We want what’s best for our pets. We emphasize giving them plenty of exercise, socialization, vitamins and supplements, and, of course, the best nutrition and food diet(s) possible. Numerous diet “trends” have evolved for our pets throughout the years, including the raw food diet. Let’s explore the raw truth and what raw food diets for pets are all about.
What is the Raw Food Diet?
A raw pet food diet is a more “natural” diet for our pets. There are two major types of raw pet food diets: commercial and home-prepared. Commercial raw diets, which may be fresh or frozen, supply all of the dog’s requirements and are typically in a meat patty form.
Home-prepared raw diets consist of raw meat and bones, veggies, fruits, supplements, and added grains. These diets may not be balanced each day. If appropriately designed, they should meet the dog’s requirements over the long term.
What Does Raw Food Consist of?
Raw pet food diets consist of raw meat, bones, fruits & vegetables. There are positive benefits like shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, smaller stools and higher energy levels.
A raw food diet typically consists of muscle meat (often still on the bone), organ meats such as livers and kidneys, and bones (whole or ground). The diet also contains ingredients like raw eggs and vegetables. These vegetables include broccoli, spinach & celery. Apples, other fruits, as well as some dairy products such as yogurt and cottage cheese, are part of the diet.
Over the years, commercial raw dog food had some pet food recalls. By preparing your dog’s food at home, you have total control of what you include in your dog’s food and where those ingredients are from. Home-made meals can give you the peace of mind that you’re feeding the proper raw food diet to your pet.
Benefits of Raw Food Diet
Raw diets (especially home-made diets) allow you to meet your dog’s specific needs. A raw food diet can be prepared to avoid foods that your dog is allergic to and can be made to meet your dog’s specific nutrient requirements. The high water content present in raw food will allow you to feed more while still keeping the calories low for your pet.
The meals you make for your pet will also have no processed ingredients or preservatives, making them healthier. Commercial raw diets are usually frozen, which means they don’t require added preservatives either.
The bones that are part of the raw diet are considered good for dental hygiene, which can be good for your dog’s overall health. Feeding a raw diet may provide your dog with a natural outlet for their chewing tendencies, which may improve their overall behavior.
Things to Consider About Raw Food
Feeding raw food is expensive and time-consuming. The cost of a raw dog food diet varies with the ingredients used and how it is prepared. On average, a 30-pound dog with a one-day supply of one variety of a frozen commercially available raw chicken diet costs about $2.50 – $5 a day. A super-premium, commercial dry dog food costs about $1 day.
The preparation of daily balanced meals for your dog can be a challenge to fit into a busy lifestyle. As a rule of thumb, if you eat out more than three meals a week, you are likely too busy to prepare meals for your dog properly.
Raw vegetables in a raw diet are often poorly digested by dogs. Most of the nutrients in raw vegetables are more available when they are lightly cooked and then ground. The preparation of the raw meat is also crucial to get right.
It can be difficult and time-consuming to balance a raw diet adequately. If the meal is prepared incorrectly, nutritional deficiencies, especially in vitamins and minerals, are possible. It’s important to note that some nutritional deficiencies take many months to show up. You may not see the problems with feeding a particular diet until your pet has been eating it for months or years.
The Risk to Raw Food
There are some potential risk factors associated with feeding a raw diet to your pet. Raw diets have been found to contain Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Clostridium botulinum, and Staphylococcus aureus, all known as human and canine pathogens. These bacteria are shed in dog stools and may be transferred to carpets and furniture as the dog moves around the house. These pathogens usually only pose a serious human risk to the immuno-compromised, the elderly, and young children. However, this is a critical consideration if you are feeding a raw diet and have people in these risk groups living in your home.
In addition, there is a potential risk to dogs from specific pathogens found in raw foods. These pathogens include: Neospora caninum, found in raw beef, Nanophyetus salmincola, found in raw salmon; and Trichinella spiralis, found in raw pork and wild game such as deer, elk, and moose. All of these pathogens can make your dog sick and are potentially fatal if consumed.
The physical form of raw food can also pose a potential risk. Feeding bones can also cause choking, intestinal blockage or perforations, and chipped or broken teeth.
A poorly fed raw food diet can also pose a risk to young pups and kittens. Not only is the preparation of the raw food crucial to ensure no harmful bacteria affects your young pet, but the amount of nutrients and food given can also affect growth and development if not done correctly.
Ask Your Veterinarian
Needless to say, if you are on the fence about switching your pet(s) to a raw food diet, or you are interested in doing so, please discuss this option with your veterinarian first. Your vet knows your pet’s health the best and will be able to advise if the switch would be beneficial and safe for them. They will also give instructions on how to safely make the switch for your pets and educate you on this diet customized for your fur baby.