Are you curious about raw feeding for dogs? You may have heard that feeding your dog raw is beneficial in several ways. And you would be right. Many people are seeking more natural ways of living, not just for themselves, but for their pets as well.
Raw feeding is quickly gaining traction in the pet food industry, a prominent reason being that it’s considered more biologically appropriate—meaning that it’s a diet reflective of what dogs’ ancestors, like wolves and coyotes, eat in the wild.
Some other reasons, such as increased nutrient absorption and alleviation of allergies and ailments, also contribute to the diet’s growing popularity. Whatever the reason you may be considering feeding raw, it is important to gather information in order to make the best choice for your dog. He is, after all, dependent upon you to provide a complete, balanced diet in order to optimize his overall health. It’s also recommended that you speak to a veterinarian who is knowledgeable in canine nutrition and familiar with raw diets, especially if you have a puppy, a senior dog, or a dog with particular health concerns.
So what does a raw diet entail? It isn’t just raw meat. To ensure a complete, balanced diet, a raw diet includes muscle meat, organs, whole or ground bones, eggs, some dairy like goat’s milk or kefir, and possibly some vegetation, though there is some debate on that. The argument for feeding safe fruits and vegetables is that carnivores in the wild consume the contents of their prey’s stomach and sometimes eat grass or berries. The general consensus seems to be that dogs are “scavenging omnivores,” meaning they roam around looking for food and eat whatever is available. They can survive on plants, but will thrive on meat. Dogs are anatomically designed to consume and digest animal flesh and bone:
Their teeth: unlike a true omnivore, a dog’s teeth fit together like scissors and are designed for tearing and slicing. Omnivores have wider and flatter teeth, meant for grinding and chewing plant material. This process also breaks down cellulose—an outer casing on plants—for better digestibility. Also worth noting is how dogs tend to not chew thoroughly. This is because they lack this instinct; they are built for tearing meat into manageable chunks and swallowing it whole.
Their mouth: dogs lack the digestive enzyme amylase in their saliva, which is secreted in omnivores to start the process of digesting carbohydrates. Without it, carbs are more difficult for dogs to digest.
Their stomach: dogs’ stomach acid is much higher than our own, which is why they can process any bacteria present in raw meat.
Owners who feed their dogs a raw diet praise it for having the following benefits:
Better nutrient absorption: raw food contains beneficial bacteria and enzymes that aid in digestion and the absorption of nutrients from the food. These are destroyed when processed at high temperatures in other commercial dog foods (and are then added back in synthetically) and less bioavailable.
Better Poops: raw promotes a healthier gut microflora, which means improvement in the consistency and frequency of bowel movements. Minimal ingredients in the food eaten means your dog uses the nutrients more efficiently. You will find that your dogs’ poops are firmer, more compact, and less smelly.
Shinier Coat: since nutrients in raw are more bioavailable, you may notice less dander, itching, flaking and an overall luster to your dog’s coat. Hydration is another important factor in the overall health of your dog’s skin and coat. Raw food is moisture-rich, which therefore keeps them hydrated and flushes toxins and bacteria from their system. Some owners notice that their dog drinks less water on a raw diet, and this is simply because they are getting the hydration they need from their food. If you have concerns, however, always discuss with your trusted vet.
Improved weight: a raw diet can help manage your dog’s weight. Raw food is calorie-dense, allowing you to feed smaller portions. Less carbs present also means that they are using the energy they get from protein and fat more efficiently, supporting their ability to build lean muscle.
Increased energy: efficient nutrient absorption, bioavailability of those nutrients, leads to an overall increase in energy.
Improved dental health: the knawing and tearing of meat from bone works your dog’s jaw, as well as helps prevent plaque and tartar build-up. There are also enzymes present in raw meat that combat bacteria in their mouths that can cause bad breath and inflammation of the gums.
Food intolerance and allergy management: because a raw diet has minimal ingredients, it makes it easier to pinpoint intolerances and allergies that your dog might have through a process of elimination. Less additives and preservatives present can also help alleviate allergies.
When it comes to feeding a raw diet, there are a couple of options on how to go about it. You can feed homemade, store-bought, freeze-dried or dehydrated raw. If choosing to feed homemade, there are a number of sources you can use to help guide you to ensure that you are feeding a balanced diet. Rawfeddogs.org is a good place to start.
It may also be more cost-effective to prepare meals yourself. Store-bought, on the other hand, tends to be a bit more expensive, but is more convenient. Appropriate ratios of meat, organs and bone, and sometimes including vegetables, is blended, portioned and ready-to-serve. Freeze-dried and dehydrated raw resemble kibble and require hydration, usually through a broth or water, before serving.
There is great evidence to suggest, not to mention testimonies from owners, that raw fed dogs are healthier overall. With the rise in life-threatening diseases like obesity and cancer, there is a desire amongst owners to find more natural ways to prevent and treat these ailments; and to ensure a long and healthy life for their companions. Cutting the crap—chemicals, pollutants, sugars, fillers, etc.—that comes with highly processed, mass-produced products is increasingly sought after. A reduction in common health issues (digestive, skin, coat, and dental health problems) as well as fewer vet bills, are great benefits to consider when deciding if a raw diet is right for your dog.
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