Raw food? For newbie dog owners, this may sound off, or even disgusting. We, humans, are used to cooking food before we eat it. So feeding our dogs with raw meat, fish, eggs, and veggies may not always be a welcome idea. Still, the best raw dog food can bring in tons of benefits for your pet if prepared right.
I know that raw diets are controversial. It’s also a bit complicated to prepare as you have to avoid contamination. On the contrary, processed dog food also has its evils. By-products and fillers don’t just deprive your pooch the nutrients; it also puts toxins inside your pet’s body.
But before you dismiss raw food as gross, it’s important to remember that dogs are natural scavengers. In the wild, they hunt for food and eat it raw. Unless you’ve seen a dog cook its own food, this is a natural diet.
Advocates of the raw diet claim this as unleashing the “wolf within” your dog. Still, I always encourage pet owners to consult a vet before changing their dog’s diet. Here’s what you need to know:
A look at processed dog food
Don’t get this wrong, not all commercial dog food products are goners. There are many great formulations from Royal Canin, Pedigree, ALPO, and Friskies. However, many other manufacturers are a bit dubious when it comes to their ingredients.
Just think about this: if highly processed food is bad for you, it will have the same effect with your dog.
Unless you’ve chosen an organic product, commercial food may bring more harm than help. Again, this is only for substandard products.
The good thing nowadays is that we have organizations like the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These people look at the quality of dog food products and rate it based on their tests.
Many advocates of the raw food diet for dogs think that most of the illnesses of canines nowadays are linked to their artificial diet. Although studies are yet to prove this, some subpar products may actually trigger various health problems like allergies, diarrhea, malnutrition, or even poisoning.
Personally, my only worry about commercial food products is high grain consistency. A lot of dogs are allergic – if not intolerant – of this. But if you are the one who prepares the food, you can freely monitor what gets into your pooch’s tummy.
How much raw food should you feed?
Like feeding commercial food, you should have a matrix on how much raw food your dog should eat. This is to avoid obesity and oversupply of various minerals and vitamins.
The rule of thumb is that an adult dog needs fresh food for 2.5% of its weight.
With this, you’ll need to have a good look on the weighing scale. Remember that this will change depending on the lifestyle and condition of your pet.
The bigger the dog gets, the more fresh food it needs. It’s just a matter of doing a little arithmetic and picking the right food ingredient (we’ll discuss it later on).
The benefits of raw dog food
Supporters of the best raw dog food claim that this is great for your dog’s coat, teeth, digestion, stool, and more. Here are more of the potential benefits:
Higher energy level
Better liver and pancreatic functions
Good for weight control
Stronger immune system, etc.
If we are to dissect the pieces of evidence, there might be some truth to this.
First, the majority of raw dog meals are packed with protein. If measured properly, this will definitely give added shine to your dog’s coat. Such protein content also helps your dog bulk up with muscles.
Also, raw dog food is said to improve dogs’ dental health. Because of the hard chewing on raw meat and veggies, it helps remove plaque and tartar. Remember, the more a dog chews the lower the risk of dental problems.
But what do veterinarians say? Dr. Doug Knueven of Beaver Animal Clinic says that raw food is actually more beneficial to some animals than commercial options. Also, some owners witnessed how the raw food helped with pooches with sensitive tummies and chronic diseases.
I think the biggest benefit here is you have full control as the dog owner. You can pick the veggies, fruits, and type of meat you’ll feed your dog. This, of course, should be in line with your vet’s advice.
In this video, seven veterinarians discuss why raw food might be better for your dog:
Downsides of the raw diet
To be fair, I have to acknowledge some of the downsides of raw dog food. There are also some mainstream studies that documented the possible dangers of a raw diet. I strongly believe that this stems from poor food preparation and uneducated choices of food ingredients.
To serve as your guide, watch out for the following:
Possible bacterial contamination
A potential risk of choking on bones and stiff ingredients
A possibility of an unbalanced diet
Risk of food-borne diseases
All of these could be prevented with the proper preparation of the dog meals. However, this will take a lot of time which is another downside.
Raw dog food can’t compete with the convenience of kibble and canned food. Also, this type of diet is way expensive. Raw dog food costs around $3 per day while kibble and other commercial options only run around $1 each day.
As for the risk of food-borne diseases, the threat is more imminent on humans. Poor handling and issues with sanitation are the major culprits. But with enough caution, this risk can be minimized.
Is this safe?
The answer to the question of whether raw dog food is safe lies in how it is prepared in the first place. There are some pitfalls on this kind of diet and I encourage dog owners to do their research before putting their doggos in it.
Given that the food preparation environment is ideal and you’re being supervised by a veterinarian, I don’t think there would be issues with the best raw dog food.
However, some factors come into play if you opt for frozen raw dog food from dog stores. Yes, these are raw food but it also undergoes the process of high-pressure pasteurization (HPP).
