If you’re here, you probably have already realized that kibble is highly processed, entirely unnatural food for a dog.
Raw feeding is one of the biggest investments you can make in your Boxer dog’s health and wellbeing.
To raw feed a Boxer, give your dog 3 to 5 per cent of his ideal body weight in fresh, raw meat, made up of roughly:
- 60 % raw meaty bones (chicken frames are ideal)
- 40 % lean muscle meat (e.g. lean diced beef)
- Add a little offal (organ meat) once or twice a week (usually liver but kidney or any “secreting” organ is fine)
In addition to meals, at least once a week give your Boxer:
- a recreational bone for chewing (lamb necks are ideal)
It can be that simple.
Once or twice a week you can also add things like:
- fresh, raw sardines (from fishmonger not tinned as these are cooked)
- a fresh, raw egg or two (ideally organic)
See also: Can Boxers eat eggs?
Approaches To Raw Feeding
There is more than one way to raw feed a dog, just as there is more than one way to eat a healthy human diet.
All raw feeders agree that a raw diet for dogs must contain a balance of bone and muscle meat with a smaller component of offal in the form of secreting organs.
There are two major schools of raw feeding:
- Prey Model Raw, or PMR
- Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, or BARF
There is also a third, lesser known but arguably even more natural, kind of raw feeding:
- Rotational Monofeeding
Prey Model Raw (PMR)
This approach feeds whole animal carcasses like rabbit or whole animal parts, like from deer or kangaroo. Dogs get to encounter their food in a much more natural state, complete with head and fur and feet. Prey Model Raw works well for hunters and those with access to wild meats. However, it can prove out of reach for many city-based dog owners.
PMR feeders typically recommend feeding 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, 5% liver and 5% other secreting organs. They feed no plant matter or fruit and no supplements.
Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF)
This mode of raw feeding was pioneered by Australian vet Dr Ian Billinghurst. BARF is also sometimes taken to stand for Bones And Raw Food.
In his highly readable book Give Your Dog A Bone, Dr Billinghurst lays out in detail the basis for his approach. In a nutshell, the BARF diet is based upon the observation that dogs fed raw meaty bones as the cornerstone of their diet consistently attain a far higher degree of health, avoiding many of the ailments that commonly afflict the kibble-fed dog population. He says raw meaty bones should make up 60 per cent of a dog’s diet.
BARF feeders incorporate leafy greens, fruit, eggs, dairy products, small amounts of whole grains and add ingredients like brewer’s yeast and kelp to make up for deficiencies in the pet dog diet compared to the wolf’s.
Rotational monofeeding is described in Nora Lenz’s book Dog Nutrition 101. This mode of feeding is not necessarily incompatible with either of the others. However, it seeks to avoid what it regards as the mistakes typically made by prey model and BARF feeders.
Perhaps moreso than any other style of raw feeding, rotational monofeeding takes its cues from nature and aims to emulate the way dogs eat in the wild, namely:
- Feed meat and plant matter separately
- Trim skin and visible fat
- Do not feed meat every day
Rotational monofeeding incorporates:
- Fruit feeding and some feeding of leafy greens
The logic is this:
Wolves do not eat every day. They feed according to natural cycles of scarcity and abundance. Therefore the physiology of the dog, which is almost identical to that of the wolf, is evolutionarily adapted to regular periods of fasting. Science is just beginning to fully cotton on to the healing power of intermittent fasting for both dogs and people.
Dogs and wolves are both “facultative” carnivores, which means while their preferred food source is meat, they can sustain themselves on fruit as a secondary food. The diet of wolves in North Eastern Minnesota, for instance, consists of as much as 80 per cent blueberries for an entire month at the height of Summer, as documented by researchers with the Voyageurs Wolf Project.
Removing the fat from farmed meats restores these products of human agriculture, which have been deliberately fattened for slaughter, to a more natural ratio of bone : fat : muscle. Incorporating fast days and fruit-only days further serves to avoid fat overconsumption, which so often characterises the commercial diet fed to modern pet dogs and distinguishes it from the natural canine diet.
The reason for feeding meat and plant matter separately is primarily to recreate the way dogs eat in the wild. Rotational monofeeding defers to the wisdom of nature and recognizes that a million years of evolution has designed the dog’s body to function a certain way in order to achieve optimal health. Because meat and plant matter are digested slightly differently (using different enzymes and requiring different stomach acidities) feeding them apart is thought to make for most efficient digestion.
