With the ever-growing popularity of eating organic, gluten-free and a whole host of other “ingredient-conscious” food movements, it’s no surprise that people are starting to pay more attention to what they’re feeding their pets.
The Raw Diet for both dogs and cats is not a new concept. Many of the supporters believe that a raw diet is a more natural diet, based on the way the dogs wild ancestors would hunt for food and subsist on diets of meat and bones. The diets of these ancestors did not include plants or grains.
The debate between those for it and those against it can be quite heated. So let’s take a look at what the benefits and risks are to a raw food diet.
Why Go Raw?
The reported benefits of a raw diet include controlling or even eliminating some diseases, such as arthritis, obesity, stomach/intestinal disorders, skin conditions, and dental conditions. Some report a change in behavior in their dogs, reporting their dog to be more focused and calm. Additionally, a shinier coat, cleaner teeth, better smelling breath, increased energy, better sleep and little-to-no gastrointestinal distress are all reasons that happy dog owners will share for keeping their dogs on a raw diet.
Many researchers that advocate the raw diet believe that animal proteins are the only nutritionally complete proteins for dogs and cats, while plant-based proteins are missing essential amino acids. Examples of plant proteins that they strive to decrease or eliminate include grains, gluten, corn, and soybean – common ingredients in many store-bought kibbles or canned formulations.
Risks Associated with the Raw Diet
There are several concerns that are raised with a raw meat diet. These include bacterial contamination from E. Coli and Salmonella, which can be passed along to humans from the dog, parasites, loose stools, malnutrition (from not getting the proper amount of nutrients needed from grain and carbohydrate sources.) Raw bones can also be a concern. They can cause choking and blockage of or perforation of the intestinal tract. If you’re feeding a raw meat diet to your dogs, it’s imperative that you wash your hands thoroughly after feeding and keep their feeding dishes washed well and separated from the dishes that your human family members use.
You also have to be very committed to starting your dog and maintaining them on a raw food diet. The time it takes to prepare each meal and ensure your dog is being fed a balanced diet is much more consuming than scooping the kibbles out of the food bin. If you eat out frequently, this type of diet is not one that you should embark on for your dog. You also need to factor in the cost. Pound for pound raw meat is much more expensive than manufactured dog food.
Types of Raw Diets
A raw meat diet can be 100% raw meat that you provide from a store or a butcher, or it can be manufactured raw meat dog food that you purchase, fresh or frozen. The benefit of commercial over doing it yourself is that the commercial raw food is nutritionally complete, making sure that your pet has all of the nutrients that he, or she needs. It requires a little less work on your part, though it is not considered to be 100% raw due to some processing.
Before you start your pet on any new diet be sure to consult your veterinarian. Your vet knows your pets history and can advise you on if you should make the transition and how to safely do it. If you get the okay from your vet and want further guidance you may want to consult a canine nutritionist.
So what are you to do if you want your pet to have a healthy, organic diet, but not sure you want to go the raw diet route? There are many organic, nutritionally complete dog foods and snacks that provide better results than just cheap, store brand kibble. Talk to your vet, your dog trainer and other pet owners that you know and trust. See if there is a local small retail shop in your town that caters to pet owners. They are likely to have great suggestions.