Fad diets are something that Americans are highly familiar with. Everyone is desperate for that “secret” that will make them look younger, feel better, and stay more lean. What about when it comes to our beloved four legged friends?
Recently, there have been more and more talks within the canine community about raw dog food diets. The theory is that wild canids would eat a diet mainly consisting of raw meat and bones, so people should try and mimic this diet when feeding their pets Yet, with all of the physiological differences between our pets and wild canids, can we be certain that what a wild canid eats is an ideal diet for Rover. Is a healthy nod to our pups predatory ancestors or is this another dangerous fad?
Raw diets usually consist of muscle meat, often still on the bone, bones, either whole or ground, organ meats such as livers and kidneys, raw eggs, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and celery, apples or other fruit and some dairy, such as yogurt.
Here is a look at some of the benefits and risks of a raw diet:
- Processed foods often have added preservatives that enhance product shelf life. Food that has been freshly prepared and has not been processed or had preservatives added is commonly considered a healthier choice. Commercial raw diets are usually frozen, which means they don’t require added preservatives
- Raw diets can be prepared to avoid foods that your dog is allergic to and can be made to meet your dog’s specific nutrient requirements. The high water content present in raw food may allow you to feed more while still keeping the calories low for the pups that maybe slightly overweight.
- The bones that are part of the raw diet are anecdotally considered to be good for dental hygiene, which can be good for overall health Some enthusiast often argue Feeding a raw diet may provide your dog with a natural outlet for her chewing tendencies; this may help to improve her overall behavior
- J. Freeman, a nutrition professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, says that many of the benefits attributed to a raw food diet for dogs, such as a shinier coat, instead are the result of the high fat composition of the typical raw diet. High-fat commercial foods that would produce the same effect are available, she notes, without the risk of an unbalanced diet
- Higher energy levels
- Smaller stools
- According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) raw diets have been found to contain Salmonella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium botulinium, and Staphylococcus aureus, all of which are known human and canine pathogens. These bacteria are shed in dog stools and may be transferred to carpets and furniture as the dog moves around the house. These pathogens usually only pose a serious human risk to the immuno-compromised, the elderly, and young children; however, this is a very important consideration if you are feeding a raw diet and have people in these risk groups living in your home.
In addition, there is a potential risk to dogs from certain pathogens found in raw foods, such as Neospora caninum, found in raw beef, Nanophyetus salmincola, found in raw salmon, and Trichinella spiralis, which is found in raw pork and wild game such as deer, elk, and moose. All of these pathogens can make your dog sick and are potentially fatal.
- Feeding bones can cause choking, intestinal blockage or perforations, and chipped or broken teeth
- Bone may get stuck in intestines as well as cause constipation. Bone is very sharp and they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along. This causes severe pain and may require a visit to your veterinarian.
- Peritonitis is a nasty, difficult-to-treat bacterial infection of the abdomen is caused when bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines. Your dog needs an emergency visit to your veterinarian as peritonitis can kill your dog.
- Feeding raw food is expensive and time consuming. The preparation of balanced meals for your dog every day can be a challenge to fit into a busy lifestyle
According to Christie Keith ,who is raw diet enthusiast and writer for Bark magazine, you can jump from generic grocery store kibble to whole prey carcass in one step, but hardly anyone does, or will. Many of us started out slowly, adding fresh foods to commercial foods, improving the commercial foods we used or switching to cooked homemade diets, before we started really experimenting with diets based on carcasses and bones and hunks of meat.
The process does matter, because it’s by going through their own process at their own pace that people become invested in preparing their dog’s food themselves. It’s a way for them to build confidence in their ability to feed their pet, and to find ways to make it work with their lifestyle and financial constraints. If they are by nature someone who goes whole hog with new ideas, there is nothing wrong with making the big leap—but there is also nothing wrong with crawling before you walk and walking before you run.