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HOW TO START RAW FEEDING YOUR DOG:
The BARF STARTER'S Guide

If you’ve ever wondered how to start raw feeding your dog, then congratulations, you’re in the right place to find out! Here’s a step-by-step guide that will lead you through all the necessary stages:

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What to do first

Phase 1: Gather information

It’s great you decided to start your hound on a species appropriate raw diet! If you haven’t yet, we suggest you read Should I feed my dog raw? to learn all about the idea behind the concept and its different components. The first step in figuring out how to start raw feeding your dog is to gather as much information as possible about different approaches to raw feeding – just keep in mind that the most natural way to split components (i.e. muscle meat, bones, organs, etc.) is to mirror what is found in an average prey animal.

Phase 2: Do it yourself or with the help from an expert?

Once you’re done researching, you can decide whether you want to go ahead yourself with the knowledge you’ve acquired so far or whether to ask a certified professional to assist you with your first meal plan. If you did thouroughly research the topic and your hound is healthy and adult, you should generally be good to go! In case you have a puppy or an adult hound with ailments that need to be addressed, you’re better off in the hands of a certified expert. From personal experience, we have some specialists at hand that can certainly help you! Head over to our Services Page to find out more.

Phase 3: Create your first meal plan

If you’ve decided to take things into your own hands, it’s now time to create your first meal plan. In the following two Blog Posts we explain exactly how to calculate a proper meal using the BARF method:

If this is too much math for you, you can also head over to an online BARF calculator. Some trusted ones we can recommend are:

Beware of premade complete raw meals

Lots of Pet Food suppliers offer ‘one size fits all’, all-in-one, ready to feed raw meals. Always check the ingredient list to verify if the meals contain quality ingredients and are properly balanced. More often than not, producers use cheap fillers instead of quality products and therefore have to add a bunch of synthetic vitamins in order to cover basic nutritional needs. While these meals might still be approved for sale, they are far from what we’re trying to achieve with a balanced raw food diet. Most of the time, these products are simply mass-produced articles like other standard commercial pet foods. At this point in time, we are only aware of a very small number of ready-meals that are in line with the values of the raw food movement.

Phase 4: Find a quality supplier

Once you’ve got your meal plan ready, the next step is to find a good raw food supplier. Depending on where you live, you might find a local butcher, slaughterhouse, (ethnic) grocer, or farmer that can provide you with quality BARF components. Another option might be ordering your raw food from a trusted online supplier. From our personal experience, and with the help of some friends abroad, we’ve created a list of quality online raw food shops from around the globe:

germany_de

(all ship within the whole EU, incl. to EU delivery addresses for Swiss customers)

Barfgold
Barfer’s Wellfood
Haustierkost

Will even portion meals according to your own meal plan:
Herr von BARF
Saxonia-BARF

australia_en

Raw Pet Foods / Instinct
…….
For more, check out this amazing list:
Australia Vendors

Carnivore Carry Out
…….
For more, check out this amazing list:
USA Vendors

ARE WE Missing someone?

If you're super happy with your personal raw food supplier, let us know where you order from and we will update our list.

If you go with a supplier that ships single components (i.e. single bags of muscle meat, raw meaty bones, offal, etc.) keep in mind, that you will have to assemble your dog’s meals yourself. This means you will have to look at your meal plan and split all components into individual, balanced meals.

YOUR STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE

Laptop and Notes

Place an order

With the meal plan at hand, we place an order that will last us about a month. This depends on your personal freezer setup, however. Ours isn't super big and can only hold meals for 30 days. Keep in mind the size of your freezer as well as the size of the containers you decide to freeze your meals in.

snow, paws

Thaw your delivery

To make cutting the meat into pieces easier, we partially thaw our delivered goods for about 4 hrs. Make sure you poke a couple of holes in the meat bags you're defrosting to allow air to escape.

Get containers ready

We opted for a set of 30 reusable plastic containers that can hold 1.2l (=40.5oz). Choose your size according to the amount of daily food that your hound will consume. As a reference, Sky eats just under 1kg a day. Today, I would opt for bigger containers than 1.2l as his daily veggies don't fit and we have to keep them seperately.

Prepping BARF

Prep and portion

We prefer to prep Sky's meals on our big outside table that we cover with newspaper to make the clean-up easier. Make sure you have a couple of sharp knives and a scale at hand. Review your meal plan and portion daily meals for your hound.

ice, crystals, frost

Refreeze daily meals

Once you're all done, put the month's worth of containers in your freezer and defrost meals to order. We usually take out two at a time and let them defrost overnight.

