How to Formulate Balanced Raw Food Recipes for Dogs (2024)

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How to Formulate Balanced Raw Food Recipes for Dogs (1)

With the rapid growth of the raw feeding, we're seeing many people offering meal formulation services where they provide balanced recipes for dogs. I was tempted to do the same last year and invested $600 (yeah, you read that right) of my money into a meal formulation program. However, a few hiccups and delays gave me the time to rethink this plan, and I changed my mind. Meal formulation for dogs is something that professionals should do.

What (or Who) is a Meal Formulator?

A meal formulator is a person who creates balanced recipes for dogs that are based on your dog's nutritional needs, food intolerances, and any health issues. For instance, I can have someone create a few balanced recipes for Rodrigo that consider protein sensitivities and his history of digestive issues.

When it comes to meal formulation, raw feeders have two options:

  • Invest in a software program to help you create balanced pet recipes.
  • Hire a meal formulator who can create the recipes for your dog.

There are two meal formulation software programs that I know about, and I've tried both:

I primarily use ADF when formulating diets because I paid a lot of money for it, but I also want to learn how to use PDF.

Why both?

I had both programs because, for a while, ADF was too buggy and frustrating to use, so I thought I'd start with PDF, which is very affordable at $20/year. In the end, I decided that I'm going to cancel my Pet Diet Designer plan and stick with Animal Diet Formulator. With the recent ADF upgrade, I love this program.

Read my review of the Animal Diet Formulator program.

Are We Making Raw Feeding too Complicated?

I began feeding raw in 2013. A few years into this diet, I cut back on the supplements I add to my dogs' meals and limited the number of proteins I fed to what I could afford and what my dogs could eat. I used to spend all day doing meal prep; now, I spend an hour or two once or twice a month making food for multiple dogs.

How to Formulate Balanced Raw Food Recipes for Dogs (2)

I do think that we are making raw feeding more complicated and, in some ways, it feels like it's necessary – at least it was for me because I made the incorrect assumption that a balanced raw diet was easily accomplished by feeding 80/10/10 while alternating a variety of proteins in my dogs' diet. The problem with my logic is that I could easily be missing key nutrients my dogs need and not realize it. Tracking their nutrients and using meal formulation programs helped me see this and changed my approach to feeding my dogs.

This isn't a change everyone needs to make; it's a change that works for me.

I don't spend a ton of time formulating meals for my dogs. Instead, I use my spreadsheet and the programs to better understand my dogs' needs. I choose to use a base mix with an 80/10/10 blend that I make, and by alternating proteins weekly, I am balancing my dogs' diet over time. I confirm this through ParsleyPet, a nutritional testing service.

Of course, not everyone will want to take the steps that I'm taking, which has created an opportunity for a new business where people create recipes for dogs, making raw feeding easier.

Choosing the Right Person to Create Recipes for Your Dog

Did you know that a professional meal formulator who works for raw food brands makes $300/hour or more? This tells me that this is a very specialized profession, and the people who do this for a living clearly understand how to build a diet for all life stages of a dog.

Although I have a program that formulates meals, I don't have the experience and education necessary to formulate the right meals for every dog. If a dog has health issues, like a history of pancreatitis, hypothyroidism, or cancer, I have no idea what changes I need to make to the diet to address these health issues.

So, if I were to choose someone to formulate meals for my dogs, I would want someone who has experience in creating a balanced meal using ingredients that I can source affordably. I would also work with someone who can adjust the meal to meet my dog's needs.

Ideally, I would want to work with someone with a background in animal nutrition. However, I think we've all met people in our community who have gone above and beyond in educating themselves by obtaining legit certification in animal nutrition.

Are You Looking for Someone to Create Recipes for Your Dog?

There's nothing wrong with wanting to feed your dog a balanced meal. When I started feeding raw, I began with Darwin's Pet, a local company that ships raw meals for pets nationwide. I was able to feed my dogs a balanced diet that met their nutritional needs while I took the time to learn how to make their meals myself.

What is Balance?

Whenever I write about balancing a dog's meal, I feel the collective eye roll because, once again, we're making raw feeding more complicated than it needs to be. I know that what “balance” is for one dog isn't the same for others. And who decides what balance is for our dogs? AAFCO, the NRC manual, veterinarians with limited education in animal nutrition (according to rumors)? I have no idea. But what I do know is that we're all trying to do the best we can with the information we have, and nutritional deficiency is something we want to avoid with our dogs.

Meal Formulation Consultants I Recommend

That being said, if you're looking for someone to help you with a few recipes to get you and your dog started on the path to eating a fresh food diet, check out my list of professional canine nutritionists, including the following animal lovers.

Dr. Erika Halle, DVM, CVA, CVSMT, CVTP, CVFT

Dr. Halle graduated from Oregon State University. She was certified in veterinary acupuncture, traditional Chinese food medicine, and Tui-na (Chinese medical massage) by the Chi Institute in Florida and veterinary spinal manipulative therapy (veterinary chiropractics) by the Healing Oasis in Wisconsin. Dr. Halle is committed to creative integrative, and complementary solutions for pet health. Dr. Halle can help you in your quest to decide what to feed your pet through a dietary consultation.

Dr. Laurie Coger, DVM of Healthy Dog Workshop

Dr. Coger is a Cornell graduate with more than 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine and raw feeding. She is also a natural rearing breeder of Australian Shepherds who works tirelessly to educate pet parents on raising dogs naturally and understanding the pet industry. Dr. Coger offers affordable 45-minute consultations and 30-minute follow-up calls through her Healthy Dog Workshop site.

Lindsay Hadfield of Clovis & Company

Lindsay Hadfield is a canine nutrition consultant who offers meal formulation services for pet parents interested in feeding their dogs a nutritious fresh food diet (raw or cooked).

Learn more here: Book this Services and Ask Questions through Facebook

Raw Feeding 101 and other Resources

If you're interested in moving towards DIY raw feeding, check out the Raw Feeding 101 online course, an easy guide that will help you transition your dog to raw with less stress, confusion, and anxiety. Scott Jay Marshall II also offers meal formulation services as well.

And, of course, please check out my books on raw feeding, currently available on Amazon, that share what I've learned about the diet as I feed my dogs a diet of fresh food:

  • A Novice's Guide to Raw Feeding for Dogs
  • 100 Questions Pet Parents Ask About Raw Feeding for Dogs

Keto Diet Formulation

And if you're interested in feeding your dog a keto diet, check out Baby Steps to Healthier Pets. Trish Woodier has a dog that has survived a cancer diagnosis thanks to what she's learned about diet, nutrition, and supplementation for dogs with cancer. She's helped me formulate a diet using ingredients I have access to, and she also helps with follow-up questions.

How to Formulate Balanced Raw Food Recipes for Dogs (3)

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How to Formulate Balanced Raw Food Recipes for Dogs (2024)
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