As Boxer Dog parents want the absolute best for our best friends to ensure they live healthy, happy, and active lives. The first step in achieving that goal is feeding your dog a balanced, nutritious diet. Historically, dry dog kibble and canned dog food were the only choices on the market. But over the years, raw food options have become increasingly available.
But what are the benefits of RAW feeding for dogs?
The thought of feeding raw food tends to divide us Boxer parents into two groups.
Either it strikes you as a proper fit for your Boxer and in line with a wolf to dog evolution or it freaks you out to think of your beloved pooch eating raw chicken.
Regardless of your point of view, raw feeding for dogs is the fastest growing sector of the pet food market.
Now… I don’t want this article to be an advocacy push for raw feeding your boxer. I want it to help those who are exploring the option of a raw diet for their dogs.
I do, however, want to highlight one thing I’ve learnt about dry kibble and canned food.
Historically, dry dog kibble and canned dog food were the only choices on the market to feed you Boxer. But as we stand to understand ingredients in our best friends diet we start to see wide-eyed in shock at some of the unnecessary and harmful additives which build up the bulk of the meal.
Due to the unbalance of additives to dry kibbles and canned food, over the years, raw feeding for dogs has become much more popular and options have become increasingly available.
Let’s take for example that beef dinner kibble dry mix, that beautiful green biscuit which represents a pea, or the red kibble for beef and the orange which is for a carrot. Those are coloured using Red40, Yellow5 and Blue2… Wet Paint!
That’s right, they spray your dog’s food with paint to make it look good to us humans. And those pork, chicken, beefy, flavours. They are just that… flavours. In fact, a recent study shows that the percentage of actual meat in some kibbles and canned food is virtually zero.
I’d be here all day if I tried to explain it all, but watching this video will help you understand more.
Actually, it was after watching this video that we decided it was time to switch to RAW feeding for dogs.
Now, this was a decision we never took lightly. Bentley was already on a high-quality grain-free hyper-allergic kibble, yet, after reading the ingredients, even the best kibble in the world has things that are not needed in your Boxer’s diet.
Now, I understand that RAW feeding for dogs is probably new to you and may sound slightly odd, perhaps even a little unpleasant. However, the transition has been very easy and the benefits are been reaped daily for a healthier, fitter and allergy-free Boxer.
Anyways, Let’s take a closer look at RAW feeding for dogs…
Introduction to RAW feeding for dogs
Raw feeding for dogs diets emphasises the use of uncooked proteins such as muscle and organ meat, whole or crushed bones, fruits, vegetables, raw eggs and some dairy.
Raw diets within domestic dogs are said to of started with racing greyhounds, working hounds and sledge dogs many years ago. However, in 1993, Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst proposed extending the diet to our family companions. He called this the “BARF diet” for dogs or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
The BARF dog food diet consists of feeding your Boxer raw meat, organs and bones. Commonly known as the 80:10:10 diet referring to the ratio in which these should be present in the diet… 80% meat, 10% organ meat and 10% bone. You can find out more here.
Billinghurst suggested dogs would flourish on BARF dog food since this is how they ate prior to being domesticated.
The Principles of a Raw feeding for dogs
Raw feeding for dogs is based on what is believed to be the evolutionary feeding habits of wolves. Wolves are the nearest relative and evolutionary ancestor to our domestic Boxer dogs. In fact, it is from the wolf that every single dog breed has evolved from.
Studies show that wolves were not just hunters but also heavy scavengers who preyed on a wide variety of meat, and wherever available, fish and seafood. They ate whole carcasses, organ meats and whatever was in the prey’s stomach; be it partially fermented grass, fruits, and even at times vegetables. There was also plenty of fur and cartilage, which acted as a high fibre source. During certain periods of the year and depending on availability, wolves even scavenge some berries fallen from bushes and trees.
Of course, our Boxer dogs have evolved away from wolves in they have changed in looks and colour, adapted and generally moved on genetically. Domestic dogs also sleep in our homes and have easier lives on the whole.
We know that domestic dogs have ever so slightly more amylase, the digestive enzyme responsible for carbohydrate digestion, than wolves. Dogs can, therefore, tolerate some carbohydrates and sugar; hence the inclusion of some fruits and vegetables in a raw diet.
Yet, from scientific research, we know that biological evolution often lags behind advances in the environment. It adapts or it dies. What we now understand is that processed kibbles and canned foods are high in sugar, heavy in carbohydrates and laden with DNA damaging oxidised fat. The commercial dry and wet dog feeds show very little positive adaption, but instead accelerate earlier illness and shorter lives. In short, An inappropriate diet can affect your dog’s blood sugar, create inflammation and lead to health issues.