Editor's Note
"Is there an easier way of prepping my meals?"
Editor in Chief
Sky
Food Recipient

Short answer: It all depends on the hound!
After the initial transition to raw food, we recommend feeding all components every day for the first little while. For hounds with a more sensitive tummy, like Sky, it is easier on their digestion to eat all components each day. If your hound deals well with whatever food you throw at them, you can order a month’s worth of food components, put’em all in a big tub, give it a good stir, and scoop the mixture into your daily meal containers. Just make sure that offal, bones, and sea algae/kelp are fed at least three times per week. That way, you avoid diarrhea or constipation and ensure an adequately spread-out mineral and vitamin intake throughout the week.

Now, here's what you really came for:

Phase 5: How to transition to raw food

Here's how it's done

Step 1: Stop feeding current diet

While we want to make sure the transition is slow and smooth, you don’t want to mix in raw components with your hound’s current food, be it kibble, can, etc. As mentioned above, we do not recommend feeding pre-made complete meals from suppliers unless you are aware of the exact ingredients and their ratios. In any case, you should never transition to raw with any pre-made complete meal due to their bone and offal content. Bone is hard to digest and hardens the poop, while offal is very nutrient rich and can lead to diarrhea. These components are too much for your hound’s tummy to handle when transitioning.

Stop feeding current diet (kibble, can, etc.)

Don't start with pre-made complete meals!

Step 2: Fasting

Most sources recommend fasting your healthy, adult dog for 24 hours before transitioning to raw. It serves two main purposes:

When first presented with a raw meal, many dogs might be a bit suspicious as consistency, smell, and taste differs from commercial pet food. In a raw diet, there are no additives and taste enhancers to entice a dog to eat. This being said, it is up to you whether or not you feel comfortable letting your hound fast for a day. You can rest assured, however, that a healthy, adult dog will be absolutely fine skipping a day of eating. Obviously, make sure they still have unrestricted access to fresh water.

Step 3: Yay, the first day of serving new food

Today you will serve the first raw meal to your hound. This will only consist of two ingredients:

How to calculate:

Take your meal plan aside and have a look at the gross total of food your hound is supposed to get per day. All animal-based components combined (i.e. 80% of the gross total) will now first be completely made up of your choice of lean mince. Make sure its fat content isn’t higher than 10% to start with, to avoid tummy upset.

The plant-based components (i.e. 20% of the gross total) are made up of your choice of vegetable. Steamed carrot is commonly used to transition. Let cool before serving.

A math example w/ meat & veggie:

Your dog’s weight: 30kg

Amount of choice: 3% of bodyweight
Gross total of food per day: 900g

Animal-based components (80%): 720g
Plant-based components (20%): 180g

Troubleshooting

Facing any of the following troubles after your hound’s first transition to lean mince and veggie?

In case your hound just scrunches its nose at the sight of their new food, try giving the meat a very quick sear in a pan. Usually, that will do the trick. If they accept it that way, you can reduce the amount of searing gradually over time.

Don’t be surprised when their poop is softer than usual, less uniform than before or different in colour. As long as your hound doesn’t suffer from diarreah or constipation, you’re doing alright. Also, your dog will poop way less than when they ate commercial pet food. The reason being commercial pet food is oftentimes comprised of cheap filler that your dog’s digestive tract can’t utilize. Hence why so much is passed as stool.

Diarreah means, your hound passed multiple liquid ‘stools’ a day.

Try pouring boiling water over your raw mince before serving and cook your carrots until very well done. There is a home-remedy called ‘Moro-Soup’ that helps combat diarreah like a charm.

Look if there was a specific thing your dog puked up. If you’re positive that it stems from the transition, try pouring boiling water over your raw mince before serving it next time and observe if it happens again.

Step 4: Adding offal and more veggie variety

So far so good? If your hound seems happy and content and their poo is okay or just a little soft, you’re good to move on to the next step.

If your future meal plan contains tripe, you can add that at this point. It would account for 20% of your gross animal-based components total. As you probably read in our Raw Feeding Blog Post, tripe is not necessary, but does offer certain benefits.

What you definitely can’t omit, though, are innards like liver, heart, kidney, lung, and spleen.  The first three are especially important, as they make up a vital part of the vitamins and minerals that your dog requires. When transitioning to raw, make sure you introduce these innards slowly, as they are very rich in nutrients and can cause diarrhea or very soft stool when added too early in large quantities. Start at around 5-10% of your gross animal-based components total and work your way up to the 15% mark.

Many dogs might first find the consistency and taste of innards quite peculiar. You can try to blanch innards in the beginning and see if your hound accepts them better that way.

At this point you can also add a wider variety of vegetables, such as zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, etc.

The following calculations are examples of how to calculate your transition meals. Try to be as precise as possible, but don’t worry too much if you round up or are a gram or two under/over your personal meal plan.

