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Chances are you have heard both good and bad things about raw food diets. Dog owners who feed raw rave about the benefits, and those against raw feeding argue the risks involved, and the ones left undecided are wondering, is a raw food diet good for dogs?
A raw food diet can be great for dogs if it is done properly, meaning it is nutritionally balanced and complete. All dogs can benefit from a raw diet that is high in quality protein and low in carbohydrates and sugar. A raw diet is especially beneficial to dogs suffering from allergies, ear infections, weight issues and digestive disorders.
As with any diet, there are both benefits and risks involved. If you are just hearing about raw dog food diets, and are wondering what all the hype is about, then continue reading below as we discuss the benefits and risks.
Are Raw Food Diets For Dogs Just A Trend?
The concept of raw feeding is not new, after all, it is what your dog’s ancestors ate. Many dog owners are choosing to feed their dogs a raw diet because they want to feed a natural species-appropriate diet that is free of artificial ingredients and harmful chemicals.
With so many dogs struggling with obesity, allergies, diabetes, and other health conditions, many dog owners are looking for ways to treat their dogs naturally.
You may or may not have heard of the original raw diet for dogs known as BARF which stands for “Bones and Raw Food”, or “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food”. This diet was introduced by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinarian and pet nutritionist, in the early ’90s.
His diet suggests that dogs would thrive on foods that they ate before they became domesticated. Raw foods that include meat, bones, vegetables and organ meats.
Sled dogs and racing greyhounds have been eating raw for many years before raw diets became popular.
Since the introduction of the BARF diet, other types of raw dog food diets have emerged.
Types Of Raw Dog Food Diets
There are two major types of raw dog food diets, homemade and commercially prepared.
Homemade Raw Dog Food
Homemade diets are ones that you make yourself at home. In other words, you go to the grocery store and buy raw meat, vegetables and fruit and prepare your dog’s meal at home.
These types of raw diets carry a lot of risks, mainly because they usually aren’t nutritionally balanced or complete, you can never be sure of the nutrients your dog is getting each day. Plus, you can never be certain of the quality of meat you purchase from the grocery store.
Homemade raw diets take much more effort and you really need to know how to make each meal balanced and complete.
Commercially Prepared Raw Dog Food
Many companies are offering pre-packaged raw dog food to make feeding your dog easy and convenient. All of the ingredients and feeding guidelines are on the label which takes the guesswork out of it. Store-bought raw dog food is available in the following types:
Most commercially prepared raw dog food is available in frozen logs or patties, that you need to portion. Some companies offer pre-portioned packages such as 1LB or 2LB containers or vacuum-sealed packages.
To feed, you simply unthaw and feed to your dog. They do require freezer space, and you need to remember to unthaw your dog’s meal for the next day, also requiring you to set aside some space in your fridge.
Freeze-dried raw food has undergone a 3 step process to remove all of its moisture. The advantage of freeze-dried raw food is that it doesn’t require freezer space, and it is easy to take with you when travelling.
You do need to add water to the freeze-dried food before serving it to your dog. Adding water will bulk up the food, and make it more filling to your dog as well as easier to digest.
Dehydrated raw dog food undergoes a slow and warm air drying process to remove all of its moisture. All of the nutrients and enzymes are left intact. It has all of the benefits of a raw diet but without the preparation, refrigeration and freezing hassle. It is great for travelling or camping.
As with freeze-dried food, you will need to add water before serving to your dog.
What Does A Raw Food Diet For Dogs Consist Of?
Many people misunderstand what a raw diet for dogs is all about, and think it is simply just raw meat. Raw meat is a huge component of the raw diet, but there are other ingredients that need to be added to make the diet nutritionally complete.
A raw food diet for dogs is just as the name implies, uncooked raw food that is free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. It is food in its natural state.
A raw food diet for dogs typically consists of:
- Muscle meat.
- Organ meats such as kidney, liver, spleen & heart.
- Bones, either whole or ground.
- Vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, green beans & carrots.
- Fruits such as apples & blueberries.
- Raw eggs.
- Dairy such as yogurt, raw goat milk or raw goat cheese.
