In the first two parts of this series, we've discussed why the typical commercial dog food doesn't provide species-appropriate nutrition and addressed the most common concerns and questions about feeding a home-prepared, species-appropriate diet. Now here is a sample diet plan for your pit bull.
What to Feed
As mentioned in the previous two articles, species-appropriate pit bull nutrition consists of raw meats and bones, fish, eggs, and very small amounts of greens, herbs, veggies, and fruit. But what exactly should you feed?
Raw Meaty Bones
Raw meaty bones (RMBs) comprise the main part of the diet. Why is it so important that you feed bones and not just meat? In a word, calcium. Dogs not only have specific calcium requirements (too much and too little can both cause problems), but they also require calcium and phosphorous in a ratio between 1:1 to 2:1. Meat contains tiny amounts of calcium, but lots of phosphorus, while bones are high in calcium and contain a moderate amount of phosphorus.
RMBs with the highest bone to meat levels (e.g., poultry wings, backs, and necks) deliver calcium and phosphorus in a ratio of roughly 1:1. If you feed a lot of bones that are "meatier" (e.g., chicken leg quarters or breasts), you'll need to add another calcium source to the diet. But don't worry, by giving eggs with the shells, you can feed even the meatiest bones without risk of unbalancing the diet.
Here's a list of some of the RMBs you can feed your pit bull:
- Chicken (any part)
- Turkey (any part)
- Game hens (feed whole)
- Duck (any part)
- Pheasant (any part)
- Quail (feed whole)
- Rabbit (any part, but it's best to remove the stomach and intestines of wild rabbits due to the risk of parasites)
- Ostrich and emu necks, ribs, and knuckles
- Pork necks, ribs, shoulders, and tails
- Lamb necks, ribs, and breasts
Some dogs also do fine with beef ribs and necks, but these bones are quite a bit harder. They're not a good idea for dogs new to the species-appropriate diet.
Due primarily to cost, chicken and turkey RMBs will probably be the main component of your pit bull's diet, but don't feed only poultry. Pure poultry diets can be too low in zinc, so feed red meat at least twice a week. Remember, variety is important.
The risk of trichinosis is very slight when feeding USDA inspected pork intended for human consumption, but if you're concerned, freezing the meat for 3 weeks at 5 degrees Fahrenheit or for 3 days at -4 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the worms. Unfortunately the species of Trichinella found in wild game meats such as venison, elk, and bear is more resistant to freezing. If you have access to such game meats, inspect them carefully for the presence of parasites before feeding them to your dog. If you're not sure what to look for, have the meat inspected by someone who does.
Raw Muscle Meat
Most meat should be fed on the bone, but adding small amounts (16-20 oz a week) of boneless muscle meat to the diet--either ground or in chunks--is fine as long as you remember to feed the eggs with their shells. The main reason you may want to feed boneless muscle meat on occasion is that your pit bull needs some red meat in her diet, and if you can't find lamb RMBs or oxtails at an affordable price, ground beef may be your best bet for inexpensive red meat.
Raw Organ Meat
About 10% of your pit bull's diet should consist of raw organ meats. You can feed any inspected organ meat, but livers, kidneys, and hearts from chicken, turkey, lamb, and beef are usually the easiest to find. Chicken and turkey gizzards are also an option. Another great choice--if you can find it--is green tripe (not the bleached tripe available in supermarkets). Kidneys and especially livers are very rich and should not comprise more than half of your organ meat mix.
Wild fish frequently contains parasites, so stick to farmed fish or wild fish species such as tuna and snapper that have a very low risk of parasites. When in doubt, look for raw fish that's recommended for sushi.
Never feed raw salmon due to the risk of salmon poisoning disease, which is potentially fatal. Carp, catfish, and smelt can be fed on occasion but not at every fish meal because these species contain an enzyme that binds thiamin (vitamin B1). Fish that weigh less than half a pound can be fed whole--heads, guts, and all.
If you can't find affordable raw fish, it's okay to substitute canned mackerel, sardines, or tuna packed in spring water. Just make sure there aren't any unwanted additives. It's best to drain the fish before feeding to get rid off some of the salt.
