Feeding Great Danes ~ Raw diets for dogs

The information about raw diets is not breed specific.
There are, however, some unique nutritional kibble requirements for Great Dane puppies (see our kibble page).

* Also see our raw blog posts *

In a nutshell, a raw diet consists of feeding your dog a variety of raw meat, bone and organ meat. Feeding raw takes some upfront research and one should have a good grasp on the concepts prior to starting. That said, raw feeding is not rocket science. It's not difficult, it just takes some study.

When people first hear about raw feeding, inevitably, there is some surprise and sometimes aversion. It is different than what we have been taught to feed our dogs (no "people food"! no bones!). However, upon further research, many people have begun to understand and appreciate the benefits of feeding raw foods to their pets (cats, too!).

Dane puppy eating raw bones
6 week old Kizzy learning to eat a raw meaty bone

Raw feeding is not a new fad. In fact, kibble could be called the new fad, as it's certainly not been around as long as people have had pets. Still, feeding kibble has been mainstream for many decades now, so thinking about feeding our pets something else seems strange at first.

Why raw?

I started feeding my dogs a raw diet for various reasons. The concept behind a natural diet really made sense to me. The testimonials from other raw feeders were amazing - reports of better coats, less health issues, better appetites, cleaner teeth, less waste coming out the other end, and more.

It was the results, however, that have made me a firm believer. We had a Dane with severe canine acne on his chin. It was an unpleasant mess. His acne sores would become large and infected, frequently breaking open. We went through several rounds of antibiotics and topical medications, plus followed all the "normal guidelines" for dealing with canine acne (food/water only in clean stainless steel bowls, frequent cleaning of chin, etc.). Nothing really worked. Within two weeks of switching to a raw diet, his acne cleared up and we never had issues with it again. I was sold!

raw fed Great Dane
7 month old raw fed Kizzy - excellent body & coat condition

Raw diets provide a complete, healthy diet for dogs. They thrive on eating like nature intended. At the risk of sounding like a fanatic, the benefits are nothing short of amazing. Most of these benefits are quickly seen, for instance, a healthier coat and less waste. Other benefits are seen over time, like less frequent visits to the vet and cleaner teeth.

With raw diets, the owner has more control over the dog's diet. Grains and fillers, that do not benefit the dog, are left out. Poor quality ingredients can be avoided. If an individual dog requires more/less of certain nutrients, it's easy to adjust the diet accordingly.

For anyone whose dog has suffered from allergies, try switching to a raw diet for 2-3 months. Even if non-food allergens are supposedly to blame, raw diets often work to "cure" the dog.

Bones?! Yikes!

One of the first thing that worries people about raw diets is the consumption of bone. I've seen several concerned expressions when I say my dog eats bones!

Dogs can eat bones just fine. Just not cooked bones. Cooking bones dries them out, causing them to become brittle, sharp and dangerous for dogs to digest. Do NOT feed cooked bones.

Raw bones, however, are soft, pliable, consumable and a necessary part of feeding a raw diet.

pork neck bones
Frozen pork neck bones & chicken back

If in doubt about dogs being able to digest bone, visit a raw feeder's house and look around in their backyard! In fact, waste from a raw-fed dog is unbelievably small and dissolves quicker than kibble-fed counterparts. Definitely a huge perk of raw feeding.

Bones are a critical part of raw feeding. One should not feed a raw meat diet without feeding bone. Without bone, there is an upset of important mineral ratios. Bone also helps to firm stools, so a diet of meat only would likely cause diarrhea.

For people worried about feeding bone or with dogs that would have difficulty eating bones, ground bone can be used. raw fed dog's teeth

There are benefits dogs receive from crunching up bones, which is lost when feeding ground bone. The biggest benefits is that the chewing process cleans the teeth. Crunching up bones is nature's intended way of keeping a dog's teeth clean. Clean teeth are important to a dog's over-all health.

Chomping bones also gives the jaw muscles a nice work out. However, if the choice was using ground bone in a raw diet or feeding kibble, I would choose feeding ground bone.

If you don't feed consumable bones, offer "recreational" bones. Raw beef knuckle bones are a great choice, ask your butcher for them. Kibble-fed dogs can get these as well, helping keep their teeth a little cleaner.

What about bacteria in raw foods?

Aside from feeding bones, this tends to be the other big concern about raw diets.

Dogs' bodies are designed to eat raw foods and deal with the associated bacteria. To read more about this concern, visit Myth: The Bacteria in raw meat will hurt your dog.

Beyond concern for the dog's ability to deal with the bacteria, there is often a concern about the handling of raw meat. The same cautions you would use when preparing meat for your human family applies. Hand washing and cleaning the area touched by raw meat. I'm careful to thoroughly wash my hands and any item/surface with which my human family comes into contact (we have two small children). The dog-feeding area is kept off-limits by x-pens that are always up.

Is raw cheaper to feed than kibble?

