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A raw dog food diet is designed to mimic a dog’s natural ancestral menu. The concept of raw feeding is based upon a dog’s natural, carnivorous instincts to hunt and consume other animals. As unsavory as it may seem, it is completely natural for a wolf – ancestor to the common-day dog — to consume an entire animal, meat, bones, organs and all.
As direct descendants of wolves, dogs are simply not meant to consume the 50% carbohydrate content of today’s commercial kibbles.
The average kibble nutritional content contains:
While a wolf’s diet is closer to:
Note the significantly higher carbohydrate content and the dramatically lower protein and fat levels? It’s hard to argue with the convenience of dry kibble, but the nutrition profile of today’s dry dog foods does not match what a dog’s digestive track is meant to process.
Feeding a raw dog food is the closest commercial match to a wolf’s ancestral diet. There are also numerous benefits that pet owners will see in their dog’s daily life: firmer stools, improved digestion, healthier skin and coat, reduced allergy symptoms as well as better weight management. There have been many reports of improved pet health when chronically ill pets have been switched from a processed kibble to a raw dog food. This is not to say that feeding raw does not have draw backs. A raw dog food diet is far less convenient for the pet owner than a processed kibble and only requires measuring and pouring. It just doesn’t get any easier. To make raw food more convenient, many raw pet food companies are creating smaller sized raw pellets that can defrost in as little as 5 minutes.
It’s not just lack of convenience that’s a factor with feeding raw. There is also a heightened risk of bacterial contamination. Salmonella and E. coli germs can always be a potential problem with raw meats. However, the actual risk of infection to your pet is extremely low. Carnivores like dogs and cats have shorter and more acidic digestive systems that are designed for the consumption of raw meat. The risk potential is higher with pet owners. When feeding raw please adhere to the common food safety measures of working with raw meat such as thoroughly washing your hands and your work space after handling raw food. Also, make sure to wash your pet’s bowl regularly.
Something vital to keep in mind if you decide to make the switch to raw pet food is that it will take some time to properly transition your pet’s diet. If one switches from a kibble to a raw food in one meal you run the risk of digestive upset for your pet. But you are also not supposed to start mixing raw food to your dog’s kibble either. It is recommended to give between 7 and 14 days to fully transition your pet to a new food. When introducing raw start with small quantities at least an hour before or after feeding any cooked food, or raw for breakfast and kibble for dinner. Gradually increase the amount of raw given and reduce the amount of kibble. You can also supplement your pet’s diet with canned pumpkin or sweet potato — 2 natural digestive agents that can greatly ease the transition. Keep in mind that during the transition it is completely normal to see changes in your pet’s stool as their body goes through the detox process of switching to a raw food.
As an owner of 3 cats who have all been transitioned to a mostly raw diet, I cannot speak highly enough of the benefits of switching. All of my cats were being free-fed an average quality kibble and given canned food once a week. Let me say that the transition was a little rough and took almost 3 months as cats are very resistant to change. With my eldest cat, Arlo, underweight and my ragdoll mix, Toby severely overweight as well as prone to Cystitis, I knew I needed to make a change in their diets. Within weeks of beginning the switch I could see a noticeable difference in both of their waistlines and Toby has not had a Cystitis flare-up in almost a year. There have also been distinct improvements in their skin and coat, energy levels and I have definitely noticed far less cat hair around the house.
As an assistant manager at Dirty Dogs in Carmel Valley, I love talking to pet owners about the different varieties of frozen and freeze-dried raw dog and cat food that we carry. We also get a lot of pet owners who have been helping their pets battle pet allergies for years and have racked up hefty vet bills in the process. So come by and pick up some samples and literature about raw pet food and I speak from experience saying that most pets will experience a significant improvement in overall health and wellness.
Ashley M. is a San Diego native who has been in the Pet Care Industry for over 3 years. She shares her home with 3 cats; Arlo, Toby and Simon as well as a bearded dragon named Daenerys. When she isn’t working as Assistant Manager at our Carmel Valley location, Ashley spends her free time mastering the art of vegetarian cuisine, lounging at the beach and learning everything there is to know about dog and cat nutrition.