Raw Dog Food - Is This Diet Healthy For My Dog?
Have you been thinking of starting a raw food diet but aren't sure whether it's safe for your dog?
Did you know that dry pet foods have had more recalls from bacterial contamination than raw diets?
"Dog's teeth are adapted for a carnivorous diet, from tearing muscle and skin to crunching bone."
Many dogs fed a raw diet are healthier than dogs fed a processed, kibble diet due to a leaner body condition and eating a more biologically appropriate diet.
Learn about the different types of raw diets available from DIY, freeze-dried, pre-made raw, to HPP.
Not all dogs should be started on a raw diet - make sure to learn about the contraindications for feeding a raw diet to keep your pet safe.
Gastrointestinal upset can happen when transitioning to a raw diet - learn how to transition and why GI upset may occur.
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A lot of veterinarians are under the assumption that kibble is safer than a raw food diet. You may have even been told that there’s no way that you can balance a raw food diet. And then there’s the whole issue with all of the bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, listeria.
But is this really a problem for your dog?
In this short video, I’m going to cover what you need to know about feeding your dog a raw food diet, and if it’s something that you should be thinking about.
Hey pet parents, I’m Dr. Katie Woodley, founder of The Natural Pet Doctor. I’m a holistic veterinarian who’s on a mission to help pets thrive naturally by empowering pet parents like you. If you’re excited to learn more about how you can help your pets achieve optimal health, make sure you hit that subscribe button below. New videos post every Monday on our channel so make sure you hit the bell to receive notifications, so you never miss out on our new content. You can also check out more of our free content at www.thenaturalpetdoctor.com.
Let’s start with the ancestral background of dogs. Most scientists believe that dogs were domesticated from grey wolves about 15,000 years ago. But DNA analysis from 1997 actually suggests that dogs separated from wolves about 130,000 years ago. Dogs’ teeth are adapted to a carnivorous diet – they are made for tearing muscle, crunching bones, and shearing skin and fur. They do not have a wide range of motion in their jaws that are needed for omnivores to chew grass. Yes, they have adapted to digest small amounts of carbohydrates through domestication with salivary digestive enzymes, but they do not do best with a high carbohydrate diet.
Commercially processed diets have only been around for just over 100 hundred years. Big companies saw a way to make a convenient pet food while using up the by-products from the human food industry. Dead livestock, unusable, diseased meat, meats that weren’t suitable for the human industry had to go somewhere, unfortunately.
Companies started marketing their foods as complete foods and started the idea that feeding table scraps could be dangerous for pets. Then came prescription foods with the underlying marketing that pet food is complicated and should be left to professionals who are truly the only ones that know what your pets should be eating.
However, in the 1970s hundreds of cats developed heart issues after pet food manufacturers didn’t realize that taurine was an essential amino acid and needed to be added to the processed diets.
In 2007, there was the pet melamine disaster where melamine was used as an artificial protein in the vitamin premixes that came from China and killed 1000s of pets.
In 2012, the American Veterinary medical association made a statement that raw foods were not healthy for our pets. But was this a validated statement?
The raw food industry is a highly controversial area, but why?
Many pet parents have caught on that processed pet food may not actually be the best option for your dog. And for good reason.
Given the number of recalls that have happened from the melamine incident to vitamin D toxicosis, pet parents want better for their pets and are turning to home-made diets and raw foods. By making your pet’s diet with real, whole-food ingredients, you can control where the ingredients are coming from and provide a diet full of phytonutrients and nutrients.
On the other hand, dry kibble diets are cooked in a liquid form, pushed through a mechanical extruder, and baked at really high temperatures, which forms toxic chemicals like heterocyclic amines and advanced glycation end products. These are biomarkers that are implicated in aging changes and the development of many degenerative diseases. After the high heat cooking process, the nutrients are added back into the food because they are baked out. Fats and flavorings are then sprayed on the end product so the pet will actually eat them.
Other benefits of feeding a raw food diet are that it is more bioactive and contains many antioxidants. They also do not possess the cooking toxins found in a dry kibble diet and improve the GI health which improves the immune health of your dog, since 70-80% of the immune system is found in the wall of the gut. In general, raw-fed dogs tend to not be overweight and overall tend to be very healthy with this higher protein and lower carbohydrate diet.
If you’re thinking of using a raw-food diet for your dog, one thing to keep in mind is that a raw food diet should not be just meat, bone, and organ meat. Adding in high-quality vegetables and a small number of fruits, like blueberries, adds antioxidants that support optimal health. Also, studies at Texas A&M University also showed that larger breed dogs need more fiber by adding in vegetables for optimal colonic health. Otherwise, these dogs are more prone to GI upset and loose stool or diarrhea.
