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There’s a raw dog food revolution happening, as more and more pet parents make the switch to raw to give their dogs a natural, nutritious diet. But for lots of people, it’s not just about going raw, it’s about raw dog food recipes that let you know exactly what’s in every bowlful, and so you can make sure it’s packed with wholesome, handpicked ingredients.
So, if that’s the direction you’re taking, where do you start? What’s the key to great raw dog food recipes for beginners? Well, we’re here to help. With over 40 years’ experience in getting raw just right, we’ve got some expert tips on how to make raw dog food your four-legged friend loves…
Over the years, we’ve learnt that the heart of a healthy raw dog food recipe is the right ratio of meat, vegetables and (depending on your dog) healthy grain. Of course, every dog’s different, and it’s important to find recipes they enjoy eating. But for us, two simple ratios really stand out: 60/40 and 80/20.
Ok you’re thinking, what does that mean? Well, we’re talking meat, fruit, veg, and the option to include a healthy grain if you choose, so…
60% meat + 40% veg and healthy grain
80% meat + 20% fruit and veg
Both of these ratios work really well for most dogs, giving them the nutrition they need to stay fit, healthy and active. They offer a diverse set of nutrients, meaning our Complete & Balanced range doesn’t need to be supported with anything else. For those making homemade recipes, use a good quality multivitamin supplement to ensure your dog is getting everything they need to be healthy on a daily basis.
In a moment we’ll look at how to make raw dog food by choosing the right ratio for your dog. But first, let’s explore those three types of ingredient – meat, fruit and veg, and healthy grains…
For the raw meat or offal part of your dog’s dinner, you’ve got lots of choice. Go for classics like beef or lamb. Choose poultry like chicken, turkey, goose or duck. Opt for tender white fish or salmon. Or pick something different like venison or rabbit.
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s specifically prepared for pet consumption. In our Ready to Mix range, we’ve got high-quality free-flow minces that can make up this part of your dog’s meal. Just keep them in your freezer, defrost overnight and add your own choice of fruit, veg and (if you choose) a healthy grain or mixer biscuit.
At Natures Menu, we believe healthy raw dog food recipes should contain a selection of fruit and/or vegetables. So which fruits can dogs eat? Well, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, plums, apples, redcurrants and blackberries are good choices.
When it comes to veggies, dogs can eat peas, carrots, swede, spinach, sweet potato, green beans and chicory. But some fruits and veggies are highly toxic to dogs – don’t give them avocado, garlic, onions or tomatoes.
Remember too that dogs can’t digest the cellulose found in the skins of fruits and veg, so whatever you choose to include, you’ll need to grind, juice or finely chop them first.
Some of you might be wondering why we’ve included grains or additional carbohydrates in one of our recommended ratios. Carbs aren’t something dogs technically need, and they're often seen as a hidden filler. But actually, they can be a really good choice for busy, active or working dogs – those non-stop, all-go types who burn so much energy they might otherwise struggle to maintain their weight. It’s also worth noting brown rice is part of our 60/40 recipe range, which is a great, gentle introduction to raw as it contains less raw meat for your dog to get used to.
We’re not just talking any old grains. For raw dog food recipes, your additional carbohydrates need to be carefully chosen and easily digestible. In our own Natures Menu recipes, we only use parboiled brown rice and rolled oats in our Mighty Mixer biscuits because they’re low in sugar and easy on dog’s tummies. You could try adding those to your own homemade raw dog food, and a carefully made kibble like our Mighty Mixer.
So, those are the core ingredients for raw dog food recipes. Let’s get back to those ratios and take a closer look at what’s right for your dog…
Raw dog food recipes using this ratio means they’ll be using 60% raw meat and offal, plus 40% fruit and/or veg plus a healthy grain. So why choose this ratio over the 80/20?
Well, over the last 40 years we’ve seen both ratios work really well, but the 60/40 option can sometimes be a slightly gentler way to introduce raw food into your dog’s diet.
You can use the ratio to make your own homemade raw dog food recipes, or if you’d like a ready-to-go option that does it all for you, just look out for our Natures Menu Complete & Balanced 60/40 packs in store or online. If you’ve bought Natures Menu before, they’re what we used to call Natures Menu Original, but our recent range refresh has changed some names to put our recommended ratios – and wholesome ingredients – front and centre.
If you’re going for the 80/20 ratio raw dog food recipe, you’ll be using 80% raw meat and offal, plus 20% fruit and/or veg. So why is this mix a good way to go?
Well, while carbs can be good for active dogs, if your dog suffers from a grain allergy or intolerance you might want to stick to this high-meat ratio in your homemade raw dog food.
Again, you can make meals from scratch, and our Ready to Mix meats are a great ingredient to have on hand. But if you’d like an option that’s ready to pour, thaw and serve, our Complete & Balanced 80/20 range comes in tender, tasty nuggets, carefully formulated to give your dog the nutrients they need.
If you’ve shopped with us before, it’s what we used to call our Country Hunter range. As part of our big brand refresh, we’ve brought everything under the Natures Menu name and organised our recipes by what you’ll find inside – hence the new name, Complete & Balanced 80/20. You’ll find the ratio loud and clear on the front of pack, along with straightforward information about what’s inside.
Bones are another one of those ingredients that comes down to your specific dog. They can offer a great source of mental stimulation and the action of chewing helps to release relaxing endorphins in the brain which can have a calming effect. Bones also provide a great source of natural glucosamine and chondroitin which can be great for helping to lubricate joints. It is also commonly reported that bone content can also help make dogs’ poos firmer and easier to pick up.
On the other hand if your dog’s poos are dry, or they seem to be constipated, it’s best to avoid bone, especially if they’re older, have a sensitive digestive system or struggle to squat for long. Puppies can also find bone difficult to digest, so our Natures Menu puppy recipes are completely bone free.
For older dogs, both our Ready to Mix and Complete & Balanced ranges have options with and without bone. Where it is included, on average there’s 4% minced bone in our Complete & Balanced recipes, because we’ve found that’s the ideal amount for most dogs – and if you choose to, you can still also safely feed raw bones to your dog 1-3 times per week when following this diet. Although this isn’t essential if the diet is already a balanced one.
As we mentioned above, we’ve been busy reorganising our raw range and refreshing our packaging to make it easier to shop, and to understand what you’re feeding your dog. If you’d like a hand finding your favourites, here’s a quick recap…
• Country Hunter is now Complete & Balanced 80/20
• Natures Menu Original is now Complete & Balanced 60/40
• Home Prepare is now Ready to Mix
• Raw Chunks, Bone Free Chews and Meaty Bones are now Raw Treats
Whether you decide to make your own homemade raw dog food from scratch, or choose an option that’s ready to pour, thaw and serve, it’s always good to understand what your dog needs, and where to find it.
Knowing your ratios is a great place to start, and at Natures Menu we’re here to help, whatever way you go.
If you’re creating recipes at home, our Ready to Mix minces make life easier, while still giving you plenty of room to get creative. And if you’d like the peace of mind that your dog’s dinners have just the right ratios, our Complete & Balanced 80/20 and 60/40 ranges are great to have on hand.