Math example w/ meat, veggie, tripe

Your dog’s weight: 30kg

Amount of choice: 3% of bodyweight
Gross total of food per day: 900g

Animal-based components total (80%): 720g
of that, lean mince (80%): 576g
of that, tripe (20%): 144g

Plant-based components (20%): 180g
carrots, zucchini, etc. mixed

Math example w/ meat, veggie, (tripe), innards

Your dog’s weight: 30kg

Amount of choice: 3% of bodyweight
Gross total of food per day: 900g

Animal-based components total (80%): 720g
of that, lean mince (70%): 504g
of that, tripe (20%): 144g
of that, innard-mix (10%): 72g

Plant-based components (20%): 180g
carrots, zucchini, etc. mixed

If these components seem to be well tolerated by your dog’s digestive system, you can start feeding different types of lean mince and/or innards from different animals and see where it goes from there, before adding the last component of your BARF meal:

Step 5: Moving on to edible bones

If your hound’s digestion is still working well, it’s finally time to move on to add another crucial component to their diet: Raw Meaty Bones (=RMB).

Please read our Blog Post talking about Raw Meaty Bones before you get started! There are certain things you must know before you venture out.

Edible Bones are ALWAYS:

  • Raw
  • Non load-bearing bones from animals turkey-sized and up
  • Covered in a sufficient amount of meat (approx. 50%/50% bone-to-meat ratio)

IN ANY CASE:

Start with a ground version of extra soft Raw Meaty Bones such as:

Soft Raw Meaty Bones are the best way for your hound to start. Apart from chicken, you can also opt for rabbit carcass or bone from other small types of poultry.

We highly recommend starting off with a ground version of these edible bones, as it is easier to digest and less of a hazard if your hound tends to inhale his food instead of chewing it.

How to calculate: In your finalized meal plan, edible bone will make up for 15% of the animal-based components. However, introduce RMB in small quantities when transitioning. Start at the 5% mark and see how well your dog tolerates the addition of this new component. Only increase the amount once everything is going well (no constipation, no diarreah, no vomiting, etc.). See below for a math example of the different steps:

How to calculate the transition to Raw Meaty Bones:

Math example w/ meat, veggies, (tripe), innards, raw meaty bones

RMB STEP 1

Your dog’s weight: 30kg

Amount of choice: 3% of bodyweight
Gross total of food per day: 900g

Animal-based components total (80%): 720g
of that, lean mince (60%): 432g
of that, tripe (20%): 144g
of that, innard-mix (15%): 108g
of that, ground raw meaty bones (5%): 36g 

Plant-based components (20%): 180g
carrots, zucchini, etc. mixed

RMB STEP 2

Your dog’s weight: 30kg

Amount of choice: 3% of bodyweight
Gross total of food per day: 900g

Animal-based components total (80%): 720g
of that, lean mince (55%): 396g
of that, tripe (20%): 144g
of that, innard-mix (15%): 108g
of that, ground raw meaty bones (10%): 72g 

Plant-based components (20%): 180g
carrots, zucchini, etc. mixed

RMB STEP 3

Your dog’s weight: 30kg

Amount of choice: 3% of bodyweight
Gross total of food per day: 900g

Animal-based components total (80%): 720g
of that, lean mince (50%): 360g
of that, tripe (20%): 144g
of that, innard-mix (15%): 108g
of that, ground raw meaty bones (15%): 108g 

Plant-based components (20%): 180g
carrots, zucchini, etc. mixed

Mind the poo

Keep a close eye on your hound's poo after you feed Raw Meaty Bones for the first time. It's a telltale sign as to how your dog's digestion is handling the transition. See below in our 'Troubleshooting' box for more info.

Troubleshooting

Facing any of the following troubles after your hound’s first transition to Raw Meaty Bones?

In this case you probably increased the amount of bone too early on. Take a step back and review your calculations. Omit bone for a meal or two and then start with a lower amount than previously and observe your dog’s digestion.

Your dog’s digestive system may need more time to adjust. Take a step back and omit the bone component for a couple of meals, then try introducing it very slowly again.

If the problem persists, you can substitute Raw Meaty Bones with an appropriate Bone Meal product. You can read more about Bone Meal here!

Time to move from ground to whole edible bone:

If your hound is taking well to the new food, you can transition to feeding whole Raw Meaty Bones instead of the ground version. Of course, you don’t have to, if it makes you feel uneasy. However, there are some benefits to feeding whole bones:

If you decide to switch over to full pieces, it is important you always observe your hound at eating time. Make sure they adequately chew their RMB, while keeping in mind that they don’t have the same requirements as us humans when it comes to breaking down food before swallowing. A 30kg dog should ideally chomp 2-3 times on an average chicken neck before swallowing it. Many do it instinctively or because they learned it in adolescence from their momma at the greyhound farm (many racing greyhounds are at least partially fed a raw diet). This being said, we suggest you hold on to the first RMB you offer your hound, and make sure it understands that it can’t straight up inhale it.

