that’s all that matters.