Oz Working Dogs - Assistance & Working Dog Equipment

For assistance/service dog equipment, as well as guide, therapy, detection, search & rescue, police and dogs in training equipment check out my website http://www.ozworkingdogs.com.au - I make and sell vests, capes, belly bands, harnesses, handles and more... and will post to the world!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Whole prey model raw feeding: a week of feeding Knightley

8 months 3 weeks 2 days old

So, I continue not to be well at all and we are doing minimal training unfortunately. When things get back on track I think I'll go back to Level 1 and refresh our skills from the beginning as some Level 2 skills are getting rusty! So instead of talking about training, I'll do an entry on raw feeding to address the search queries I get on the subject.

This will be the first post in a series addressing some of the common search queries I receive.

Whole prey raw feeding

I brought home Knightley when he was 8 weeks old, and pretty much from that time he had an erratic tummy. At 20 weeks of age I put him on a very high quality 'All Life Stages' kibble, but his tummy problems still continued - runny stool and even diarrhea for no apparent reason several times while he was still only a baby. He also always had *heaps* of eye discharge, especially when we woke up in the morning. I wondered if he had a sensitivity to something in the food I was feeding him.

Knightley making his way through a whole turkey leg - it
takes ages from him to eat, and gives him both a physical and
mental workout. Turkey is another meat it is ok to start early
with but the bones are significantly harder for the novice dog.
It is amazing to watch the muscles in Knightley's face as he
crushes and crunches up bone so easily. It's a bit scary actually!
I had been interested in raw feeding from even before I got Knightley. There was someone on the Golden Retriever forums I frequent who fed raw and I was fascinated by all the interesting things she fed her dog, and thought it must be so much better for dogs that were fed raw. However, I found it quite an intimidating thought, especially the idea of doing it while Knightley was just a baby and messing up the nutrition while he was growing so fast and needing so much of everything. Now of course, I just wish I had looked into it more and taken the plunge much earlier - especially because it would have slowed down Knightley's rate of growth and reduced the chance of hip dysplasia. When I did start feeding raw Knightley's growth slowed down immediately, even though he was over his biggest growth stage.

The rationale is of course that dogs and their ancestors the wolves have for many thousands of years eaten animals and parts of animals. Over the course of weeks and months the dogs and wolves would eat a certain ratio of meat : bone : organ as naturally appears in most mammals. For a while there was controversy over whether dogs were omnivores or carnivores. People claimed that in the wild wolves would eat the stomach contents of their prey. However, more recent studies have proved that while wolves will greedily eat the actual stomach of their prey, they carefully pick their way around the stomach contents. Only in the most direst of starvation will a wolf eat anything other than meat. Ov er the following millennia as humans and wolves became closer and the dog was born, the dog would get the hunting scraps - often offal and bone. This continued over the centuries. We didn't feed our dogs vegetables or grains like are in most kibble, and we didn't grind their meat completely down into a sludge like once again you find in kibble. Until kibble came along, dogs tore at raw chunks of meat, eating mostly the offal and cuts that nobody else wanted and crunching up edible bone. Of course not all those dogs were well nourished, but if we are careful our dogs get enough variety, and the ratios of meat : bone : organ are good, then they are going to thrive on the diet that nature intended for them.

So, finally when Knightley was nearly 7 months old, I figured he was old enough that a) he'd done most of his growth so I couldn't mess him up that much and b) how hard could it be? So I started looking around for information and came across the whole prey model, and specifically the "rawfeeding" Yahoo Group which gave me excellent information. After a couple of weeks hanging out reading a lot of posts on the group, I was ready to give it a go. For the first couple of weeks they recommend you start with chicken and/or turkey, as it's a bland meat so better tolerated in those first weeks, and has easy bones for a novice raw feeding dog to crunch up and eat.

