One of the fundamental keys to having a healthy dog is a nutritious and well-balanced diet. Experts weigh in on the rising popularity of raw dog food.
Chemicals or nutrients for dinner?
Over the past several years, the sales of raw dog food have increased significantly. The reason? The growing number of veterinary associations and nutritionists point to the dangers of feeding your dog processed foods that contain addictive ingredients to mask the low quality of the food. These addictive ingredients include hydrolyzed protein, table sugar, table salt, propylene glycol, and other chemicals.
The bad quality of processed food is that it is cooked. Cooking changes the food’s structure and destroys all the healthy nutrients it contains. The food is difficult for your dog to digest, leading to an enlarged pancreas due to excessive function. Although dogs have been with humans for more than 10,000 years, they still haven’t got enough time to adapt to eating processed food. Moreover, canned food is too dry and contains only 10% water.
What do experts say about raw dog food?
A study in Belgium gathered data from more than 500 domestic dogs over a consecutive five-year time period (1998-2002). The data showed that dogs who were fed a raw food diet had a life expectancy of 32 months longer.
In 1993, the Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst introduced his BARF diet, an acronym for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food. He agrees with what many paleontologists around the world think, and that is that a period of at least 100,000 years is required before evolutionary changes occur within a whole species. Meaning, dogs should stick to their evolutionary diet based on what they ate before becoming domesticated: raw meat and vegetable scraps.
According to Dr. Richard Pitcairn, his patients have improved health on a raw dog diet. Furthermore, he has not seen significant parasite problems. He thinks that dogs, being carnivores by nature, are meant to eat raw meat and do not have a problem doing so. He further explains that processed foods don’t contain things we wish they did, and do contain things we wish they didn’t.
Read what other experts have to say about feeding your dog a raw diet.
Introducing raw dog food to puppies
A raw dog food diet typically consists of:
- Muscle meat
- Organ meats such as livers and kidneys
- Raw eggs
- Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and celery
- Apples or other fruit
- Dairy, such as yogurt
It’s fairly easy to introduce your puppy to a raw food diet. Puppies are at an advantage as they’re healthier and have healthful digestive systems that can tolerate a rapid switch to raw food. Veterinarians suggest:
- Introducing one source of protein at a time. Start with chicken or turkey meat and feed your dog your first source of protein for a week. Once you see that there are no signs of a digestive issue, introduce your second source of protein.
- Feeding your puppy three times a day. It’s recommended you feed your puppy three times a day until they reach 6 months. After that, feeding them two times a day will suffice.
- Balancing their calcium and phosphorus intake. The raw dog diet should be half to two-thirds meaty bones and half to one-third meats and offal.
Introducing raw dog food to young and healthy dogs
Young and healthy dogs can easily make the transition into a 100% raw food diet. If your dog doesn’t exhibit any signs of digestive problems, then you can transition them in 5-7 days. The following tips can help you with the process:
- Feed them a combination. Start feeding your dog 1/8th of the new food, and 7/8th of the old food. After three meals, double the raw portion to ¼, while reducing the kibble. By day 3, you should be feeding your dog 1/2 of the new food, and 1/2 of the old food. By day 6, feed your dog 100% of the new food. If they don’t show any signs of digestive issues, you have successfully made the transition.
- Play games. Use the raw food as a treat. Slowly increase the number of treats over the next few days. If the stool remains normal, stop the old food and feed the new raw food indefinitely.
- Cook it. Cooking raw food is a great way to get unhealthy dogs interested in raw food. This will give them more time to build up their stomach flora and pH. Cook meats, but not edible bones. On the first day you should introduce the food in a cooked way. By day 3, cook the food ½ of the way, and on day five you can serve the entire food raw.
Introducing raw dog food to picky dogs
As frustrating as it may be, some dogs will turn their heads the other way when they see raw food in their bowl. A different, more specific approach is required for the cute picky eaters. Here are a few tips to help smooth the transition:
- Fast your dog the night before offering him a raw meal.
- Add krill oil to the meal as its strong smell can entice the dog to give the meal a try.
- Many dogs won’t try raw food due to its texture. Try adding water to give the raw food a pâté-like texture.
- Heat up the food before serving it to your dog. Many dogs won’t try raw food just because it’s cold. You can either heat up the meal or add a splash of hot water.
- Add another source of protein in the food, like an egg, shells included. Or you can add different flavors, such as garlic powder or cheese.
- Cook homemade raw dog food. Red meats such as lamb and beef should be chosen over poultry. You can just as well use goat, camel or kangaroo. Don’t forget to add vitamin and mineral supplements, as well as veggies and fruit.
What to expect after switching to a raw dog food diet?
When switching to raw food, your dog might experience symptoms of detoxification. This is a natural process of cleansing the body’s internal organs and tissue from toxins. There’s no need to worry as this is due to the system’s way of removing the toxins accumulated from your dog’s former diet. The symptoms tend to last a few days and include:
- Runny eyes
- Dry skin
- Excessive shedding
- Mucus coating your dog’s stool
- Skin conditions may worsen before improving
- Other symptoms
Change in stool
You will likely notice changes in your dog’s stool. This is again a normal part of the transition to a raw food diet. In the beginning, you might notice variations in the consistency of the stool, but that should improve over time. After your dog has completely switched to a raw food diet, you’ll notice that the stools are smaller and less frequent. Moreover, the increased water content in the meat and vegetables may make the stools softer than usual. Don’t worry but be excited as messy, smelly piles of poop will be a thing of the past!
A decrease in water consumption
If you notice a decrease in water consumption, know that this is another harmless change for new raw food eaters. This is because the raw food contains a large amount of moisture, leading to your dog drinking water less and less. Regardless of their decreased need for water, make sure your dog still has access to clean, filtered drinking water.
Since ancient history, humans and dogs have had a meaningful and deep connection with each other. This relationship, just like everything else, evolved over time. Once dogs helped us hunt down mammoths, and today they bring a dash of happiness into our lives when the days are weary. That’s how strong a bond can grow over the course of thousands of years. The bond needs to live on and only grow stronger. These playful creatures have become our friends and it’s our responsibility to keep them healthy and happy. And they’ll keep on making our days brighter in return.