Basically, HPP is intended to kill bacteria and other contaminants that will compromise food safety. Pasteurization is also used on human food items like milk, cheese, and other dairy products.
However, some think tanks found out that this process also causes nutrient loss in food. One good example is the study at Virginia Tech University by Dr. George Flick Jr, Professor of Food Science and Technology.
He found that the high hydrostatic pressure used on HPP procedures is almost similar to thermal processing. This is the reason why HPP raw dog food looks cooked on the surface – because it actually is.
This defeats the sense of giving a raw food diet for dogs in the first place. And since the food is basically cooked, some of the nutrients found on raw ingredients are destroyed.
Also, HPP isn’t in line with AAFCO’s definition of “raw” food. Based on the organization’s qualifications, raw dog food shouldn’t undergo any heating process. Although HPP is indirectly heating the food, it’s still producing the same effect.
So what’s the bottom line here? If you’re planning to give your doggo raw food, it’s better that you prepare it at home with fresh ingredients. Besides, there are many organic farms selling ingredients for pet food.
What to include in a dog’s raw diet
Now that you’ve seen the bigger picture, the question now is what to include on your dog’s raw diet. Here I’ll discuss a simple formula you can use as a guide together with your vet’s instructions.
Usually, the best raw dog food has the following ingredients:
Muscle meet that’s still on the bone
Organs like kidney, liver, heart
Greens like spinach, celery, broccoli, etc.
Ground or whole bones
Optional dairy like yogurt
Some supporters of this diet opt for the 8:1:1 rule. This means 8 meat parts, 1 organ part, and 1 bone part. This is also called the prey model. Still, this isn’t a conclusive guide since some dogs may benefit from more organs or more veggies depending on their dietary needs.
Here’s a rundown of the main ingredients of the raw food diet for dogs:
Meat. The reason why you should leave the muscle meat on the bone is for the dog to have something to chew. Chewing itself is beneficial for dental health. Experts recommend that you use 10% to 12% of bone content which can be from duck, chicken, turkey, pork, beef, and others.
You can also give fish meat but it will be more complicated to handle as fish can harbor worms that may piss your doggo’s stomach.
Organ. Organ meat is highly nutritious not just for dogs but also for humans. The likes of liver and kidney are the top choices You can also give heart meat and spleen meat if you can get it. As long as the organs are fresh and clean, it will be an excellent choice for your pooch.
Veggies. Yes, this part is very crucial. As you know, your dog can’t simply eat all protein. They need fiber, vitamins, and minerals that you simply can’t find on meat items. Pack them up with greens as this is rich in fiber, moisture, and minerals. It’s best if you’ll cook the fibrous veggies so your dog can easily gobble it down. Still, it all boils down to your personal preference.
Tips in giving raw food
If your pooch has been in kibble for most of its life, you’ll have to switch the pet to raw food very slowly. Your dog’s sense of taste is limited to what the commercial option has to offer. If you suddenly filled the bowl with meat cuts, bones, and organs, they might shy away from eating. That’s something we wouldn’t want to happen.
Also, watch out for the weight of your puppy if you’re giving him raw food. You should still feel the dog’s ribs when you stroke its chest.
Most importantly, you should only feed fresh and meaty bones twice a week. It’s not an everyday thing or else, your dog will experience bacterial issues and excessive protein intake.
I also suggest that you vary the meat choices and veggies to prevent overnutrition or undernutrition.
Where can you get the supply?
The freshest meat cuts can be bought directly from the butchers. It’s best that you buy from local butchers and those that you personally know. Some sellers may try to trick you with hidden fats and carcasses which are no better than feeding subpar commercial food to your dog.
You can also shop on dog food supermarkets but always have a meticulous eye. The dog raw food industry has exploded and many manufacturers sell bad meat. It doesn’t hurt to ask questions and to explore your options.
A simple recipe for the raw meal
If this is your first time to make raw dog food, here’s a recipe I recommend. This will give you 7 kg of raw dog food you can stash on your freezer for the coming days:
1 kg. of organ meat
1 kg. of cooked veggies (can be steamed)
5 kgs. of minced meat (should be fresh as always)
3 raw eggs
2 fresh cloves of chopped garlic
3 tablespoons of cod liver oil (hemp or flaxseed will do)
Mix all of these together until all the veggies have blended on the meat parts. You can also add oats for carbs if your dog needs it. Some also use kelp powder but it’s also an optional ingredient.
Since this is a week or two’s supply of dog food, make sure that you freeze and store it properly on your fridge.
Remember, the raw dog food is only the ‘best’ if it’s fresh, safe, and nutritious. You can also explore other recipes with the ingredients that suit your dog. Your vet may also recommend something.
If you’re looking for a well-balanced and raw dog food, here’s an easy-to-make recipe from Rodney Habib: