You heard about it from the other dog moms at the pet store…
They started “feeding raw” and their dogs are doing great!
So now you’re naturally curious… “What’s good about a raw diet?”, “Why are dog parents like me switching to feed raw?”
In this blog, we give you a general overview of what you must know before you start feeding your dog a raw diet.
What is a raw diet for dogs?
A raw diet is a common style of feeding that closely resembles the way that canine ancestors, wolves ate in prehistoric times. As carnivores, their diets consisted of raw meats, raw bones, secreting organs and animal blood.
Dogs have evolved over the years as they were domesticated by humans which led to changes in their ancestral diet. The B.A.R.F (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) model was proposed in 1993 by a scientist named Ian Billinghurst (Lumbis & Chan, 2015). This popularized the method of feeding mostly meat and bone with the addition of some dairy, fruits and vegetables. Scientific research showed significant benefits to this style of feeding, which encouraged more dog parents to try it with their dog.
Key takeaway: Raw diets are adopted from a dog's ancestral way of eating raw meat, organs and bones.
What makes dog parents choose this style of feeding? Find out below!
Why are dog parents choosing a raw diet?
Dogs that have digestive problems, allergies and weight issues require dog parents to be more careful with their food choices. Feeding a raw, unprocessed diet means having greater control over what your dog eats, compared to conventional pet foods like kibble. Traditional diets that have undergone extensive processing frequently include too many added sugars, carbs, and fillers. Since the dog parent is preparing the bowls themselves, they can be sure that everything they are feeding is safe and healthy for their dog.
Key takeaway: Dog parents choose raw diets for better control over what their dog eats. Dog parents who have made a full transition to raw feeding report various benefits for their dog, which encourage them to stick with it in the long term.
Curious what those benefits are? Read down below!
What are the benefits of raw diet?
Photo from Charmy Family, check out @charmypetbox for more creative raw dog food bowls.
Dogs fed a raw diet report numerous benefits;
1. Improved levels of energy
Since raw foods are unprocessed and low in carbs, your dog’s digestive doesn’t need to work hard during digestion. Raw food typically takes only 1-2 hours to digest, much shorter compared to other diets high in carbohydrates which can take more than 7 hours. Dogs have more energy left over to be active!
2. Less dandruff, itching and shedding
Raw diets are high in healthy fats which contribute to decreased skin issues. It’s also helpful for allergic dogs as most raw foods are made from a single source of protein.
3. Shiny coat and skin
The presence of healthy fats like Omega-3 and Omega-6 in a raw diet help to promote a shiny coat and healthy skin.
4. Decrease in size of stools
Poops become smaller because the dog absorbs and retains more nutrients from their food. Their stools also become easier to pass, as they become light and firm to the touch.
5. Less digestive issues
Conventional foods high in processed starch and carbohydrates have a high chance of stirring up issues in the gut. Raw foods are relatively easier for the dog’s digestive system to handle.
6. Better breath
Dogs on raw diet have less stinky breath from plaque build up, which is usually caused by chewing processed carbs. A raw diet with bone will clean their teeth and avoid harmful bacteria from growing in the mouth.
Key takeaway: The raw diet can provide numerous health benefits to dogs when done the correct way.
What are the drawbacks of raw diet?
Raw foods generally cost more than store-bought conventional kibble. The variety of raw meats, bones, organs and plant sources needed to balance your dog’s bowl correctly may be more expensive. Keep in mind that some pet food brands don’t add the required amount of vitamins and minerals in their raw food. It can be an additional cost to get additional supplements for you to balance your dog’s bowl properly. But freeze-dried food can solve this problem.
The time required to plan and prepare raw meals can be overwhelming to new dog parents who have busy lives. Planning, buying and preparing raw bowls can require a lot of time and research from the owner. Since most raw foods need to be frozen, it can also take a long time till it's fully thawed and ready for your dog to eat.
3. Food Handling
The bacteria contained within raw food pose a health hazard to the household. Dog parents have to be extra-cautious about possible cross-contamination.
4. Tougher To Balance
Having greater control over the ingredients means there’s a greater chance for improper balancing. Dog parents might not be informed enough to make these decisions every day by themselves.
A raw diet typically requires considerable freezer space to store raw items. This is an inconvenience felt in small households with small appliances, where they have to sacrifice valuable freezer space to store their dog’s raw meals.
