I have been trying to justify raw feeding my dog for a few years now, and I think I have cracked the case.
97% of people in Australia feed their dog manufactured dog food, but this guide helps the rest.
I had fed my dog raw for the last few years, but as an engineer (now I am a dog walker) I was always concerned about the nutritional value. It seems the far right in both the raw and the manufacturer camps don't actually give any real world answers you can check.
I originally started understanding more about dog nutrition from a book called 'Canine and Feline Nutrition' by Case et al, 3rd edition.
It gives a lot of great nutrition advice but is biased towards manufactured dog food, HOWEVER it does give me ways of calculating the total energy needs etc. Anyway, the first article I have created giving the basics of my ultimate raw diet is here:
THE ULTIMATE RAW MEAT DIET FOR DOGS including nutrition tables
Many raw feeders will argue that meat and offal has enough nutrition in it alone. Others will say that the aafco tables are overly strict. But I have to base my research and final diet on something right???
The reason I use the AAFCO tables is that globally this US standard has become the default dog food manufacturer benchmark. You will find that aussies dog food defers to this standard anyway.
You will find no matter how you create a raw diet, its nutrients are VERY below the minimum aafco standards - just as grain or any carb diet is. How dog food manufactures get around this is to add a mass of vitamins and minerals. Go on check you labels.
Whether you believe in aafco or not, you will find that a raw diet misses out on some mineral completely, and that there are severe side effects without these minerals.
My dog diet consists of meat (beef initially or just for the article example - you can choose any meat you like), offal (liver, heart, kidney, tripe), Omega 6 (sunflower oil) omega 3 (fish oil), chicken necks and 20% KIBBLE. I use the kibble as a fibre source (and yes their is science behind what fibre works best). It also means that my diet can be 20% below the aafco numbers because the kibble is "complete and balanced."
The crux of my method is this:
I assemble what I think a raw diet is (originally people say 80/15/5 = meat/ offal/ bone)
Then I find out how much energy (ME) my dog needs to consume for his size, age, exercise level etc)
I find nutrition data tables for each raw component (easily available on line), multiply these by the proportion I am using of each food component, and then SUM each nutrition row (amino acids, vitamins and minerals).
This is relatively simple in a spreadsheet and I have given an example of a table you can copy to excel in the Appendix of the above article.
For my dog, here is a specific example:
I used the dog nutrition equation to get the energy requirement for Archie:
estimated ME = 105 x 20 (power 0.75) = 105 x 9.457 = 993 kcal ME/ day
I copied nutrition data (amino acids, vitamins and minerals) tables (easily found online) across for the beef and offal that I wanted to trial in the raw diet (to check the combined nutritional value).
I used the modified atwater equation: ME diet = (3.5 x g protein) + (8.5 x g fat) + (3.5 x g NFE carbs)
To calculate the energy of each meat and offal piece.
Then I was able to adjust the wet grams of each piece so that the total ENERGY WAS 940 Kcal/Kg
I then use the dry weight percentages of the total to calculate the right proportion of amino acids, vitamins and minerals that each piece contributes.
Summing the pieces up you find that the diet is fine for the protein requirements, but lacks in a lot of minerals and vitamins WHEN compared to the AAFCO minimum levels for adult maintenance diets.
I use the Aafco as they are readily available, although they are made for manufactured dog food, that is mainly sold with grain as the main food source PLUS a stack of vitamins and minerals.
Interestingly when you compare the NCA tables that aafco tables were originally based on, they meet most of those requirements (but these tables split after 1985).
The real trick comes next.
Once you have your energy target and total nutrition for each row you need to find out how many vitamins and minerals you need to add to reach the aafco or nca standards.
The article I wrote about it is here: The Ultimate Raw meat Evolution Dog Food Diet - balanced with Minerals & Vitamins
The problem is both finding a vitamin and mineral source, and then balancing these for the CRITICAL nutrients.
Phosphorus is only about 25% of the aafco level. All texts suggest that the RATIO Ca: P ratio is critical. It is easy to get Calcium into the diet via bones, but I will need to find a source of Phosphorus (EVEN WITH adding a vitamin/mineral supplement.
The other minerals mainly lacking are Potassium, Chloride, Iron, copper manganese, zinc,
The main vitamins missing are vitamin A, D and E. Plus Choline.
Most of the vitamin B vitamins are covered except B6.
This is of course where a lot of raw feeders would stop, or the major reason pet food companies say you have to buy kibble. BUT since they all put in a mass of minerals and vitamins, there is NO difference between them doing it and ME doing it.
For the final step (the nutrients required) I am consulting my local vet.
I have checked dog vitamins and minerals in Australia and they seemed to be very low values and aimed at dogs that already eat kibble, so the main aafco minerals etc are covered.
I only found one supplement aimed at a raw feeding diet and it is called Carnivore Blend from the USA. - one tablespoon for my 20kg spodle almost covers the minimum requirements, however the blend is quite expensive PLUS postage.
Vetbasix only has a couple of minerals and inadequate vitamins so that can be ruled out.
This of course got me to thinking about human vitamins, and if they could be used. This is my main question to my vet.
I checked the Blackmores site first. Because from my own vitamin shopping I know they have good value for the amounts they pack in. I have previously sent several questions to their dog site about dog vitamins for carnivore diets but have been ignored so I went to their human site
I have looked at the values for BLACKMORES Sustained Release Multi + Antioxidants
I have found that if I use TWO of their tablets that they cover almost all the minerals and vitamins except sodium and chloride (but of course table salt is easy to add if I need to).
Copper is still only about half the aafco value but exceeds the NCA value.
Zinc is now close and Iodine is close - ALL THREE of these minerals are missing in a meat diet (must assume the soil the grain is grown in that the animals eat has none of these minerals).
AGAIN PHOSPHORUS is low and ideally the aafco standard demands the Ca to P ration be between 1 and 2 so going to have to get a source of phosphorus still.
MY main concern with this vitamin, like all human vitamins I have checked so far, is that they have a massive amount of vitamin B series compared to the aafco standard.
For instance the mg/ kg of vitamin B 1 through to B6 is typically less than 10. However 2 of the blackmore's tablets give most vitamin B values at around 300 to 400 mg/kg.
For instance 50 mg dose of one of the Vitamin B's in a tablet is the affco equivalent of 50 x (1000/ 180 g) mg/kg when the dry weight of Archie's daily food is equivalent to 180g.
The B vitamins are water soluble and I haven't found any bad toxicity information. Except for B3, and aafco don't give a maximum value either.
I dont know if the readers in here find this illuminating/ frightening/ in error etc
I just couldnt wait around for some nutritionist I pay $250 online to give me their recipe plus vitamins, with little or no explanation. That is the going rate and level of help that I have found online. I have tried to contact many 'nutritionists' but it seems that many in the Oceania area have gone into retirement or just want to flog you their products.
This information allows you to work out for yourself and your dogs requirements exactly what you want!
I found nothing on-line or in books as comprehensive and user friendly as I have created. This method means you can see almost exactly the nutrition make up of any meal you make (as long as nutrition data exists).
I want the best for my dog, and failing a better standard than aafco or nca coming out for raw feeding, I think this is the perfect compromise of using mostly raw feeding (plus kibble for fibre) and creating what I think is the ultimate dog food diet ..
Remember that I have taken considerable time to research this topic and am offering you my insights for free. Feel free to critique, however personal attacks are not welcome. I am not trying to convert anyone, but if you feed your dog raw, it may give you a little more information about how to balance it ...
Let me know (nicely) what you think. And if possible could you please include your reference article or what specific objections you have. I just want to make my method better for me and for anyone else who does raw.