To continue the variation between types of raw feeding, rotational monofeeders typically don’t stick to hard and fast rules but say to feed enough raw meaty bones so that the poop is firm. Too hard, reduce the bone content of the diet. Too runny, add more bone. Experimentation and adjustment in response to observations of the individual dog are at the heart of rotational monofeeding. Monofeeder Nora Lenz notes that in the wild it is normal to see wolves poop liquid when they first make a kill and gorge themselves on muscle meat. The balance, in nature, is achieved over time — not in every “complete and balanced” bite.
Rotational monofeeding eschews the use of supplements, food items not naturally consumed by dogs and medication to suppress symptoms. It relies instead upon the innate ability of the body to heal itself, as long as the conditions for health are established by proper feeding and avoidance of toxic chemicals as contained in commercial dog food but also in drugs, dewormers, household cleaners, vaccines and flea and tick preventatives.
Owners who follow this way of feeding have observed the reversal of many serious diseases including cancer, even in dogs given up upon by vets and “sent home to die”.
How To Raw Feed A Boxer Puppy
Though it might come as a shock to the average owner, the idea that puppies require different food than adult dogs is a construct of the pet food industry.
The truth is, raw feeding a Boxer puppy is not much different to raw feeding an adult Boxer.
Puppies can be weaned straight onto raw food. Minced chicken wings (using a meat grinder) are a great place to start. Within a few weeks, puppies will no longer need the bones to be crushed, and will be happily devouring whole chicken necks and wings.
Once they’re off their mother’s milk, wolf cubs eat what the rest of the pack does, sometimes regurgitated.
In terms of amounts to feed a Boxer puppy, it is best to keep them on the lean side as growing too fast can cause bone and joint problems later. Particularly until they’re 18 months old, it is far better to slightly underfeed a Boxer puppy than to give too much.
Achieving “Balance” When Raw Feeding Your Boxer
A common argument made against homemade raw food diets for dogs is that dog nutrition is far too complicated for an ordinary owner to get right.
Conventional vets, veterinary nutritionists and dog food makers warn owners they run the risk of inflicting nutritional deficiencies on their dogs. They base this on comparisons to what the National Research Council (NRC) says are the requirements for an adult dog or the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards, or in Europe the European Pet Food Industry (FEDIAF) standards.
In its 2020 position statement, the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society says, “The FEDIAF recognises that its guidelines were developed in order to assess the nutritional adequacy of highly processed, manufactured cooked food that incorporates artificial supplementation. The FEDIAF acknowledges that its guidelines are not applicable to a species-appropriate diet of raw meaty bones and as such FEDIAF states that ‘pet foods can be adequate and safe when nutrient levels are outside the recommendations in this guide…'”
In other words, you can’t judge a raw, natural diet by the standards created to judge cooked, processed dog foods. For a start, there are major differences in bioavailability between vitamins and nutrients consumed in whole food form compared to synthetic vitamins and nutrients added as isolated chemistry — the former being far superior. Cooked food also lacks the enzymes that make raw food hum with life, enzymes being destroyed by heat in the same way that many proteins are denatured at high temperatures.
Elsewhere in its statement, which is well worth reading, the RFVS similarly debunks the other bogeymen frequently presented by those opposing raw feeding: bacteria and bones.
To state the obvious, no wild dog ever consulted a man-made chart to decide how to eat. Whole, raw foods took care of it.
Ultimately, the proof is in the dog.
A thinking owner only need look at the level of disease in pet dogs since the adoption of widespread kibble feeding to suspect there is a better way. In the field of human health, people are constantly advised to avoid a highly processed diet and to eat more whole, fresh foods.
Yet when it comes to our Boxers, we pour shelf-stable, dry kibble into our dogs’ bowls daily while failing to make the connection between this food and the poor health outcomes and shortened lives too often experienced by those same dogs.
Pre-Made Raw Dog Food
Owners new to raw feeding often resort to pre-made grinds because it seems too daunting to make your own raw food at home.
However, these products will never be as high quality as the food you prepare yourself, using locally-sourced meats fresh from the butcher.
