Cindy Chick’s six-year-old German shepherd dog, Jessie, suffered health problems that included chronic skin allergies and cluster seizures.
When a friend suggested raw feeding as a way to improve Jessie’s health, Chick researched the topic and eased Jessie into a raw food diet.
Within three months, Chick was able to cut Jessie’s seizure medication in half; the shepherd’s skin allergies had vanished, and her coat had taken on a new, plush texture.
Jessie lived to the relatively ripe old age of 11, and remained in good health, with only an occasional seizure despite the reduced medication.
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Benefits of a Raw Food Diet for Dogs
Cindy is one of a growing number of believers in the benefits of the raw dog food diet.
Despite general skepticism from the mainstream veterinary community, not to mention the inconvenience that raw feeding entails, these dog owners are convinced it’s the best way to maintain the health of their canine companions.
The better their health, the more they can enjoy life (and fewer vet bills you have to pay).
The massive recall of processed pet food in 2007 sparked an even wider interest in the raw feeding issue, and the number of practitioners has grown since then.
With growth comes controversy, and for every true believer, there’s an opposing view.
Potential Risks of a Raw Food Diet
Many veterinarians question the benefits of raw feeding, but their greater concern is for food safety.
Rebecca L. Remillard, Ph.D., D.V.M., and Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutritionists, has written about the contamination of our meat supply that begins at slaughter and continues during handling, processing, and shipping.
The risk of food poisoning is dramatically reduced in cooked meat.
Raw feeding proponents argue that the dog’s shorter, more acidic digestive system leaves them less vulnerable to illness from E. coli, Salmonella, and other bacteria.
“No animal would go out and cook its food the way humans do,” says Dianne Longdo of Harmony Farms, a specialty shop in La Crescenta, California that sells raw meat for humans and animals. “Given a choice of a natural, raw diet, that’s what they would eat.”
What Is a Raw Dog Food Diet?
A typical raw food meal consists mostly of raw meat, ground-up or in whole pieces, and includes both muscle and organ meat.
Next, come raw bones (poultry necks are popular), which may provide calcium – and keep the dog’s teeth clean in the bargain.
Cooked bones are prone to splintering – with serious, sometimes fatal consequences – but uncooked bones aren’t believed to carry this risk.
Raw vegetables are the third element, in a smaller proportion than the meat and bones.
Finally, the supplements usually contain:
- Vitamin C
- Flaxseed oil
One thing both sides agree on, however, is that raw feeding takes work and commitment to do properly. Cleanliness is vital.
Harmony Farms’ Longdo recommends leaving raw food out no longer than 20 minutes; if the dog hasn’t cleaned its bowl, discard the uneaten food.
Then be sure to wash the bowl and any utensils in hot soapy water.
An internet search on raw feeding yields hundreds of websites, ranging from educational groups to food suppliers.
You can also find a number of guidebooks on the subject, such as Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats by Kymythy R. Schultze.
Dog owners have a choice about how to feed their four-legged friends, but it’s important to make an informed decision before taking this step.
Alternatives To A Raw Diet
I can imagine many people saying that they’d make every sacrifice to make sure their dogs ate a raw diet, and I feel the same, but for many of us, there is only so much we can do – so what would I do if I couldn’t feed raw?
After giving this question some thought, I came up with a few answers and alternatives.
Half Raw / Half Canned Dog Food
You can feed raw in the morning and canned food in the evening (or vice versa).
Our local raw food co-op offers deals on commercial dog food, and I can buy dry and canned dog food at an affordable price.
Because kibble is hard to digest for some dogs, I’d focus on canned food.
Feeding a half raw diet will cut back on the prep time for our dogs’ meals, but may not cut back on costs.
Quality commercial dog food can be expensive.
And by adding it back into our dog’s diet, we’re giving up knowing precisely what our dogs are eating – so, when possible, choose food from a trusted brand with ingredients that you understand.
Home Cooked Food for Dogs
Some people with a compromised immune system may be advised against handling raw meat.
Cooking for their dog is an excellent alternative because you can control the ingredients just like with raw feeding.
It’s important to remember that with the cooking process we’re destroying the nutrients; therefore, we need to understand what vitamins and minerals to add back into our dogs’ meals.
If you’re interested in feeding your dog a home-cooked diet, you’re in luck, because there are plenty of cookbooks for dogs available to help get you started.
I suggest starting with Feed Your Best Friend Better by Rick Woodford.
Commercial Dry Dog Food
This is my least favorite of the options, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t add it to the list.
I’m not a fan of dry dog food, because if you’re raising a dog with allergies, it’s difficult to narrow down what ingredient in the food is leading to the reaction.
If a dry dog food is your only option at this time, here is what I suggest:
- Soak your dog’s kibble in bone broth (CLICK HERE for the recipe). Bone broth is filled with nutrients, easy on the tummy, and will make your dog’s diet healthier.
- Add a quality canned food like PetKind green tripe. Tripe is a healthy food that is a regular part of our dogs’ diet. It smells like Satan’s butt; however, the dogs love it, and it’s good for them. CLICK HERE to learn more about the benefits of green tripe for dogs.
When it comes to feeding dogs, I’m a little biased. I think raw feeding is the best for our dogs.
I’m also realistic and understand that raw isn’t for everyone. I hope my list of alternatives gives you some ideas on how to improve your dog’s diet.