These days, raw-food diets are all the rage. But if you and your dog haven’t tried the trend, it can be a little intimidating: Couldn’t raw food be dangerous for my pooch? Is it right for my pup? Do I have to do it?
First things first: What is a raw-food diet?
Let’s break this question down into two parts.
A basic definition of “raw food” is unprocessed, unheated food in its natural state.
A basic definition of a “raw-food diet” is one that consists of complete and balanced meals made up of unprocessed and uncooked food in its natural state.
Humans who eat a raw-food diet typically consider fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouted grains, and herbs the mainstay of their meals (most do not include animals in their diet). When looking at raw-food diets for dogs, expect to see meat, organ meat, blood, and bones making up the largest percentage of the meals.
How do dogs benefit from going raw?
Raw food is generally high in moisture, which prevents the body from staying in a constant state of dehydration. Hydration is essential for internal organs to function properly.
Raw food is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Vitamins and minerals can be sufficiently added back into cooked foods, but enzymes generally lack in most processed and cooked foods.
Some common signs of enzyme deficiency include weight problems, allergies, low energy, fatigue, slow healing/recovery, excessive aging, disturbed digestion, stomach upset, gas, and constipation. By getting enzymes into your dog’s diet, you are likely to see quick improvements in these areas.
Can all dogs eat a raw diet?
Dogs with certain health conditions may benefit from controlling protein and fat levels in the diet. For dogs with conditions such as kidney disease, pancreatitis, or a compromised immune system, you may want to reach out to a holistic veterinarian to assist you in starting a raw-food diet. The American Holistic Veterinarian Medical Association is a good source to find a health-care practitioner to assist with specific health concerns.
Can’t raw/uncooked food be dangerous?
Cooking food thoroughly at high temperatures destroys pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. There have been numerous recalls of dry kibbled (heated) dog foods because of potential salmonella contamination. Although these foods have been heated to kill the pathogens, they likely were contaminated after food production. This cooked food no longer has healthy bacteria to combat the potentially harmful bacteria.
Raw foods can carry these pathogens, but they also contain healthy bacteria, which can keep potentially bad bacteria from growing out of control.
Use good common sense when preparing raw food: Wash hands, bowls, utensils, and counter tops thoroughly with soap and water, whether the food is for human or canine. Young children, the elderly, and those with lower-functioning immune systems should avoid handling raw foods.
Most importantly, don’t feed raw food if you are not comfortable with it! It’s not mandatory; it’s just one option for incorporating variety into your dog’s diet. When you feel good about it, you likely will give it a try. If you never get to that point, that’s perfectly OK! Adding some raw food to a complete and balanced kibble is a good way to get your feet wet and provide your dog with those living enzymes.
Preparing your own raw dog food seems expensive and time-consuming. Any tips or recipes?
More important than the cost and time of making your own raw dog food is making sure it is complete and balanced! Often dog lovers “experiment” with homemade diets and find it a big challenge.
They come to us because they realize they are not getting it right; they begin to experience the disadvantages of a diet that isn’t complete and balanced. Two respected sources for recipes for homemade raw diets are Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats and Steve Brown’s See Spot Live Longer.
What are your favorite raw-food brands?
Vital Essentials, Steve’s Real Food, and Minnesota’s own Raw Bistro are the three raw-food lines we have selected to work with at Solid Gold Northland. All are committed to locally sourcing ingredients, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, earth-friendly practices, safety, and continued education.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease and are not a substitute for expert medical treatment and care.