A raw food diet isn’t just for people. In fact, it is considered the ideal diet for dogs since they are naturally equipped to consume and digest raw meat. Our dog constantly brings an array of bones and carcasses home. Often it is a huge cow bone she found in a field. During hunting season she gets her share of deer remains. Our dog’s motto is no bone left behind. However, dogs cannot live by bones alone and everything our girl drags home may not be good for her.
Commercial pet food is a relatively new way of feeding pets. Canned pet food was introduced to the US after World War I, and in the 1950s, we saw the introduction of the dry kibble-type pet foods through the adaptation of equipment used for making breakfast cereals. However, since it has made the chore of feeding so quick and easy, we have forgotten that animals ate raw living foods for thousands of years before we decided to switch them to “fast” food.
What prompts most pet owners to try a raw, whole food diet for their pet is usually not this realization, but rather to relieve allergies, digestive problems or weight issues usually caused by diets consisting of corn, wheat, rice, grain, or soy, largely found in commercial feed. Interestingly, most of these conditions in pets have increased in the years following the introduction of commercial pet food.
What goes into a raw diet for dogs?
The nutritional needs of our pets vary according to weight, age, and species. Protein is essential. Meat sources should not be the same at every meal but rotated: chicken, turkey, venison, and beef. Eggs and organ meats are also part of the typical raw pet food diet. Fatty acids are important and can be fed in the form of sardines or salmon. Vegetables and fruits such as sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, apples, and bananas can be pureed in the blender. To determine the most beneficial foods and amounts to feed your pet, it is important to research the topic thoroughly and consult with your veterinarian before implementing a raw diet.
Just because dogs love bones does not mean that all bones are safe or healthy for them. Cooked bones left over from your pot of soup or after you’ve roasted a chicken or turkey are more apt to splinter, and could cause internal injury to your pet in various ways. In the book, Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats: Simple Homemade Food, Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, and Beth Taylor, offer this warning: “Don’t ever cook and feed whole bony meats (chicken necks, backs, wings, meaty bones) [to dogs]. They become brittle and can harm your pet. If you want to feed a cooked diet, use the boneless recipes, and add a bone replacement supplement.” Guidelines and recipes for feeding raw bones to pets are included in Dr. Becker’s book. Consult it, or your veterinarian, before offering raw bones to your dog.
How to Avoid Parasites in Raw Pet Food
As with any diet, there are concerns and research to be done in advance, as it is essential to know how to give our pets a balanced, species-appropriate diet.
Parasites are a concern in a raw meat diet. Dr. Karen Becker offers this advice on her informative website, “Parasites – roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms – are passed up the food chain and wind up in the guts of animals. We don’t feed guts to our pets! If you buy a commercially available raw food diet, you will not find guts in the formula because guts contain parasites. If you prepare a homemade raw diet for your dog or cat, you don’t include guts. Do not feed the stomach and small and large intestines. Those are the parts of the prey we get rid of because those are the parts that harbor parasites.”
“Muscle meat is the part of the prey used to prepare raw food diets. It is sterile except in rare instances when parasites escape the GI tract (guts) and travel there. Certain parasites, like toxoplasmosis, that get into muscle meat can make your pet sick, which is why you should freeze raw meats for three days before feeding them to your dog or cat. By freezing meats three days before serving (a lot like how sushi is handled), and by removing the guts of prey species, you can successfully avoid exposing your raw fed pet to parasites.”
Want a Raw Food Diet without the Fuss?
There are online sources and local retailers that carry frozen patties made with meat, eggs, bones, kelp, vegetables, cod liver oil, and more for pets. www.BARFworld.com is a place to start (B.A.R.F stands for “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food”).
This article serves as an introduction to a raw pet food diet. To ensure the health and happiness of your pet, please research the topic thoroughly and consult with your veterinarian to see if a raw food diet might be beneficial for your dog.