Ratios for feeding Whole Prey

Knightley eating a whole ox tongue. This is the first time I gave
him one, and at first he didn't have any idea how to handle it.
Whenever you give food for the first time, expect a little runny
stool, but after the first time your dog gets used to it. They also
learn how to handle unusual cuts! Sometimes Knightley barks at
his food when he doesn't know how to tackle it....
The whole prey model is based on the ratios of 80% meat, 10% bone and 10% organs (of which half must be liver, and the other half should be all sorts of other organs). Sometimes the definition of meat vs organ isn't as clear as you would think. For instance, a heart is classed as meat, since it is a muscle, and most people class lungs as meat too. Obviously things like tongues are meat. Organs are 'organs that don't do muscular work', like brain, spleen, kidneys, liver, stomach, bladder, gizzard and so on. Occasionally you come across things like testicles that some people feed as meat, some as organ. The more variety of types of animal, different cuts and different organs, the better.

After about 10 weeks on raw, Knightley eats ox, cattle, lamb, kangaroo, turkey, chicken and pig. More variety would be even better though, and as time goes on I'll slowly find better sources with better prices. The one thing the ratios don't address, which I think is quite unfortunate, is fat. Dogs need a relatively high fat content in their diet. It doesn't give them heart disease or anything, and is very important for their nutrition. If they are eating red meat that is grass fed then the fat they get from the red meat will satisfy many of their nutritional requirements, but if not you may need to supplement with a good quality fish oil. Also, when feeding lean meals, such as hearts, chicken breasts and tongues, I supplement the meal with extra beef fat I get free from my butcher. The beef at our local butcher comes from only a couple of hours away from vast and very grassy pastures, so the fat gives Knightley his omega 3, 6 and 9 fats and lots of other good stuff besides.

The first couple of weeks

In the first couple of weeks feeding raw (while you are feeding the chicken or turkey), the general rule is to leave out the organs, and in the following weeks slowly introduce them (they are very rich and will give the runs to a dog who isn't at least used to a basic raw diet). Also, it is suggested that you feed a slightly higher ratio of bone to meat, as bone is a constipating agent, and dogs going from kibble to raw often are a bit runny for the first little while. The extra bone helps to make the transfer painless for everyone. From personal experience, instead of 5 out of 14 meals having mixed meat/bone (eg 1/4 of a chicken) which would be the ratio for a dog fully adjusted to eating raw, I would go for at least half the meals having some bone in them.... so maybe 7/14 or even 8-9/14 depending on how your dog was going. After the first week, start feeding less bone and aim for only 5/14.

How much to feed

The other main guideline for whole prey feeding you need to be aware of is how much to feed. The suggested amount is 2-3% of your dog's ideal adult body weight. However, it is best to weigh your dog at the beginning of feeding raw, and see how he has gone at the end of one week and then adjust as needed. For puppies, sometimes you will need to feed more like 4-5% of adult body weight. For overweight dogs, sometimes 1.5% is the way to go. Basically, watch your dog's outline, watch their 'tuck' - you always want to see a nice waist. Be guided by their appearance and weight and that will help you fine tune how much to feed. At first you will have to weigh the food - but I only did for he first four or so weeks. By then I had a pretty good idea of how much to feed, and Knightley is still looking great. If your dog was starting to look a tiny bit large I would just make sure the next several meals are on the smaller side. You are responsible for your dog, so keep a careful watch on his physical condition, looking at his tuck and waist, and feeling for ribs often.

Click on the image to see it larger. All pet owners need to be responsible for the weight
of their pets. I actually find when feeding raw, keeping Knightley at the perfect weight
is easier than it was on kibble. He just seems to look great all the time - probably  because
there just isn't any of the added junk when you are feeding raw compared to kibble.
An example menu

Here is an example menu for a week in Knightley's life. You could use it for a fortnightly menu for a grown dog, as because Knightley is still a puppy he is fed twice a day. The only change I would make is on the day he is fed organ I would make the meal part organ, part meat with bone. Organ can occasionally cause the runs even with seasoned dogs, so I like to feed meat with bone on the same day for its constipation effect (you'll see on my example list that on the days he gets organ, his second meal is meat with bone). If the dog is having just one meal a day, then obviously you'd just serve it with the organ. It can be something small, especially if the dog is small. Be wary of feeding things like chicken necks - they are extremely boney with barely any meat, and are a potential choking hazard for all but the tiniest dogs. If you want a bit of bone to feed alongside organ, you would be better off chopping a thigh in half, or perhaps a wing if the dog is fairly small (again, beware of choking with wings).