Key takeaway: Even though there are benefits associated with raw diets, it has a few drawbacks that the dog owner's should consider.
How do I start my dog on a raw diet?
1. Assess what types of raw food will work.
Every dog is different and has varying needs. Dog owners have to try new foods in small amounts and check how their dog’s digestive system is responding. Every raw bowl needs the following 5 components;
Raw Chicken Breast, Raw Beef , Raw Lamb
Raw Pork Kidney, Raw Beef Liver , Raw Pork Lung
Raw edible bones:
Raw Duck Neck, Raw Duck Feet, Raw Duck Wing
Fruits, nuts and vegetables:
Blue Berries, Cucumbers, Apples
Fish Oil, Probiotics, Blue Mussel Powder
2. Figure out how much food your dog needs
Your dog’s daily caloric and nutritional needs will need to be assessed before starting raw feeding.
Factors important in determining how much food your dog needs include age, activity level, health conditions and food intolerances & allergies.
“How much raw food should I feed my dog?”
Here is a general example of a feeding guide that gives a feeding recommendation based on your dog’s weight and activity level.
- A less active adult dog, overweight adult dog or senior dog should eat 1.5% of their current bodyweight in pounds per day.
- Adult dogs at a normal weight and normal activity level should eat 2-3% of their current bodyweight in pounds per day.
- Active adult dogs should eat 3% of current bodyweight in pounds per day.
3. Take time each week to plan
At the start of every week, make a detailed plan of what your dog is going to eat. This way you can purchase, prepare and store the raw food ahead of time. And you save yourself the hassle during mealtimes throughout the week.
4. Monitor your dog’s weight
Raw food tends to be calorically dense, so it’s important to regularly check your dog’s weight on the scale. Make necessary changes according to any significant weight gains or losses.
5. Consult with your vet regularly
Before starting any new diet plan, it’s important to consult your vet. Let them know you want to try raw-feeding your dog and ask their expert opinion. Regularly check-in with your vet and frequently update them on any new observations of your dog.
We recommend introducing raw items gradually over time to your dog. Assess their daily stools and determine how they are digesting and adapting to the raw foods.
Be wary not to introduce too much variety, too quick. The digestive system might need extra time to adapt, especially after transitioning from a high-grain diet.
Start by trying one protein at a time and slowly add more variety once you see positive results. This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on how fast your dog’s digestive system can adapt.
Always consult with your vet for extra guidance along the way!
Key takeaway: Do your research before you start the raw diet. Know that this will be a process which requires you to work along with your dog to find the best diet possible.
What are the types of raw dog food?
1. Frozen Raw Dog Food
This is raw meat in its most natural form. It’s required to be frozen when in storage as bacteria can grow from exposure to moisture.
2. Dehydrated Raw Dog Food
The process of dehydration removes the moisture from food by the use of warm air. Due to the heat that is applied, the food is cooked and undergoes a change in texture and taste.
There is also a possibility of nutrient loss because of high heat.
3. Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food
Freeze-dried dog food is an excellent alternative to raw dog food. The raw ingredients are first frozen and pressure is applied in a vacuum chamber to kill harmful contaminants in the food.
It is one of the best ways to feed your dog as they enjoy all the health benefits of the raw diet without the need for extensive prep. A lot more nutrients stay intact in the food after the freeze-drying method than compared to other methods like dehydration.
You can save significant time and provide all essential nutrients by opting for this method of raw feeding.
Charmy Freeze Dried Raw with Traditional Chinese Herbs
4. Air-Dried Raw Dog Food
Air-dried dog food contains just enough moisture for it to be pleasing to your dog’s palate. And it does not require rehydration which saves time.
It shares many of the same health benefits of freeze-dried raw dog food.
Charmy air-dried smelt treats made from real whole smelt fish.
To summarize, a raw diet has various health benefits for dogs when fed correctly. You must give your dog’s body time to adapt to any new style of feeding.
It is also important to consider the risks of a raw diet as it plays a role in determining whether making a diet switch makes sense for you and your dog.
Ultimately, choose a style of feeding that works the best with your dog’s health conditions, allergies and nutrient needs.
Chan, Daniel & Lumbis, Rachel. (2015). The Raw Deal: Clarifying the nutritional and public health issues regarding raw-meat based diets. The Veterinary Nurse. 6. 336-341. 10.12968/vetn.2015.6.6.336.