Feed your pit bull a large raw egg with the shell 3-4 times a week. The egg's shell is about 95% calcium, which is needed to balance the excess phosphorus contained in the organ meats, boneless muscle meats, meatier RMBs, and the eggs themselves.
How do you feed the shells? Wash them and leave them to dry for at least a day. Then grind them into a fine powder using one of those little electric coffee/spice grinders or a mortar and pestle. Mix the egg shell powder with raw egg, ground meat, or pureed veggies.
Veggies & Fruit
As mentioned in the first part of this series, dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates. Consequently feeding veggies and fruit is optional. It's also a lot of work. Raw veggies and fruits need to be completely crushed in a food processor or juicer in order for your dog to be able to access their nutrients. If you want to feed veggies, make enough for several weeks and freeze in serving-sized containers. Then thaw as needed.
So why would anyone go to the trouble of preparing a fruit and veggie meal if dogs have no need for it? These plant foods are very high in vitamins and minerals, and those are certainly beneficial. If you want to make a veggie mix for your pit bull, endive and romaine lettuce, parsley, bok choy, dandelion and mustard greens, wheat grass and other grasses, broccoli, squash, zucchini, carrots, celery, pears and apples (without the core) are all good choices. Feed about 1/4 cup three times a week.
Supplements are also entirely optional, but you may want to add some fish body oil (not liver oil) and vitamin E to your pit bull's diet. Many dogs enjoy omega-3 fish oil capsules so much that you can give them as a healthy treat between meals. If you're not feeding veggies, you might want to give a teaspoon of powdered greens or algae on occasion, but it's not essential.
Sample Diet Plan
Okay, as promised, here's a sample diet plan for a 50-60 pound pit bull. The general rule of thumb is to feed 2-3% of your dog's ideal body weight. Exactly how much food your pit bull needs depends on her size, activity level, and metabolic rate. If you find that she's losing weight, feed a little more; if she's gaining, feed a little less.
This 10 day diet plan consists of two meals a day.
AM Meal (Day 1-10)
1 pound of raw meaty bones (it's okay to feed primarily poultry in the mornings, but don't feed the same bones every day; mix it up a little)
PM Meal (Day 1, 5, 9)
4 oz liver or kidney
4 oz RMB
PM Meal (Day 2, 4, 6, 8)
6 oz red muscle meat (beef, lamb, bison, buffalo, etc.)
1 large egg with shell
1/4 cup veggie mix (optional)
2-3 fish oil capsules (optional)
400 IU vitamin E (optional)
PM Meal (Day 3, 7)
6 oz hearts, gizzards, or green tripe
PM Meal (Day 10)
6 oz fish
1 large egg with shell
1/4 cup veggie mix (optional)
400 IU vitamin E (optional)
There you have it. A complete diet designed to achieve balance over a ten day period.
Making the Switch
There are two methods for switching dogs to the species-appropriate diet. The first is to slowly start adding raw foods to your dog's diet, while you're still feeding kibble (though kibble and raw foods shouldn't be combined in the same meal). Gradually you feed less kibble and more raw until your dog is eating 100% raw.
The second method is to make the switch quickly. Friday night you're still feeding commercial pet food, and Saturday morning you begin with raw meaty bones. In the vast majority of cases, this is the way to go. Even twelve and thirteen year-olds who've been eating kibble their entire lives have been able to make the switch overnight without a problem.
If you're considering switching your pit bull to a species-appropriate diet, I encourage you to educate yourself thoroughly until you are completely comfortable with the idea of feeding a home-prepared raw diet. Then make the switch. Your pit bull will thank you for it!
The information provided in this series is not intended to replace the advice of a veterinarian. Be aware, however, that the standard veterinary school curriculum includes little information about companion animal nutrition, and the education that is provided is sponsored by the pet food industry. Consequently many vets don't know much about feeding a home-prepared, species-appropriate diet and may even oppose the idea outright.
Fortunately there is an increasing number of vets--both allopathic and holistic--who approve of and even recommend raw feeding. If your vet is in the anti-raw camp, consider asking other raw feeders to recommend a vet in your area who is in favor of or at least open-minded about feeding a home-prepared raw diets.