Updated: Jan 23
If you feed your dog a raw diet, you might be making the same mistake as everyone else …
… you’re likely getting the organ meats wrong!
And, as you’ll find out, your dog will miss out on important health benefits if you get the organ meats wrong.
So let’s take a closer look at organ meats for the raw fed dog, which ones you should feed and how much you should feed.
The two primary questions dog owners have about organ meats are:
Which organs should dogs eat?How much organ meat should dogs get?
Both are important questions, but let’s start with the amount of organ meat …
How Much Organ Meat Should Be In The Raw Diet?
Most raw feeders follow the 80-10-10 guideline … 80% muscle meat, 10% bone and 10% organ meat. They call this diet “prey model” or “species appropriate.” The assumption is that this mimics what dogs would eat in the wild if they were to eat wild prey.
But when it comes to organ meats, the assumption is wrong. Look at this …
Muscle accounts for about 50% of most wild animals, while bone would account for about 12%. Of course, this would vary with the type, sex and condition of the animal. Skin would account for about 16%.
This means most animals are about 25% organ meat by weight.
So if your goal is 10% organ meat, your dog is missing out on 15% of his diet … and it’s an important 15%. Look at this …
This table compares the vitamins in a few organ meats vs muscle meats. You can see that, across the board, organs are more nutrient dense than meats.
It’s true … the organs are Mother Nature’s multivitamins!
But there’s something else I want you to note … each organ is unique in its nutritional composition. Liver is high in retinol (or vitamin A), and folate but not all that high in niacin or vitamin E. Heart is rich in thiamin. Now let’s look at the mineral content of organ meats …
Organ meats are much richer in minerals and trace minerals than muscle meat too. And again, each organ is different. Heart and kidney are rich in zinc while liver is rich in copper.
Pound for pound, organs are much more nutritious than muscle meat. This is why most wild carnivores eat the organs first … they’re the most valuable part of the carcass.
If you feed 10% organ meat, your dog is missing out on more than half the organ meats Mother Nature wants him to eat.
So how much organ meat should your dog get? I’d say a lot more than 10% … more like 25%. But if you’re feeding more than 10% organ meat, you need a large variety of organs, not just liver.
Which leads us to question #1, “which organ meats should dogs eat?” And the simple answer is, all of them!
Which Organ Meats Should Be In The Raw Diet?
Not only are organ meats more nutritious, they carry other important health benefits. Let’s look at the brain as an example …
This table compares brain to fish. And what’s most interesting is the DHA content.
DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is an important omega-3 fatty acid that fights inflammation. Most dog owners add fish oil to their dogs’ meals because it’s super rich in DHA. Not only is brain much richer in minerals than fish, it contains nearly as much DHA.
Did you catch that?
If you fed your dog all the organs in the animal, you wouldn’t have to supplement with fish oil. You wouldn’t need to fill those nutritional gaps with a heated and processed product.
DHA is also super important for brain health. Its presence in the diet can make puppies smarter and improve cognition in older dogs.
But DHA isn’t found in any real amount in liver or most other organs. Except for these little organs …
Brains And Eyes … Oh My!
Feeding your dog eyes can be super gross. But eyes are also rich in DHA, just like brain. And if nothing else, it’s fun to have a freezer full of eyeballs for when company comes over!
Now if you were to Google research on the benefits of DHA, you’d find that it’s good for the brain, nervous system and eyes. Is it a coincidence that the brain and eyes are rich in a nutrient that helps them function?
Probably not …
In fact, this is the entire concept behind glandular therapy. Eating brain helps your dog’s brain and eating eyes helps your dog’s eyes.
This isn’t a novel concept. We’ve been using chondroitin for years to support joint and soft tissue health … and chondroitin comes from joint cartilage. So does hyaluronic acid.
So if you want your dog’s joints to be health, feed him joints. Get the idea?
Here’s another example in reverse. A few years ago, vets were warning dog owners about feeding chicken necks. The chicken necks, complete with the thyroid gland, were causing hyperthyroidism in dogs. Hyperthyroidism is “too much” of the thyroid hormones.
But hyperthyroidism is rare in dogs.
Most dogs (anywhere from 20% to 45% according to Dr Jean Dodds) have HYPOthyroidism. Remember “hyper” means too much thyroid hormone and “hypo” means too little. Hypothetically, if eating thyroid increases the amount of thyroid hormone … it should also help dogs with hypothyroidism.
But the hormones your dog eats affects the hormones in your dog.
Glands For Glands
If you only feed your dog liver and a couple of other organs that happen to be on sale, he’s missing out. The presences or absence of glands and hormones will impact your dog’s hormones.
Here are some glands that are an important part of your dog’s hormonal (endocrine) system:
Adrenal (sits on top of the kidneys and regulates stress and metabolism)
Thyroid (located in the neck, it stores and produces most hormones in the body)
Parathyroid (located in the neck and controls calcium levels)
Pituitary (part of the brain and controls adrenals and other glands)
Hypothalamus (part of the brain that links the pituitary to the nervous system)
Ovaries (produce the female reproductive hormones)
Testes (produce the male reproductive hormones)
Pineal (located in the brain, it affects sleep and seasonal cycles)
Pancreas (a critical organ that produces insulin and enzymes)
The ovaries and testes aren’t only for reproduction. Research shows the longer your female dog keeps her ovaries, the longer she lives.
The ovaries, testes and the hormones they control are also linked to a reduction in the risk of:
common cancers, such as osteosarcoma and hemangiosarcomahip and elbow dysplasiacranial cruciate rupturesurinary issuesbehavior issues
So if your dog is spayed or neutered and you’re not finding a source of ovaries or testes, she could be missing out.
What About The Rest Of The Organs?
Let’s take another look at the ratio of meat, bone and organs in most animals.
Bladder < 0.5%
Spleen < 0.5%
Pancreas < 0.5%
Eyes < 0.5%
Testicles < 0.5%
Prostate < 0.5%
Uterus < 0.5%
Ovaries < 0.5%
While most glands and organs make up a small percentage of the animal’s weight, the tiny thyroid can have a big impact on health and hormone function. So don’t rule organs out based on size. And remember, organs make up about 25% of the animal by weight, not 10%.
That means your job is to find as many organs as possible and feed them as 25% of your dog’s diet. But how do you find glands and organs?
Sourcing Organ Meats
If you have a local abattoir or slaughterhouse, get to know them. Most organs don’t make it to your local butcher, but you’ll get good deals if you go right to the slaughterhouse. I can buy brain, eyeballs, spleen, pancreas, kidney, liver, heart, lung … and I take it all home and grind it up in my Bass Pro grinder.
I buy the organs in the same percentages I’d find in a whole carcass, grind them and put them in containers. Then I add the organ mix to my dogs’ meals daily to make up 25% of their diet.
If you can’t find an abattoir in your area, fish can be your friend. Fish is rich in vitamin D and minerals and in DHA. For many raw feeders, fish is the only way to get all of the organs and glands into your dog. Add an ounce of fish for every pound of raw food if you can only source one or two organs.
Finally, you can add freeze dried organs and glands to your dog’s meals. These come pre-made and easy to serve … but make sure any organs you feed are from grass-fed animals.
There are micronutrients in foods we just don’t know about yet … and the more we look at organ meats, the more benefits we’ll discover. Nutrition goes far beyond AAFCO, vitamins and minerals!
It’s true … no guts, no glory! I hope you’ll find a way to get more organ meat into your dog’s raw diet.