Raw Dog Diet (Introduction)
Feeding pets a “raw food” diet may be the most hotly contested topic in modern animal nutrition with both fervent supporters and ardent opponents. With the topic drawing so much passion from both sides, science has come to support various points on each side of the issue and, like anything, the real truth and benefit likely lies somewhere in the middle with a healthy dose of moderation.
In this book, we will examine six critical aspects of feeding your pet a raw food diet, including discovering what a raw food diet is, comparing raw food diets to traditional kibble, considering whether a raw food diet is right for your dog, taking a deeper look at some additional nutritional considerations required if you feed a raw diet, presenting the different raw food diets options available, and reviewing how to switch your animal to a raw food diet. Additionally, we present a few of our favorite tasty recipes for homemade food and treats.
This guide is not presented as an evangelist for traditional, commercially manufactured kibble diets or for raw food diets, but rather takes a critical examination of each and presents topics for thought by the pet guardian in deciding the best approach for their canine companion animal. The science of pet nutrition is complex and evolving. This book is intended as an introduction sampling a few of the issues around traditional and raw pet foods, not as a comprehensive analysis. Prior to making any dietary decisions for your pet, please be sure to consult with your veterinarian as each pet is unique in their dietary needs based on a myriad of factors including, but not limited to, age, breed, lifestyle and specific health considerations.
Raw Food Diet For Dogs - Balancing Explained For Beginners
What Is A Raw Dog Food Diet?
So what, exactly, is a raw food diet? The idea was first introduced to the nutrition of domestic animals and popularized by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst in 1993 with the publication of his book “Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs for a Long Healthy Life.” In the book, Billinghurst made the argument that dogs should be fed biologically appropriate raw food, which he describes as what dogs ate before they became domesticated (or what dogs in the wild eat to this day). Such a diet includes raw, uncooked animal meats, meaty animal bones, vegetables and fruits.
The notion of feeding domesticated animals a diet that more closely resembles their wild diet is reinforced by the fact that dogs’ digestive systems were designed to process and extract nutrients from a particular food profile - that in which they evolved and adapted to by hunting and foraging in the wild for thousands of years. Billinghurst and others have suggested that commercial pet foods, especially those with a high yield of grains and carbohydrates are harmful to a dog's overall health.
Detractors, including many veterinarians and even the United States Food and Drug Administration, have noted that raw diets may not be beneficial to a dog's health and, in fact, may pose more risks than benefits to both dogs and their human companions. Many of these risks have been well documented in scientific studies published in academic veterinary journals.
Why Feed A Raw Diet?
After weighing the pros and cons of feeding a domestic dog a raw diet, why then, do many pet owners choose to do so? The reasons are varied and often mirror a pet owner's own dietary beliefs and desire to provide the best possible nutrition for their animal.
The most popular reason for choosing to feed a raw food diet is that it is what dogs are designed to eat. This is proven by examining a dog's very anatomy. Starting with the teeth - dogs have sharp teeth that are designed to pull and tear raw meats and have little ability to grind foodstuffs. Their esophagus is designed to swallow these large chunks of food with minimal chewing. The stomach is likewise designed to hold these large quantities of meat and digest proteins partially before passing into the intestines for further digestion, nutrient absorption and elimination. Advocates of raw food diets believe that modern, manufactured dog foods are not as easily digestible as the raw foods that the body has evolved to process over thousands of years.
A second consideration steering many pet owners to feed raw diets is the quality of the food they are feeding to their animal. Just like humans, the quality of food that is put into the body has a significant impact on its performance. As science has suggested in the human food chain that preservatives and additives may have a negative impact on the body, this belief is translating into the animal world as well. Many pet owners desire to reduce the amount of carbohydrates fed to their animals, and eliminate all carbohydrates from grains, as they are not native to a wild dog's diet and are very difficult for the body to process. Others are concerned about the empty fillers that are added to some commercial dog foods to bulk them up. Others still are concerned about the safety of manufactured dog foods in terms of their geographic origin, ingredients that go into them and the manufacturing process.
How To Transition Your Dog To Raw Food
Joy of Cooking
Many pet owners love to cook for themselves and their families. As pets are a natural extension of the human family, many like to share the joy of providing a delicious, healthy meal to their beloved canine companion too.
Special Dietary Considerations
Finally, in response to various health conditions and life stages, many pet owners feel that they are able to provide an enhanced lifestyle for their dog by providing nutrition that specifically focuses on certain needs that are able to be managed through diet.
Safety of Raw Diets
We will focus much more on the risks associated with feeding a raw food diet in Chapter 3, however, it is important to reiterate that feeding animal’s raw meat brings with it an increased risk in spreading foodborne illnesses both to the pet and host family. Raw diets, while well intended, also do not include the scientific formulation that quality manufactured kibble does and many end up not meeting the nutritional needs of the pet. In other cases, too much of certain nutrients may be provided that cause additional health concerns. The safety of raw food diets is a very serious issue that should not be taken lightly and must be carefully studied and weighed by the pet parent prior to choosing such a diet for their dog.
