I hear you’re interested in learning more about raw diets for dogs.
Go ahead; pat yourself on the back.
Not all pet owners are as enlightened as you. Many lack an open mind or the courage to venture into the unknown. You’re different. You have a genuine interest in providing a healthier lifestyle for your dog.
Upon first hearing of raw feeding, most people aren’t sure what to make of it.
And that’s completely normal.
Hesitant and apprehensive, their mental movie screen begins to highlight reels of Cujo. Or another blood thirsty, frightening, or salmonella-ridden creature may come to mind.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
And while raw feeding sounds complex and intricate, it’s quite simple.
But what’s even more confusing for new raw feeders is the kind of raw diet to pursue. Prey Model vs BARF vs commercial diets. What do these even mean and which one is best?
Let’s navigate through this together. But before we get started, it might help to define raw feeding.
What are Raw Dog Food Diets?
Raw feeding is the act of feeding a domestic carnivore a diet of raw meat, edible bones, and organs.
What’s a domestic carnivore? Dogs, cats, and ferrets to name a few.
See, didn’t I tell you it was simple?
Despite the straightforwardness, it’s hard for many of us to grasp. You see; we’re conditioned to believe otherwise. So when we learn about raw dog food, it doesn’t sound quite right.
In fact, the most common raw diet questions I receive sound like this: “It’s really raw?” or “You don’t cook it?”
Let me reiterate: This is a raw diet. It includes uncooked meat, edible bones, organs, and often other ingredients.
If you’ve asked one of those questions, don’t fret.
There’s no judgment here, only incredible amounts of support.
Because the truth is: the concept can be shocking at first. Like the first time your mother said Santa Claus didn’t exist. It takes time to get used to the idea. But it’s for the best. No one likes a college freshman that still believes in Santa.
It’s the same for canine nutrition.
Except today, the shocking new information goes something like this:
Kibble could be contributing to your dog’s health issues. And there’s a better way to feed your dog.
What? Mind blown.
But it might help if you were to understand why.
Why Should You Feed a Raw Diet?
The short answer is because it’s the natural diet for dogs – wild or domestic.
Raw feeders believe this type of diet is superior to cooked foods and processed pet food.
This is the fare your dog’s ancestors eat in the wild and the food they’re designed to consume.
Plus, it’s REAL. Raw diets contain fresh, raw, unprocessed foods and nutritionally – you can’t beat that.
Need an example?
Yes, the foods advocated in these regimens are different. But raw feeding is the same concept. Except, it’s geared towards dogs, not people.
Common terms for raw feeding also include: “ancestral diet,” “species appropriate,” and “biologically appropriate.”
And guess what?
Raw feeding has been around for thousands of years. Well before the Paleo Diet exploded into mainstream popularity. Or before kibble was even invented. How’s that for ancestral?
The bottom line:
Raw feeding comes chock-full of benefits.
For more resources on the subject, click here.
What are the Types of Raw Dog Food Diets?
There are two basic types.
- Commercially prepared raw dog food
- Homemade raw diets
Commercially Prepared Raw Diets
This type of raw dog food is premade.
It’s purchased from a pet store, grocery store, or even online. Except it’s not found on the shelf. It comes in a different format:
Frozen, raw meat.
Raw dog food is stored in the freezer section of specialty pet stores and even some national chains. Why?
Because it’s real and it’s perishable.
It’s ironic. Commercial raw dog food is one of the few items in a pet store that’s unprocessed. Despite the sea of meaningless words like organic and natural plastered on every package.
How do you feed a commercial raw diet?
Buy, defrost and serve.
Commercial raw dog food is more convenient. No doubt about it. And many dog owners are content feeding this type of diet.
Others start here before transitioning to the homemade variety.
Still, some prefer to skip this option all together.
Homemade Raw Diets: Prey Model vs BARF
A homemade raw diet is exactly as it sounds.
You prepare your dog’s food, rather than relying on another company to supply it for you.
It’s that simple.
And it’s no different than making dinner for yourself or your children. Other than the menu’s different and there’s no cooking involved.
You source the ingredients, create meals, and watch your dog gobble it up.
This is less convenient but tends to be more affordable. It also allows the dog owner the most control over their dogs diet – and their health.
There are two types of homemade raw diets with slightly different ideologies.
- Prey Model
These two options cause a lot of confusion among new raw feeders. Prey Model vs Barf, which one’s right for you? Let’s see what they’re all about.
Homemade Raw Diet Version #1: Prey Model
The prey model approach attempts to best resemble what dogs would eat in the wild.
And that’s whole prey.
This diet operates on the philosophy that dogs are true carnivores.
Prey model raw (PMR) feeders believe domestic dogs should follow in the wolf’s footsteps. This means consuming a diet that mimics what their predecessors ate in the wild.
So what does wild prey consist of?
Bones, muscle meat, skin, organs, fat, connective tissues and either hide, hair, or feathers.
The “Prey Model” method models our pet’s diet on the ratios of parts found in wild prey animals. Dog owners feed these proportions through raw product that’s readily available.
What does a prey model raw diet consist of?
- 80 – 85% Muscle meat
- 10 – 15% Raw meaty bones
- 5- 10% Organs & Offal (with half of this amount being liver)
What does a prey model raw diet exclude?
- Excessive supplementation
How is this fed?
- Feeding whole prey
Some dog owners provide these dietary components by feeding their dogs whole prey.
