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!).
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.
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!
7 month old raw fed Kizzy - excellent body &
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"
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.
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
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.
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
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:
- 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
- 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
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
AFS meat in bowl, ready to eat (with crushed Vit
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
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
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
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.
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
Puppies eat a lot. Don't be surprised if they eat
as much, or close, to that of an adult.
here to see pictures of 6 week old puppies chomping on some lamb
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.
raw feeders list
40 lb frozen case of turkey necks, thawing in plastic
(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
raw and provides feeding ideas)
Myths about feeding
What is BARF
Top 50 FAQ for BARF diets
Feeders and Feed Suppliers (message board)
Some Sample Raw Menus
Sample Raw Menus
And yet more Sample
The important thing is to find a diet and method
that works for your home and for your dog.
is our top pre-packaged choice, here are some other quality pre-packaged
A Place for Paws
Aunt Jeni's Home Made 4 Life
Bravo Raw Diet
Grandad's Pet Food's
Natural Balance Pet Foods
Nature's Variety's Prarie
Primal Pet Foods
Steve's Real Food for Dogs
Three Cheers Raw!
The information on this page is meant as an introduction
Please, do thorough research about what it takes to create a
healthy raw diet before starting your pet on raw.