Just like people, animals thrive on fresh living foods. Fresh food provides them with the best chance to live long and healthy lives. It’s not just an opinion anymore, it’s science (1) (2) (3) (4) (5). For ourselves, we think of species-specific foods including animal and vegetable-based proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. For dogs and cats, the concept is the same, except we look at the specific elements that fit them better as a species.
The Five Main "Food Groups" In Well Balanced Fresh Food Diet
For Dogs and Cats Are:
Meats (Protein and Fat)
Bones (Macro Minerals)
Organ Meats (Vitamins and Minerals)
Species-appropriate vegetables (Fibre, Vitamins, Minerals, Antioxidants)
Extras such as eggs, fish, seeds, oils, superfoods, fermented foods, and more (including important trace nutrients and antioxidants
Balancing Your Pet’s Diet is Easier Than You Think!
Thee 7 Basic Factors Of A Fresh Food Diet
Protein (which should come primarily from meat) is an important part of feeding a fresh food diet. It provide essential and non-essential amino acids. The key thing to remember with protein is that it should be minimally processed and as fresh as possible. Variety is paramount because different proteins that contain unique amino acid profiles contribute to creating a balanced diet.
Fat is something that often gets overlooked. You can both overdo it and underdo it. There are 3 major types of fats: saturated, medium-chain, and polyunsaturated.
Saturated Fats - For most healthy animals, you’ll want to stay in the range of about 8-10% saturated fat content for dogs and 6-8% for cats. We’ll get to the medium chain fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats in a moment. Animals with pancreatic concerns or with lower fat tolerance may need less saturated fat. Conversely, animals that have a hard time keeping weight on, work as athletes, or are fighting cancer may need more fat. You can check in with us if your pet has special needs. We are also willing to work with your veterinarian to find the best foods for your pet.
Medium-chain fats are found in coconut oil, avocados, raw milk, raw yogurt, and raw kefir. They are important for brain function, fat metabolism, and even help to fight yeast growth in the body—which is a major concern for a lot of pets. Remember to include medium-chain fats in a rotational format (not always from the same source).
Polyunsaturated fats are your omega 3s, 6s, and 9s. Generally, there are too many omega 6s and not enough omega 3s in pet food, so you’ll want to pay attention to providing enough omega 3 sources. Your best sources of polyunsaturated fats come from fresh fish, canned sardines (no oil, no salt added), and very high-grade fish and krill oils stored in amber glass containers in the fridge. Fresh ground flax and hemp seeds are other great sources of omega 3 for dogs. Marine phytoplankton is also a wonderful option that provides precursors for the body to turn into omega 3s. Read more about omega 3's here.
When you’re feeding raw food, fibre comes from vegetables instead of grains. Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and pre-biotics. They also aid in digestion and promotion of a healthy bowel. You’ll want to vary the vegetables as much as you can and provide as many different colours of vegetables as possible. Dogs should get approximately 20-25% of their diet from vegetables and cats only 2-3%. Check out our veggie article for details about which veggies are best for your pet.
4. Calcium and Phosphorus
The balance of calcium and phosphorus is really important and is often overlooked by those who are new to raw. It’s important to ensure that you’re feeding a correct ratio of calcium and phosphorus, especially for growing animals whose skeletal and nervous systems are still developing.
Calcium and phosphorus come from raw bones which dogs and cats can digest. Luckily, bones (or bone chunks or powder) are easily absorbed and excreted by the body so all you need to do is make sure you’re providing enough bone content on a regular basis. AAFCO recommends a 1:1 to 2:1 calcium : phosphorus ratio, depending on your pet’s age. If your pet has serious digestive problems such as irritable bowel disease, you will want to start with a calcium supplement rather than raw bones until the animal has been stable on raw food for many months.
Learn more about your calcium options Essential Supplements For A Raw Food Diet.
5. Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are found abundantly in a fresh food diet that includes lots of variety. Variety is the key! Did I mention VARIETY? The tougher nutrients to get into your pet are micro minerals like zinc, selenium, and copper. To ensure that your pet obtains enough of these minerals, be sure to add a rotation of copper-, zinc-, and selenium-rich foods including organ meats, dark leafy greens, oysters, organic eggs, nuts & seeds, canned sardines, and other types of fish.
**Special note: Feeding fish 2-3 times a week is great but no more frequently than that—otherwise your pet may experience low levels of vitamin B1.
6. Enzymes and Probiotics
Enzymes are a naturally occurring part of fresh foods so the more fresh meat and veg you feed, the wider the variety of enzymes you’re providing. Fermented foods are supercharged with enzymes, nutrients and probiotics. They help with digestion, immune health, and other important bodily functions. Remember to include these in your pet’s diet! Again, we recommend varied sources to help diversify your pet’s microbiome. Our favourite sources of enzymes and probiotics include raw goat kefir, OLIE Naturals New Beginnings, kombucha, Adored Beast Healthy Gut, raw apple cider vinegar, raw cheese, and small amounts of kimchi or saurkraut. Avocado meat also provides the enzyme lipase which is extremely useful for animals with enzyme deficiencies.
Superfoods are packed with antioxidants, micro minerals, and vitamins that your pet needs. Rotational use of a wide variety of organic superfoods including phytoplankton, whole organic berry powders, moringa leaf powder, wheat- or barley-grass powder, chlorella, spirulina, and raw sprouts will give your pet’s immune system a huge advantage in disease prevention and combatting inflammation.
If you hit these targets when you’re feeding your pet, you’ll be providing the ultimate diet!
Get started with our Rotational or Complete & Balanced Meals
We understand that when something is new, it can be scary. Sometimes we shy away from things we don’t understand. If it sounds like it might be difficult, we often feel less enthusiastic about taking the leap. This can definitely apply to creating a balanced fresh food diet for your pet. We hear from people every day who are concerned that they will “get it wrong”, miss things and potentially hurt their pet.
We are here to help!
To learn more about balancing the raw fresh food diet for your pet specifically, fill out our detailed online feeding guide
Additionally, we have a full-time Animal Nutrition Specialist on staff to help you. Along with an abundance of online resources to guide you through any issues you might encounter as a new raw feeder. If your pet has health concerns, we’re able to help you there too with customized diet planning. Learn about Our Services
Long Living Pets Research Projects – 16 years of fresh food research with great danes, Thomas Sandberg, 2000-2030
Influence of nutrition at a young age on canine hip dysplasia in German shepherd dogs, University of Helsinki, Dogrisk, 2014
Diet at young age and canine atopy/allergy (type) disease, University of Helsinki, Dogrisk, 2013
Apparent nutrient digestibility of two raw diets in domestic kittens, Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 2016
Raw meat based diet influences faecal microbiome and end products of fermentation in healthy dogs, BMC Veterinary Research, 2016