Complete and Balanced (Part 2): Building a Balanced Raw Diet
Written by Sarah Griffiths, DCH and Inna Shekhtman
January 18, 2018
If you missed last week’s blog posting, Check out Part 1 here.
Last week, we discussed some of the limitations of the “complete and balanced” approach when it comes to raw feeding. While “Complete and balanced” is a term that ensures that the food contains the minimum level of nutrients required for our pets to survive, it falls short of ensuring that this food will keep our pets healthy and thriving. This week, let’s look at how we can provide our pets with a complete and balanced fresh food diet that will help them live longer and healthier lives. It’s easier than you think! Here are the general rules to ensure you’re feeding a complete and balanced raw food diet that follows AAFCO’s standards plus so much more.
1. Variety of Foods and Basic Proportions
When it comes to fresh foods, variety and high quality ingrediets are the factors that complete the diet. Whether you are feeding a commercially produced or home-prepared raw diet, try to provide a variety of protein options, as well as organs, veggies and other foods sited below. Each food contains a unique profile of amino acids, fats, vitamins and minerals and rotating through them will ensure your pet is getting all the nutrients they need.
Your basic raw diet should look something like this (though percentages alone aren't how we recommend formulating your diet):
- 30% meat (approx. 85-90% lean)
- 30% bones (ground or whole consumables)
- 10% organ meats (heart, liver, kidney, etc.)
- 25% vegetables (greens and roots)
- 5% extras (canned sardines, whole herring, fruits, nuts, seeds, oils, probiotics, etc.)
- 40% meat (approx. 85-90% lean)
- 35% bones (ground or whole consumables)
- 15% organ meats (heart, liver, kidney, etc.)
- 2-5% vegetables
- 5-8% extras (canned sardines, whole herring,, oils, probiotics, etc.)
If your pet has sensitivities that make it difficult to feed a variety, we recommend working with a nutrition specialist. We can help! We now offer customized diet planning services for pets with special needs.
When using Red Dog Blue Kat (RDBK) meals, we recommend rotating between poultry meats to red meat meals, and some fish too.
2. Balance Your Calcium and Phosphorus
Calcium and Phosphorus are essential to a balanced raw diet. Bone is the most natural source of calcium. You can include bones in your pets’ diet by feeding meals with bone or feeding them whole consumable bones. Our turkey, chicken and meals for dogs all include ground bone. For cats, our chicken, turkey and rabbit meals all include bone. If your pet has food sensitivities and can’t eat these proteins, you will need to add a calcium supplement such as eggshell powder or food-grade bone meal.
If you’re using a commercially prepared raw diet, look for poultry meats (bone included) with a calcium level between 0.5-1.5% (as fed) and phosphorus between 0.2-0.5% (as fed). Red meats will generally not be within this range so feeding whole bones along with red meats is a great way to increase calcium. Alternatively, you can add bone meal or eggshell powder to red meat meals if your pet can’t have whole bones. Note: Eggshell powder is not suitable for growing dogs and cats so use bonemeal instead.
3. Balance Your Fats
The ideal fat percentage range for the raw diet is 7-15% (as fed basis) or 85-93% lean meat. Generally, young animals (under 18 months) can be on the higher side and adults on the lower side but it depend on the individual. You can easily accomplish this by giving lots of variety. Some of the fattiest meats on the market are lamb, duck and wild boar so it’s best not feed them every day if you can help it. Balance them with leaner meats like venison and herring to bring the fat percentage down. For animals with fat sensitivities or pancreatitis, they may need a special plan of action.
Balancing your omega fatty acids is just as important. Meat is in omega 6’s so you’ll want to balance them with omega 3’s and 9’s You can do this by adding a variety of foods including our whole herring, ground herring meals, salmon and tripe meals and by adding good quality oils such as flax, hemp and coconut.
4.Provide the Extras
Organ meats, veggies, and probiotics are important additions to a balanced diet. Adding extras greatly increases the nutrient profile of the diet by increasing the fibre, vitamin and micro mineral content and helps to balance the omega fatty acid profile. All of our mixed meals contain a variety of organ meats and veggies. A rotation of leafy greens, root veggies and squashes are great if you’re doing your own veggies at home. Check out our veggie blog here for more on the most beneficial veggie rotations!
Raw liver provides vitamin A which is essential for cats who cannot convert beta carotene (from plants) into vitamin A (http://jn.nutrition.org/content/132/6/1610S.full). Other foods that add important D and E vitamins to the diet include pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed puree, almond butter and hemp seeds. Probiotics are the cherry on top, giving a wide range of beneficial bacteria that help to support gut health and immune function.
Olie Naturals New Beginnings fermented probiotic supplement is the perfect addition (link). Check out the feeding chart above for suggestions for how often to add fish into the diet.
5. A Note on Taurine for Cats
Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats whereas other mammals like humans and dogs can synthesise taurine from precursor substances. Taurine is only found in an unaltered state in animal flesh. Cats cannot survive without animal flesh in their diet and that’s why they are considered obligate carnivores. Feeding a raw diet provides plenty of taurine so there is no need to add it as a supplement. Including heart meat on a regular basis will also increase the taurine content.
Stick to these 5 simple rules and your pet will be eating the ultimate raw food diet! Happy feeding!