By: Kayla Kowalski, Certified Canine Nutritionist
Dogs & Wolves Share 99% of The Same DNA
Yes, you heard that right! Chihuahuas, loyal Golden Retrievers, and even the most precious lil Wiener Dog shares about 99% of their DNA with wolves. This means that they are biologically designed to eat a raw food diet just like their distant cousins, the wolves. Feeding your dog raw foods is nature’s prescription to improve your dog’s health and potentially add years to their life.
Switching your dog to a fully raw diet would be incredible, but in reality, raw feeding can be tough. Most people aren’t ready to transition their dog to a fully raw diet. Instead, adding fresh food to your dog’s kibble is a great way to start! This is less time-consuming and *ahem* sometimes way more affordable!
If you and your dog are new to mixing kibble together with raw food, there is no need to fear. Dogs' stomachs are full of digestive enzymes, natural flora & bile to process raw food & protect their intestines from harmful bacteria, including salmonella. Dogs actually have 100x more acid in their stomach than humans. Starting a raw dog food diet is safe and easy, as long as you take things slow and follow these suggestions:
It is important to include the proper supplements to aid their digestive system and ensure a smooth transition for your dog. I recommend giving your dog high-quality probiotics, such as Native Pet’s probiotic powder. Probiotic powder is great to continuously add to your dog’s bowl as it can help improve your dog’s gut health and keep them happy with their new diet! About 80% of your dog’s immune system is in their gut, meaning a healthy gut is crucial to help your dog live as long as possible. A stronger immune system decreases your dog’s risk of contracting diseases, viruses & infections.
You want to make sure that when you do decide to add healthy toppers to your dog’s kibble, you take things very slowly if your dog has a sensitive stomach.
Introduce one new food at a time and wait a few days to see how your dog reacts to this new item.
Take into account their poop and make sure they don’t have any adverse reactions to the foods. This way you can get a better understanding of how well your dog is adjusting to their new diet.
Start with The Right Kibble
Before adding fresh food to your dog’s kibble, the first step is to carefully examine the kibble that you’re buying from the pet store. You want to make sure it contains high quality ingredients and is free of unnecessary fillers and preservatives. Bonus points if it is also grain-free – we want to keep their diet low in carbohydrates. When looking at the list of ingredients, the first ingredient listed is the most present in your dog’s kibble. Ideally, you want to make sure the first 3 ingredients are protein because that makes up the majority of your dog’s diet. And ideally, not corn or meat byproduct. Chicken is fantastic, but chicken byproduct is far from human-grade and often means the worst parts of the chicken… yikes! A dream scenario for the first 3 ingredients looks like this: chicken, chicken liver, egg.
Hydration is Key
You can actually dehydrate your dog by feeding certain kibble brands! Typically, kibble has an extremely low moisture content in order to be small, lightweight, and have a long shelf life. It’s often dried in scorching hot heat and is considered a highly processed dehydrated form of dry dog food. It is important to always rehydrate your dog’s kibble with at least warm water (bonus points if the water is filtered). This way your dog’s body doesn’t have to work as hard and it makes eating more enjoyable for your dog because nobody likes dry food.
If you want to take your dog’s hydration to the next level, give them bone broth! Your pup’s wolf ancestors will be jealous!
Great options to rotate between:
- Native Pet’s bone broth
- Decaffeinated green tea
- Coconut water (with no added sugar)
Native Pet’s bone broth is a great option because most bone broth for humans often contains large amounts of salt and onions, which is toxic for dogs.
Measuring and Making Room for Toppers
Once you’re happy with the kibble you have, you will want to reduce the amount of kibble you put in your dog’s bowl to only 80%.
Kibble weighs less because it’s dehydrated food, so we need to take this into account. Fresh foods have twice the amount of moisture as kibble, so you will need to add double the amount of fresh food toppers.
1 cup of dry kibble = 2 cups of fresh food. It may sound confusing but stay with me.
Let’s say you give your dog 2.5 cups of kibble per day, for the sake of this example. Instead, you’ll start feeding 2 cups of kibble and 1 cup of fresh food toppers.
Now let’s fill up your pup’s bowl with the good stuff!
What to Add On Top?
The easiest additional sources of protein that you can give to your dog – cooked or raw meat:
Fish is highly recommended as a source of omega-3 fatty acids and isn’t included in many kibble formulas. If your dog has allergies or dry, itchy skin, fish is a game changer!
Canned fish is a convenient and affordable option. Just always make sure they are canned in water to avoid any unnecessary salt and fat.
Surprisingly, liver is commonly sold at Walmart and most grocery stores.
Organ meats are packed with essential nutrients. Just don’t overdo it with the organs. Organs are extremely nutrient-dense and too much of a good thing can be dangerous. Here is a healthy balance to follow:
- Liver (5% or less of your dog’s diet)
- Kidneys or spleen (5% or less of your dog’s diet)
Yes, eggs get their own section! Raw eggs especially are a superfood that gives your dog all 10 essential amino acids. There are actually a variety of different eggs with a variety of health benefits. Some you may have never thought of!
- Chicken eggs
- Duck eggs
- Quail eggs
You gotta be wondering, how do dogs eat AND digest raw bones?!
The amount of acid in a dog’s stomach is mind-blowing. The bone dissolves in no time. Raw fed dogs’ stomachs have a PH level of 1, the same acidity as a car battery.
So let your pup embrace their inner wolf! In fact, dogs have the same digestive system as many wild carnivores, such as the gray wolf.
Raw bones are a great way to increase your dog’s calcium intake as well as naturally clean their teeth and gums.
- Chicken wings
- Chicken feets
- Chicken necks
It is very important that you never feed cooked bones because they can splinter and hurt your dog. I always recommend holding your dog’s raw bones to ensure they are properly chewing them.
Time to Get Started!
There are so many types of foods and supplements that you can add to your dog’s kibble to help them be as healthy as possible. We haven’t even dove into the possibilities of fruits, vegetables, seeds and so much more! But it’s best to start small and keep it simple.
- Check the quality of your dog’s kibble.
- Pick 1 healthy food to start with.
Then watch your dog’s energy levels soar! My Shih Tzu, Buddy, is 13 years old and he has an energy burst like a little puppy everytime he finishes eating.
If You’d Like More Help, I’m Here For You
If you want to learn more about how to balance your dog’s diet (or cat’s diet) with the right amounts of kibble and fresh foods, go to KaylaKowalski.com – I can create a custom diet guide for you with recipes made for your dog!
And if you’re ready to take on fully raw meals, I’m here for you too!
Consider me your new dog nutritionist! My name is Kayla Kowalski and I’m a Certified Canine Nutritionist (CertCN) who has guided over 3,000 pet parents through custom diet transitions.