It's a question I'm asked daily, "How do I start my dog (or cat) on a raw diet"? It's also an excellent question and one I had back when I started feeding my last dog, Garp, a chocolate lab, a raw diet. I just couldn't fathom Garp eating raw meat and bones. The words of my vet echoed in my mind, "Just feed him a high-quality dry food - everything's there." So I did and thought that I was nourishing my dog well. He looked great - heck he even won a best-in-category at a major dog show in the Olympic Stadium in Montreal!
But as age set in (seven years old to be precise), his health slowly changed for the worse. Garp dropped 12 pounds from his show weight, developed chronic ear infections, his once spectacular coat was patchy and his teeth were becoming brown. I thought he had cancer. "Let's run some blood tests," my vet said. "And we can clean his teeth," (a $350 affair).
I scratched my head, "I dunno," I replied. Something about my vet's eagerness to run tests and pump pets with anesthesia made me skeptical. I thought back to a few of my friends who were feeding their dogs raw diets and figured I'd give it a shot. I started feeding Garp chicken, then got into necks and carcasses and next, red meats. Fast forward to three months later and Garp put on six pounds, his teeth were clean, ear infections gone and his coat exuded the shiny picture of health. Let's also mention that he pooped a lot less. Since then, I never looked back and became a raw diet evangelist.
So long as your dog isn't allergic to chicken, I would recommend starting him off on poultry supplemented with beef liver (at about a 5:1 ratio). Chicken is bland, easy to digest and readily available. After a couple weeks on chicken then you can add fish and red meat like beef or horse to the diet. It's important that your dog's diet should include bone (about 1/3 of it) so that he can get the necessary calcium to keep his bones strong. You can acheive this by feeding him poultry meats that already have crushed bone in them, or you can feed him chicken / duck carcasses and necks and meaty beef marrow bones. Finally, I always recommend adding veggies to the diet, it basically greases the system so that his poop doesn't become too hard.
Once his system has grown accustomed to the raw diet then branch out into a variety of meats in order to achieve a balanced diet. I feed my dog a different protein meat every day and he is as robust a dog as one could find. Some of the meats you can include are: beef, horse, fish, chicken, turkey, duck, bison, venison, elk, lamb, mussels and rabbit.
This piece is really just a get-started on raw primer in broad strokes. I like to refer to top breeders who feed their dogs raw diets; I beleive that they know their animals better than any vet. Also, a good breeder has no hidden agenda other than to produce the finest dogs possible while improving the overall breed. For a more detailed guide to getting started on a raw diet, please click here. It's written by a topnotch breeder of Australian shepherds in Indiana, it's based on actual experience. (BTW, this breeder's suggested raw diet products are available at Mrs. Meadys). Check it out in our online store.