- Fish or omega fatty acid supplements.
Is A Raw Food Diet Good For Dogs?
I am pretty certain that if you were to put a bowl of kibble and a bowl of raw meat in front of your dog, your dog would choose the raw meat first, then maybe eat the kibble afterwards or not at all.
Dogs gravitate towards raw meat, there is no contest between raw and kibble. The smell, texture and taste of raw satisfies even the pickiest eaters.
Dogs are biologically designed to consume and thrive on a raw diet, and there are many benefits to feeding your dog a raw diet, that a processed commercial diet simply cannot compete with. Let’s look at the benefits below:
10 Benefits Of A Raw Dog Food Diet
Many of the benefits listed below are noticeable within a few days of switching to raw, while others take a bit of time to see the results.
1. No More Struggles With Allergies
Food allergies are the number 1 reason dog owners switch foods and eventually try a raw diet. A raw diet is the solution to your dog’s itching and licking! It is the main reason why I decided to try raw.
My Golden Retriever, Ellie, would constantly itch and lick her paws, and after feeding numerous brands of kibble and different protein sources, not to mention the countless visits to the vet to be prescribed medication after medication, I tried raw as the last resort.
A raw food diet has been the answer to my dog’s allergy struggles. She has been on raw for over 3 years now and the results are amazing.
2. No More Ear Infections
Chronic ear infections are painful to your dog as well as expensive, having to get them treated at the vet. Most chronic ear infections are caused by yeast, which is brought on by food intolerances. Carbohydrates found in dry food diets like kibble feed the yeast!
Switching to a raw diet will eliminate the carbohydrates and inhibit yeast growth, thus eliminating chronic ear infections.
3. No More Doggie Odour
All of the “junk” that is in processed commercial dog food contributes to that distinct “doggie odour” that no one likes. The carbs, animal by-products, preservatives and additives found in processed dog food cause your dog’s coat to be dull and greasy which gives off an unpleasant odour.
Dogs who eat fresh natural foods don’t stink.
4. Healthy Shiny Coat & Less Shedding
This is usually the first thing dog owners notice when switching to raw, their dog’s coat is shiny and there is less shedding.
A raw diet provides the most natural sources of essential nutrients that your dog’s body needs to absorb in order to promote a healthy shiny coat.
5. Whiter Teeth & Fresher Breath
A raw diet will give your dog whiter teeth and fresher breath. The enzymes found in raw meat combat the bacteria in your dog’s mouth that cause plaque, tartar, bad breath and other dental issues. Add a few raw bones into your dog’s diet and your dog’s teeth will never look better.
6. Smaller & Less Stinky Poop
Dogs on a raw diet have smaller, firmer and less stinky poop. Raw food is free of fillers, carbs, preservatives and questionable ingredients, therefore the food is easier to digest and your dog uses almost all of the food that he eats, meaning there is less waste eliminated.
Raw fed poop also decomposes quickly, because it doesn’t contain preservatives.
7. Stronger More Resilient Immune System
Dogs who are fed a raw diet absorb all of the nutrients from their food which gives them a strong healthy immune system. Having a strong immune system helps them fight off bacteria and viruses. Food is medicine, and your dog will likely have fewer vet visits.
8. Improved Energy Level & Weight Management
Being properly nourished with a raw diet will make your dog feel good and in turn, your dog will be more alert and eager to play and engage in activities.
Senior dogs who are fed a raw diet have a newfound energy level that their owners really notice. Many say their senior dog acts like a puppy again, and most wish they would have tried a raw diet years ago.
Puppies have high energy levels already, but being fed a raw diet gives them a better attention span and interest in learning.
Raw food is easy to digest, meaning your dog will spend less time and energy digesting his food and more time and energy on having fun. Increased energy and better nutrition lead to better weight management.
9. No More Tear Stains
Does your dog have tear stains? Tear stains are commonly caused by artificial ingredients and preservatives found in commercial diets like kibble and canned food. Switching to a raw diet will help to eliminate your dog’s tear stains.
