Are raw food diets for dogs an ideal meal plan or a dangerous fad?
We weigh up the options…
People are very passionate when it comes to the subject of what they feed their dogs, and with good reason. A good diet can contribute to a long and healthy life and even psychological well-being for our pets. The question is, what is the best food to feed domesticated dogs? While the majority of people feed a commercial kibble or canned food, many owners today are looking for other options.
A raw food-based diet is one approach that has grown in popularity over the last decade, but along with this growing popularity has come growing controversy regarding the benefits of feeding a raw diet.
One of the reasons people cite for feeding a raw diet is that it is a more “natural” diet for dogs. The theory is that wild canids would eat a diet mainly consisting of raw meat and bones, so people should try and mimic this diet when feeding their pets. However, the pet dogs that live in our homes do not resemble their wild cousins.
One of the biggest challenges in deciding whether to feed a raw diet is the overwhelming amount of conflicting information, and the fact that much of this information is anecdotal in nature.
Below, we outline the major benefits and concerns regarding raw diets to help you in deciding if a raw diet would be right for your dog. Keep in mind there are benefits and risks associated with all choices of food for your dog, so you must decide if the benefits of a raw diet outweigh the potential risks. When making the best choice for your dog, it’s important to remember that what is right for you and your dog may not be right for someone else and their dog. A raw diet may not be appropriate for all dogs and before you decide what is right for your dog, you should discuss your options with your veterinarian. Consulting a canine nutritionist can also be very beneficial when designing a diet specific to your dog’s requirements.
White Teeth & Fresh Breath
Through the natural teeth cleaning benefits provided from a raw diet, dogs experience fresh breath, healthy gums, and white teeth. Large cuts and raw meaty bones provide teeth cleaning benefits to raw fed dogs. Muscle tissues acts like natural floss and RMBs scrape calcified tartar buildup.
Ideal Weight Maintenance
An all natural, species appropriate, raw dog food diet increases the metabolic rate in dogs. This process allows dogs to lose unwanted fat and gain a desirable increase in muscle mass. Physical condition can be further improved when paring a raw diet with a regular workout routine.
Improved Coat Condition
Skin and coat health is one of the first changes seen when feeding a dog a raw diet. A balanced raw diet is free from processed foods, artificial preservatives, additives, and low quality proteins which provides dogs with the essentials to maintain a thick and shiny coat.
Stronger Immune System
Raw diets stabilise, and strengthen a dog’s immune system. Feeding raw provides a natural source of protein, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and other nutrients. This improves immune function to serve as the foundation to fight present diseases and prevent against possible future illnesses.
Stabilised Energy Levels
Unlike humans, dogs metabolize their energy from raw animal fat instead of carbohydrates. Diets rich with carbs and sugars spike energy levels making a dog tired shortly after. PMR and BARF provides a raw diet free from unwanted starches, carbs, and sugars which aid in stabilizing clean and consistent energy levels.
Smaller & Less Odorous Stools
Since a dog’s digestive tract is short and lacks complexity, most items in commercial diets pass undigested as bulk waste. This creates a large stool. Raw dog diets do not consist of bulk ingredients such as wheat, corn, soy, oats, etc. PMR and BARF only consists of natural sources of proteins leaving small and firm stool.
Raw diets have been found to contain Salmonella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium botulinium, and Staphylococcus aureus, all of which are known human and canine pathogens. These bacteria are shed in dog stools and may be transferred to carpets and furniture as the dog moves around the house. These pathogens usually only pose a serious human risk to the immuno-compromised, the elderly, and young children; however, this is a very important consideration if you are feeding a raw diet and have people in these risk groups living in your home.
In addition, there is a potential risk to dogs from certain pathogens found in raw foods, such as Neospora caninum, found in raw beef, Nanophyetus salmincola, found in raw salmon, and Trichinella spiralis, which is found in raw pork and wild game such as deer, elk, and moose. All of these pathogens can make your dog sick and are potentially fatal. Feeding bones can cause choking, intestinal blockage or perforations, and chipped or broken teeth.
Because it can be difficult and time consuming to adequately balance a raw diet, nutritional deficiencies, especially in vitamins and minerals, are a significant possibility. To complicate the matter even further, some nutritional deficiencies take many months to show up and you may not see the problems with feeding a particular diet until the animal has been eating it for months or years.
Raw vegetables are often poorly digested by dogs. Most of the nutrients in raw vegetables are rendered more available when they are lightly cooked and then ground.
Feeding raw food is expensive and time consuming. The preparation of balanced meals for your dog every day can be a challenge to fit into a busy lifestyle. As a rule of thumb, if you are eating out more than three meals a week, you are likely too busy to properly prepare meals for your dog, so a home-made raw diet may not be the best choice for your life schedule.
Raw diets are particularly inconvenient if you travel frequently, whether your dog goes with you or stays behind. Many hotels are not equipped to deal with raw food storage, not all commercial brands are available everywhere, and some boarding facilities charge a premium for dogs on raw diets because of the space required for food storage.
Unfortunately, there is little scientific research on feeding raw foods. This means that some of the information provided here is based on anecdotal evidence and has not been proven at this time. Much of the existing research on raw diets surrounds the microbial risks of raw meats and is very important to take into consideration. Hopefully, future research into raw diets will allow you to make a more informed choice about what to feed your dog.
(Article source: Modern Dog)