Advocates of raw feeding attribute the rapid rise of dog cancer and early-onset autoimmune disease to the mainstream canned and dry food and chemicals which dogs have been increasingly exposed to over the years.
Just like with ourselves, we want our dogs to experience health, longevity and vibrant energy. By feeding our beloved Boxers a diet they have evolved to eat, most of the mainstream health issues dogs experience, and the common illnesses, such as allergies in Boxers, seem to be miraculously disappearing or drastically reducing.
It’s exactly the same in the human world, where the ‘Latest Famous Diet’ sweeps across social media.
Take for example the Paleo Diet. It encourages humans to eat an ‘evolutionary template of foods’… Of course, your personal health requirements need to be taken into account, but the health benefits of not eating processed ‘man-made’ foods are proven.
It’s no different for our Boxers.
If you feed your dog a diet it has not evolved to eat, they will find the food more difficult to digest. So why should we be surprised to hear that feeding dogs newly invented, processed food which is high in sugar, carbohydrate and rancid fats is remotely healthy or helpful?
What is a RAW diet?
As we touched on above, raw feeding for dogs consists of feeding 80% meat, 10% organ meat and 10% bone.
However, by just feeding raw meat does not mean you are feeding a correct or balanced raw diet.
A raw diet must have variety, you should never feed just minced chicken or beef on it own, and the correct percentages of meat, bone, and organ, plus a few extras such as veggies or supplements may be needed.
An unbalanced diet will do more harm than good in the long run, especially for growing Boxer puppies.
One of the most popular and easiest ways to aim for a balanced diet is to follow the 80:10:10 guideline:
80% meat/fish/eggs/veggies/etc, 10% bone, 10% organ.
Offering a variety of different protein sources will also help provide a balanced diet too. Effectively feeding different types of meat, poultry, or fish contributes to different nutrients you Boxer requires. The more nutrient requirements we can put into a raw feeding for dogs diet as possible the healthier or furbabies will be.
How can we build a balanced RAW diet?
Meat Proteins & Raw meaty bones
You may think we’re referring to products such as boiled beef knuckles and marrow bones that you can buy at the local pet shop and supermarkets when we mention bones in terms of dog food.
However, when it comes to raw feeding for dogs, we’re talking about edible raw bones with meat on it. For example, chicken leg quarters, turkey necks, duck wings, chicken backs, whole rabbit, lamb ribs, etc. that are appropriately sized for your dog.
If your dog can’t or won’t eat whole bones, you can use minced meat and chunks as an alternative. Many RAW diets actually grind the meaty raw bones into a mince type texture making it super easy for your dog to eat.
However, if you do use clean meat chunks or mince, you do need to provide an alternate source of calcium. You can do this by supplementing the diet with bone meal, eggshell, or a calcium supplement. Bone also contains phosphorus and magnesium, so you may need to supplement more than just calcium if your Boxer is not feeding on the ground or whole bone.
Ideally, adult dogs require around 1100 mg of calcium per 1lb of food so bones in some capacity (whole, ground, or bone meal) are providethe easiest way to raw feed for dogs with balanced minerals in the diet.
Ideally, half of the organ content in a Raw diet should be liver, the rest should be other secreting organs such as kidney or spleen.
We need to remember that Heart, tongue, gizzards etc. are muscular organs, and during a raw diet are part of the 80% meat protein part.
Secreting organs like liver, kidney, and spleen are extremely nutrient-dense; they act as powerful multivitamins part of the diet. Without them, the diet will be deficient in and many minerals and vitamin A.
Omega-3s are low in almost every raw diet without fish or fish oil.
We can help boost Omega-3 by including oily fish in the diet. As a guide, work out how much your dog should eat per day, and feed that amount in fish per week.
In other words, that means fish will make up about 15% of your Boxers weekly diet. Fish can be fed every day or a couple of times a week. Choose fish with high omega 3s and low mercury content, like sardines, herring, smelt, or capelin. Dried smelt also works as a great training treat and can help with raising Omega-3 levels.
Fish oil is another great alternative to boost Omega-3s within a raw diet. Due to the oxidising nature of fish oil, store any oils in the fridge and feed it alongside an antioxidant like vitamin E.
