Raw Dog Food 101

Supermarkets and pet stores carry many high quality and prescription diets for dogs.  An alternative pet that many owners are now considering is a raw food diet. A raw food diet is as it sounds, feeding raw dog meat as the main source of food. Here’s a guide on the basics of a raw food diet for dogs that can help you be better educated about this dog food trend and be able to make an informed decision.


What is a Raw Food Diet for Dogs?

Raw Food diets for humans consist wholly of vegan foods that are uncooked and fresh. For dogs, a raw food diet consists of raw meat and fresh produce. Raw dog food proponents claim that the raw food diet is more accurate to what the ancestors of our domesticated dogs eat. It is also reported to be a healthier option than processed canned dog foods and dry kibble.

Alternative pet medicine practitioners assert the claim that dogs that eat a raw food diet. The claim is based on the premise that beneficial nutrients, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals are destroyed in cooking and proteins from meat and grains are altered under heat. There is no indication that cooking food destroys any non-scientific special properties of food, but the belief in vitalism puts forth the idea that energetic qualities are destroyed and denatured when food is processed or heated.


Raw Food Diets for Dogs

There are various ways to start a dog on a raw food diet. There are commercial raw food diets available at pet stores and pet supermarkets. You can also make your own raw dog food, and in some places, prepared raw food diets for dogs can be purchased from butchers. Raw dog food can also be ordered from some butchers.

Raw dog food beef diets include organ meats such as beef hearts, kidneys, liver, with a bit of beef trim and fat to create a mixture. Chicken raw food dog diet blends consist of necks and backs with raw bones attached. The raw food diet uses parts of the animals that are often wasted in preparing meat for human consumption. This leads to less animal food waste. If you are feeding a raw dog food that contains bone, the bone has to be uncooked, no matter what animal source the bones come from. Cooked bones become fragile and can splinter or shatter injuring your dog. The shards of cooked bones can cause serious digestive track damage. Chicken bones from the back are small and easily pass through the dog and provide the nutrition from the rich marrow. Butchers who provide raw food to clients open grind the raw ingredients together to a paste and sell it in frozen portions for convenience and to ensure the texture is similar to canned dog food. It is basically pate for canines, and it is good for a special meal or occasionally treats even if your dog is not going to consume a raw diet.

If using a butcher to provide your raw dog food needs, you want to be sure your butcher only uses the best quality ingredients and only uses fresh meats in the dog food blend. You should speak with your butcher and tell them the purpose of your particular order, so they realize the importance of using fresh meat and not the trimmings from yesterday. Raw food needs to be as fresh as possible, and the quality and cleanliness of the butcher shop matter a lot.


Raw Dog Food Problems and Controversies

The raw food diet is more expensive for humans and much more expensive for a dog. Feeding dogs a raw food is indeed more costly than a conventional diet, and it may not be a sustainable option for your budget.  If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may not be comfortable handling raw meat or have ethical objections to feeding raw meat to your dog. Dogs require large amounts of protein, and the best source of protein is meat. A dog should not be made to go vegan with you as it causes them nutritional deficiencies and health issues. Preparing dog food for a raw diet also requires additional time and effort that is not available.


Starter Tips for a Raw Dog Food Diet 

Before starting your dog on a raw food diet, you should consult a veterinarian or certified canine nutritionist knowledgeable with raw food canine diet. An expert can help you ensure that your dog gets all their nutritional needs met.

Certain foods should be avoided being in the kitchen or be thoroughly cleaned up after if you are preparing raw dog food at home. These foods are toxic to dogs and cause serious health risks. Keep onions, garlic, shallots, chives and leeks, grapes and raisins, chocolate, sugar-free foods or household products that contain xylitol, and macadamia nuts far from your raw food prep space or clean the prep surfaces thoroughly if your raw dog food prep surface has come into contact with the above dangers.


The Reported Benefits of the Raw Food Diet

Raw dog food diet advocates claim the following benefits from a dog eating a raw food diet higher energy levels, reduced inflammation, reduced allergies, improved dental health, healthier coats and less shedding, improved dental health and less stool production.


The Risks of Raw Food Diets

To date, no long-term or controlled scientific studies back any of the cited benefits of a dog eating a raw food diet. Currently, all the health benefits from it are anecdotal.

There is also the real risk of your dog getting sick from contaminated meat. Raw meat carries the risk of contracting listeria, salmonella and other food-borne illnesses as well as your dog having a nutritional deficiency if you are not making sure your dog receives the right nutrients in the right amounts for complete nutrition. There is the risk of a dog on a raw food diet can have digestive tract perforations or blockage from bones that cannot pass or splintered and fragmented and cannot pass through the dog’s intestines. A dog can also crack a tooth on a raw bone.


The Proper Handling of Raw Food Preparation

To prevent food-borne illness, proper hand washing before and after raw meat is always a kitchen nm must. It is a habit that should be developed any time you are in the kitchen handling meat or produce and must be paid close attention to when preparing raw dog food at home. You should make sure all food prep surfaces are always cleaned and sanitized after use and stored properly to prevent cross-contamination. Only the freshest meat should be used, and you should never feed your dog meat close to the expiration date, is discolored or smells odd.

If you do decide to do a raw food diet, read the label carefully. The label will state the purpose of the food if you purchase at the supermarket or already made raw dog food products. If the food is not labeled as being “complete and balanced diet,” it cannot meet your dog’s dietary needs. Many raw food products are labeled “for intermittent or supplemental feeding only.”  An adult dog does not need the same nutrition as a puppy so age appropriate diets must be followed even with a raw food diet.

You should look for dog food that meets AAFCO standards.  Most dog food brands have instructions for portions and serving instructions that should be followed. Many brands also have a phone number to contact the food maker and have questions answered by a trained expert. If there is no information on how to serve the food to the dog and no way to contact the company on the packaging, avoid purchasing that product. If you ever have concerns or questions, always consult the vet, your best partner is keeping your pet healthy and happy.





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