How to Start

5 Simple Ways to Start Feeding Real

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5 Simple Ways to Start Feeding Real

Feeding real food is as simple as opening up your refrigerator and sharing a few food items you purchased for yourself with your dog! 

Real, fresh food is food in its natural state. It is unprocessed, rich in nutrients, and contains no preservatives to prolong its shelf life. Like us, our dogs are not meant to flourish off processed food. Almost everything you use in your meals can be shared with your dog! 

Simple Foods to Start Sharing

Start thinking about what you can share from your daily meals, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner ingredients. Almost all can be shared with your dog!

The Incredible Edible Egg!

EggsEggs are a complete meal! Whether chicken, duck, or quail, eggs have the perfect protein, vitamins, and minerals ratio. You can even feed the shell for calciumcalcium

Eggs are considered a complete protein source for dogs because they contain all the essential amino acidsessential amino acidsamino acids the body requires to grow, repair, and maintain tissues.

Eggs contain both saturated and unsaturated fatsunsaturated fats. The yolk of the egg is where most of the fat is found, including healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The fats in eggs are essential for energyenergy, nutrient absorption, and hormone production and aid the development of healthy skin and hair coat. 

Eggs are rich in several vitamins, including vitamin B12vitamin B12, vitamin B2vitamin B2 (riboflavinriboflavinriboflavin), vitamin Avitamin Avitamin A, vitamin Dvitamin D, and vitamin Evitamin E. They also provide essential minerals for overall health, including iron, zinczinc, selenium, and phosphorus.

Eggs are an excellent source of cholinecholine, essential for brain health, nerve function, and cell membrane structure.

You can also use the shell as an additional calcium source when feeding farm-fresh eggs. However, shells from commercially sold eggs should not be fed to your dog, as commercial eggs must be sanitized before distribution. 

If your dog does not like the shell, try removing the inner membrane to supply collagen, glucosamineglucosamine, and chondroitinchondroitin to her meal. Learn more about the Benefits Of Pasture-Raised Eggs.  

Muscle Meat

Fresh, lean meat is a great meal addition for your dog. You can feed whatever meat you are planning to eat for your meals. The meat should come from grass-fed, free-range, and organically-raised animals. Commonly used meats include duck, hog, cattle, bison, lamb, chicken, and turkey. Rotating the protein source reduces the development of food allergies or intolerances. 

Most people equate muscle meat with protein. Although protein is one of the nutrients that your dog will get from meat, there are many other great nutrients, including:

  • Amino Acids: Proteins in muscle meat contain amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. Your dog requires a balance of essential amino acids for various physiological processes in their diet.
  • B Vitamins: Muscle meat contains B vitamins, including B1 (thiaminethiaminethiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacinniacinniacin), B6 (pyridoxinepyridoxine), and B12 (cobalamincobalamin). These vitamins play crucial roles in energy metabolismmetabolismmetabolism, nerve function, and the production of red blood cells.
  • Iron: Iron is essential for oxygen transport in the blood and overall cellular function. Muscle meat provides heme iron, which dogs absorb more readily than non-heme iron in plant-based sources.
  • Zinc: Zinc is vital for immune function, skin health, and wound healing. Muscle meat is a good source of zinc.
  • Phosphorus: Phosphorus is essential for bone health, energy metabolism, and many cellular processes.
  • Selenium: Selenium is an antioxidant mineral that supports immune function and helps protect cells from oxidative damage.
  • Vitamin A: Muscle meat contains vitamin A, which is essential for vision, immune function, and skin health.
  • Choline: Choline is vital for brain health, nerve function, and metabolism.
  • Omega-6Omega-6 Fatty AcidsFatty Acids: Muscle meat contains omega-6 fatty acids essential for various bodily functions, including skin health and inflammatory responses.

Each muscle meat has its own nutrient profile, so getting a variety of muscle meats is very beneficial. This also encourages you to expand your palate!

