Up to the time that pet food recalls started to become commonplace, most dog owners were simply contented to accept what commercial pet food manufacturers told them to give their pets. These days, many pet owners are aware of the dangers of commercial pet food and have advocated an alternative but better pet food. It is a good thing that not only dog owners but the cat and other animal owners as well are taking a second look at what they give their pets. More and more people involved in the pet care industry, including veterinarians and ordinary dog owners, are starting to see the benefits of a raw, natural diet instead of commercial food to keep their dogs and cats in excellent health and have a long life. They have realized that while commercially prepared pet food may satisfy a dog’s hunger at the moment, it will never be able to keep a dog well enough without suffering any health problem in the long run. Health-conscious people have told us that we are what we eat. Quite true and the same can be said of the dogs we take care of and allow to accompany us daily, whether at home or in the outdoors. Feeding them raw food will bring out the best in them and you as their owner will certainly be pleased and proud of their top physical condition as a result.
A. Effects of Raw Food on Dogs
Dog owners have seen many improvements since they started feeding raw food to their dogs. Their dogs now have shinier, healthier coats and skin. Moreover, they have since maintained cleaner teeth and always have fresh breath. Naturally cleaner teeth result from the lack of carbohydrates in their diet since carbohydrates are associated with plaque. Two very important benefits are better weight control and improved digestion which have definitely contributed to their excellent physical condition. Since their overall health condition is great, they have fewer risks of developing allergy and other diseases.
Raw food is cleaner and easier to digest so that less waste is produced and need to be eliminated from the body. The color or consistency of their dog’s poop has also changed but this is not unusual at all. Dogs feeding on raw meat and bones have more energy and greater stamina than dogs feeding on commercial food. Even older dogs benefit as well as they gain more strength and thus have more mobility.
A dog fed with commercial food and has long been suffering from health problems, as a result, has a lot to gain from switching to raw food.
Healthy dogs can also benefit from a raw food diet because this will give their body a chance to recover, become stronger and be able to avoid some of the debilitating and fatal diseases plaguing other dogs on a traditional commercial food diet. With this in mind, it doesn’t matter at what point in your dog’s life you start him on a raw food diet as he will certainly become healthier and have a longer life.
B. Switching from Commercially Prepared Food to Raw Food Diet
Your love for your dog will dictate that you give him the best there is with regards to his care, especially nutrition. While pet food manufacturers want you to believe that their products are the only way to express your love for your dog, there are others who know that raw food is the best way to feed them and keep them living longer and healthier lives. This is possible because unlike commercially prepared food, raw food has no junk ingredients and preservatives that can harm your dog and lessen his life span.
Skeptics and anti-raw food adherents continue with their opposition because of the lack of knowledge and understanding of dogs in general. They fear that their dog will start craving fresh blood like a vampire, become more vicious and aggressive, attacking each other and worst, their owners and other innocent people. They are also afraid that their pets will get salmonella and E. coli and die writhing in great pain.
The truth, however, is far from these horror stories they would have you believe. No dog has ever turned into a vampire from eating raw food. If eating raw meat and bones made them so aggressive and attack other dogs and people, then it would be hard to explain why packs of wolves have been living peacefully amongst each other in the wild for millions of years. Dogs have been feeding on raw food before they were domesticated and domestication has not altered their food requirements nor their anatomy and digestive system. If the taste of blood in the raw meat they eat makes them bloodthirsty, then there should have been no dogs left anywhere in the city or in the wild.
While the danger from bacteria is real, there are ways to reduce or eliminate exposure for you and your dog. Besides, the digestive system of a dog is very much different from a human’s. The dog’s stomach contains strong acids that can kill bacteria and prevent their multiplication to a number that can cause illness. The likelihood of getting worms is not a concern if you get your meat from a trusted source. If you immediately freeze meat that will not be eaten at the moment, the chance of bacterial growth is reduced. You do this with your own food, so why not for your dog?
Switching to a raw dog food diet can be undertaken in two ways. You can either do a rapid switch or a slow switch. The rapid switch is usually preferred. You simply substitute raw meat and bones for the kibble in one go. In some cases, however, a dog may need to be introduced to raw food slowly and with so much caution. You can start by either mixing in some raw meat with the kibble or by replacing one kibble meal with a serving of raw meat during the day. Through this method, the amount of kibble is gradually reduced while the quantity of raw food is increased.
