Why a Raw Food Diet Might Be Best for Your Dog (and What You Need to Know Before Making the Switch)
It’s no secret that traditional pet food, whether it’s kibble or wet, is loaded with fillers. We’ve all heard about the by-products, vegetable protein, and grains such as wheat, rice or corn, and artificial additives and preservatives. Pet foods listing “beef” or “chicken” are often full of nothing but hooves, heads, tails, and other scraps. Even the foods that claim to be grain-free with no by-products are formed into kibble, loaded with preservatives and baked, killing any remaining nutrients, enzymes, and antioxidants.
Over time, studies suggest that these types of pet foods can cause serious health problems such as skin irritations, obesity, diabetes, bad breath, and more. Feeding a raw diet, however, may help to correct many of these issues.
What Does Raw Diet Mean, Anyway?
Just as the name implies, a raw diet is food at its simplest form. Rather than those fillers mentioned above, raw diets contain real muscle meat, bone and essential organ tissue, and in some cases, fruits and vegetables (or formulated supplements), making it the healthiest and most natural choice for your pet.
Dogs are carnivorous by nature, which means their bodies are adapted to getting the nutrition they need from animal-based sources (i.e. meat). And since the canine species has existed long before the invention of processed food, a raw diet makes a lot of sense.
A Raw Diet is Full of Health Benefits for Your Dog
Just as incorporating raw, unprocessed foods into your own diet and that of your children can improve health, vitality, and immunity, the same benefits apply to your dog.
1. Increased Immunity
Many dogs in the United States (and probably worldwide) suffer from terrible allergies and autoimmune diseases. Many veterinarians, however, know from experience that dogs switched to fresh food diets often have dramatic improvement in their symptoms.
2. Healthier Teeth & Gums
Poor oral health affects pets today almost as much as it affects humans. This isn’t surprising considering that processed dog (and cat) foods contain large amounts of GMO soy, grains, and other plant-based foods that are lacking in the nutrients needed to produce healthy teeth and gums. Raw, meaty bones, however, are chock full of calcium and probiotic bacteria--both of which can help your pooch’s chompers stay clean and healthy.
3. Improved Brain Function
You’ve probably heard that what we eat can have a huge impact on our behavior. Well, the same applies to your dog. In fact, research shows that nutrition may play a critical role in the brain function and behavior of canines, especially in the early years. With that said, artificial ingredients can leave your dog both mentally and emotionally imbalanced, regardless of their age. But foods rich in proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals can give your dog cognitive enrichment.
4. Improved weight control
Your dog’s weight and muscle mass will be directly impacted when you replace grains and corn with raw foods. Processed kibble is full of empty carbohydrates that break down into sugars, not fuel. Not only does this result in frequent energy crashes, but it also wreaks havoc on your pooch’s digestive system, often resulting in excess weight. A meat-based raw diet, however, breaks down properly, allow your dog’s energy to be much more stable.
5. Healthier skin and coat
From dry skin to itchiness or hot spots due to allergies, food lacking in essential nutrients can have a negative impact on the health of a dog’s skin and coat. Often times, however, these problems can resolve on their own with a raw diet, primarily due to the presence of various fatty acids found in raw, natural meats.
6. Smaller stools
Processed foods can contribute to bowel issues such as diarrhea and constipation. Dogs who eat raw diets tend to eliminate a lot less waste, a lot less frequently. Raw foods can also contribute to improvements in both consistency and odor.
Making the Switch to Raw Dog Food Safely and Effectively
Switching your dog to a raw diet might sound somewhat complicated and stressful, especially when your main focus is ensuring they get all the vitamins and nutrients they need. To make it easier, here are some tips regarding what to include in your dog’s diet:
- Calcium is a must. A good rule of thumb is to ensure your dog’s diet is made up of at least 12-15% of raw bone.
- Muscle meat is not enough. To create balance and to ensure your dog doesn’t miss out on other essential nutrients and vitamins, add organ meat to their diet (roughly 10-30%). Lung, testicle, kidney, brain, and liver are some examples of organ meat (not the heart--it’s a muscle!). Go easy on the liver, though, as too much (more than 10%) can lead to diarrhea.
- Aim for leaner muscle meats. A little fat is good for your dog, but too much can cause problems. Opt for skinless poultry, fish, or lean ground beef.
- Fruits and veggies are beneficial, but not mandatory. Dogs are carnivores, so they’ll manage just fine without fruits and veggies. With that said, they can also benefit from the additional nutrients they provide. Just be sure to cook them first so they are easier to digest.
- Say no to starch. Starch has no nutritional value for your dog and can lead to health conditions like obesity or diabetes.
- Keep it balanced and full of variety. Just as you probably like variety, so does your dog. Mixing it up every now and then will keep it exciting!
- Practice proper food handling. When preparing your dog’s meal, make sure you’re working on a sterilized surface. And don’t forget to wash your hands! Not only does this protect your dog, but it also protects the rest of your family from harmful bacteria.
Related Read: Foods to Keep Away From Your Dog!
Ready to Make the Switch? We Can Help!
Central Pet now carries a HUGE selection of raw food diets. Brands like Eureka!, Nature’s Logic, Suzy’s Raw, Nature’s Variety, Stella & Chewy’s, My Perfect Pet, Fresh Pet and more! You won’t find that kind of variety anywhere else! Our all-natural single ingredient treats and chews included in our ‘Bone Bar’ make great additions to any raw diet you choose!
Still have questions about raw diets for your pets? Give us a call at (520) 882-7577 or stop by today and we can help answer any questions you may have to start transitioning your pet towards all the benefits of being on a raw diet!
Originally published August 2017. Revised August 2019.