Raw Dog Food Diets: Everything You Need To Know
Over 85 million families have pets – and of course, we love our pets and want the best for them. When it comes to their nutrition, what we feed them can be tricky to decide upon. Most pet foods are safe, although occasionally, some contain contaminants and are recalled by manufacturers. Certainly, some pet foods are of higher quality than others.
The quality of your dog’s food is important when it comes to nutrition. As humans, we typically eat a varied diet from multiple food sources, but our dogs tend to eat the same food from the same brand every day. Naturally, you want that food to be the best it can be.
In the quest for optimal nutrition, some dog owners have turned to raw food diets. But like all dog foods, they too can vary in quality.
Let’s look at what a raw diet is and why it might be the right choice for your dog.
What Is a Raw Dog Food Diet?
A homemade raw dog food diet typically consists of:
- Muscle and organ meats such as heart, livers, and kidneys
- Bones, either whole or ground
- Raw eggs
- Dog safe fruits and vegetables like apples, sweet potatoes, and spinach
- Possibly dairy, such as yogurt or goat’s milk
- Other ingredients like apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, flax seeds, and turmeric
Commercial raw food diets contain similar ingredients, and most are made without grains or white potatoes. They also do not include preservatives or artificial colors. Many popular quality brands also avoid ingredients with GMOs and use organic fruits and vegetables.
The Benefits of a Raw Food Diet for your Dog
- Shiny coats and healthier skin
- Cleaner teeth and healthier gums
- Leaner, stronger muscles
- Suitability for dogs with food sensitivities and allergies to grains
- Easier to digest
- Ethically sourced ingredients
Raw food diets can make a difference to your pet’s skin and coat. This guide ‘Your Dog’s Gums: Not to be Ignored‘ shows that enzymes in raw food can help protect their teeth and promote healthy gums, and quality protein helps build strong muscles. While a study published in the Journal of Animal Science has shown that the protein in raw diets is of a much higher quality than the protein used in traditional dry dog food. Lower quality pet foods tend to use meat by-products. One of the reasons that protein in raw diets is exceptional is that they do not use these lower quality by-products. Some raw diet companies even list the names of the farms where they source their meat.
Unfortunately, some dogs suffer from food allergies. Dog food allergies can be challenging for the dog and owners alike. Raw diets allow dog owners to remove artificial colors and preservatives from their dog’s diet with ease. For dogs with allergies to specific proteins, raw diets are available in different varieties made from a single protein – beef, chicken, whitefish, and lamb are all popular. Most companies also make freeze-dried or frozen raw treats, so a dog with allergies can still enjoy delicious rewards during training. Knowing what is in your dog’s food can help you eliminate possible allergens.
A study published in Translational Animal Science has shown that raw diets with human-grade ingredients are easier for dogs to digest than dry dog foods that use traditional elements. This ease of digestion could be due to raw diets being simpler, with fewer ingredients. You’ll find ingredient lists on the websites of our top-rated companies.
Another reason dog owners are turning to raw diets is their preference for how manufacturers source their ingredients. Dog owners who choose antibiotic-free, free roam or grass-fed meats and organic vegetables and fruits for themselves may want the same for their dogs. The top raw food diet companies are transparent about where they get their ingredients and offer the same foods you would put on your table. Many of the highest-rated brands offer pet food that is made with human-grade ingredients.
With all these benefits, why would anyone not choose a raw food diet for their dog?
Potential Risks of a Raw Food Diet for your Dog
- Bacteria in raw meat can cause health risks for both dogs and humans
- Unbalanced nutrition that may undermine the health of your dog if consumed long term
- The potential for bones or bone fragments to cause your dog to choke, break their teeth, or even suffer an internal puncture
These concerns are especially serious if you are preparing your dog’s raw diet yourself. That’s why the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends against homemade raw diets, and instead, many veterinarians recommend fresh, natural flavored dog food like Ollie Dog Food.
Bacteria in Raw Dog Food
Raw meat, bones, and internal organs can contain a variety of harmful bacteria and microorganisms. The traditional way we render meat safe is by cooking it. Feeding our dog raw meat makes it hard to ensure that the food is safe. However, commercial brands use a variety of methods to eliminate the potential risk of bacteria. Instinct Raw and Steve’s Real Food, for example, use a high-pressure system during production that kills harmful bacteria.
Ensuring a Balanced Diet for your Dog
Like people, dogs need various nutrients, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health. For example, if you do not have enough fat in your dog’s food, their coat will lose its shine, and they may develop dry skin. However, too much fat in their diet can lead to anemia. Companies that make high-quality raw food employ food scientists and nutritionists to ensure that all of your dog’s dietary needs are met.
When raw diets first became popular, many dog owners fed their dog’s bones and meat scraps. Unfortunately, this led to some severe health problems. Dogs choked on bones and bone fragments, they broke their teeth on bones, and some had punctures in their intestines from bone fragments. Again, this is why a commercially made raw food diet can be the perfect choice for your pet. The companies that make raw diets ensure that there are no harmful bones or bone pieces in the food that could injure your pet.
Feeding Your Dog a Raw Food Diet
There are different kinds of raw diets available for your dog. Some come in the form of freeze-dried or dehydrated nuggets that aren’t that different from dry kibble. Others come frozen or require mixing with water before feeding. You will need to evaluate the various types available to determine the best choice for you and your dog.
Making the switch to raw can be a significant change for your dog. To avoid upsetting your dog’s digestive system, transition them gradually. Start by adding a small spoonful of the raw diet to your pet’s kibble. Over the first couple of days, increase the raw food to approximately 25% of their meal. Then, over the next day or two, increase it to 50%, decreasing their regular kibble as you go. And finally, providing they are tolerating the change well, transition them gradually to 100% raw. This process can take 7 -10 days.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to switching to a raw diet for your dog. Each dog owner will have to weigh these up for themselves. The important thing is that you choose the option that makes the most sense for you and your dog.
Article written by Author: Elsa Smith