Raw Diets vs. Traditional Pet Food
Traditional Pet Food Diets (Kibble & Canned Moist Food)
Contrary to popular belief amid myths propagated by uniformed internet posts, articles and media reports, the commercial dog food industry is a highly regulated one. State feed control offices in each state across the country police the contents and manufacturing processes to ensure that commercial dog foods both contain the stated ingredients on their label and that they are safe to consume.
A diligent pet food consumer will purchase foods with the phrase “complete and balanced” placed on the label.
To advertise that a pet food is complete and balanced, the pet food manufacturer is certifying that the product is intended to be fed as a pet’s sole diet and is nutritionally balanced to achieve this objective. The food must meet the Dog Food Nutrient Profile established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a non-profit organization that establishes interstate feed standards for animals. AAFCO established the first Dog Food Nutrient Profile in 1991 and updates them regularly with the latest in veterinary nutritional science. In other words, AAFCO works with the feed control agency in your state to ensure that any dog food (kibble) on the market claiming to be “complete and balanced” is nutritious and suitable to provide an adequate, healthy diet for your pet. AAFCO further regulates all label claims in terms of ingredients, approves which ingredients are safe for use in pet foods and defines which nutrient profiles are suitable for various life stages, such as growth and reproduction or adult maintenance.
These AAFCO standards ensure that dog food does not contain too much of a particular ingredient (overnutrition) or too little
(undernutrition). The nutrient profiles are quite extensive and include recommendations for protein, fat, fat soluble vitamins, water soluble vitamins and mineral contents. Dry kibble pet food and canned moist pet food is cooked, like human food, to destroy harmful bacteria. In short, a group of scientists and veterinary nutritionists have together developed an optimum, balanced diet for dogs that pet food manufacturers must adhere to ensuring safe, nourishing food for domestic pets.
In contrast to highly regulated, scientifically balanced commercial kibble products, raw pet food diets take the science of providing complete balanced nutrition into the pet guardian’s kitchen. While it is possible to compose a complete, healthy diet on your own, it is rather difficult and akin to producing a multivitamin in your home. So why then would one chose to offer their pet a raw food diet? There are many reasons, depending on a pet owner's particular objective.
Here are a few that we find most common:
Native Biological Diet
As we have previously discussed, dogs in the wild were designed to eat meat. We can see this by looking at the teeth of our dog right now, whether they be 10 pounds or a hundred, dog’s mouths were designed to eat meat, not chew foods that resemble cereal. It is more difficult to see with the naked eye, but the digestive tract of a canine animal is designed for a more primitive diet as well. Of course, we can look out the window into the wild and see this fact at work. Think about a coyote living in the desert or a wolf in the woods - they are hunters and scavengers that eat whole, raw foods to not only survive,
As nutritional science advances in the human realm and pet owners have begun restricting the simple carbohydrates in their own diets, research has gone into doing the same for canine animals. There are many studies that suggest that dogs have a hard time digesting grains that are often used to boost nutritional profiles or as filler in dog food products. Providing a raw food diet takes these grains out of the picture completely while still providing limited carbohydrates as fruits and vegetables.
Control Over Ingredients
Whether the concern be for contaminated ingredients (such as the Chinese melamine crisis in 2007), quality of ingredients (white meat chicken versus chicken byproduct, for example) or factoring out ingredients (such as preservatives), many pet owners find peace of mind in knowing exactly what they are feeding their pet.
The pet food manufacturing process exposes pet food to high temperatures both to achieve a desired consistency and to kill any harmful bacteria. While these high temperatures have health benefits, they also may cause the breakdown of enzymes and a reduction in the nutritional value of the foods.
Providing raw food diets also presents a few unique challenges to the pet owner. A few of these challenges include:
More Difficult to Prepare
Feeding dry kibble is easy - put a scoop in the bowl and let the dog chow down. Raw diets require the procurement of many fresh ingredients on a regular basis. These fresh ingredients must then be prepared at meal time to ensure safety (we are dealing with raw meats and fresh produce, after all). Finally, the pet's eating area must be cleaned and sanitized after feeding to prevent contamination (again, raw meat was placed in the dogs bowl).
Easy, Basic, DIY - How to Make Your Own Raw Food Diet for Your Dog
As an example, a one day supply of a typical commercially prepared raw food diet for a thirty pound dog costs between $2.50 and $5. This translates into $75 - $150 per month. Feeding a homemade diet with fresh meats and produce is similar in cost. In comparison, a super premium dry dog food runs around $1 per day, or $30 a month.
Lack of Scientific Nutritional Balance
Finally, raw food diets, unless prepared by the most conscientious and knowledgeable cook, often lack the academically studied and scientifically formulated complete nutritional balance of commercially prepared kibble and moist dog food products leaving the pet at risk of overnutrition or undernutrition - both of which may endanger the health of the animal.