Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Switching Your Mastiff (or any dog) to a Raw Diet; a 1, 2, 3 Plan

Step 1: Calculation

There are hundreds of opinions on how to ‘correctly’ feed a dog a raw diet. The consensus among many is to feed a ratio of foods that are equivalent to what the dog would consume in nature if they were a wild animal. This is called the 80/10/10 rule. This stands for 80% meat, 10% bone and 10% organ. Some even go a step further and say 80/10/5/5, splitting the organ category into 5% liver and 5% other organ meat. So we have our ratio of the types of food to feed; now we need to figure out what amount that actually figures up to for your individual dog’s needs.

Just like with kibble, each dog’s individual caloric needs are different.  You can have 2 dogs both 60lbs and one needs 5 cups of kibble a day to stay fit and one only needs 2 cups per day and is still a little overweight.  The same thing goes for a raw diet.  It will be up to you to observe and evaluate your dog’s physical condition to determine if your dog needs more or less on their raw diet.  A good starting off point to begin with is to feed your dog 3% of their ideal body weight (I have found for the Mastiff breed about 2% is closer to ideal), and then as you progress into the new diet you can adjust your amounts if you dog needs to add or take off some weight.
For our example we’ll say we have a 150lb Mastiff.
            150lb x 3% = 4.5lb of food per day

            4.5lb x 80% = 3.6lbs of meat per day
            4.5lb x 10% = .45lb (or 7.2oz) of bone per day
            4.5lb x 10% = .45lb (or 7.2oz) of organ per day
I feed two meals per day because Mastiffs are prone to bloat and I’m not comfortable with that much food going into them in one meal per day. 
Here’s the best part, you don’t actually have to feed these exact amounts every day.  You can take a week period of their intake needs and just average out each day’s meals so it is balanced over time.  This way you aren’t picking apart every single chicken leg trying to weigh how much bone is actually in it. It’s all about balance over time. Some meals I feed are all meat, every other day or so I throw a large chunk of organ in the bowl.  It’s not balanced for every meal, but in the long run it all works out.
Over a weeks’ time our example dog would need 25.2lbs of meat, 3.15lbs of bone and 3.15lbs of organ. Check out the article Bone and Food Values for Raw Feeding Dogs on the Dogs Naturally Magazine website.  It's a great article that provides the approximate bone content of commonly fed raw diet items.
Step 2:  Preparation
Now that you know what to amounts to feed your dog it’s time to prepare yourself, your freezer and your house to begin the switch.  I suggest having at least a whole weeks’ worth of food ahead of time, more if you have the freezer space. I actually have a 28 cu ft freezer in my garage just for the dogs.  It will get both my Mastiffs through about 3 months.  Any meat you acquire from the store is fine to feed fresh, but any wild game or meat from other sources is recommended to be frozen before consumption to kill any germs prior to feeding.
You might also want to think about where you feed your dog.  When on kibble my dogs ate in the kitchen, but with raw they feel the need to grab a large piece of meat and run into the living room to eat it.  I personally don’t like raw meat rubbed all over my carpet, so we moved our feeding place to the back porch.  So now that your freezer is stocked, you have your plan, how do you start the new diet?
Step 3: Feed the Dog!
When first starting out it is recommended to use only one protein source for a week or so, chicken is a good starting point. Each week you can add a new source of meat until your dog is accustomed to numerous protein sources. Be advised, that during the first few days of the new diet, as your dog is adjusting, they may have some stomach upset and need a few extra trips outside, but once their body starts acclimating everything should settle down.
In an effort to keep this article from becoming a book here are some other quick note items.  If you would like more information or clarification or if you want to discuss an item specifically you can contact me.