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Small Oily Fish

Oily fish like anchovies, mackerel, sardinessardines, or anchovies make great additions to your dog’s bowl. Small oily fish are rich in Omega-3Omega-3 fatty acids , particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPAEPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3s are essential for heart health, joint health, immune function, and anti-inflammatory effects. 

Avoid feeding larger fish species like tuna, orange roughy, or swordfish, with longer lives spent in the oceans, due to the increased mercury exposure. Mercury levels are minimized in fish that are short lived and at the bottom of the food chain

Other nutrients in small oily fish include protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, phosphorus, calcium, iodine, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), choline, and other trace minerals like zinc, copper, and magnesium.

Plain Yogurt or KefirKefir

Plain yogurt and kefir can offer several health benefits to dogs when included in a balanced diet. These dairy products contain live beneficial bacteriabacteria, also known as probioticsprobiotics, which can positively influence digestive and overall health. However, it's crucial to ensure that your dog tolerates dairy products well and does not have lactose intolerancelactoselactose intoleranceintolerance

Both yogurt and kefir contain live probiotic cultures that can support a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Probiotics can help improve digestiondigestion, boost the immune system, and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal issues.

The beneficial bacteria in yogurt and kefir can aid digestion by promoting the growth of "good" bacteria in the gut. A healthy gut is closely linked to a robust immune system. So many aspects of your dog's health are related to her gut health, including skin and coat condition, behavior, digestion, nutrient absorption, synthesis of nutrients, immune system regulation, protection against pathogens, inflammationinflammation regulation, allergyallergy and autoimmune regulation, and gastrointestinal health. 

Yogurt and kefir are excellent sources of calcium and protein essential for bone health, muscle function, and overall growth.

When offering yogurt or kefir to your dog, it's important to choose plain, unsweetened, and unflavored products. Avoid products that contain added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and flavorings, as these can harm dogs. 

Using goat yogurt or kefir is recommended. Goat milk is more easily digestible than cow milk due to its smaller fat globules and different protein structure. This can be beneficial for dogs with sensitive stomachs or lactose intolerance.

Enhance Hydration Status

Simply increasing the moisture content of your dog’s food will significantly enhance her overall health! Like humans, staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining overall well-being and supporting various bodily functions. Dry food contains just 10% moisture, whereas fresh food contains at least 80%.

You don’t even have to go to the store for this one! Adding a cup of waterwater or bone brothbone broth to your dog’s dry food is the easiest way to give your dog some much-needed hydration to support kidney function and bone and joint health.

Benefits of keeping your dog well hydrated include temperature regulation, organ function, digestion, joint health, skin and hair coat health, urinary tract health, cognitive function, detoxification of toxins, energy levels, immune system support, and hormone regulation. 

Adequate hydration helps your dog regulate body temperature, especially in hot weather. Dogs rely on panting to cool down, and panting can lead to water loss. Being hydrated helps prevent your dog from overheating or experiencing heatstroke.

Your dog needs proper hydration for her organ function. Water supports the function of the heart, liver, kidneys, and other organs, helping them perform optimally. Adequate hydration supports eliminating waste products and toxins from the body through urine and helps prevent urinary tract infections and bladder stones.

Proper hydration also aids digestion by promoting food movement through the digestive tract and assisting in nutrient absorption. When dehydrated, your dog can become lethargic and have decreased energy levels. Staying hydrated helps your dog maintain her activity level and vitality.

Adequate hydration helps maintain joint lubrication and can contribute to joint health, which is especially important for dogs prone to joint issues. Providing bone broth is excellent for keeping your dog hydrated. Read Bone Broth: Give Your Dog With Cancer An Immune Boost to learn more about its benefits.

Your dog’s skin, the body’s largest organ, needs water to maintain its protective barrier. Hydration produces healthy skin and a shiny coat. It helps prevent dry, flaky skin and promotes a lustrous coat.

Your dog’s immune system needs adequate hydration to fight infections and illnesses and support the body's production and function of various hormones required to maintain homeostasis. 

