What is the Raw Food Diet for Dogs?
Why a Raw Diet Is Better Than Kibble for Your Dog
There’s a lot of controversy around raw diets for dogs. Some sources claim that “dogs aren’t wolves” and therefore, the logic goes, they don’t “need” to eat raw meat. Well, the reality is that today’s dogs are sicker than ever, and most eat kibble, which can never be as nutritionally complete or diverse as raw, natural food. Is there a correlation? I believe so. Here is info on raw food diet dogs.
What is a Raw Food Diet for Dogs?
A raw diet isn’t just hunks of meat. Dogs have been our companions for so long, they’ve adapted to a more omnivorous diet. So just because they’re not wolves doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from the perfect micro- and macro-nutrient balance that only raw, natural food can provide. It includes:
- Muscle meat (the mainstay of the diet); often on the bone
- Organ meats (liver, kidneys, heart, etc.)
- Raw eggs* and eggeshells
- Whole or ground bones
- Raw vegetables (broccoli, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes)
- Raw fruit (apples, bananas, avocado)
- Minimal dairy (yogurt is best)
* In this country, we are terrified of raw eggs because of the risk of salmonella. However, eggs are washed, and dogs’ digestive systems can easily handle the bacteria found in raw foods. For peace of mind, get the good eggs (organic and free-range and if possible, from a local farmer) and refrigerate them. Larger dogs can eat eggshells whole (some love eggshells as much as we love potato chips); for small dogs you can dry the eggshell and grind it into a powder. Eggshells are an amazing source of calcium and other minerals and can actually help prevent internal parasites.
Benefits of a Raw Diet
Imagine what would happen to your body if you only ate steak-and-potatoes TV dinners for your whole life. As much as processed food is “fortified” with vitamins, it’s never in the perfect proportions found in Nature. You would never get the complete nutritional spectrum that is only available when you eat a variety of whole, fresh foods.
Another word for this is malnutrition. Malnutrition isn’t just “not enough” food; it’s also “not enough of the right food” – and it’s surprisingly common in wealthy industrialized nations, because of our love affair with carbohydrates, sugar, and fat. Malnutrition leads to significant health problems, including cancer. That is the #1 reason to avoid feeding your dogs a kibble-based diet!
I’ve seen the difference with my own dogs. When I switched to raw, I quickly saw:
- Shinier coats and healthier skin without that stinky “doggy” odor
- Cleaner teeth and less “dog breath”
- More energy
- Smaller stools
Potential Risks of a Raw Diet
So why the controversy? The biggest perceived risks of a raw diet are:
- Bacterial infection from raw meat or eggs
- Choking or broken teeth hazard from whole bones
Today, you have options that can help mitigate some of the concerns of feeding raw.
- Contamination/bacteria: If you’re worried about contamination and bacteria, you can also get commercially prepared raw foods that are frozen or freeze-dried – and these facilities are regularly tested for safety.
- Your dog CAN have raw chicken. Their system can handle any potential bacteria just fine. On your end, just wash the knife and cutting board as you would if you were preparing chicken for your family.
- Too much fat: there’s some buzz about a raw diet being higher in fat. Don’t be scared of fat!! It’s a necessary part of a diet… in moderation. Everything in moderation. Eating fat will not make your dog fat. Lack of exercise and overfeeding will make your dog fat.
- Cost: If you want to save money, prepare your own. There are lots of great commercially prepared raw diets out there but they can be expensive.
- Broken teeth or choking from bones: not all dogs have great teeth, and not all dogs have mouths large enough for big beef bones. Great alternatives are bone meal (ground bones, which are the basis of bone broth mixes you buy at the natural food store); or to feed them eggs, and grind up the (dried) eggshells to sprinkle on their food.
The Secret to Success
Raw diet critics will often point to the lack of nutritional labeling on raw foods. Well… since Nature doesn’t come with stickers and labels, and because humans aren’t the geniuses we think we are when it comes to food (look at how many problems we caused ourselves with the food pyramid)… the best approach is surprisingly simple:
- Everything in moderation.
Going back to the TV dinner example… if you switch to a raw diet for your dog and constantly feed the same four or five things (beef, chicken, sweet potatoes, and spinach) you’ll be in the same situation as if you were feeding kibble: a limited nutritional spectrum.
Here are 5 rules for successfully feeding your dog a raw diet:
- Mix it up. Think about this: the typical American eats the same 36 (yes, thirty six) foods consistently week after week. That’s the human version of a kibble diet. So make a meal plan for your dog’s week, mix it up as much as you can with a different meat every day (some days, muscle meat; other days, organ meat; fish; eggs; and with different veggie and fruit combinations).
2. Remember the bones and eggshells! Organ or muscle meat won’t give your dog the calcium and other minerals found only in bones or eggshells. Dogs love to gnaw on bones, and bone marrow is so good for them, but if your dog can’t handle bones, bone broth, bone meal, or ground eggshells are safe alternatives.
3. Raw Organs for Pets = superfoods. One of the biggest mistakes raw feeders make is to focus on muscle meats and ignore the organ meats. Feed 10-30% of the “meat” portion as organ meats (except liver – feed no more than 10% liver because of very high Vitamin A content). Organ meats include liver, kidneys, lung, testicles, brain, spleen, and “sweetbreads” (pancreas and thymus). You may think they’re icky… your dog thinks they’re delicious – and nutritious.
4. The bulk of the raw diet is muscle meat: beef, bison, turkey, lamb, pork, game, duck, fish, and chicken. Make sure you mix regular cuts of meat with lean cuts and fish, to avoid feeding too much fatty meat/skin. Remember: balance and variety.
5. Vary the fruits and veggies. Squash, carrots, avocado (NO pits), leafy greens, celery, broccoli, oranges, papaya, apples… the only ones to avoid are grapes (and raisins) and pitted fruits.
How Much To Feed?
Feed your dog 2-3% of his ideal adult weight every day. A 50 lb dog would eat just over 1 lb of raw food; more if your dog is very active, less if your dog is a sofa spud.
It may take a little time for you to figure out the ideal amounts to feed since you’re not working with a standardized food. Simply monitor your dog’s weight and adjust as needed.
Make changes to your dog’s diet slowly to make it easier on their kibble-constrained digestive system. If you feed twice a day, substitute half of the kibble with raw. After a week, you can switch to a fully raw diet.
Once you’ve made the switch and your dog’s digestive system wakes up, you won’t have any more problem switching from chicken to fish to whatever, any more than you have problems eating different foods every day.
You’ll start to see results very quickly as your dog’s body jumps for joy at getting real food… and you and your dog will be glad you made the switch!
What is the Raw Food Diet for Dogs? I hope this clears things up for you so you can get your precious pup off of health-degrading kibble.
Do you feed your pup raw food? What is the best raw dog food for your dog? Please share your comments and experience below.