When feeding anything at all, feed everything in as large a piece as possible. It gives the dog more physical work - I've known Knightley to take half an hour on a 'difficult' meal. This is a far more natural behaviour than bolting down kibble in 20 seconds! It also gives more exercise than you would think, and gives an outlet for tearing, pulling, crunching and other destructive behaviours like our dog's ancestors did in the wild, and thereby lessen any destructive behaviour the dog may do in the house and garden.

Day 1
[Meal 1] Pork liver
[Meal 2] Chicken 1/4 & 1 raw egg, fish oil

Day 2

[Meal 3] Ox tongue
[Meal 4] Lamb heart with added beef fat

Day 3

[Meal 5] Lamb neck
[Meal 6] Beef kidney with a little chicken gizzard

Day 4

[Meal 7] Chicken breast with added beef fat
[Meal 8] Turkey drumstick & 1 raw egg, fish oil

Day 5

[Meal 9] Beef heart
[Meal 10] Ox tongue with added beef fat

Day 6

[Meal 11] Chicken 1/4
[Meal 12] Lamb heart with added beef fat & 1 raw egg, fish oil

Day 7

[Meal 13] Lamb neck
[Meal 14] Chicken breast & 1 raw egg, fish oil

Fat and calories

Notice the raw egg. I give that for the added fat and nutrients if he has a lean meal, and also if Knightley has had a full on day. Dogs that use up a lot of energy need more calories obviously, and giving some varied fats every couple of days is a good way to bump up the calories and make sure your dog stays in top condition. Assuming that Knightley makes it as an assistance dog, some days he will use up a fair bit of energy being with me, and I will have to be careful to meet those needs. This is even more important for sports dogs, and high energy working dogs such as sniffer dogs, and even moreso for herding dogs who are sometimes on the go all day. There they need to eat so much, they often can't eat it all in one sitting, and need two separate meals with a significant portion of fat in order to meet their caloric requirement. I don't absolutely need to give the fish oil as Knightley eats grass fed beef and lamb, but it certainly doesn't do him any harm, and can improve other aspects apart from just nutrition. If he wasn't eating grass fed beef/lamb I would be giving him the fish oil every night.

So these are the very basics for feeding raw with a whole prey model. It has been a wonderful voyage of discovery with Knightley and there have been so many benefits along the way.

Benefits from feeding raw
  • Great teeth from the cleaning motion of chewing through bones, fat and muscle
  • Very stable tummy, total change from before
  • Tiny poo - virtually everything eaten is digested, unlike with commercial dog food!
  • Amazingly soft and shiny coat
  • No doggy smell - at all!
  • Peace of mind, knowing what I am feeding my dog
  • A more natural diet, eating what dogs and their ancestors have eaten for thousands of years until the very recent invention of kibble and canned food
  • An outlet for destructive behaviour such as chewing, ripping and tearing behaviours, leaving your dog less likely to destroy household items and also leaving him a calmer dog
  • A slow rate of growth as a puppy, reducing the chance for hip/elbow dysplasia and other conditions that can be worsened by fast growth

