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Raw Feeding FAQs

About Raw Food

  • What is Natural Instinct?

    Natural Instinct is Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (“BARF”) for dogs and cats providing a balanced nutritional and delicious diet. Our recipes are packed full of the highest quality, fresh produce. Ingredients range from a wide variety of human grade 100% British raw meats with bone and offal to a selection of fresh vegetables. Natural supplements are also included packed full of additional vitamins, anti-oxidants and nutrients such as sea kelp, Scottish salmon oil and spinach.

  • Is a raw diet more expensive?
    It costs about £1.50 per day to feed a 25kg dog*. With a healthier pet, trips to the vet will be reduced too. (*based on Natural Chicken as at February 2015)
  • Can my dog get worms from raw food?
    A sense of perspective should be retained; your dog is far more likely to acquire worms at the park checking out the pit-stops of other dogs. Our foods are frozen at very low temperatures to ensure any worms or Oocytes no matter how unlikely to be present, would be killed at these low temperatures.
  • Are bones dangerous for my dog to eat?

    The simple answer is no, provided they haven’t been cooked first. You should never feed your dog cooked bones as this makes them brittle and therefore sharp which potentially could cause serious damage to the gut. Dogs need to learn how to chew bones. Chewing on raw bones also helps to clean a dog’s teeth. It is important when giving your dog anything to chew that you select an appropriate sized bone according to the size of your dog. You must supervise your dog to ensure no problems occur. Do not allow your dog to eat bones which have dried out as these can also splinter like cooked bones and become dangerous.

     

    When feeding bones, remember the three S's


    Supervise - Always supervise your pet when feeding bones.

    Separate - If you have a multi-dog household separate them when feeding bones to avoid fights.

    Size - You may initially have to teach your pet to eat bones, especially if they like to gulp   their food. Start with a bone larger than the size of your pet’s head to ensure it can’t   be swallowed e.g. a cow femur (knuckle end) for giant breeds.


Food Preparation & Handling

  • How should I handle Natural Instinct foods?
    As with handling any raw meat and before you touch anything else, you should ensure that your hands are washed with soap and water. Clean any juice spills to ensure safety for both you and your pets. Do not allow cross-contamination between surfaces of Natural Instinct foods and cooked meats. Always make sure that your pet's bowl is washed clean before and after each meal.
  • Do I need to cook Natural Instinct before I feed it to my pet?
    No! Natural Instinct raw food should be served raw, as nature intended, preventing the loss of nutrients. Further more, cooking the food means you will be cooking the bone contained in the recipe, which even though it has been ground and minced, may cause even small fragments to become brittle or sharp.
  • Can Natural Instinct be re-frozen?
    Your Natural Instinct order should arrive frozen. If the food has partially defrosted by the time you are ready to put it in the freezer, you can refreeze it safely. However, if it has reached room temperature it will keep fresh in a fridge for 2-3 days. You should store your Natural Instinct food just like you would keep food purchased from a supermarket.

    Always remember that raw meats should be stored at the bottom of the fridge.
  • How long will Natural Instinct keep?
    If frozen, Natural Instinct will keep for 9 months. Once defrosted we do not recommend keeping it for more than four days in your fridge (with exception to Country Banquet Fish for dogs, Country Banquet Fish for cats and Puppy & Kitten Weaning Paste). Remember all our food is made from fresh ingredients, so if it smells good enough for you to eat, it is good enough for your dogs and cats! You would not eat bad meat and neither should your pet.
  • How do I introduce treats & bones?

    For any dog or cat that has never eaten raw meat before, we recommend allowing a month to adjust to their new diet before introducing any additional bones.

    The reason for this is to allow the gut to stabilise and adapt to handling the breakdown of bone in their new raw meat and bone diet. Excessive bone in their diet can lead to constipation.

    Dogs must learn how to chew bones. When introducing a bone to an adult dog that has never learnt how to handle carcasses it is better to give a bone with sinew and fascia attached in larger pieces that cannot be swallowed whole e.g. play bones. The dogs learn to use their back crushing teeth to break down the bone before swallowing. We advise avoiding small chicken wings for larger dogs until they have learnt to handle bone correctly to avoid them attempting to swallow the bones whole.

