The raw dog food diet is taking the canine owner community by storm. The notion that our dog has come from wolves. And wolves only eat all raw diet. It seems to be the right way forward.
Yet, some Veterinary societies do not agree with this. These groups argue that the RAW diet will not be enough nutrients for a dog and can give health issues to the dog’s family.
There is a lot of tension between a dog owner and veterinarians when an all raw food diet is brought up.
One of the reasons for the difference in opinions is that there is not much research on the topic.
When I decided to get a puppy, my friend asked if I would consider feeding him a BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet. I was intrigued and decided to look into it. I wanted to provide the best life and health to my new friend.
What is RAW FOOD DIET or BARF DIET?
Raw dog food can be home-made, store-bought, freeze-dried, or dehydrated. A raw diet usually includes organ meats, muscle meat, whole or ground bone, raw eggs, dog-safe fresh fruits and vegetables, and a dairy product such as yogurt. (1)
The raw diet is as it sounds- raw. It is up to each owner to decide how much of each nutrient to serve to a dog: Dog’s age and weight should be considered.
The diet contains no added synthetic supplements, additives, or preservatives. (2)
Benefits of a raw dog food diet
Advocates of raw food diets claim these benefits:
- shinier coats
- healthier skin
- improved dental health
- increased energy
- smaller stools
- better managed weight
- decreased heart issues as the dog ages
But it is important to note that the raw food bowl has to be balanced. The cheapest burger meat bought in a supermarket will not be the same as home-prepared mince meat fresh from the butcher’s counter.
In closing, the RAW diet can achieve the benefits mentioned above, but not all ingredients are equal.
Risks of a raw food diet
My research led me to look into various governing bodies. I was looking for clarification on what is the best diet for a dog.
What surprised me
There is no requirement that pet food products have pre-market approval by the FDA. But FDA ensures that the ingredients used in pet food are safe and have an appropriate function in the pet food. Many ingredients such as meat, poultry, and grains are considered safe and do not require pre-market approval. (3)
Lack of evidence
Many dog owners believe and criticize big brands like Hills science diet and Purina. They think that manufacturers brainwash vets into thinking that their product is the healthiest option for a dog.
These big brands have internally funded studies and food trials to back up their claims.
Furthermore, these companies do not want to back up any other food option for a dog.
Companies which produce raw food for dogs still are relatively small and do not have resources to fund research on a raw diet for a dog.
As a professional’s vets understandably want to see research and positive results first.
Drs. Freeman and Heinze wrote an article:
At this time, there are no scientific studies showing any health benefits of RMBD (raw meat based diet). However, numerous studies show that there are health risks for an animal eating a RMBD, ranging from nutritional deficiencies or toxicities, risks from ingestion of bones, and hyperthyroidism. (4)
Nutritional imbalance in raw dog food.
From ancestry, a prospective raw dog food diet makes sense. But there is a lot to understand about animals’ nutritional needs.
It is up to an owner to know what their dog needs nutrition-wise on raw food diet is. Sometimes not enough individual research is done to realize what it is that our pet needs.
Commercial foods are a balanced dog food diet with all minerals and vitamins included. The same has to be true for the raw food diet.
Your dog’s unique nutritional requirements will depend on its size, breed, and stage in life, among other factors. A better understanding of how dogs use the various nutrients in food and how much of them they need can help you choose a healthier diet for your pet. (5)
The above article helped me look at my dog’s nutritional needs in a different light and is worth reading.
Risk of bacteria.
There are additional risks to preparing raw meat diet.
Recent scientific studies have shown that nearly all RMBD (whether commercial or home-made) are contaminated with bacteria, as with any type of unprocessed raw meat. Salmonella contamination rates for raw meat-based diet have been measured at between 20-48%. Other bacteria identified in RMBD include E Coli 0157, Campylobacter, and Listeria. Infections caused by these diets have been diagnosed in pets and, because pets eating contaminated RMBD shed potentially dangerous bacteria in their faeces, these diets also are risky for humans in the same household and who otherwise come into contact with the animal. (6)
Yet, new studies emerge from university bodies and pet owners who feed their pets raw food diets.
In one study by University in Helsinki, they looked at a link for bacteria in households where a pet was fed raw food:
An extensive international survey conducted at the University of Helsinki indicates that pet owners do not consider raw food to considerably increase infection risk in their household. In the survey, targeted at pet owners, raw food was reliably determined to be a contaminant only in three households. (7)
To advise on raw food diet to a pet owner, a vet will have a liability to make sure all risks are explained. Sometimes this leads to danger outweighing the benefits to a practitioner.
Things to consider when changing to a raw food diet.
If you decide to go ahead with the Raw Meat Based Diet, I strongly suggest you follow specific steps and never do it alone. Consult with your veterinarian if any doubt about the process. Also, consider the following suggestions.
Do your research before making the switch.
Consult your dog’s vet and qualified nutritionist.
Especially if your dog has any current health issues, your vet might or might not have reservations about the raw food diet. In any case, find the middle ground as both parties wish the best for a pet.
The dog will drink less.
Commercial kibble is dehydrated, hence the reason that freshwater should be available at all times.
Raw food has much more water, so your pet’s water intake will decrease.
Cleaning and sanitising.
Home prepared raw diet will involve knives, chopping boards, storage containers, preparation surfaces.
All the items above will need wash and sanitation to minimize bacterial growth. Ensure to stock up on things like washing soap, sanitizer, and safe pet sanitizer for areas your dog might lick.
Familiarise yourself with products available in local stores.
- Butcher shops
A great place where to find liver, heart, and kidneys
Make sure that it is a good quality shop
- Farmers markets
Find local meat and maybe a freebie from cuts
- Asian markets
You’ll find a lot of different cuts, including pork belly. They also carry speciality products like oxtail, intestine, tripe, pigskin, duck wing, frog legs. (8)
Check the frozen section for special deals.
Do not rush your dog in the transition period.
Be patient. Offer your dog a small amount of raw meat with regular kibble. Remember that raw meat has a completely different taste and feel than regular kibble.
Going slow will also help their digestive system to learn to process something new.
Make sure the meals are balanced.
Raw food diet has to mimic the whole prey diet as closely as possible.
A plate has to consist of:
- Meaty bone
- Muscle meat- such as liver, kidneys and heart
- Meat- chicken, venison, beef, turkey- variety is welcome
- (Make sure that your dog is not allergic to any of the meats you are offering by trialling small cuts)
- Fresh whole foods; Vitamin D and E, Manganese, Iodine, Omega- 3S, Zinc.
Check your dog’s stool.
During the transition, your dog’s poop can be loose, and that is normal. The food is different, and the dog’s digestive system will have to adjust.
Note: loose stool has a form, and diarrhea is liquid.
But remember that all below can also cause diarrhea and problems of the digestive system:
- Protein intolerance
- Too much raw food, too quickly
- Too much fat content
What to do next?
Raw food diet for a dog is a hot and controversial topic at the moment. Most local vets and animal protection agencies will not advise feeding your pet a raw diet without solid research backing its benefits. However, some people believe that the help of this kind of diet is more “natural,” linked to the disbelief in commercial foods.
It can be a tough decision to make. Be aware of assessing the risks before switching, and keep your vet in the loop. Your veterinary is always advocating, as you are, for your dog’s best interest and health.