Words of advice for those who want to feed raw
  • Feed as much red meat as possible - chicken/turkey is to be minimised, this is especially the case for raw feeding cats, as they have a much higher taurine requirement
  • Don't ever feed meat that has been 'enhanced' by injection of broth or brine, it is very bad for dogs
  • Do not cut up meat up for your dogs (especially don't feed ground raw food!), even when they are 'learning' to eat, but you can make slits in it to encourage your dog, or rub some parmesan cheese or something else enticing into the meat
  • If your dog's movements are a bit runny in those first couple of weeks, increase the amount of bone you are feeding, as bone is constipating. You can also try reducing the amount of fat, for instance, remove the skin on the chicken etc. On the other hand, if your dogs movements are dry, lightish and a little crumbly looking you are feeding too much bone!
  • Wild meats are great to feed - if you are worried about parasites, freeze for two weeks before feeding
  • Some dogs hate the texture of liver, and since it makes up an absolutely essential 5% of a whole prey diet, it has to be fed. Sometimes briefly searing it will work (but it stinks), but most people find feeding it partly or completely frozen works for them. Knightley has no problem eating it all wibbly wobbly!
  • Dogs are carnivores, they do not need to eat, nor should they have, vegetables. In fact unless the vegetables are cooked, and indeed many need to be pureed, dogs cannot digest them - a good hint that dogs shouldn't eat them! However, occasionally Knightley will get some leftover rice which he loves.... dogs tend to have less reaction to rice than to other grains
  • If your red meats are grass fed there is NO need for supplements! If your dog isn't getting much grass fed red meat, it will need supplementing with a fish oil for Omega-3
  • Older dogs that are starting raw after being on kibble for a long time can refuse to eat raw. Flavour the meat, even sear it very briefly, but a healthy dog is ok to go without food for a couple of days - until it realises this is the only food it is going to get. However, if your dog rejects its first meal or two and you are worried, contact your vet
  • A lot of vets do not learn much about canine nutrition, or what they have learnt is often sponsored by kibble companies - not to mention they are often rewarded generously for selling certain brands of kibble through their practice. You can find vets who know more about pet nutrition and are not anti raw feeding, but it is harder. Be prepared for most vets to be against feeding raw but do not let that dissuade you
  • All my advice here is from personal experience and research and I do believe raw is the best way to feed a dog, but it is your choice alone whether to feed raw. If you act upon my advice and things don't go quite to plan I won't be taking any responsibility for your actions. I will however be happy to answer questions here or on my facebook page about raw feeding or any other dog related matter you may read about on my blog
  • More very excellent advice on whole prey feeding can be found on the Yahoo Group "rawfeeding" - I highly recommend it
If you want to see Knightley progressively eating the big turkey leg in the photo above, have a peek at this newer post!


  1. Hi Lyssa

    What a wonderful discovery it is to have stumbled across your blog today. I have five dogs and recently made the switch to raw meals. I have been reading as much as I can find on the subject, both pros and cons, but my own eyes have persuaded me that this is the right way to go.

    I hope you will feel better soon!


    1. Hi there Desiree,

      Glad you've enjoyed having a poke around my blog.

      It was like that with feeding raw for me too, I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do, but it was when Knightley's stomach issues cleared up almost overnight and the constant eye discharge just simply stopped after having these problems and more on three different brands of kibble that I was convinced.

      Thanks for the well wishes, I hope I will feel better soon too! This body of mine is very stubborn.


  2. I am training my own service dog here in the U.S. and have been told by other service dog handlers that my dog and I are a risk to public health. Have you had any trouble like this? They've been rather rude about it and are being extremely paranoid.


    1. Hi Jennifer,

      I think that's pretty ridiculous personally. Dogs tend to swallow their raw meals fairly whole, so it isn't like they have chunks in their teeth or anything, and whatever is left will be washed down by them drinking and broken down by enzymes etc.

      I have heard that dogs that are raw fed are not allowed to do therapy work in hospitals because of patients who are very seriously immunodeficient, but I think that they are the only very tiny segment of society that would be at all at risk. It isn't like your dog is licking things while out in public, and unless it is a very serious drooler (doubt you would have it as a service dog if it was) and you took it out immediately after feeding, I can't see it ever being a problem.

      Sounds like those people are just kicking up a fuss for no real reason personally. I have never heard of this, and I know other people who don't raw feed often train with raw meat anyway. Should those people be told they are a risk to public safety too?