     

    When feeding bones, remember the three S's


    Supervise - Always supervise your pet when feeding bones.

    Separate - If you have a multi-dog household separate them when feeding bones to avoid fights.

    Size - You may initially have to teach your pet to eat bones, especially if they like to gulp   their food. Start with a bone larger than the size of your pet’s head to ensure it can’t   be swallowed e.g. a cow femur (knuckle end) for giant breeds.

Transition to Raw

  • Why do I need to transition my pet onto the raw diet?
    The transition for either a dog or cat to Natural Instinct raw diet should be a gradual, phased transition spanning between 7-10 days. Not only is this important for the wellbeing of your pet, it will help to avoid periods of excessive wind, diarrhea or constipation.
  • What's the science behind this?

    Below are some explanations as to why a gradual transition is recommended:

    • The enzymes required to break down a high protein, raw meat and bone diet differ to those required to break down a high carbohydrate processed diet (such as kibble). The pancreas has to adapt to both the amount and type of enzymes that it produces when the diet is changed from one to the other.
    • The gut flora is different for dogs and cats fed on a predominantly meat and bone diet, compared to a high starch and carbohydrate based diet. It takes several weeks for the gut flora to re-stabilise following a major diet change. These gut bacteria are responsible for the production of certain key nutrients and are also responsible for the production of gas in the bowel.
    • The PH of the stomach is generally higher (more alkaline) in dogs and cats that are fed on a high carbohydrate processed diet compared with dogs and cats fed on a predominantly raw meat, high protein diet, which results in a strong acid stomach.
    • It is not only the process, but also the speed in which the food types are digested which also differ considerably. Raw meat and bone is digested a lot faster compared with processed food, which is high in carbohydrates.
  • How do I transition to Natural Instinct?

    Introduction to raw

    Initially start your dog on one protein source for a three week period. This allows your dog’s digestive system to adapt and makes it easier to spot if your dog has a particular intolerance to a certain protein. Ensure over time you introduce a range of different proteins to your dog to maintain variety in their diet.


    Easing your pet in to a high protein raw meat and bone diet is easy and convenient. Simply follow the steps below:

    • Day 1 - Substitute a spoonful of kibble (or high carbohydrate, wet processed food) for a spoonful of raw diet. The spoon size will depend on the size of dog or cat. For example, a teaspoon for a toy breed dog and a tablespoon for a large breed dog.
    • Day 2 Onwards - Each subsequent day substitute slightly more of the diet until full transition is achieved.

    Things worth noting;

    • If your pet has a loose stool at any stage, we recommend reducing the amount of raw food for three days to stabilise the stool prior returning to increasing the raw food levels. If your pet is elderly or dealing with any complex chronic disease e.g. end stage cancers, animals on antacids or high levels of immune-suppressive drug therapy, then we would recommend you get expert help prior to beginning the transition to a raw diet.
    • For the first month of feeding raw, digestive enzymes and probiotics can be added to the diet for dogs or cats that have any dietary issues or that have been prone to diarrhoea or constipation. Natural Instinct's Zoolac Propaste can be used for this.
  • Should I feed kibble as well as raw food?

    We do not advocate feeding pets a diet of both raw food and processed kibble on an ongoing basis. This is due to the differing ways and speed the diets are digested (see above), which in turn will compromise your pet’s digestion. If you feed a high carbohydrate food (kibble) alongside a high protein diet, any excess calories will be readily converted to fat and thus can lead to obesity.


    Kibble is not necessary in either a cat’s or dog’s diet. In nature both dogs and cats get variety in the texture of their food components and have a means of maintaining healthier teeth. This variety in texture is not however achieved with starchy, grain based kibble, but with crunching and chewing on raw meaty bones, as nature intended.

  • Help! How can I transition my fussy cat to Natural Instinct?

    When dealing with a dog, generally speaking, the switch in diet is easier as our canine companions will, nine times out of ten, eat whatever you put in front of them. Our feline friends however, tend to be slightly fussier about changing food.