I do not keep track of my monthly food bill for my dogs (call it denial!), but feel it is cheaper than how I was feeding kibble. When feeding kibble, I was choosing a premium kibble and often adding "extras" to the meal, along with vitamins and supplements. If the dog didn't finish the meal, it had to be thrown out.

If a raw feeder is willing to do some bargain hunting, they could spend less money on raw than on a quality kibble. I have also had fewer vet bills on my dogs since switching to raw.

Onto the how...

There are many different raw feeding methods. Some people use the "BARF" method (Bones And Biologically Appropriate Raw Food - designed by Dr. Ian Billinghurst), some people utilize the "prey model" (feeding whole carcasses), some people feed veggies, some don't, some use prepackaged raw diets, and on and on.

The main concept is to feed a variety of raw meat, bones and organ meat. The lion's share of the diet is made up of raw meaty bones. (raw slang: Raw Meaty Bone = RMB)

The balance of the diet is achieved over time, meaning that each meal/day does not have to include everything needed for complete nutrition.

What we feed

We feed a variety of raw items like chicken backs, turkey necks, pork neck pones, chicken leg quarters, lamb brisket, fish, liver, heart, kidney, raw eggs, ground turkey/beef, canned pumpkin, cottage cheese, and more.

Most of what we feed is not commercially prepared for dogs, however we do use a few items that are:Tripett

Tripett - canned green tripe. Tripe is the stomach of ruminating (grass eating) animals. It has tons of healthy benefits and can be added to either a raw or kibble diet...and dogs love it.

Note: "Green tripe" has not been cleaned or bleached. The "white tripe" you might find in a grocery store has been cleaned and bleached, leaving almost no nutritional value for your dog.

If you haven't ever dealt with green tripe, it is very smelly! Tripett is the only manufacturer, of which I'm aware, that offers pure canned tripe. You can also purchase frozen tripe, although I find the canned less offensive to olfactory senses and easier on the ew! factor. We are distributors for Tripett in Iowa. If you're interested in purchasing Tripett, email me at .

AFS meat - a mince meat pre-packaged raw food, with all the necessary components of a raw diet, ground up into a convenient mince meat. AFS was my first foray into feeding raw and I still use it today.

The product comes frozen or freeze dried, the later being extremely convenient for travel (no refrigeration needed). While I love the AFS product, I also like chewable bones in my dogs' diet, so the mix of AFS with the rest of what we feed works well for us.

In order to make both Tripett and AFS meat available for us, we are distributors for these products. Contact me if you are in the central Iowa area and interested in purchasing.

Feeding AFS is merely a convenience, not a necessary step in feeding raw. AFS can also be fed as a complete diet.
AFS mince meat
AFS meat in bowl, ready to eat (with crushed Vit C)

Again, the main concept is to feed a variety of raw meat, bones and organ meat. Most any consumable raw meaty bone will work. Avoid the hard weight-bearing bones of larger animals.

RawFed menu ideas

Most raw feeders use a lot of poultry, due to the soft, pliable bones, plus the cheaper cost. Dogs are individuals, with preferences and dislikes (including the temperature - from semi-frozen to room temp). It can take a little experimentation to discover what works for your dogs.

Some raw feeders have a daily or weekly menu to which they adhere, I do not.

Occasionally my dogs are fed meat/cottage cheese that is a little past what I would eat. I do use freezer burned meat - I've had relatives clean out their deep freeze and give us the out-of-date meat.

Now that I feed raw, I don't use any supplements on a daily basis. If I'm feeding a meal out of a bowl, I might add some Vit C, E and/or Glucosamine.

Some raw feeders feed veggies and/or grains, however I feed neither. While I don't feel veggies are necessary, I don't feel they aren't harmful either. Grains are even less necessary than veggies.

A good indication to if you're on the right track is to see how it's coming out the other end. Stools that are too soft means the dog needs more bone. Stools that are too dry means less bone and more meat/organ meat.

A daily feeding regimen can be easy, especially once a routine is developed. Although some forethought is required when feeding raw, it is very simple once you get the hang of it.

How much raw food to feed?

As a guide, each dog eats about 2-3% of their ideal body weight daily. For instance, a 100 lb dog would eat 2-3 lbs of food. This is just a starting point - if your dog is too thin, feed more; too heavy, cut back. The amount fed isn't an exact science. It's not uncommon for novice raw feeders to weigh every meal, but after awhile, most just eyeball it.

We feed two meals a day, so at each meal the dog eats about 1 - 1 ½ % of their body weight.

Raw Food Calculator

For puppies, begin feeding by 10% of current weight each day. Once 10% of their weight exceeds 2-3% of the ideal adult weight, switch to the 2-3% guideline. Remember, this is just a starting point, watch the pup's weight and adjust accordingly.

Puppies eat a lot. Don't be surprised if they eat as much, or close, to that of an adult.

Click here to see pictures of 6 week old puppies chomping on some lamb brisket.