Venturing out to other types of Raw Meaty Bones:

Let your hound get used to its new diet for a couple of weeks and make sure it feels comfortable on it.

After that, you can introduce a wider variety of slightly harder Raw Meaty Bones, such as:

Again, we suggest, you start with the ground variety to make sure your hound can adjust well to the new types of bone. Once everything’s fine, proceed like before by making sure your dog know it has to chomp the Raw Meaty Bones before swallowing.

Finalizing your Meal Plan

Congratulations, you’re almost done with transitioning to a raw diet!

There are 2 more essential steps you need to take:

  1. Achieving an appropriate fat content
  2. Adding iodine and oil to the diet

How to calculate the fat content of a meal:

As you can read in our Blog Post Should I feed my dog raw?, fat is a crucial part of your hound’s diet. BARF suggests to adjust the fat content in muscle meat to around 15-25%, depending on your dog’s breed, age, and activity level. Greyhounds are sprinters and therefore have a higher need for fast available energy than other breeds. As such, the muscle meat fat content for the diet of a healthy greyhound is generally in the upper range, i.e. between 20-25%. However, work up to this amount slowly and observe how your dog’s weight and digestion changes. If your greyhound maintains its ideal weight and produces solid stool, you have found its ideal fat content! 

If your greyhound loses weight despite an already high fat content and/or if their feces are too soft, then the digestive system is having a hard time coping with the increased fat content. If this is the case, you can feed carbohydrates instead of increasing fat. Learn how to calculate a raw meal with the addition of carbs in our other Blog over here.

If you followed our advice, your plan should currently look something like the math example below.

In a next step, replace some of your muscle meat content with fat in order to achieve a higher percentage of fat in your muscle meat component. The overall amount of the component muscle meat stays the same. You’re just trying to make it fattier. See our math example in the table below: 

CURRENT MEAL PLAN

Your dog’s weight: 30kg

Amount of choice: 3% of bodyweight
Gross total of food per day: 900g

Animal-based components total (80%): 720g
of that, meat (50%): 360g
of that, tripe (20%): 144g

of that, innard-mix (15%): 108g
of that, ground raw meaty bones (15%): 108g 

Plant-based components (20%): 180g
carrots, zucchini, etc. mixed

15% FAT CONTENT IN MEAT

Your dog’s weight: 30kg

Amount of choice: 3% of bodyweight
Gross total of food per day: 900g

Animal-based components total (80%): 720g
of that, meat (50%): 340g
Additional fat: 20g

of that, tripe (20%): 144g

of that, innard-mix (15%): 108g
of that, ground raw meaty bones (15%): 108g 

Plant-based components (20%): 180g
carrots, zucchini, etc. mixed

20% FAT CONTENT IN MEAT

Your dog’s weight: 30kg

Amount of choice: 3% of bodyweight
Gross total of food per day: 900g

Animal-based components total (80%): 720g
of that, meat (50%): 320g
Additional fat: 40g

of that, tripe (20%): 144g

of that, innard-mix (15%): 108g
of that, ground raw meaty bones (15%): 108g 

Plant-based components (20%): 180g
carrots, zucchini, etc. mixed

Of course you don’t have to figure out all the calculations in your head! There are some trustworthy BARF Fat Calculators out there, such as these:

Make sure you transition your hound toward a higher fat content slowly. Some dogs with a sensitive tummy tend to react with diarrhea if you go too fast too soon. Again, your hound’s stool is the best indicator on how well you’re doing your job transitioning them onto raw.

How to ensure proper iodine supply with BARF:

Sea Algae/Kelp is commonly used to cover your hound’s iodine needs. In the wild, a wolf would get its intake from eating the thyroid glands of prey. To simulate an optimal intake of iodine, make sure that you buy a high-quality sea algae/kelp product that clearly states its iodine content.

 

How to calculate:
Find amount of iodine-content on packaging, then use one of these calculators:

Tip

Put a week's worth of your calculated sea algae powder in a clean shaker and sprinkle it over each daily meal throughout the week.

Why BARF suggests omega fatty acids:

Since most meat derives from factory farms, its content of omega 3 fatty acids is rather low. To balance this out, we compensate this lack with a high-quality, toxin-tested, animal-based omega 3-6-9 oil. Ideally, go for salmon or crill oil.

How to calculate:
0.3ml per kg body weight daily

, YOU'RE GOOD TO GO!

Now you have all the info on how to start raw feeding your dog! Have fun watching your hound enjoy his new style of food! We hope that you are just as happy as we were with all the changes that are about to come:

Wanna learn more about supplements?

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