September 29, 2021

Raw Dog Food: a Diet You Can Feel Good About


Is a raw food diet right for your pup? Raw dog food has been a divisive topic among dog owners, veterinarians, and scientists for decades. There are few studies to show definitively that a raw diet, on its own, is a better choice for all dogs, but taking a more intentional approach to how you feed and care for your dog's health can improve their life for many years to come.

Historically, dogs and their ancestors (the wolf, of course) have always leaned into a raw food diet. The concept is based on a dog’s primitive nature: the desire to hunt and eat another animal.  Some breeds, like racing greyhounds and sled dogs, have long eaten raw food diets.

Dogs have changed dramatically since they began running with packs of humans, but today's traditional diet is generally believed to be lacking. A dog's natural, raw food diet has been cast aside for the convenience of packaged, easy to serve meals for most companion animals. While many studies show dogs today can tolerate a much more omnivorous diet than their wolfier counterparts, it remains tough to find the "right" balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates in a kibble-dominated world.

A raw diet is said to help with weight issues, lessen age-related issues, and improve a dog's value of life. Plus, all those extra nutrients improve skin and coat, result in cleaner teeth, and can even reduce how much your dog poops - yes, really - because your dog’s digestive system can absorb more from the raw food than traditional kibble.

There are also many anecdotal reports of improved health when chronically ill pets were switched from commercial food to raw dog food.

Raw Dog Food Isn't for Everyone

But a raw diet isn't right for every family or every dog. Namely, it can be very expensive. If you go with pre-packaged raw dog food, that can amount to around 5 times the cost of traditional kibble, depending on what you were feeding before. Via WebMD for Pets:

The cost of a raw dog food diet varies with the ingredients used and how it is prepared. For a 30-pound dog, a one-day supply of one variety of a frozen, commercially available raw chicken diet costs about $2.50; others may range up to $5 a day. A super-premium, commercial dry dog food costs about $1.

To help reduce cost and further control your pet's raw food diet, you can work with a local butcher or head to the grocery store to create your own mix, but be aware: producers of human-grade pre-ground meat are counting on it being cooked. 

Today's butchers prepare meat with food safety in mind, but also the knowledge that consumers will be cooking their raw meat before eating. When it comes to meats typically eaten fully cooked, like ground chicken and pork, there's an even higher risk of contamination when served as part of your dog's raw food diet.

Preparing raw dog food can also put you at risk of illness via cross-contamination. Handling raw meat is a health risk, so be mindful of where and how you're doing it. 

Doing it yourself can also be a time-consuming process. What you save on buying directly from a butcher may not add up, depending on how interested you are in maintaining your dogs' raw food diet.

Considering a Raw Food Diet

Another factor to note is that all raw dog foods are not made the same. 

Whether you go for a fully homemade approach or are looking for pre-packaged raw dog food, your dog's nutritional needs should be front and center. Simply finding a raw brand of food at your local pet store is not enough. When a high protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate diet is the goal, researchers have been disappointed to find that not all brands stack up.

Some of this starts with how dog foods are regulated.

Pet food regulators require fat content to be listed as a minimum — not the actual amount found in the food. This has led to many raw dog foods on the market actually offering dogs a much higher fat ratio than intended for a raw food diet intended to mimic the ancestral diet of dogs.

In addition, for puppies or dogs with underlying health issues, many raw dog food lacks the proper nutrients and vitamins that commercial, high-quality dog foods offer. 

A 2001 evaluation that looked at five raw dog food diets—three homemade and two commercially available—noted that all had nutritional deficiencies or excesses that could cause serious health problems when given long term. This is a decision best made between you, your dog, and your veterinarian or nutrition specialist.

Our team recommends serving your dog complete and balanced AAFCO-compliant raw dog foods, like those from Titan, K9 Kraving, and Albright’s. We give our own dogs this food daily, and many of our board and train pups enjoy it, too.

No matter what you feed your best bud, you want a dedicated and educated team on your side: nutritionists and researchers that work for the food production company, a local butcher prepping your dog's raw meat with extra care, a veterinarian to help monitor your dog's health and any changes, and your dog who loves what they're eating.

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