Microminerals & fibre
Iodine and manganese and are some microminerals that oftentimes fall short in prey model diets. By adding Kelp to a raw diet is a great way to include iodine, while green tripe, mussels, or a manganese supplement will help boost manganese.
Feeding fruits and veggies in moderation are beneficial, too. They can provide some of the nutrients that the prey model lacks, plus fibre and prebiotics for healthy digestive function.
Leafy greens like kale, chard, broccoli, parsley and spinach should be the main focus, while pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, green beans, bananas, or blueberries are also some of Bentley’s favourites.
Another great source of fibre, along with releasing enzymes for digestion is through chewing Deer Antler. We found it hard to find a viable ethical solution but eventually came across the Stagler brand. All their products come from free-running wild Spanish deer, Eco-sustainable dropped annually & re-grown every year, unlike the commercially available antlers from shot deer.
Every unsupplemented raw diet is deficient in vitamin E because vitamin E is not found in significant levels in meat.
That means adding a vitamin E supplement is a good idea. Dogs need 1 to 2 IU of vitamin E per pound of body weight per day.
Wheat germ oil or sunflower oil are great sources of vitamin E, or you could use a supplement like Solgar vitamin E.
Say no to Multivitamins
Although there are many multivitamin supplements on the market, many of these supplements contain things like vitamin A and calcium, which is already adequately supplied by the organ and bone percentage of a raw diet and adding extra could be potentially dangerous.
Multivitamins also don’t usually contain a significant amount of most nutrients, so they hardly scratch the surface of any deficiencies in a lacking diet.
Balancing a raw diet slowly
You may see this phrase a lot while reading about raw.
All this means is that every meal does not have to be perfectly balanced – instead, you can balance the diet to the correct percentages over a couple of days or so. Of course, if you want to include the exact amount of meat, bone, and organ in each meal, that is perfectly fine as well.
Benefits of a RAW diet for Boxers
Raw feeding for dogs and the BARF diet concept is simply about your dog eating naturally. As we touched on earlier, humans domesticated dogs, but that doesn’t mean they have evolved internally to eat processed food.
The stomach pH in dogs is lower than us meaning they can easily break down raw meat and bones. From wild wolf to domesticated dog, anatomically they are the same and their teeth and bodies are designed to chew, digest and thrive on a diet of raw meat and bones!
But as Boxers parents, we also know that our beloved breed is prone to many little niggles. Allergies are a common trait, and with Bentley, the list is almost endless.
Lamb, Duck, Grains, White Fish and even Meadow Grass meant Bentley had reactions to many every day environmental and food allergies. Like many Boxer owners, we hated to see him suffer from sore itchy feet and ears. Although he would be having Lab developed antihistamines ever two months, the pinkness would remain present.
Then we started looking at his diet and the ingredients.
When we first picked Bentley up from his already loving home, arranged by Buddy’s Boxer Rescue, he was been fed on a mix of canned Chappie and dry kibble. Chappie dog food has been around for more than 70 years and has been a firm favourite with many dog owners. But it contains just 20% protein, of which the majority was White Fish.
The rest of the ingredients did not look too pretty for his allergies either – Carbohydrate 58%, Fat 7.0%, Moisture 8.5%, Fibre 4.0%, Magnesium 0.18%, Sodium 0.45%, Calcium 1.38%, and finally Phosphorus – a highly reactive chemical element with an atomic number.
We initially changed his diet then to Dr John HyperAllergic. A completely grain-free kibble formulated for sporting and working dogs that require a sensitive diet or those dogs that have difficulty in digesting cereals.
They advertise that formulation is built upon an excellent chicken base of 50%. This contributes to the protein level of 25% and an oils and fats level of 10.5%, as well as chicken and potato, the recipe contains vegetables and gravy.
However, in reality, the composition is Poultry meal (not real chicken), potato starch, dried Peas, chicken fat, chicken gravy and beet pulp. Not exactly a real meat and potato meal.
Now don’t get me wrong as far as dried kibble goes, Dr John HyperAllergic is the best we could find on the market for Bentley. But it still was not perfect for a dog with allergies and a sensitive stomach – as many Boxer dogs experience.
It was then when we decided, after weeks of research, that raw feeding for dogs was the way for us to ensure Bentley had the best diet for his circumstances.
Benefits we’ve experienced from raw feeding for dogs
There are huge lists of benefits found online about raw feeding for dogs, such as
- Fresher breath, cleaner whiter teeth
- Healthier skin
- Weight management
- Improved appetite
- Reduced stools
- Solid stools
- Stable energy levels
- Improved digestion
- Glossy coat
- Boosted immune system
- Reduction of allergies and intolerances
- Less itching and licking
- Anal gland function
- Less flatulence
However, we wanted to share with you OUR experience with Bentley and how raw feeding for dogs may help with your Boxers little niggles.
The first thing we noticed really was, smaller, solid and reduced amount of stools. We now clean 1-2 small firm stools per day instead of 4-6 mountains. This only showed how much food was been wasted nutritionally by our Boxer.
Bentley’s breath is fresher, he hardly farts and his dry skin has cleared up and his energy levels are stable. His muscle build-up is rapidly boosting too, which was important after tearing his crucial ligament in 2019 and was unable to exercise for a while.
Appetite has also improved. Bentley was a grazer but now he loves his Raw meals and eats his 250g meal in one sitting, which is helping with digestion too.
However, finally, yet most importantly, The pinkness from his ears and paw pads has disappeared along with any soreness, meaning, less itching or licking. His allergies are slowly reducing and we have been recommended by the VET to have a retest to see if there is any change. We suspect there has been and a Duck Neck treat saw no reaction.
The environmental allergies may not change, however, we have been walking during the Corvid-19 lockdown over meadow fields and not of the signs have flared.
All in all, Bentley is a healthier Boxer thanks to Raw feeding for dogs.
Ready to try RAW feeding for dogs
When you’re ready to switch or join the #RAWbellion as we say, it is recommended to start with a more bland protein choice your Boxer loves – usually, chicken, turkey, or rabbit can be good starting points. Red meat, although full of hearty goodness for you Boxer, can be rich and therefore could cause digestive upset during the switch.
For the first few days, it’s recommended that you remove the skin and excess fat while you do any transitions from a none raw feeding for dogs diets, such as kibble or canned dog food.
Remember, with when raw feeding for dogs, all meat being fed should contain less than 100mg of sodium per serving, and it should not be flavoured, seasoned, smoked, or cooked.
Slow transition or go cold turkey
Although some recommend you switch to a raw diet “cold turkey” (current food one day, raw the next), and that seems to work for many Boxers, including Bentley, you should also consider transitioning slowly by introducing raw meat in small amounts and gradually increasing the raw until they are completely weaned off of their previous diet.
If your pet has a sensitive stomach, or if they are picky, a slower transition is going to be the most successful way for your dog. Every Boxer is different, and you will know which method will work best for you and your dog.
During a gradual transition, it is generally easiest to find a premade raw food that can easily be mixed into the current diet without worrying about feeding too much or too little bone or organ.
How much do I feed?
The general guideline is to feed 2 to 3% of your pet’s ideal adult body weightdaily.
That said, if your Boxer is overweight, you should calculate the food based on their ideal weight, not their current weight. Remember that every Boxer is different, and some will need more or less than others depending on things such as energy level, amount of exercise, metabolism, and even genetics.
As a guide Bentley’s ideal feeding weight is 750g per day for his weight, however, due to his activity levels, he requires around 850g per day including any treats he receives.
Remember puppies should eat multiple meals a day. Two meals a day is sufficient for an adult dog, but for growing puppies, three to four meals a day would be optimal.
Pay attention. You know your Boxer best.
As we said above, every Boxer is an individual, and one may have different requirements than the next.
You know your dog better than anybody else.
The easiest way to keep an eye on how your Boxer is transitioning to raw feeding for dogs is to check their stools, and take note if it is too loose or if they seem constipated.
Keep in mind, though, that raw fed stools are very different than kibble fed. Stools from a raw diet will be a lot smaller, and less frequent. Bentley went from 3-4 poops a day down to 1 or 2.
Commonly, stools may turn white and crumble away if it is left in the garden for a couple of hours. However, it should never come out white, but rather turn white over time. If it comes out white, that is typically an indication of too much bone content. On the other hand, dark almost black stools is a sign you might have introduced too much organ meat or red meat too quickly.
Final RAW feeding for dogs thoughts
Changing to a RAW feeding for dogs diet is much easier, cleaner and cheaper than you may of first thought.
For us, it took a lot of time and research on deciding to feed a raw diet, but Bentley is much healthier, his stools are much smaller and his allergies are slowly subsiding.
We just hope the information in the article can help you.
Continue to do as much research as you can, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions in groups such as the Raw Feeding Community Facebook group or speak to raw feeding for dogs companies such as ProDog Raw.