One of the most daunting things for people new to raw feeding is working out whether they are giving their dog the right amount of raw meaty bones.
Bones are rich in calcium, which is critical to healthy growth and maintenance of blood, bones, heart, muscles, teeth, fur and nails, digestion and the immune system. Meat is rich in phosphorous, also critical to your dog’s health supporting brain, liver, muscular, circulatory and digestive systems.
As with all nutrients, calcium and phosphorus interact with each other; if one is out of balance, it can affect the dog’s ability to use other important nutrients for healthy body function. This is particularly critical during puppy growth stages and for pregnant pooches. This is one of the major reasons many vets discourage owners from making their own dog food – the old meat stew with a bit of rice and veg thrown in as the main food source for your dog will seriously jeopardize your puppy’s growth and dog’s long term health.
So how do you work out how much calcium to phosphorous your dog needs?
On average, dogs need a a ratio of about 1.2 calcium to 1 phosphorus ratio (1.2:1). There is some wiggle room in this ratio, where a calcium – phosphorous range of 1:1 – 2.5: 1 is acceptable, but it should average out that your dog is generally having a little more calcium than they do phosphorus.
How on earth do you figure that out you ask?! There are a number of ways to do this, but for the average raw food punter, it helps if it doesn’t require complicated tests or measures. You can work it out with a general appreciation for how much bone is in the foods you feed your dog relative to the amount of muscle meat……and some basic math skills to start off with! (Or follow a previously formulated recipe…).
Working out how much raw meaty bone is right for your dog
This is where the ingredient proportions I outlined in my blog about Basic Principles of Raw Feeding comes in handy, together with the table below outlining the approximate amount of bone contained in the most typical raw meaty bones you’d feed your dog.
Your dog’s daily diet (on average over a week) should contain about 10% – up to about 20% edible bone with 70% – 80% of lean meat. Different types of raw meaty bones contain various percentages of bone to meat. As the picture below shows, depending on which parts of a chicken you feed your dog, he will be getting different amounts of bone to meat. You also need to be mindful of the fattiness of some bones (for example chicken backs and carcasses or necks or other parts with skin on). If you are using these types of bones, it is essential to keep your other meats very lean (think chicken breast, kangaroo, venison or wild game meats).
STEP 1 : Work out how much bone your dog needs on average
Now let’s apply this to working out how much your 20kg healthy adult dog would need to eat on average by weight per day. We generally aim for 2-3% of the average dog’s body weight to work out the total weight of food using the ingredient portions on the graph to the left.
20kg dog x 2% (of body weight) = 400gm food per day (or 2.8kg per week) comprising the ingredient types in the graph to the left.
400gm food x 10% -20% bone proportion = 40gm – 80gms of bone per day (or 280gm – 560gm of bone per week)
STEP 2 : Work out how much bone you are feeding with different raw meaty bones
If you feed your 20kg dog 200gm of chicken drumsticks (that is 50% of his 400gm a day meal):
200gm x the percent bone for that piece (see picture on right)
200gm x 30%= 60gm
That means he will be served 60gm of bone in that meal (which covers about 1 and a half days worth of bone for my dog during the week). In the following day’s meal I could feed a little less bone to average it out to the 40gm of bone per day, although this amount still falls within the 10-20% range.
As you do this a few times, it becomes second nature working out the bone ratio. And remember, you’re aiming for balance over time (few days to a week), not necessarily perfectly calculated amounts every day.
Bone percentage in typical raw meaty bones
The following table is a general guide to some typical percentage of bone contained in these types and cuts of raw meaty bones based on a few sources I’ve found on different forums and texts.
|Chicken neck no skin||
|Chicken neck with skin||
|Chicken Rib Cages||
|Turkey Back (no skin)||
|Turkey Back (with skin)||
|Pork and Beef|
|Whole rabbit (no pelt)||
What if my dog won’t or can’t eat whole bone?
If your dog can’t or won’t eat bones, or you are concerned about feeding whole bone, you can have them ground up to add to the meal (some butchers will do this or if you’re really keen, you can get a grinder). Another good alternative is to add a bonemeal supplement. Look for high quality bone meal from grass fed ruminants, which is called MCHA (Microcyrstaline Hydroxyapatite) – make sure don’t get the one you put on your garden! MCHA is usually added to fresh meat, offal and vegetable mix at a 1/4 teaspoon per 5kg of your dog’s body weight.
Checking the poop-o-metre!
A good indicator of whether your dog is getting enough or too much bone is to check his poop. You have to pick it up anyway right, so use it as a chance to assess whether you’re giving too much or too little bone. Stools should be firm, sometimes with a bit of white chalkiness in parts. If the stool is all white and chalky, it is a sign you’re giving a bit too much bone. Simply cut back on the amount over a few days and monitor the stools until they go back to a firm but less chalky consistency.
Related Doggiedom blogs:
You can read more about how to apply these principle in the following blog entries: Basic Principles of Feeding Raw, No bones about it, Should my dog eat vegetables and fruit?, How to serve vegetables and fruits to your dog, Offally good for your dog, Basic raw meat recipe for your dog.
Here’s some resources that I have found useful in shaping my views on this topic….
- Billinghurst, I DVM (1993), Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs for a Long Healthy Life, Ian Billinghurst, Australia.
- Brown, S (2010), Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet, Dogwise, USA.
- Böhm, S (2011), Raw Food Diet for Dogs, Cadmos Books, UK.
- Dogs Naturally Magazine, Bone and Food Values For Raw Feeding Dogs (https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/bone-food-values-for-raw-feeding-dogs/)
- MacDonald, C (2004), Raw Dog Food – Make It Easy For You and Your Dog, DogWise, USA.
- Middle, C Dr (2008), Real Food for Dogs and Cats, Fremantle Press, Australia.
- Schultze, K (1998), Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats, Hay House Inc, USA.
- Taylor, B & Becker, K DVM (2009), Dr Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats, Natural Pet Productions, USA.