Prey Model Raw Diet for Dogs
So what exactly is a Prey Model raw diet for dogs? The foundation of this raw diet is to feed our dogs like a wolf would eat in the wild since our dogs have evolved from wolves.
So what do wolves eat in the wild? Meat – not just plain meat though. In the wild, wolves hunt for their own food and they eat what they catch which is a whole animal – meat, skin, bones, and organs. The only time they won’t eat all the bones is when they kill a larger animal – in larger animals, not all the bones are edible since they are harder. A good example of this is a deer’s leg bone.
So class, if we want to feed our dogs a prey model diet that means… we will be feeding them whole animals or most likely be simulating feeding them whole animals. Not all prey model feeders actually feed their dog a whole animal. It’s not practical for smaller dogs since most animals are too big for one serving; and while feeding raw diets have a gross factor in themselves, feeding your dog whole animals ups the ante quite a bit.
How do you simulate feeding your dog a whole animal? It’s pretty easy really, most animals are 80% meat, 10% organs (broken down into 5% liver and 5% any other squishy organ meat you can find), and 10% edible bone. So you just model your dog’s meals after those percentages. Some people call this franken-prey since your dogs meals will be made up from as many different parts from as many different animals as you can get your hands on. Are you ready Dr. Frankenstein?
Now that you have the percentages of each category you will be feeding, let’s talk about how much food you dog needs to eat. This part will probably need to be adjusted once you start, so check your dog’s body condition often and either feed more or less depending on what your dog needs.
How to Check Body Condition
Just like with people, a lot of dogs are overweight. Sometimes it’s because their owners are feeding them too many treats or unhealthy human foods, they don’t get enough exercise, or because their owners don’t know how to tell their dog is overweight. So many health problems can be easily avoided in dogs by keeping them at the correct weight. So let’s do a quick check.
Call your dog over and have them stand calmly near you. Stand over them so you have a clear view of their back. Your dog should have a slight hourglass shape, their waist should go in a little and their shoulders and butt should be a little wider. If your dog is shaped like a sausage, then he’s overweight. If you can see his ribs or hip bones sticking out, then he’s too thin.
Now get level with your dog and take a look at their side. Their tummy should tuck up a little not hang down. If your dog’s tummy doesn’t tuck up and is hanging down, he’s overweight. If it tucks up dramatically, he’s too thin.
The last part is to feel your dog’s sides gently. You should be able to feel the shape of a few of your dog’s ribs within their rib cage. If you can can’t feel your dog’s ribs with just a gentle touch, your dog is overweight. If you can feel each rib, your dog is too thin.
Now, back to feeding amounts. We’re going to be measuring your dog’s meals by weight. If you don’t already have a kitchen scale, pick one up before beginning your dog on a raw diet. Puppies and pregnant or lactating females will need more food than normally active dogs. Senior dogs who don’t do a lot anymore may need less.
First you need to know your dog’s optimal weight. If you don’t know how much your dog weighs, you can hop on your bathroom scale while holding your dog. Write down the number. Now put your dog down and weigh yourself. Subtract your weight from the first number and you’ll have your dog’s weight.
For normal adult dogs, you will be feeding them 2% of their body weight. For active adults it should be 2.5% of their body weight. If your dog isn’t very active it will be 1.5%. For puppies, it’s a little more complicated. If you’re feeding an 8 week old puppy, he should be getting about 10% of his body weight and that percentage will go down with every month of age until he’s 1 year old. These percentages are mostly estimates and should be adjusted if your dog starts gaining or loosing too much weight.
Here’s what a sample prey model diet will look like for a 10 pound moderately active adult dog for 1 day
- 2.56 ounces of meat
- .32 ounces of edible bone
- .16 ounces of liver
- .16 ounces of other organ meat
for a grand total of 3.2 ounces of food per day
Now you know how much to feed and the percentages of meat, edible bones, and organs that go into each meal, I want to talk about how to put assemble your dog’s meals. Let’s break down each category:
You can get easy access to chicken, beef, and pork from your grocery store. Some grocery stores also carry duck, Cornish hens, and turkey. If you know anyone that hunts, they may be able to get you deer, pheasant, rabbit, or wild turkey. Try to find as many different protein sources that you can but at the very least, you should be able to get chicken, beef, and pork.
Not all bones are edible. Determining edible bones will depend on your dog’s size to an extent. For small dogs, the bones need to be small for them to be edible. Dogs, even small dogs, can eat any bones found in a chicken or similar size animal.
For most people, unless you have a hunter in your family, will be using chicken as the primary bone source for their dogs. Even for large dogs, weight bearing bones – leg bones – are too hard to be edible and will only result in broken teeth.
This one is self explanatory – liver. Liver from any animal counts as liver. If your primary place to buy meat is from your local grocery store, you will more than likely find chicken liver and possibly beef liver as they are more popular.
This is basically going to be any other squishy organ other than liver including kidneys, spleen, pancreas (known as sweetbreads), brain, thymus, testicles, and ovaries. This does not include hearts which are a great source of muscle meat since they’re low in fat and usually cheaper than other cuts.