      Just ignore them IMO!


    2. You're probably right that it's only a small portion of the population that's really at risk, but the risk is from microbes, like salmonella. Dogs eat raw food contaminated with salmonella or the like, and they're fairly resistant so it might not usually make them sick, but the microorganisms get all over their mouth, face, and paws. Then they lick themselves everywhere. Then someone pets them, and then they touch their own face, mouth, nose, or food. Or someone else's. That's how the person gets sick.

      Microbes are not washed down by dogs drinking or broken down by enzymes. They can live for a long time on surfaces and on fur and skin, depending on the species of organism. And how much the dog drools or whether it has food chunks left in its teeth is irrelevant.

      These are things that are typically passed via counters, faucets, or hand to hand between people. Counters and faucets can be sanitized between uses to prevent that, and hands can be washed, but do you wash and sanitize your dog after every meal or raw snack before anyone touches him? I doubt it. I'm not even sure how you could.

      I do think this diet is good for dogs. But I also think the risk to humans is real.

    3. In the case of service/assistance dogs, the dogs must be clean to enter public properties. Before going out anywhere, Knightley gets a thorough brush then gets wiped over with an antibacterial dog wipe, concentrating on the face, feet and behind. People don't pat him obviously, except for me, and I carry antibacterial hand gel. Frankly, I would be much more concerned with what dogs could carry on their feet and behind than the chance that a dog might lick itself during the day (Knightley doesn't lick himself much at all, I mean, dogs aren't self groomers like cats) and that saliva may get on the floor that way.

      Knightley's only experience of illness caused by a pathogen was nothing to do with being fed raw - it was when he got into something mucky in my parents backyard. I spoke to my GI specialist at the time who said that animal --> human pathogen transfer can occasionally happen but it usually has to be pretty direct. If it's a single celled organism he said it can die pretty quickly if exposed on a surface, but the simple answer is to just always wash your hands thoroughly whether you have a dog or not, and no matter what it is fed. Especially with all the kibble recalls worldwide due to salmonella contamination these days! *wink* I have certainly never got anything from Knightley on raw - or having the occasional bone before he was on raw, and I have a fairly suppressed immune system. I didn't even get the rather nasty infection he got while still a small puppy. I would be much more likely to catch something from a nasty piece of unmentiontionable Knightley finds on his walks than a fresh piece of beef - I mean, raw beef is served in restaurants with raw eggs on top!

      Also, I have to say, public shopping centres and the like are pretty filthy already - especially the handrails and other surfaces that hands make contact with - I hardly think a dog lying on the floor is likely to do much damage as we don't touch the floor. And the people who do have susceptible immune systems are likely to be more damaged from just going out into public; I was very very ill indeed from the initial wave of swine flu which I caught at some arts and crafts markets without any physical contact at all.

      Of course there is a very small risk, which is why raw fed dogs are asked to not be therapy dogs in hospitals (although they can be therapy dogs elsewhere, or just eat cooked the days before). But unless you don't wash your hands after handling the meat, or kiss your dogs face after he's just eaten or something stupid like that, it is really very negligible. Not enough to stop anyone unless they are hospital level sick! I mean I'm absolutely fine and my immune system isn't pretty, plus three immune suppressants.

      So many people give bones to their dogs, including people who have service/assistance dogs, I really think this is a bit of a non issue. Just make sure your dog is as clean as possible with frequent washing (every week to two weeks), make sure it stays on the floor in public (which everyone does anyway) and have everyone observe the no pat rule.

      OK I feel I have answered this sufficiently lol (a little too sufficiently!). If you are very seriously sick and can hardly leave your house for risk of infection, and find it hard to regularly cleanse your hands for whatever reason, then yes, it is a definite risk. If not there is more risk in your own food, IMHO. Not to mention the definite risk from feeding kibble these days.


  3. I so love that you feed him raw.
    On account of salmonella and alike, anyone just needs to check on dog food recalls, and what for...always salmonella.