    • If you free feed your cat dry food, stop! This does not necessarily mean you need to stop feeding dry with immediate effect, but certainly pick up the bowl so your cat can’t eat it whenever they feel like it.
    • Dried kibble/nuggets differ massively in taste and texture to a raw diet. It is advisable to switch to canned food as a very short interim step. This will get your cat accustom to a meatier consistency to their meals. Try feeding half of their normal dry food with half tinned, then gradually reduce the amount of dried kibble over a few days.
    • When you have weaned your cat onto a wet diet, apply the same principles when converting to raw. Feed half and half and gradually reduce the amount of tinned food over the course of a few days.
    • Never starve a cat to encourage them to eat. Whilst dogs are fine to skip meals, cats must eat regularly in order to avoid hepatic lipidosis, a severe and sometimes fatal liver impairment.
    • Go at your cat’s pace. Do not be afraid to back track a step or two if it means your cat will eat.
    • Bribe your cat! We would recommend using our chicken wing tips and placing them on the cat’s regular food so that the cat begins to associate the smell of the chicken with its regular food. Then gradually add the raw – it’s all about the smell association!
    • Cats tend to ‘imprint’ on their food and recognise their favourites by sight and smell. It is important to shop for variety from the offset so that you can find your cat’s favorite meal.
    • Most importantly, exercise a little patience. A change of diet is not something that happens overnight. Persevere, and your cat will thank you in the long run.
  • My dog seems hungrier on the food, how should I manage this?

    For some dogs who have been on a high carbohydrate diet for a long time, if the switch over to a higher protein low carbohydrate diet is made too quickly they can initially appear hungry as their bodies have been adapted to carbohydrate as the main source of instant calories. Adding a small amount of additional carbohydrate initially in the form of for example sweet potato. Soluble fibre foods can also help by making your dog feel fuller, the addition of slices of butternut squash, a few carrot sticks between meals can help to bridge this gap (Avoid adding grain based carbs such as rice or pasta). In addition many kibbles will have been fed in a relatively large volumes compared to a raw diet to provide the same number of calories and again in the early days of converting your dog to raw food feeding the smaller volume can leave some dogs not feeling full enough. This is where feeding raw bones (once the dog has settled on raw food) can keep them occupied and help bridge this gap while the stomach volume adapts.


    It is important to be careful at this point, that you are not misinterpreting a dog who now relishes his food as hunger. With many kibble diets dogs do not rush to the bowl and eat with relish unless there is a lot of feeding competition from other dogs. This can be very different when feeding dogs a high quality raw natural diet. A dog wanting the food without having to be tempted with a little bit of this and that is what we all want for our dogs. Make sure you monitor your dogs weight in the early months of feeding raw, to be sure that you have the amount right (note the feeding guides are simply guides and amounts fed are dependent on numerous factors). Most importantly enjoy seeing your dog loving his food!

Health & Nutrition

  • My dog is obese - what should I do?
    Obesity is a serious and growing problem in pet dogs in the UK. Good nutrition and plenty of appropriate exercise is the key to keeping you and your dogs fit and healthy. Natural Instinct raw food contains no grains and the carbohydrates in the food are in the form of vegetables that also provide fibre in the diet. By avoiding rapidly metabolised and easily stored carbohydrates such as rice, maize and potato in the diet it already helps you to feed a satisfying amount of food without your dog gaining weight. However, it is still important to avoid overfeeding. We recommend feeding your adult dog 2-3 % of their ideal adult body weight daily but remember that different dogs can have a different metabolic rate and the amount of food needed also changes with the amount of exercise your dog has. Feeding guides are just that i.e. a place to start, so it is important to monitor your dog’s weight and condition and adjust the amount you feed accordingly.

    Remember also that different recipes contain different levels of fat. If your dog does tend towards gaining weight we would recommend using the lower fat varieties e.g. turkey and/or tripe; all the levels are clearly marked on the pack labels. In winter it is tempting to stay indoors; you and your dogs will feel so much better if you keep up the exercise, no matter how cold it gets!
  • My dog has numerous allergies, can I feed raw?

    There is no reason why any dog with allergies cannot be fed raw. In fact feeding a human grade, unprocessed single protein, grain free diet can benefit many dogs with allergy that presents either with skin disease and/or gut upset. Allergy is one of the most common issues dealt with in small animal practice and the diet is normally one of the first things addressed by vets.