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Dogs fed dry food tend to be chronically dehydrated. Adding water or bone broth is an easy and efficient way to help your dog stay hydrated. For more tips on the importance of water, read The Value Of Water. 

As you can see, starting with small amounts of fresh food in your dog’s bowl will significantly benefit your dog’s overall health and well-being! You can begin to feed real food by adding just one of these items daily to your dog’s bowl. Start slow by adding no more than 10% of these foods to your dog’s daily bowl. Adding fresh food can lead to the everyday use of kibblekibble toppers or a complete transition to feeding your dog a fresh food diet. 

Foods Not to Share with Your Dog

When you start feeding fresh food to your dog, chances are they will be begging for scraps of food at your feet. The list above gives you many choices to feed your dog, but some foods are hazardous. Before you provide your dog with anything new, ensure it is safe. Toxic foods can cause nausea, diarrhea, brain damage, and even death.

Common foods that are toxic to dogs include:

  • Chocolate: Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine that causes vomiting and diarrhea if ingested by dogs. The liver cannot digest the toxin, and even a small amount could be fatal.
  • Grapes: Grapes and raisins contain a toxic compound called potassium cyanide that can lead to kidney failure if consumed by your dog.
  • Onions: The chemical compounds in onions cause hemolytic anemiaanemia in dogs, which leads to severe complications like liver damage and death.
  • Avocado Skin and Pit: The pit and skin of avocados contain persin, which can lead to breathing difficulties and cardiac arrest. Plus, the pit is a choking hazard.
  • Cooked bones- Cooked bones could break apart into sharp fragments that could cause severe damage to your dog’s digestive system.
  • XylitolXylitol: Found in sugar-free gum, candy, and some baked goods, xylitol can cause a rapid drop in blood sugar and lead to seizures, liver failure, and death.
  • Alcohol: Even small amounts of alcohol can be toxic to dogs and cause vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, and even coma.
  • Caffeine: Found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and some medications, caffeine can cause restlessness, rapid breathing, heart palpitations, seizures, and death.
  • Macadamia Nuts: Can cause weakness, vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia in dogs.
  • Fruit Pits and Seeds: Pits and seeds from fruits like cherries, peaches, and apples contain toxic compounds and can cause intestinal blockages.
  • Fatty Foods: High-fat foods like fatty meats, bacon, and fried foods can cause pancreatitispancreatitis, leading to severe abdominal pain and digestive issues.
  • Salt: Excessive salt intake can lead to electrolyte imbalances and sodium ion poisoning, causing symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and even death.
  • Nutmeg: Contains compounds that can be toxic and cause central nervous system issues, including seizures.

This list is not exhaustive; some foods not mentioned here may also be toxic to dogs. Always research any new foods that you want to feed your dog.

Now, Are You Ready to Learn More?

Getting started is easier than you think. On this website, you’ll find many helpful, well-researched articles we’ve put together to help you feed real food. We have a wealth of opportunities for you to learn how to feed your dog real food.

Feed Real Calculator

Raw Dog Food Calculator is the easiest way to plan your dog's food. It is designed to help you estimate how much fresh food to feed your dog daily and create a meal plan based on fresh ingredients. The calculations are based on your dog’s age, weight, and activity level. 

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Workshops

The Feed Real Institute offers hands-on interactive online workshops that are intentionally limited to 10 seats, allowing you to ask questions specific to you and your dog. You will be required to go out and shop for your raw food and, together, learn how to calculate how much and what to feed, which raw feedingraw feeding model to follow and why, how to swap out proteins and food sources, what to expect when introducing new food, and tips and tricks for transitioning, sourcing, and efficiently prepping your dog’s meals.

During the workshop, you will learn about your dog’s nutritional requirements, address common concerns about raw feeding and bacteria, and how to successfully transition your dog to DIY-prepared raw food. Every dog, person, budget, and lifestyle is different, so you are given tips on what to expect, plus how to troubleshoot when something doesn’t go as planned.