    Btw, I feed organs daily, when I buy them, I cut them in pieces, 40 gramm is her daily amount, I freeze them and feed with every meal - 1x organ, 1x liver. Works good for Crispy. Good luck

  4. I feed raw. My dogs have lost fat from the kibble. And are all muscle now. They wonderful teeth, skin and fur. And they smell great.

  5. You are laboring under some major misconceptions:
    Carnivore means that the essential needs are met from flesh, examples are taurine, preformed vet A, and arachodonic acid. Essential means they must eat it since they cannot make it in their own systems. Omnivore means that they can get their essential needs from both plant and vegetable sources. Bears, pigs, humans and dogs fall within this category. Theoretically dogs could survive on a vegetarian type diet, but this is not best for long term health. Cats would not survive without flesh. In the wild, dogs decimate corn field and berry patches.
    You can certainly feed raw diet but it is a health hazard, not only to immune compromised people, but also children and elderly folks. The adult dogs may or may not get sick from it, but puppies will. And they shed these and the adult people may or may not get sick, but the kids can. I have had salmonella and it's most unpleasant.
    Feed naturally if you like with raw meat, but be aware of the public health concerns.

    1. Well I know what carnivore and omnivore mean, thanks for letting others know though. ;) It would be very hard for a dog to get their required protein and minerals from vegetables, especially as a fast growing puppy. The idea that dogs will decimate corn fields is odd as dogs are simply not able to digest corn - it is used simply as what is called a 'filler' in dog foods. That is why dogs fed commercial diets tend to poo so much, the foods often have these fillers which dogs cannot digest. Beet pulp is another often used filler.

      You are right about cats needing flesh more than dogs, I will agree there. They have much higher taurine requirements too, as I mentioned in my post, so that those who try a raw diet with a fast growing kitten can get into trouble unless they know what they are doing and don't just feed chicken!

      However, I don't think I even claimed in my post that dogs must have only meat, because that is not what I think. What I do think however is that is more natural. Certainly, it is better than feeding commercial food! That is a no brainer. In the wild, wolves and wild dogs catch animals, and will only turn to vegetables if they are absolutely starving - or will 'destroy' crops but not eat them. There has been research done that feeding vegetable increases inflammation in dogs and throws out the optimum omega 3/6 ratio.
      In the community of 30,000 raw feeders I am part of, many of who have puppies or sick dogs, I've never heard of a dog getting sick from raw. Many breeders on my raw feeding group wean straight onto raw at 4 odd weeks and there is no sickness. I mean, dogs eat much worse things all the time anyway! My pup got a bad tummy bug, but well before he ate raw and was from fruit ;) And I would venture that these days it is almost more likely a dog will get salmonella from kibble! If you feed your dog on a towel like most do, wash it after two or three feedings, and wash your hands after you've put the food down or put the towel away, I don't see where the risks are - any more than with having a dog normally. As I said, they have much worse things in their mouths every day. Dogs will be dogs, after all.

      But, each to their own. This post to educate those who *want* to feed raw and keep their dog healthy by doing it right and getting good nutrition for their dog. You can do raw badly, it isn't as easy as shovelling dry junk filled kibble into a bowl every day... So, I was trying to do people a favour!

    2. What a load of bollocks, YOU are the misinformed one sir/madam! Do some research on dogs' saliva and gut before you start scare mongering please .... work for one of the major kibble manufacturers per chance?

      If in doubt about kibble, especially that coming out of USA, do a search on youtube for videos of kibble coy. employees emptying the freezers of euthanased pets in USA that are then transported to factories to be added as meat content in kibbles, pfft.

      My 6 dogs are ALL raw fed, have never had a day's illness in their lives, coats gleam, breath is as fresh as a daisy, tiny poops because it has almost ALL been digested, teeth as white as newly driven snow and not an allergy or skin condition among them.

      Ignorance about how a dog's body works efficiently to destroy germs and bacteria NEVER ceases to amaze me and if you treat their meat with the same diligence as your own, there are no issues.

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