    It is important in these cases to determine as far as is possible what your dog is allergic to, remembering that tests are only as good as what they are testing for! There are now good blood tests available for environmental and food allergy plus a saliva test for food allergy. Your vet will be able to help advise you about these tests. Where food sensitivity and/or allergy is involved then it is important to avoid any foods that have shown a strong positive reading in the tests. As Natural Instinct uses named protein and carbohydrate sources and has the Pure Range for the super sensitive animals, it is easy to find a diet that will suit your dog or cat. The recipes are all grain free and there is lots of evidence from years of testing that many food allergic dogs have sensitivity to grain.


    If your dog is already on high levels of immunosuppressant medication such as steroids or cyclosporine care must be taken during any transition period onto raw as your dogs gut level immunity will have been compromised. We are happy to help advise you how best to transition across from other food types.

  • My dog has runny stools and my vet wants to put him on a special formulated dry food. Would your food be an alternative option and help?

    There are many different reasons why a dog might have runny stools ranging from infections to dietary sensitivities and as a symptom of disease elsewhere in the body. The first step is to rule out some simple things first and of course the more severe the runny stool is (diarrhoea), the more important it is to have your vet check a stool sample from your dog. Stool sample checks will pick up anything like parasites and infections such as campylobacter or salmonella. Very serious cases will also need other tests such as blood tests, but your vet will advise you regarding these.


    Many cases of diarrhoea are simply caused by dietary issues and transitioning them onto a simple unprocessed food with no grains, artificial colourants or additives such as Natural Instinct can be a perfectly good alternative to a formulated dry diet. We would initially recommend selecting a lower fat variety such as Turkey and using a protein that is different from the one usually present in your dog's current food. New diets should be introduced slowly over several days otherwise loose stools might be temporarily worsened. Using a probiotic and digestive enzymes can help animals through transition and can help the loose stool itself.


    For dogs with very sensitive bowels we would suggest to start with the Pure Range where only one protein is present and initially then add for example sweet potato to test the dogs reactivity to different vegetables and carbohydrates. Break the daily feeding amount into 3-4 smaller meals if your dog has been very poorly so not to over stress the gut load.” Transitioning dogs should be introduced to one protein at a time over a three week period to ensure the dog has no intolerances to a particular protein. We are happy to help pet owners when making these choices.

  • How much should I feed my dog or puppy?

    Variable factors like lifestyle, appetite and temperament can all impact on a pet’s eventual weight, which is why there's no substitute for knowing one's pet. We recommend that a healthy dog should have a natural waist and that you should be able to feel (but not see) its ribcage.


    As a rule of thumb, an adult dog should eat around 2-3% of its ideal body weight per day (e.g. a 10kg dog should eat roughly 200g of food per day).


    Following on from our Weaning Paste, at about 8 weeks of age puppies will need approximately 5-6% of their body weight per day, spread across 3-4 meals. This will be required until the puppy reaches around 6 months of age. At this point you may wish to reduce the number of meals to two, until they have reached maturity and are well placed to switch to the recommended adult diet.


    For further help, try our food calculator in the left hand column of this page.

  • How much should I feed my cat or kitten?

    As a rough rule of paw we would suggest that your adult cat receives 2-3% of its body weight in food per day. It is important to weigh your cat regularly and make any necessary adjustments should your cat begin to lose or gain weight.


    Many pet shops (including our own store in Camberley) and most veterinary surgeries provide easy access to electronic scales. Further, many weight by breed wall charts can be found in veterinary surgeries. These charts provide useful indicators as to whether your pet is either in peak condition or has been over-indulged.


    Kittens need to be fed little and often. Feed your kitten around 4 times per day and let them eat as much as they want.


    When a kitten reaches 5-6 months in age, this can drop to 2 meals per day, totalling 4-5% of their body weight.

  • What is purging?
    Sometimes when dogs initially switch to raw, you may notice they vomit a small amount of white foam or yellow bile most often in the mornings, this can be quite common as your dogs digestive tract adapts to processing a higher protein, lower carbohydrate diet. It is often more commonly seen in dogs that have previously been on a kibble diet. We recommend supporting your pets digestive system with Zoolac paste, and temporarily feeding a little food to your pet before it goes to bed to help your pets system adapt to its change in diet. If you see continuous sickness or you see other health issues please consult your vet.
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