Here are some basic steps that can you can use as a guide for slowly switching from commercial food to a raw diet. These are meant as pointers and not absolute, strict steps. Remember – always consult with your veterinarian before attempting to switch, especially if your dog is advanced in age, or has a preexisting medical condition. A sudden change in food for dogs that were fed mostly with kibble only may give your dog gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea or vomiting. Most dogs, however, will have no issues.
1. Start slowly. Even if you are quite enthusiastic about feeding raw food, you should not rush it. It is best to limit the variety of food during the first week. Try feeding chicken only because most dogs can easily digest it. Spread the transition over one month by giving ¼ of kibble mixed with ¾ raw during the first week; ½ kibble with ½ raw food for the second week; ¼ kibble with ¾ raw meat for the third week; and 100% raw food for the final week. 2. During this time, try to feed one type of meat only. If you started with chicken, give it for the rest of the first month. You can also try lamb or beef if your dog is sensitive to chicken. Some veterinarians and dog owners allow giving supplements at this time. You will have to decide if you want to go this way or not. We will discuss more supplementation later.
3. After the first month, you can start adding new protein sources such as beef, lamb, rabbit, buffalo, kangaroo, and turkey. You can try to mix these raw meats in one day or give each one alternately throughout the days of the week. You would not want to eat chicken daily for the whole week, would you?
4. You can now start to add raw bones such as chicken backs or turkey necks. These are good not only for getting your dog’s teeth cleaned but also as a source of calcium.
5. Check your dog’s stools. They may become less consistent and some dogs strain when passing stools. This is quite normal. You should look out for liquid diarrhea or inability to pass which can be signs of some trouble. Straining to pass but still being able to be alright. If you think your dog’s condition is a cause for alarm, consult your veterinarian. If your dog starts to experience some problems, stop and return to the previous diet, especially during the first month. You need to patiently wait for your dog’s digestive system’s disrupted functions to normalize again and then start from the beginning. You may have to change the proportion of quantities when mixing raw with kibble or you may have to alternate between raw and kibble, giving each one exclusively for a day and then the other for the next. After each feeding, be sure to observe your dog’s reaction and adjust the diet accordingly
C. Raw Vs Cooked Food
It is quite difficult, if not impossible to imagine the undomesticated dogs that lived thousands of years ago feeding on cooked food in the wild. Perhaps yes, they did occasionally, after a forest fire but under normal circumstances, they went after their favorite prey and feasted on raw meat, bone, and internal organs of the dead animal they just caught. They had no masters who would give them a treat taken from a box or lay down cooked meat in from of them for their pleasure. Dogs then had to make do with what nature presented them at the time and they did very well. They didn’t need any human to protect them from bacteria that could make them sick but they survived anyway. They hunted for their own food and became strong and disease – and parasite-resistant without worrying if they lacked this vitamin or that mineral because they had them all in the raw food they consumed.
We have seen the parts and functions of a dog’s digestive system and how dogs process the food inside their body. We now know that because of their anatomical features and physical evolution, a raw food diet is best for them because that is how nature has intended them to consume. Whether wild or domesticated, dogs have been built by nature to process raw meat. Dogs have evolved over thousands of years eating raw. Raw meat and bones provide dogs with all the nutrients they need to become healthy and strong. Scientists have told us long ago that cooking destroys the essential nutrients, vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants present in uncooked meat. We believe them because we know what they say is true. So why should we continue to feed cooked food to our dogs? Besides, cooked bones are brittle and can cause internal injuries. While it is true that the lost vitamins and minerals in cooking can be replaced through supplementation, finding the right balance and proportion can be quite difficult. To make up for the lost nutrients in cooking, you would have to give your dog synthetic versions of vitamins and minerals, which is not really good practice as it could lead to over-supplementation of one nutrient and undersupply of another.
This can throw out of proportion what the body needs and can, in turn, give way to further serious health issues and problems. Remember that raw food already has the perfect balance and proportion of vitamins and minerals needed by your dog and if not destroyed through the heat used in cooking, they are quite enough to supply the requirements of your dog.