When preparing your dog's meals, it is important to keep in mind that rotating protein sources is essential. It's pretty simple, different parts of the animal from different animals all contain different amounts of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. In the extreme case, it is not as easy as feeding your dog(s) cuts of chicken, beef or any other single protein everyday for every meal. Even if you are balancing their meals between organ, bone and muscle meat, feeding one type of protein everyday can be highly detrimental to their health and growth, because it limits the amount of vitamins and minerals that is available to your dog's body.
Muscle Meat Rotation
The muscle meat portion is the largest part of your dog's meals (about 80% for most). This is why, rotating the muscle meat in your dog's daily meals is one of the most important things to keep in mind when having your dog on a raw diet.
I like to rotate between different types of poultry (turkey, quail, duck and goose), red meat (beef, bison, lamb, goat), and other miscellaneous meats such as rabbit, pork and ground emu.
Proteins and Vitamin Content
*This is just an example of what vitamins each protein source contains. It is not a representation of the concentration of each vitamin in each protein source - this is why it is important to rotate your protein sources accordingly.
Muscle Meat - Heart
Don't forget to include heart in your dog's meals! Heart is a very important source of "the super nutrient, CoQ10. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is necessary for the basic functioning of cells, as well as optimizing the hearts rhythm. CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be lower in some patients with some chronic diseases such as heart conditions, cancer, diabetes, and immune disorders" (source). I feed pasture beef heart and turkey heart in smaller amounts every other day, but you can also feed heart once a week in a larger portion - whatever works for you and your dog!
Muscle Meat - Whole Prey
I also feed whole prey and rotate around quail and rabbit as whole prey meals. Whenever my dogs eat a whole prey meal they also get another protein from a different source or two to round out their meal for that day. Rabbit is our ideal choice for a whole prey meal. Whole prey is also one of the most natural ways a dog can eat their meals, it is a completely balanced meal and also is mentally engaging. Whenever whole prey meals are fed, it is important you don't just feed the same whole prey animal everyday for every meal. Incorporating other types of animal's organs and muscle meats is also very important!
You should also pay attention to how lean your meats are. You should not only be feeding lean meats as this can be detrimental to your dog, because dogs need fat. "Fat also provides energy — and it does much more than just store fat for energy. Fats (or lipids) function as chemical messengers, they form the membranes of all the body’s cells, they help the body absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), and they control hormones and play a huge role in inflammation...So getting proteins and fats right is critical to your dog’s health — they’re the building blocks for good nutrition. And getting the fats right means not just the amount of fat, but the balance" (source).
Omega-6 fatty acids "produce hormones that increase inflammation, which is an important immune response...they also help with blood clotting and cell growth". "Omega-3 fatty acids produce hormones that control the immune system and they work alongside the omega-6 fatty acids in an antagonistic manner...If there is too much omega-6, the hormones that raise inflammation will be turned on and if there is too much omega-3, there will be immune dysfunction". This is why it is important to have these two fatty acids balanced in your dog's meals. It will mean their immune system will also be balanced, whether that be a balance over time or a balanced meal every day (source).
*Beef, Lamb and goat are low in polyunsaturated fat and in omega-3 fats, and is high in saturated fats. (If you feed deer or elk keep in mind that these proteins do contain a good amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fats).
*Poultry is low in omega-3 fats and saturated fats, and is high in polyunsaturated fats and omega-6 fats.
*grass-fed and grass-finished meats are slightly higher in omega-3 fats than grain-fed meats
Fish - Balancing with Omega-3 Fats
It is also important to realize that including some type of whole fish that is low in mercury is essential for your dog's diet. Fish contains essential omega-3 fatty acids that help to balance out the Omega-6 fatty acids and other fats that beef, lamb, goat and poultry have in them.
Fish is the number one thing you can feed your dog to balance out these fats in these protein sources. As mentioned before, using fish that is small and less likely to contain high amounts of mercury is the fish you would want to include in your dog's diet. I use: mackerel (this is the main fish they get), sardines, smelt, and thread herring. I also include green lipped mussel (whether it is the powder or the whole mussel). Green lipped mussels are also high in omega-3 fats and very good for joint support and health.
*It is important that you do not feed fish too often as this can cause imbalances. It is recommended to feed fish 2-3 times a week.
To learn more about balancing fats for your dog click here!
It is also important that you vary the way that protein is fed. For example, a raw meaty bone (RMB - the edible bone portion of your dog's meals), can also hold a good amount of muscle meat. If you want your dog to be more mentally stimulated but don't have the resources to feed whole prey, feed very meaty RMB's and count that in as bone content AND a portion of muscle meat content of your dog's meals (just make sure you are NOT feeding weight bearing bones from large animals - these are not edible and are only used as a stimulating chew). This is a very engaging way (especially if the RMB is frozen) for dogs to eat their meals. Very meaty RMB's (from my experience), include turkey necks (about 58% meat), duck necks (about 50% meat), turkey drumsticks (about 58% meat, 6% skin & fat), turkey wings (about 56% meat, 16% skin & fat), duck wings (about 60% meat), duck necks (45% meat), lamb shanks (about 70% meat, 10% fat), pork hocks (about 70% meat). Whole duck carcasses as well as rabbit backs are also a great high meat RMB option (mostly recommended for larger dogs).
What about organs? Is it ok to just feed one species of animal's organs or one type of secreting organ (ex: beef kidney and liver) as your dog's organ content for all of their meals? My answer is no. Rotating organs from different parts of one animal and from different animals is just as important as rotating muscle meat and bone content for your dog's meals. Organs, especially the liver portion, is where the bulk of your dog's vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are coming from.
I rotate my liver protein sources between beef, emu (occasionally), turkey, rabbit, lamb, and duck. I rotate other secreting organs (such as kidney, spleen and brain) from lamb, duck, rabbit, turkey and beef.
*I highly recommend (if you have the resources and it is available to you) to always feed pasture-raised organs. Organs, like the liver and kidneys filter out the toxins from the animal's bodies, so you want to make sure it is coming from a safe and reliable source.
DISCLAIMER: It is always important to do your own research first in regards to raw feeding or feeding fresh foods for your pet (dog or cat). Every animal is different! What may work great for some may not work great for others. It is important to know that if you are a beginner at raw feeding, there are tons of ways to feed fresh raw foods to your pets (commercially prepared, freeze dried etc.). Starting out can be a little difficult, so if you do your research accordingly, then you'll have more knowledge about EVERY aspect of raw feeding. Remember, if you are not ready to feed a raw diet to your pets, wait to transition and utilize the help of experienced raw feeders, connect with integrative veterinarians, read books geared towards a holistic dog diet and gain knowledge from all of your research so you can effectively give your dog the nutrition it needs to thrive. There are also a few amazing raw-feeding consultation services, which help you in the areas of meal prepping that are specific to your dog's needs. Check out theprimalpet.com for custom raw meal plans! "The Raw Fed Pet" site is only for informational/educational purposes and is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical conditions.
Did you know?
GREEN LIPPED MUSSELS ARE GREAT FOR JOINT HEALTH?
"In addition to their inflammatory healing properties, these mussels are considered a superfood because they contain a huge variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, Omega-3 fats, antioxidants, enzymes, and many more nutrients" (source).