Raw Food: To Feed or Not To Feed

Proponents of a raw food diet for dogs often bring up the point that the domesticated dog descended from the wolf 14,000 years ago.  While this is true, it is also true that the closest ancestor to humans is the chimpanzee but we do not necessarily eat like chimpanzees. Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years and during that time their nutritional needs and physiology have evolved and the food and nutrients wolves find in the wild may not be the same as those available to domesticated dogs.

If you do decide to feed your dog a raw food diet, keep the following in mind:

  • Preparing a raw food diet for your pup is very time intensive and requires exceptional safety precautions.
  • Unless you’re a nutrition expert it’s difficult to gauge the fat, protein and nutritional aspects of the raw food diet you are preparing.
  • The temperature of the meat has to be carefully monitored.

Having said all of this, there are some great raw food producers these days that test their foods for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. These disease-causing bacterias can also affect humans.  If you do choose to transition your dog to a raw food diet research the maker of the raw food and verify that they meet the following criteria:

  •  consistently test for bacteria in the ingredients;
  • use certified organic meats;
  • responsibly source their ingredients;
  • use ingredients that are free from antibiotics and hormones; and
  • have not had any prior recalls.  Most, if not every, raw food manufacturer has a consumer assistance phone number to call if you have any questions.

If you have questions but are hesitant to call the manufacturer consumer assistance phone numbers, you may want to check reputable sites like FDA.gov, aspca.org and the CDC. These resources will offer unbiased case studies and information for you to use in assessing the safety and viability of specific raw food manufacturers and products.

Pros and Cons to a Raw Food Diet for your Dog

Are there benefits to feeding your dog raw food? Yes, and they include the following:

  • You know exactly what you are feeding your four-legged children;
  • the diet you prepare at home won’t include any fillers, mystery ingredients or additives;
  • you can tailor your pup’s diet to fit her exact health and nutrition needs;
  • you may end up saving money in the long run.

However, there are also some great dry food/kibble manufacturers out there. You may find some in your big box pet stores but be sure to also check the smaller pet stores that may carry a greater selection of products from smaller and more local companies that responsibly source their ingredients.  For example, there are both US and Canadian pet food companies which source their meats from local farms that don’t treat their animals with any antibiotics or hormones and are fed healthy, natural diets.  Many of these kibble products have no fillers or additives and the kibble is made in small batches and contains certified organic ingredients.

You may notice when you visit your local big box pet store that there are whole aisles (both sides) taken up by products from a single pet food manufacturer. If you check out the ingredients on the kibble, for example, you will notice that the first few ingredients look good. However, as you move down the list of ingredients, you will also notice things like Preserved Chicken Fat, Potassium Chloride and Potato Starch. Towards the end of the list you will see vitamins and minerals but keep in mind that most of the vitamins, supplements and minerals in dry kibble disappear during the heating process used to manufacture most dry kibbles.

Bottom Line

If you can manage a raw food diet for your pooch and are confident that you will be including all the nutrients necessary and can avoid the pitfalls listed above, go for it!  However, there are very good dry kibble products available which may just fit the bill for your pooch.  You will want to get kibble made from whole food ingredients with quality supplements that are raw and don’t degrade.  Finding the right kibble does require a little research but once you find a quality food your pups will thrive.  Also remember that even with the best kibble available, you may want to  give your dog vitamins and nutritional supplements.  Most of us humans certainly take at least one vitamin and/or supplement a day so why not the same for our furry children? Happy hunting and never, ever be afraid to ask questions. You’re the consumer and you have a right to all the information you need to make the best decision for your pups.

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