When feeding organs, don’t be surprised if your dog doesn’t like them at first. They may never actually like them. I don’t know if it’s the slimy texture or smell but a lot of dogs will give you trouble in this area. To get them to eat their organs, you can lightly sear the outsides or try pureeing them or even freezing them. Think of this part like you would in trying to get your child to eat their vegetables.
How to Apply These Numbers
Now that you’re on information overload, let’s talk about how all this fits together. When feeding small dogs a prey model diet, you’ll notice that the amounts of edible bone is really low. It’s not easy to feed tiny amounts of edible bones each day so what most people will do is offer edible bones and meat only meals on alternate days to balance it out.
What most people will do is feed edible bone, liver, and organs on specific days and just meat on the other days. If you choose to do it this way, always feed the organs and bones on the same day. The bones will stop your dog up (if you get my drift) and the organs will make them go. If you combine the two, the bones will keep your dog from getting diarrhea and the organs will keep him from getting constipated.
The meat part is self explanatory. Use your kitchen scale and portion out the correct weight of meat your dog needs according to your calculation from above. Try to keep the meat in the biggest piece possible while still following the correct portion size so your dog will get the dental benefits from ripping and chewing their food.
Edible bones are fed by giving your dog meat with the bone still in it. For small dogs, you can feed chicken wings, necks, legs, thighs, and breasts. The breast, leg, and thigh are roughly 20% bone and the rest meat. The wing and neck are about 40% bone. If you make a meal of the correct size with the leg, thigh, or breast – you would feed bone in meat one day and meat only the next. If you use chicken wings or necks it would be one day bones and the next 3 days meat only. Remember to add in the organ meat on the bone day.
Here’s an example:
On an edible bone day, I would take a thigh with the bone still in it and cut the whole thing in half (through the joint and meat). If you feel the thigh, you can tell where the joint is and just cut right through there. Leave the skin on. This was basically the correct portion size for my 10 pound dogs. Add the organ meat and that’s it.
On a meat only day, I just weighed out a chunk of meat (usually pork from a picnic roast or beef from beef heart) and that’s it.
Then I would just repeat that, alternating between meat and bone/organ days.
Raw Feeding Supplies
If you’re still with me up until this point, you’re almost ready to start. Before you jump in though, you need some supplies. Some things I am going to suggest are needed and some will make your life much easier.
Deep Freezer – If you don’t have a deep freezer already, now is a good time to purchase one. To save money, you will be buying meat when it is on sale and in bulk which means you need somewhere to store it. The freezer you’re already using for human food isn’t going to have enough room. That means when meat goes on sale, you can’t stock up on anything or buy in bulk which will make feeding this diet more expensive than it needs to be.
Kitchen Scale – This isn’t optional. If you don’t already own a kitchen scale you need to buy one to properly measure you dog’s meals. Pretty much any will work but I prefer the digital ones since the proportions for small dogs are small and should be measured more accurately than non-digital scales will allow. Check the packaging on scales you look at and make sure you’re comfortable with the power source. Most kitchen scales use batteries, but some use those flat batteries which can be a pain to find when they need replaced.
Meat Cleaver – Not Necessarily needed, but having a meat cleaver will make chopping through cuts of meat with the bone in easier for you.
Storage Bags or Containers – You need something to pack your dog’s portioned meals in. If you plan ahead, you can spend a few hours chopping, weighing, and bagging your dog’s meals for the week or even month and then just label and freeze them for later. If you do this, just take the next day’s meal out of the freezer and put it in the fridge when you feed him for the day and it will be all ready for you.
Crate, Baby Gate, or X-Pen – You will probably already have one of these. Before feeding your dog raw meat, decide where you want to feed him because your dog isn’t going to leave the meat in their food dish. They are going to grab it and hold it with their legs and paws while ripping it apart. This means you want an area you can easily clean. If you have small children, make sure you can keep them out of this feeding area until your dog is done eating since you’re dealing with raw meat.
Chlorox Wipes – These aren’t needed, but they will make cleaning up a lot easier and faster. Lysol wipes would work as well but I personally prefer Chlorox wipes since the Lysol ones always get twisted as they come out and they never tear with just one hand.
Where to buy Meat
I want to quickly give some ideas about where to buy your meat, edible bones (raw meaty bones), and organs. The grocery store is a great place to get beef, pork, and chicken. Watch for sales and stock up. Any meat made for humans is edible for your dog except for anything that has any added spices or saline solution.
The easy way to check for that is to look at the nutrition label. Meat naturally contains sodium but if it’s more than 10%, it more than likely has added sodium and isn’t suitable. Also avoid ground meat. When meat is ground, there is more surface area which means more bacteria plus your dog won’t have to rip and tear the meat and they’ll miss out on the dental benefits of feeding this type of diet.
Also avoid cuts of meat that have bones that were cut by the butcher like pork chops or t-bone steak. The bones in these kinds of meats have been exposed to heat from the saw used to cut them and aren’t safe to feed your dog. If you pick them up at a really low price from the clearance meats (if your store does this), just cut the bone off and discard before feeding it to your dog.
