Interested in feeding your pet a raw diet?
How many hours this month have you spent taking care of your dog or cat?
Do the math — the answer might surprise you. Most of us devote a significant amount of time and energy to taking care of our furry companions. After all, they’re part of our families. Even though we would all go through great lengths to make sure our pets are as happy and healthy as possible, sometimes the simplest change can make the greatest impact.
There are quite a few myths and controversies surrounding pet care. Despite this, everyone across the board can agree: feeding your pet a nutritionally sound diet is one of the best ways to make sure they will live a long life. Over the last couple decades, an ever-increasing number of people have been turning to the raw food diet as an alternative to keep their dogs and cats healthy.
Does your pet have digestive problems, arthritis, or weight issues? Are you concerned about preventing these conditions from developing? If so, a raw food diet could be the perfect solution for you.
So, what exactly is a raw food diet?
Raw food diets typically emphasize uncooked meat, bones, fruits and vegetables. There isn’t exactly any one-size-fits-all diet plan: some dogs and cats may even require specialized nutritional guidance. Raw diets don’t necessarily have to be time-consuming: prepared raw foods are widely available in the commercial marketplace. Meals are typically sold in the form of a patty or slider and are available fresh or frozen. In contrast, a homemade raw food diet appeals to many pet owners with its flexibility and transparency. It can also be less expensive to prepare the meals at home when buying in bulk.
Raw diets were not always so popular…
Surprisingly, modern raw food diets were originally reserved only for racing greyhounds and sled dogs. That exclusivity seemed to end abruptly after an Australian veterinarian, Ian Billinghurst, proposed using the diet for family pets as well. He suspected that many health benefits could be found by mirroring the diet of what our domestic pet dogs would naturally eat in the wild. Billinghurst famously coined the term BARF diet, short for “bones and raw food” or “biologically appropriate raw food”.
Interest in homemade raw diets skyrocketed even further after the unfortunate widespread pet food recalls in 2007. Over a dozen cats and dogs died due to melamine-contaminated pet food products imported from China. After the public lost trust in commercially-processed pet food, there has been a steady increase of people interested in the benefits of homemade dog food.
What are the benefits of a raw food diet?
There are many compelling reasons for people to try raw diets for their pets. The flexible nature of a homemade diet makes allowances for any individual allergies and nutritional needs. Also, uncooked bones can be good for dental health and can aid in lessening negative chewing behaviors.
We all know that preservatives aren’t healthy — but if we steer clear of them in our own food, why do we feed them to our pets? Another definite benefit of a raw diet is the total absence of preservatives. Raw diets can even help an overweight pooch slim down, due to the high water content present in uncooked foods.
While results will vary from animal to animal, there have been many reports of this diet either reducing or altogether eliminating the following conditions:
- Infected ears
- Fleas and worms
- Digestive problems
- Skin and coat problems
But wait, there’s a small catch…
Despite all the potential benefits that come with a homemade raw diet, there are a few setbacks. Trace amounts of bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter may be present in raw food, which could then be tracked throughout the house by your pet. Raw diets are not recommended for use in homes with immune-compromised individuals.
Note: These bacteria, in small amounts, are generally harmless for adults and animals with healthy immune systems. Most of the people who feed their dogs raw diets report no negative effects from bacteria.
Another temporary downfall is insufficient research surrounding raw food diets (aside from optimistic anecdotal studies.) The subject is a source of controversy in the veterinary field; however, many pet owners have reported amazing results with the raw diet. Ultimately, your success will depend on your animal and the effort you put into the diet.
Ready to get started with raw food?
The time frame for switching your pet to raw food can vary from a few weeks up to even a year. New food should always be introduced slowly — we recommend using it as a daily treat, gradually increasing the amount and frequency. Monitor your pet’s stool closely during this time. If it becomes runny or discolored, you will need to reduce the amount of new food being given until the stool normalizes.
Most animals process raw food differently than kibble. To avoid excessive flatulence and belching, you shouldn’t feed your pet raw food mixed with kibble. Raw food is processed as a protein and gets an acid bath in the stomach. Kibble, however, is processed as a starch — mixing the two could possibly result in uncomfortable digestive confusion.
While yes — the process can be slow, it is possible to switch nearly any dog or cat to a raw diet. Be prepared though, you may need assistance during the transition if your fur-baby has conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or a sensitive stomach.
Final thoughts: don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Despite the academic controversy surrounding homemade raw diets, the positive rumors seem to heavily outweigh any negative ones. While we fully support raw diets for most pets, you should do your research before diving in and remember your results may vary.
Our pet-centric team here at Zoologie Pet Services has been serving Denver, CO since 2011. Our outstanding reputation has been built upon our dog-walking and pet-sitting services, and we would love to speak with you about your raw diet concerns. We offer nutritional counseling, as well as meal planning and preparation. Feel free to get in touch and let us know how we can help you!