Feed Real Courses

The Feed Real Institute offers two canine nutrition courses, one for dog parents and the other for veterinary professionals and dog experts. The details of the two courses are:

The Real Dog Food Nutrition Course for dog parents: 

  • Basics of dog anatomy and the physiology of the gut microbiomegut microbiome
  • Essential vitamins and minerals for healthy dogs
  • The components of fresh food (protein, calcium, fats, fiber, liver/other secreting organs)
  • What AAFCOAAFCO & NRC standards are, and what this means when feeding a raw diet
  • How to balance fats (omega-3s/6s)
  • How to put your bowl together
  • Supplements & Alternatives
  • How to combat concerns about bacteria, aggression, and imbalances
  • Tips and tricks to confidently transition to fresh food

Professional Canine Nutrition Certification Course for Veterinary Professionals 

  • The components of fresh food are muscle meat (protein), raw meaty bones (calcium), seafood (fats), fiber, liver/other secreting organs.
  • How to balance essential fats (Omega-3s and Omega-6s)
  • Why and how to meet AAFCO and NRC standards while feeding a raw diet
  • How to put your raw dog food bowl together, including supplements and whole food alternatives
  • How to combat the main two concerns about raw feeding: bacteria and nutritional imbalances
  • The truth about carbohydratescarbohydrates and protein for the aging dog
  • Overall costs of raw feeding
  • Monitoring for nutrient imbalances, clinical signs of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and clinical health markers to follow closely.
  • Interactions between vitamins, minerals, and medications
  • Debunking myths such as raw feeding can cause aggression in dogs and that all bones are bad for dogs!

The Professional Canine Nutrition course is RACE-approved for ten continuing education credits. A hands-on DIY Real Dog virtual workshop is a mandatory component of the professional course. Sourcing the meal ingredients and compiling seven days of meals for your dog helps cement the concepts of raw feeding.

Although the Professional Canine Nutrition course is designed for the veterinary profession, others who would benefit from the course include dog trainers, groomers, pet sitters, and any dog lover interested in canine nutrition.

Feed Real Institute Subscription

The Feed Real Institute’s membership gives you access to hundreds of res earch articles to help you #feedreal food. The FRI has spent the last seven years unlearning everything we know about kibble and obsessively researching the benefits of real fresh food for our dogs. We’ve shared our research with you at every opportunity - through our social media platforms, DIY workshops, and now through our robust feedreal.com article database.

Here, you’ll find access to hundreds of articles about:

  • The evolution of dogs
  • Dog anatomy and nutritional requirements
  • Components of a fresh food bowl
  • Gut health and the microbiome
  • Vitamins, minerals, and supplements
  • Transitioning to and troubleshooting raw diets for dogs

There is so much information available online, some of it simply opinion and some of it based on peer-reviewed articles. The FRI has sifted through thousands of articles to bring you well-researched, practical information. The website is a great place to start your fresh food journey.

Takeaway Bites

  • Providing fresh food can significantly impact your dog’s overall health.
  • The Feed Real Institute website has a wealth of information to get you started on your fresh food journey.
  • Feeding fresh food can lead to providing your dog with daily kibble toppers or transitioning your dog to a fresh diet.

References

Brady, C. (2020). Feeding dogs dry or raw? The science behind the debate. Farrow Road Publishing.

Contribution of Water from Food and Fluids to Total Water Intake: Analysis of a French and UK Population Surveys - PMC 

Research shows eggs from pastured chickens may be more nutritious | Penn State University 

A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef 

Health-Promoting Phytonutrients Are Higher in Grass-Fed Meat and Milk | Sustainable Food Systems 

Fishing for answers: is oxidationoxidation of fish oil supplements a problem? - PMC 

Green-lipped (greenshell™) mussel (Perna canaliculus) extract supplementation in treatment of osteoarthritis: a systematic review - PMC 

Offal Chemical Composition from Veal, Beef, and Lamb Maintained in OrganicOrganic Production Systems - PMC 

Exploring the potential of antioxidantsantioxidants from fruits and vegetables and strategies for their recovery