1. NEVER feed your dog raw and kibble in one meal. Kibble takes 12+ hours to digest because it is extremely processed and compressed. Raw takes approximately 4 hours to digest. Mixing the two can cause severe stomach distress and led to bloat.
2. Organ meats are deceptive. In a raw diet “Organ” is an organ that secrets something, i.e. liver, spleen, kidney, pancreas. Body parts that we think of as organs, but are classified in the raw diet as “Meat” are heart, lung, tongue, etc.
3. Tripe is good, but really gross and smells awful. The dogs love it.
4. As with everything there are extremes that some people go to with raw food diets. Some think it’s best to let your dog gorge itself until it can’t eat anymore and then not feed it for two days to mimic how a wild dog would eat. Some people only feed wild game. While I personally believe these methods are unnecessary, it’s up to you to decide what you feed comfortable with.
5. Supplements… this is an article in itself (one I've already written I might add), so all I’ll say is I do use supplements, but whether on kibble or raw I use the same ones. I use Phytoflex by Nature's Farmacy (for Brinkley with her TPLO surgery), Vitamin C, Fish Oil, Coconut Oil and Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Read more about supplementing your Mastiff here.
6. Other items that can be added several times per week include eggs, (shell and all), canned pumpkin, pureed vegetables and yogurt. 
In summary, there are many ways to feed your dog a raw diet ‘the right way’.  Everyone’s opinion is a little bit different.  Please just do your research; there are so many resources available. Talk to your vet and see if they have any advice, but be objective, some vets are against raw diets, don’t let them talk you out of it if you think that it’s right for your dog. And remember, the reason that you are doing all of this is for the health of your dog.  Don’t lose sight that objective in the details.


  1. Green tripe is one of the nastiest things I have ever come into contact with in my life....HOWEVER...it was one of the most powerful foods I have given to a dog. I have never seen dogs react so strongly to anything....EVER...it was as if they lost their minds. Even dogs who were slow casual eaters would consume tripe as if you were watching a video in fast forward.

    Great stuff if you can handle being around it.

    1. Mine too go crazy over it. I have gotten better with the smell. I use ground, and feed it 1/2 frozen. That really helps, but still oh so nasty!

  2. I am so happy I found this blog. We are in process of converting our 2 OEM and chihuahua to the raw. I say convert, because it was a sudden decision, and I had a whole bag of kibble left. So, the mastiff who had the issues as to what caused the "drastic" change, was changed first a week ago. BUT I am noticing him chewing his paws again and nawing on his legs. I think grain particles are somehow making its way into his mouth. The new bag of kibble is gone, and tomorrow morning no more kibble in house. The female mastiff is healthy as can be with kibble, but with the male having severe allergies, it's best all for a switch. My chi just picks up what they drop on floor. Intentionally if I might add. They will take a bite of their food and drop it for the chihuahua.. If the chihuahua gets to the food first. The mastiff's patiently wait.. They won't eat alone, and have to all eat at the same time. We do separate our female because she will "hoard" the food.

    My male seems hungry all the time. He is eating far more than 3% now that I see what you have put in your blog.. it's his mind telling him to eat more, not the nutritional side needing more. He was eating 10-12 cups of dry kibble/1 22oz can wet food/1/2 cup pumpkin/ 1/4 cup broth split into two meals per day. One would think he with that amount of food he would be big. he is 13 months and only weighs 150. Well, last month he did. My female is 110#'s maybe.. the Chihuahua is 6#.

    My male had tumors between his toes on his paws that would burst and bleed. They wanted to do surgery if the antibiotics didn't cure them.. So I switched to raw because I had been told and read everywhere that a true sign of grain allergy was skin tags, tumors, foul smell, and chewing on the legs and paws. All of these symptons are either gone, are in process of being gone.

    I'm happy I found your blog at this point in feeding, because I know now I am doing things.. sorta on the right track. And yes, the green tripe stinks.

  3. Which meats do you recommend??

    1. A variety is best, you want red meats, fish, poultry, etc. once your dog is used to them all.

    2. Can a dog thrive on a single source of protein? I'm planning on switching my dog to a raw diet due to food allergies so one protein is ideal. Also, is there a specific reason you recommend pureed vegetables - like, for digestion reasons? What about adding approved fruits, or may this cause an imbalance of some kind?

    3. It is not advisable. A raw diet works because of the variety of protein sources. I usually don't recommend fruit because it's really nothing but sugar.