This might mean allowing your dog to help themselves to a deer carcass or perhaps a whole rabbit – fur, feet, and all.
But whole prey is not practical for everyone. So what does the average Prey Model feeder do?
They piece together whole prey as best they can.
A more realistic approach might be feeding a whole chicken or duck. But the grocery store version.
The other option:
PMR feeders can provide a range of animal proteins. All in a varety of different formats to reach the proportions above. Raw meaty bones might include animal feet, tails, backs, ribs, necks or whole carcasses. Organ and offal could include liver, kidney, lungs, pancreas, spleen or green tripe.
Some call this “Frankenprey.” It’s the act of assembling parts from different animals. Then, combining them in a way that mimics the relative proportions of prey animals.
PMR feeders also try to keep food as natural as possible. Some don’t approve of ground beef because it’s not in its natural form.
Variety is the key to any healthy diet but is especially important in a PMR diet since it’s a meat-only diet.
Commercially raised livestock does not contain the same nutrients found in wild prey. Feeding a range of animal product helps to provide a better spectrum of nutrition.
The important takeaway:
- PMR feeders believe plant matter is not appropriate for carnivores.
- Excessive supplementation is limited
Wild animals sustain their nutritional needs through whole prey alone. And since a prey model diet mimics this lifestyle, it should – in theory– provide a dog with all that they need.
Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule…
You might notice that many PMR feeders still choose to provide omega 3 supplementation.
Grain fed commercial livestock and factory farmed meats lack the proper omega 3:6 ratios. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements compensate for this. That is, if grass fed and more natural products are out of your price range.
A PRM diet contains:
- meat product
- no plant matter
- limits supplementation
- and focuses on whole prey (or as close to whole prey as possible).
Homemade Raw Diet Version #2: BARF Diet
BARF stands for “bones and raw food” or “biologically appropriate raw food.”
Outside of the hideous nickname, this feeding program is also based on a dog’s ancestral diet. And it’s also comprised of fresh, raw, unprocessed foods.
So what’s the difference?
The theory behind the diet.
Some BARF feeders operate based on the philosophy that dogs are omnivores. Other BARF proponents believe dogs are carnivores but consider them to be facultative carnivores.
The common denominator?
Both of these camps advocate the use of raw fruits and vegetables in the diet.
What does a BARF diet consist of?
- Muscle meat
- Raw meaty bones
- Organs & Offal (with half of this amount being liver)
- Fruits & vegetables
- Sometimes dairy
In what percentages?
There’s no hard and fast rule. If you asked 20 people, you’re likely to receive 20 different answers.
This depends on the BARF feeder’s point of view and also their own experience feeding their dogs.
Those supporting the faculatative carnivore theory might feed less plant matter. Omnivore theory supporters are more likely to include a higher percentage of plant matter.
A good rule of thumb is:
- 70% muscle meat
- 10% raw meaty bones
- 10% organs (liver being half)
- 10% fruits, veggies and/or dairy
What else is different about the BARF diet?
Some include a higher percentage of bone content, especially the commercially prepared BARF varieties.
Regardless, BARF feeders maintain raw meat should be the focus of the diet.
The format is also more forgiving.
Whole prey and large meaty bones are provided. But ground meats or chopped meats are also acceptable
New raw feeders gravitate to the BARF diet for several reasons.
It has a lower barrier to entry and has a wider commercial availability. Because it’s less restrictive, it’s more appealing and approachable for newbies. Plus, most of the commercially prepared raw diets are BARF diets. They contain meat, bone and organ but also plant matter and come in a ground format.
To recap, a BARF diet:
- Contains meat product
- Contains plant matter
- May contain diary
- Tends to more heavy-handed with supplementation
- Has a more lax attitude towards “whole prey”
What do BARF and Prey Model Have in Common?
We know how they’re different but what concepts do they share?
Neither diet requires your dog hunt or kill wild prey. This is a homemade and modern way to feed our pets. This means we provide the food.
Both raw feeding styles also exclude all processed foods and grains.
Feeding Your Own Mash Up
The best way to sum up both options:
- Prey Model is stricter. This approach has an ardent commitment to doing things as natural as possible.
- The BARF approach is a bit more lenient and accepts fruits, vegetables and dairy.
Which one should you feed?
Don’t feel compelled to take a side. Go with an option that makes the most sense to you: logically and financially.
Unfortunately, these two varieties divide the raw dog food world. And make some people super angry (you should see some of the comments I receive).
And it’s sad.
Raw feeders should stick together.
If you’re feeding a raw diet compromised of REAL food, you’re ahead. Ahead of all the other people shelling out kibble and “prescription” foods.
Here’s the best piece of advice I can offer:
Just start (here’s how).
Then, tweak as you go.
Start with something that’s manageable, accessible, and practical. Do your research, try both models and see what works for your household and your dog.
Some dogs do better on one type of raw. Take your time, try both, and figure out which one works better.
It might be reassuring to hear many dog owners feed a variety of foods and don’t 100% commit to either model. One day, meals might align with PMR. Another day, they may support the BARF diet.
But whatever you do, don’t let the choice divide you.
Our society puts labels on everything.
You know what that does?
People take to one ideology, become blind, then see everyone else’s opinion as wrong. Next thing you know, we’re divided. Again.
Let’s stick together as raw feeders and support one another on the raw feeding journey.
If you already feed raw, I want to hear your opinion. Do you support a model or do you feed your own mash up?
Share your story…but in a productive and accepting way, please.