Last week I bought a raw cow liver and smugly threw it into my dog’s food bowl. My usually ravenous Pit Bull wouldn’t go anywhere near it. Organ meat is essential for a healthy raw diet, so I looked into how to make organ meat more appealing for my dog.
Here’s what I found out:
How to get a picky dog to eat raw organ meat
Start small and work your way up. Dogs depend on their sense of smell (rather than taste) for deciding what to eat – so, blend 30% of the goal portion of organ meat into your dog’s regular meal, and add 10% more to the blend every day.
If your dog still refuses to eat organ meat, start even smaller (like a 10% blend), and mask the smell by freezing the organ meat (in small pieces) before serving.
And if your dog still refuses to eat organ meat, here are a few other tricks:
- Lightly sear the organ meat in a pan before serving
- Boil the organ meat for a few minutes before serving
- Test different organ meats from different animal protein sources
Start Small When Introducing Your Dog to Organ Meat
I should have known better. I half-heartedly threw a whole cow liver into my Pit Bull’s bowl and just expected him to know what to do with it.
My other two dogs, both small Boston Terriers, have been eating raw food for a couple of years. They’re used to the smell and texture of raw meat, and consequently, more open to trying new things. I guess they’re sort of like the dog versions of a foodie.
We rescued our Pit Bull, Gotti, a few months ago – and, like any dog who’s been in the same shelter for a few years, he’d been “institutionalized.” Twice per day, week after week, he ate the exact same dry, bland kibble the shelter used.
After the shelter staff handed me a bag of kibble and strict instructions, I knew we had to transition him to a raw diet. Aside from already feeding our dogs raw, Gotti did not look healthy – he was overweight, lethargic, and his skin was covered with lesions and hotspots, presumably from allergies.
I grabbed the of IAMS and nodded along to the staff’s instructions – discussing raw with mainstream animal care usually isn’t worth the headache.
Rotating your dog’s food is always a good idea, regardless of whether or not your feed raw. If a dog has only eaten dry kibble – or one type of animal protein for an extended period, then their digestive system and microbiome (the bacteria in the gut) may not have developed the proper enzymes to break down new food.
Introducing a dog to a new environment – with new rules and other animals – is stressful enough as it is. Not only is completely changing their diet that early on an unnecessary stressor, but it could also cause your dog to get really sick and/or spur behavioral issues.
So, for transitioning our dog from kibble to raw we started small and gradually worked our way up:
Many people in the raw feeding community disagree with feeding kibble and raw at the same time. The main reason cited being ‘the gastric ph required for kibble and raw is so different it could make your dog sick’ (which I find hard to believe). But, if you suspect kibble + raw is upsetting your dog’s stomach, try transitioning them to wet canned food first (look for non-BPA on the label).
Gotti’s transition from kibble –> raw went without a hitch. He enjoyed raw so much, we probably could have completely switched him in as little as three weeks with no problems – but, I was being extra cautious.
So, yes, I was a bit thrown off when he refused the cow liver I threw into his bowl. I mean, Gotti is a big boy, and from what I could tell, he had no food left behind policy.
Organ Meat is the Smelliest of all the Meats…
Why is this important? Dog’s have very few tastebuds compared to humans, but their sense of smell trumps ours 40x over.
Where a human’s portal to the world is usually sight- a dog’s portal to the world is their sense of smell. A strong, unfamiliar smell could mean danger.
Don’t get me wrong – he had been eating raw organ meat all along, which is blended into the raw mix we purchase from a local butcher. But, it’s essential to mix different organs from different animal sources regularly into your dog’s raw food.
So, to get my dog comfortable with stand-alone organ meat, I, once again, started small and worked my way up:
|Raw Blend||Organ Meat||Day|
And I didn’t put the organ meat into a blender or grinder – instead, I chopped it into small pieces and wrapped my raw blend (ground meat works too) around the organ meat by hand.
And you know what? Since then, my Pit Bull rescue has been a lot more open to a variety of standalone organ meats – including eyes, intestines and kidney.
In fact, the only time since I’ve had to slowly introduce organ meat was with green tripe (cow stomach) – which smells strong enough that you’re roommates or family will temporarily hate you.
Minimize The Smell of Organ Meat For Your Dog When Necessary
So, as we learned in the previous section – your dog most likely isn’t eating the raw dog meat because of its strong unfamiliar smell. In nature, strong smells can be associated with danger – like threats from other predators and poison.
A few ways to alter the smell of organ meat:
- Freeze the organ meat before serving
- Blend organ meat or (smash it with a hammer) and dilute the smell with ground meat
- Slightly cook the organ meat before serving by either boiling or searing it
Of the three suggested ways, number three is the least recommended, and should only be used when absolutely necessary. The whole point of serving organ meat is the plethora of minerals and nutrients your dog will absorb from eating it – cooking it will kill those nutrients!
Check out Raw Dad’s video on Youtube for even more detailed tips:
Test Different Organs and Protein Sources with Your Dog
A pet peeve (pun intended) of mine is when online bloggers suggest buying more things for the sake of buying more things. Assuming your feeding on a budget, I don’t suggest you buy an assortment of different organs all at once.
That said, dogs, like humans, can also have preferences, and ‘favorite foods’ – and you won’t really know until you put it in front of them.
Whenever you go grocery shopping, make it a point to bring home one new organ meat from a new protein source. Try elk liver, fish eyes, cow brain, duck pancreas – the list is long.
If they don’t like the organ meat you bought, just slowly blend it into their regular meals as suggested above.
In nature, dogs are scavenging carnivores – meaning, they have an extremely varied diet. Dogs can only synthesize 12 amino acids, and they rely on a variety of animal proteins for the rest.
A variety of protein sources will diversify your dog’s microbiome (the portfolio of bacteria in the gut) – and diverse microbiomes are directly correlated with healthier immune systems and longer lifespans.
There really isn’t a better feeling than finding a food your dog goes nuts over; plus, it really helps plan out next year’s birthday cake.
How Much Organ Meat Should I Feed My Dog?
Contrary to the prey-model diet, which recommends 10% organ meat, a balanced raw diet should actually include around 20% organ meat, 50% muscle meat, 10% bone, and 20% vegetables. These percentages are much closer to a wolf or a dog’s diet in the wild.
Is Too Much Organ Meat Bad For My Dog?
Yes, as healthy as organ meat is, an excessive percentage of it in your dog’s diet (40%+) can have serious health consequences. The most common is vitamin A toxicity, which can cause your dog’s joints to stiffen, and, in extreme cases, paralysis.