Since feeding a raw diet has become more and more popular, there are several raw feeding co-ops you can potentially join. Most of these co-ops will have deliveries once a month and will offer you meat, bones, and organs bulk. They also carry things that aren’t normally found in stores like beef heart and some organs. Beef heart is considered meat not organs and is a cheap but really good meat option.
*Note: if you have to give your dogs pills while on a raw diet, chicken hearts (available at most grocery stores and usually pretty cheap too) make good all meat pill pockets. Just slip the pill inside the opening of the heart at the top and feed it to your dog.
There are also some websites you can order meat, raw meaty bones, and organs from. The downside of these websites is that their prices will usually be more expensive and because you are ordering raw meat, you have to pay more for shipping to get it quickly. They also only usually deliver to certain areas.
Join a Facebook Raw Feeding Group
If you are still considering feeding your dog a prey model raw diet at this point, I highly recommend you join this Facebook group. They offer support, tips, and tricks for raw feeding.
A word of caution though, they only support prey model raw feeding and that’s it. Some members can get pretty passionate and if you post about feeding anything other than prey model raw, even if it’s just treats that aren’t within this diet, they will have something to say about it.
This group is a great resource for people wanting to feed prey model raw diets though, and can even help you hook up with the local co-op in your area as well as offer other advice in this specific diet.
My Experience Feeding Prey Model
I fed my dogs the prey model raw diet I’ve talked about in this post for about 2 years. At that time we also had a retired greyhound as well as the 5 Chinese Cresteds so I have experience in feeding prey model raw to small and large dogs. I did a lot of research and picked the prey model form of raw feeding over B.A.R.F. and commercial raw diets because it made the most sense to me. My vet was on board with my decision and agreed that as long as it is fed correctly it can be very beneficial for dogs.
When I first started feeding raw, I just had my 3 older Chinese Cresteds. I decided to start with offering them chicken wings and they thought I was insane. After chasing the 3 of them around my off-white carpeted house (no one warned me they would do that) while they carried their prizes around, I realized that none of them were actually eating the chicken wings. I was at a loss; I thought I’d give them the chicken wings, they’d eat them, and then we’d move on.
After looking online and asking for help, I was told that some dogs need a little encouragement. If this happens to you, all you have to do is heat a skillet on the stove and lightly sear the meat. Don’t do it enough to actually cook it, but just enough to make it smell good. I tried this and they gobbled them down.
*Never ever microwave meat with the bone in it. Microwaves cook from the inside out and thus will cook the bone inside the meat. This is a huge problem because the bones can splinter when your dog eats them which can result in tears in their stomach and intestines. So never microwave meat for your dog. Meat can be served frozen or can be thawed in the refrigerator or in a bowl of water.
The next issue was when I freaked out when their poop turned white and crumbly. If this happens to you, it is not a big deal – I repeat NOT A BIG DEAL. All it means is you fed too much bone in one meal and didn’t balance it out with enough meat or organs. If you dog seems constipated and is squatting to poop but it’s not coming out, it’s also for the same reason, just feed more meat or organs and the problem will fix itself.
Now after reading about how the prey model diet is really good for dogs’ teeth, I never really saw a difference. It’s important to note that my oldest dog when starting this diet was only 2 years old so her teeth were still in good shape even though I never got into the habit of brushing them. During the time I was feeding prey model, I adopted a retired racing greyhound who got her teeth cleaned prior to me adopting her and 2 more Chinese Cresteds who were puppies so their teeth were good too.
If you’ve read anything about raw feeding, you probably read that your dog will have smaller stools. This is true to an extent, but it really depends on what you were feeding prior to switching to raw. If you were already feeding a high quality food – see my other post What is the Best Dog food for Small Dogs – Bonus Ranking System to see how your dog’s food ranks – then your dog’s stools won’t be much different; but if your dog’s food has a lot of fillers you will definitely notice a difference.
So if it’s so great, why did I stop feeding my dogs raw?
For me personally, it got to be too much. My life changed and I just couldn’t keep driving to the co-op pickup which was an hour away from me or devote the extra time for measuring meals for so many dogs. Plus, my husband really hated it and I got sick of defending my reasons to keep feeding the dogs raw.
In addition to those reasons, I just couldn’t justify the benefits anymore or lack of benefits in my case. I was already feeding a quality dry food prior to switching my dogs to raw and after feeding them raw for 2 years I just didn’t see any differences.
Feeding raw isn’t for everyone. I have nothing against those who do feed raw as long as it’s done correctly and your vet is OK with your choice. It makes complete sense to me. Dogs have evolved from wolves so why not feed them like wolves. It seems much more appetizing to feed them meat instead of dried out meat pebbles.
When you shop for meat if it’s on sale and take advantage of co-ops, feeding raw can cost less than feeding a quality dry food but for me it worked out to pretty much the same price. If price is a concern for you, going the commercial raw route will probably not be a good fit since it generally costs more.
If you feed or have fed prey model raw feel free to comment below and let me know how you like it. Also, if you have any questions about feeding your dog prey model raw, you can ask them below too.