Where to feed RMB meals

Because my dogs will not munch on raw bones directly out of a food bowl (they promptly drag it out to the floor), I feed RMB meals in an x-pen in the basement or outside in the grass. We have cement flooring in our basement, so it makes for easy clean up. I don't clean after every meal, rather occasionally mop the area with a disinfectant cleaner.

Other ideas for feeding areas might include on a shower curtain liner, old blankets/towels that can be laundered, or any flooring that is easily mopped.

Where to purchase raw foods

While you can run to the grocery store and pick up food, most raw feeders buy food in bulk, finding local suppliers by networking with other local raw feeders. To find local resources, look for an email list specific to your area (i.e. Yahoo groups) and/or contact various dog clubs to ask for names of other local raw feeders. Having local connections will be very helpful in finding local deals and even co-ops for large bulk orders.

Iowa raw feeders list

dog eating raw food
40 lb frozen case of turkey necks, thawing in plastic tote
(with Skyy unsuccessfully trying to sneak one)

Thaw the bulk order enough to enable repackaging in smaller quantities. Repackaging methods vary. I use Ziplocs and repackage in meal size quantities. After feeding one meal, I simply pull the next meal out of the deep freeze and leave it in a container on the counter to thaw for the following meal.

A deep freeze is extremely useful - almost a must have - especially if feeding multiple dogs and/or larger breeds.

If you have friends/relatives that hunt or butcher, be sure to hit them up for any left over "parts"!

We also purchase some items from My Pet Carnivore, a company that serves the Midwest, delivering a variety of raw food items.

For a list of companies that supply pre-packaged raw foods, see bottom of page.

Switching from kibble to raw

It is typically recommended to switch cold turkey, not using any sort of transition period. Raw foods and kibble do not digest at the same rate (raw digests much quicker), so some have theorized this could potentially cause issues by forcing the raw foods to stay in the digestive track longer. I don't know how much truth is in that, but I also do not believe a gradual transition provides any benefits.

The introduction of raw foods is likely to cause loose stools, regardless if there is a gradual transition, so there is no benefit is trying a gradual method.

Some dogs are slow to warm up to the idea of these newly presented raw foods, so not offering their normal kibble can help. A little hunger is great encouragement to try something new.

You might even fast the dog for a meal or two prior to offering the first raw foods. Do not be discouraged if your dog refuses the raw food at first. Give them 15 minutes for meal time and if they do not eat, just pick up and put in the frig until the next meal. Do not offer any other food until the next meal, then offer the same piece of meat again. For some more stubborn dogs, this process could easily take several meals. Don't worry, your dog will not starve to death during the switch!

Start with one protein source at a time, initially avoiding fatty meats, like pork. It's common to start with chicken backs due to the soft bones. Pull the skin and any excess fat off the meat, especially if your dog is prone to loose stools.

Anticipate loose stools at first. It's normal. The stools will likely be smelly and might contain some small bone fragments. Normal. Often times the stools have a mucus-like quality. Normal. The dog may vomit or regurgitate. Normal.

If the dog regurgitates shortly after consuming the food, you can allow the dog to re-eat. Gross, yes, however that is just the dog learning to chew this new food. They will not do this long term on the raw diet. Regurgitating is different than vomiting, which occurs after digestion has started.

Allow the dog to get used to that protein source before adding a new kind of meat. Don't add more than one protein source a week for the first several weeks. Due to the richness of organ meat, do not feed any for the first month or so.

Switching to such a vastly different food is why diarrhea and vomiting can occur. Not all dogs experience this, but it is common enough to warrant the upfront reassurance. Once you get past that first week or two, things get better. The benefits of the raw diet are worth it!

Please read some of the supplied links below for more information about raw diets.

Helpful Raw Links

RawFed (explains raw and provides feeding ideas)
Myths about feeding raw diets
What is BARF
Top 50 FAQ for BARF diets
BARF Philosophy
Carnivore Feeders and Feed Suppliers (message board)
Some Sample Raw Menus & Tips
More Sample Raw Menus
And yet more Sample Raw Menus

The important thing is to find a diet and method that works for your home and for your dog.

Although AFS is our top pre-packaged choice, here are some other quality pre-packaged raw diets:
A Place for Paws
Aunt Jeni's Home Made 4 Life
Bravo Raw Diet
Celestial Pets
Grandad's Pet Food's
Natural Balance Pet Foods
Nature's Variety's Prarie
Primal Pet Foods
Raw Advantage
Steve's Real Food for Dogs
Three Cheers Raw! Raw! Raw!

The information on this page is meant as an introduction to raw.
Please, do thorough research about what it takes to create a
healthy raw diet before starting your pet on raw.

Foto Danes
Joe & Bev Klingensmith
Newton, Iowa 50208

Copyright 2007-09 Bev Klingensmith. All rights reserved.
No graphics or pictures on this web site may be used without written permission of Bev Klingensmith