So, you’ve been hearing about the benefits of a raw food diet for dogs. Your friend Mary swears by it. She says her dog’s skin and coat have improved greatly since changing from dry to raw food.
And, admittedly, a raw food diet does more closely resemble the diet dogs would eat in the wild.
Plus, we know that many of the chronic diseases faced by us hoomans are linked to our diets. The idea of nourishing and supporting your pet’s health through food is pretty appealing.
What exactly are the health benefits of raw food for dogs?
Just imagine seeing your usually lethargic doggo bounding around the garden or park with seemingly endless energy. Is this the effect of a raw food diet for dogs?
Is it possible to get rid of stinky dog breath by simply switching from a traditional to a raw diet?
The claimed health benefits of a raw food diet for dogs include:
- Increased vitality in older dogs
- Improved skin
- Healthier coat
- Supported immune system
- Cleaner teeth
- Less pongy breath
- Increased stamina and energy
- Weight control
- Fewer allergy symptoms
- Smaller, firmer and less smelly stools
What Should I Included in a Raw Food Diet for My Dog?
Certainly, it pays to do your research before deciding on a raw food diet.
“When feeding your dog a raw food diet. You want to aim for 70% lean muscle meat from various sources, 10% organs including at least 5% liver, 10% bone with cartilage, and no more than around 10% plant matter and other healthy ingredients in their diet,” explains PETstock Ambassador and pet nutritionist Lara Shannon.
Here’s a little breakdown of the types on ingredients to include.
Lean muscle meat — chicken, turkey, rabbit, duck, beef, lamb
Organs/offal – liver, kidneys, heart, tripe, tongue
Bones (uncooked) – chicken wings, necks, thighs, beef tail bones, lamb ribs or neck. You can also include whole eggs.
Fruits and veggies – such as broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, cucumber, green beans, beetroot, celery, carrots, cabbage, apples, blueberries
Shannon says, “Technically, dogs don’t need carbohydrates in their diets to survive; at least not in the same way they need protein and fats. However, there’s been a lot of research showing just how beneficial it can be to add between 5-7% carbohydrates in the form of fruit and vegetables into a dog’s diet.
“Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, that are found exclusively in plants, have been shown to prevent chronic diseases. This is not only the case for humans, but for our dogs as well. It can help to reduce obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and neurological diseases and even certain types of cancer.
“Some of the best choices for our dogs include blueberries, lightly steamed or pulped cruciferous, green-leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, and yellow-orange ones such as carrots and citrus fruits (without the seeds) as well as various herbs such as parsley and alfalfa.”
How Do I Transition My Dog to a Raw Food Diet?
In short, slowly!
“If starting from a kibble-only diet this can take up to 14 days. Start with 90% old diet and 10% new for a few days, then 80/20, 70/30 and so on.
“It may take a while for your dog to get used to a raw food diet, so introducing slowly is important, adding some warm water can help (avoid cooking bones).
“Be very mindful of hygiene, washing hands before and after handling food, wash utensils and bowls in detergent and hot water – same as you would when handling and preparing raw food in general.
“Talk to your Vet if you have a puppy, older or immunocompromised dog. Ideally seek out a holistic Vet with additional studies in to pet food nutrition, or a certified pet food nutritionist.
“If choosing a commercially prepared raw food provider, ensure you understand how long they have been manufacturing their food and choose one that has a long history, uses human grade meat and is transparent about their ingredients, production processes and can prove they work to a complete and balanced formula.”
Without a doubt, the key is make sure you understand the variety of ingredients required to ensure a raw diet is nutritionally complete and balanced for your dog.
Shannon adds, “When transitioning across to a new diet you can find that the dog’s stools may become more pungent, bigger and messy—as they clear out the ‘rubbish’ from their system, before they start to reduce once they have transitioned across fully.
“This is why it is so important to introduce raw food very slowly, so that the digestive system and PH levels within your dog’s stomach can regulate the changes that are happening internally.
“Pre and probiotic supplements can assist in transitioning, Again, always introduce these slowly.”
And Finally, the Pros and Cons
Maybe you have been enjoying the benefits of a raw food diet. Perhaps you feel traditional pet food is no longer right for your furry friend. Whatever your motivation to explore a raw food diet for your dog, it can be helpful to consider the pros and cons.
- Essentially, by feeding dogs a raw diet we are giving them the food they evolved with. It is appropriate food that their physiology is best able to digest.
- The ingredients in raw food are nutritionally dense and high quality, as they are not adversely affected by the heating process.
- If prepared correctly, there is no need for the addition of synthetic vitamins and minerals
- A raw diet can bring a range of benefits such as reduced stool volume and odour (as long as transitioned across slowly away from dry food to a raw food diet to avoid digestion issues), improved skin condition and softer, shinier coats, reduction of skin allergies and reported improvements in behaviour, vitality and energy.
- Feeding a quality raw-food diet can be more expensive than a kibble-only diet. Although not always!
- It can be easy to neglect certain necessary ingredients for your dog’s health when making your own raw food diet at home, which can put a dog at risk of nutritional deficiencies. That’s why you must understand the requirements of a complete and balanced raw food diet and work to the complete and balanced meal plan.
- Potential for bacteria cross contamination – meticulous care is required in the handling, preparation and sanitation of raw food, in the same way it is when preparing your own meals with raw meat.
- A raw diet may not be suitable for sick, immune-compromised dogs.
- Requires refrigeration or freezing immediately after preparation and can’t be left out for slow eaters, especially in warmer weather.
Have you changed your dog to a raw diet? We’d love to hear your story. Please share in the comments below.