Commercial grinds will also be higher in fat than the natural canine diet. Even the highest-end, boutique raw dog food manufacturers do not remove fat before grinding meat. It is not profitable to do so. The moment you prepare your dog’s raw food yourself, you will realize just how much fat is on the average cut of meat. Only you care enough about your dog to go to the trouble of removing it.
Keep in mind pet food makes use of misleading labelling as much as human food. The fat content is usually expressed on raw dog food boxes as fat content by weight, because it gives a lower number than when you express fat content by calorie, which is what matters to the body.
This sleight of hand means a raw pattie that contains 62% fat (by calorie) will be presented to dog owners as containing 14% fat (by weight).
Raw feeding integrative vet Dr Karen Becker defines food with more than 31% of calories from fat as high fat food. To be truly low fat, she says a food must contain less than 17% fat by calorie. 17-23% fat by calorie is moderately fatty.
If you are contemplating the convenience of a pre-made raw dog food, read the fineprint and do your conversions. Remember dog food makers are businesses designed to make money by marketing products. You are the one who has your dog’s health front and center.
Once you understand the basic principles of raw feeding, you realize it is not so complicated that you need to out-source the job.
Treats For A Raw-Fed Boxer
You don’t want to undermine a raw diet by feeding junky treats.
Avoid commercial products which typically contain fillers, colorings and preservatives as well as low-quality ingredients.
Dehydrated liver (you can do this yourself in an oven on low-heat or with a dehydrator) is a good option.
Fruits like blueberries and banana also make healthy treat options.
Chews For A Raw-Fed Boxer
This one is easy: raw meaty bones! They are nutritional powerhouses and nature’s toothbrush. Carnivores have also been shown to derive psychological benefits from the experience of chewing on bones.
If you’re looking for a dry chew, bully sticks that are 100% natural and dehydrated rather than cooked are one of the more acceptable options. Make sure no chemicals have been added.
Never feed a Boxer: raw hide, pigs’ ears, antlers, horns, hooves. The first two are particularly dangerous, chemically-treated, nutritionally worthless and likely to cause intestinal obstructions. The others are so hard they run the risk of cracking teeth.
Your Boxer will never turn his nose up at a raw meaty bone and in every way they are far superior to the other options. The ultimate raw meaty bone is the lamb neck. Beef necks are great for their nooks and crannies which clean teeth particularly well, but many owners find their dogs throw up small chunks of bone after beef necks. Since the bone in a lamb neck comes from a younger animal, it’s reasonable to think it’s probably softer and less dense. These qualities make it gentler on teeth and more digestible.
Never feed your Boxer weight-bearing bones or marrow bones, which are very dense and pure fat inside.
Feed bones as whole as possible, rather than saw-cut into small pieces. If you can choose a bone that’s as big as your Boxer’s head, that’s ideal. Avoid bones that your dog can break off small chunks of and swallow.
Always supervise bones and, if necessary, remove before your dog gets it small enough to gulp the last piece.
Concluding Thoughts On Raw Feeding A Boxer
No matter what you call it — species-appropriate diet, evolutionary diet, natural diet — a raw meaty bone-based diet is what dogs are designed to eat.
An astounding number of Boxers get lumbered with diagnoses like irritable bowel disease, “sensitive tummies”.. heck there is even a condition so common in the breed it gets labelled “Boxer colitis”.
Yet the vast majority of these same dogs are kept on highly processed kibble or canned diets, often on the advice of vets, which owners find very hard to discount — even when they see their dogs continuing to struggle.
Whether or not they are labelled “prescription” diets, these products come with all the same pitfalls of other cooked, shelf stable dog food.
Given the preponderance of digestive issues they face on kibble and canned diets, raw feeding stands to benefit Boxers perhaps moreso than any other dog.
Try it and observe the transformation.
Most owners notice an immediate improvement in symptoms like itching, “allergies”, arthritis and diarrhea.
Bear in mind, though, that when you clean up a dog’s diet, it will sometimes trigger detox. This can temporarily result in an uptick in symptoms, as your dog’s body clears out long-stored toxins from previous mis-feeding.
Stick with it. This is healing in progress. Many raw feeding owners can attest to the fact that a natural diet will soon see these symptoms resolve once and for all, replaced by a newfound vitality.