10. Improved Hydration
A moisture-rich diet such as raw will improve your dog’s hydration, helping to flush out bacteria and toxins. Along with the improved hydration, your dog’s liver and kidney function will improve and there will be less chance of urinary tract infections and kidney and bladder stones.
What Are The Risks Of A Raw Food Diet For Dogs?
The Unsafe Handling of Raw Meat
When you handle raw meat there is a risk of bacteria contamination. Bad bacteria such as salmonella, E-coli and listeria can be present on different types of raw meat.
Just as you would when you handle raw meat for yourself, it is important to wash your hands, utensils and surfaces where the raw meat was in contact.
Possible Risk of Nutritional Imbalances
Many raw diets especially homemade DIY diets are often incomplete and cause nutritional imbalances. Homemade diets are not recommended for those just starting out, you really need to make sure the diet is complete and that your dog is getting his daily required nutrients.
Raw bones are part of a raw diet and they are an excellent way to keep your dog’s teeth clean and promote good overall dental health, as well as mental stimulation.
There are risks involved with giving your dog a raw bone, they could cause choking, intestinal blockage, and chipped or broken teeth. Supervision is a must when giving raw bones to your dog!
Cooked bones should NEVER be given to your dog, only raw bones. Raw bones are soft enough to bend and they digest easily, cooked bones are sharp and splinter.
A Raw Diet Doesn’t Have To Be Scary! How To Get Your Dog Started On Raw
Many people are put off from the idea of feeding their dogs a raw diet because they are scared or think it is too difficult. I was the same way! I thought it would be so much work and to be honest, I pictured raw dog food as being big chunks of raw meat with whole bones put into my dog’s bowl, I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Feeding a raw diet is easier than you may think, and your dog will love you for it. Here are some helpful tips:
If you are serious about switching your dog to a raw diet, the first step is to do your research. Read articles, talk with your vet, there are many raw feeder groups that you can join to get valuable insight.
This video really helped me in deciding to feed my dog raw:
Read The Ingredients
Not all raw food is created equal. Many companies offer complete meals that are already supplemented with ingredients other than meat, such as fruits and vegetables to meet your dog’s daily nutritional requirement.
Raw food is also available in pure formulas, meaning it does not include anything other than muscle meat, organ meat and ground bone. Fruits and vegetables will need to be added to make it complete.
The nutrition label on your dog’s raw food should be clear and concise, so you know exactly what you are feeding your dog.
Transition Fast or Slow
To transition your dog to a raw diet, there are 2 methods to choose from, fast or slow.
A fast transition requires you to fast your dog 12-24hrs., before feeding them their first raw meal. A slow transition requires you to gradually add raw food to your dog’s meal over a period of 5-7 days.
The fast approach is the most recommended, but there is no right or wrong way to transition your dog over. If your dog has digestive issues, you may want to introduce raw food slowly.
Start With A Poultry Protein
Poultry such as chicken, turkey, or duck is good to start with because they are easier to digest. Rabbit is also a good choice.
Serve The First Meal At Room Temperature
It is best to serve the first meal at room temperature, it will be easier on your dog’s stomach. Raw food needs to be thawed and it can eventually be served cold right out of the fridge.
Your dog might not eat the raw food right away, and most likely will be unsure of it. The texture, smell and look of it are very different than kibble. My dog was unsure of her first raw meal too, I had to sear a tiny amount of it to get her to eat it. It only took one try and she ate it all.
Raw Food Brand I Recommend
Big Country Raw
This is what I started with and have been feeding my dog for over 3 years. It is a Canadian company that offers everything you need to get started, including pre-packaged complete raw meals, pure formulas, supplements, treats and raw bones. They also offer dehydrated raw.
Their website is a great source of information, bigcountryraw.ca.
I hope this article has given you a better understanding of a raw food diet for dogs. Feeding your dog a raw diet is the natural choice, and it might just be the answer you are looking for to cure your dog’s allergies, ear infections, or digestion issues.
Do you feed your dog a raw diet? What are some of the benefits you noticed when feeding your dog raw food? Are you unsure of a raw diet for your dog?
Share your thoughts and comments below, I would love to hear from you.