But what about bacterial infections?
Won’t your dog get sick from eating a raw food diet?
Dogs are well adapted to handling bacteria, like E. coli, Salmonella or Listeria. The dog’s intestinal tract is 5% as long as that of a human, meaning the potential pathogens are only in the body for a short period of time. If the meat is rancid, then yes, they can get food poisoning from that. However, the biggest concern is humans, because we are very susceptible to these pathogens. Ironically, more people have gotten sick from handling processed dry food than pet parents who are feeding a raw diet to their pets. There have been more recalls of processed dry food for these pathogens than recalls of raw diets.
Why aren’t more vets recommending these diets?
The reason why is that we’re not taught about these diets in vet school. Also, the scientific research behind raw diets is lacking, so veterinarians are saying to not do it because it’s too risky.
But there are numerous cases all over the world that show these diets are highly beneficial to the health of our pets.
Many pets will have chronic health issues, like chronic ear infections, skin infections, seizures, and even urinary incontinence that will disappear when they are transitioned to a whole-food diet. Even pets who seemed sensitive to chicken, beef or fish in the kibble diet can start eating these proteins again. Real food vs processed food. Even the body is showing us that it processes these proteins differently. There is also less likely to be cross-contamination with the proteins in a raw fed diet compared with a processed diet that is made in a large factory with numerous other preservatives and proteins that pass through on the manufacturing line.
This sounds fantastic and that every dog should be on a raw diet, but there are some contraindications you need to be aware of for feeding a raw diet to your dog.
What dogs may not do well with a raw diet?
If you have a dog that is on immunosuppressive drugs, has liver disease or severe endocrine disease, you do need to be careful because the bacterial load is higher than kibble or a canned food diet. This does not mean that you have to feed a kibble diet. A whole-food cooked diet may be the best option for these pets. Also, if you have an immunosuppressed person in the household or small children that will put their hands in the pet food bowl, this may not be the best diet to feed your dog.
There are different types of raw food diets that are manufactured differently that will contain different amounts of microorganisms. There are frozen, freeze-dried, dehydrated, and high-pressure pasteurization (or HPP) diets. The HPP diets will be the safest with the lowest amount of microorganisms present. It will also be the most expensive type of raw food.
Feeding raw is perfectly safe with using proper handling and common sense – just like you would if you were cooking a meal with raw meat for yourself. Make sure you wash your hands after feeding your pet. Don’t leave food out at room temperature all day. Wash the dishes and utensils after your dog eats, and don’t leave raw food in the fridge for more than 72 hours.
And, last but not least if you are thinking of changing from a kibble diet to a raw diet, here’s a word of caution. Your dog processes raw food very differently than a kibble diet. The raw food needs to sit in an acid bath in the stomach for longer to break down the high protein content. Many dogs may develop loose stool or diarrhea when they are transitioned to a raw food diet for the first time. This is due to two reasons – the speed of transition and gut dysbiosis. I recommend a slow transition to the new raw diet, starting with the raw diet fed as a treat for a few days. Then after a few days replace one meal with the raw diet. Continue this exercise until the diet is 100% raw. If your pet has severe dysbiosis, you may need to transition over months to sometimes a year. I highly recommend working with a holistic vet to manage the transition and ensure the dysbiosis is being treated with appropriate supplements to heal leaky gut.
A raw food diet doesn’t have to be scary or hard. There are a lot of companies out there that have high-quality, human-grade pre-made diets that you can start with or you can even make your own home-made raw diet for your dog. Remember to start slow and work with a holistic veterinarian if you’re feeling uncomfortable about balancing it and ensuring the ratios are correct and enough essential vitamins and trace minerals are present.
If you found this video helpful, click the like button and hit the button to subscribe so you never miss out on our future content that gets released every Monday. As always, I love hearing from amazing pet parents like you, so if you have other pet health topics you’d like to hear about, make sure to leave a comment below. As always, you have the power to help your pet live a long and vibrant life. Together we can make the change that’s needed to help your fur family thrive naturally. Until next time, I’m Dr. Katie. Take care, pet parents!
*Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. The information contained in thenaturalpetdoctor.com is strictly for educational purposes. Therefore, if you wish to apply ideas contained in thenaturalpetdoctor.com, you are taking full responsibility for your actions. Please consult your veterinarian for medical advice for your own pets. Dr. Katie Woodley cannot answer specific questions about your pet's medical issues or make medical recommendations for your pet without first establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.