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Raw Feeding: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

 by jaime on 23 Jun 2014 |
3 Comment(s)
Dog owners in the 21st century have become very passionate about the food they feed their dog. For decades now dogs have been subjected to dry foods found on the shelves of grocery, convenience, and pet stores across the country. As the human diet has changed in recent years, with a greater focus on healthy ingredients, so too has the diet of man's best friend.
Raw food-based diets are increasingly popular among dog owners who believe that dry food is entirely deficient in its nutritional value. However, the raw food movement is creating an intense debate among dog owners. The lack of reliable information on raw food diets, as well as questions surrounding health and safety, has further complicated the issue. Below you'll find the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to a raw food diet.
The Good
Supporters of raw food diets often point to the health benefits when making the switch from dry dog food. A raw food diet provides dogs with greater nutritional value because they are eating foods that have not been altered or pumped full of preservatives. Many dry dog foods are made with animal by-products, rice, and other grains with little to no nutritional value.
A raw diet is free of preservatives and contains more nutrients that a dog needs to grow and develop properly. Dogs with food allergies or nutritional deficiencies in their current diet can benefit from the greater control offered in a raw diet. Raw feeding allows you as the owner to craft meal plans for your dog that meet its specific nutritional needs (should deficiencies exist) and avoid ingredients that cause allergic reactions in your dog.
There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest that raw diets provide other benefits to your dog's overall mental and physical well-being. Bones are a part of certain raw diet meal plans. Some owners have noticed that bones in the diet help alleviate natural chewing tendencies and improve overall behavior as a result.
The Bad
While many supporters of raw feeding point to centuries of canine existence on raw diets, proponents are quick point out that there were fewer distinct breeds in the past compared to today. With so many different breeds today, it is hard to identify one raw diet that works for all dogs. Different breeds have different needs, and some will have natural deficiencies that make raw diets difficult.
The convenience and cost factors associated with raw diets are often used as arguments against the movement. Commercial raw food is available, but it needs to be stored in the freezer and allowed time to thaw before being served. Preparing raw food on your own for your dog is also time consuming as you are now cooking meals for yourself and preparing your dog's food each day.
It can also be difficult to ensure that the raw diet you prepare for your dog meets all of its nutritional needs. A raw diet needs to be balanced to ensure it remains beneficial to your dog's health.
The Ugly
The greatest concern that many have with a raw diet is the health risk it could pose to a dog. While the production process for dry dog food destroys many nutrients and vitamins in the ingredients, it also destroys many of the potential risk factors found in those ingredients. Raw diets have been found to contain dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E-coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.
Your dog may shed many of these bacteria in its stool, but traces can be transferred by your dog to carpets and furniture in the home. Young children and the elderly living in your home are at risk of contracting these bacteria and becoming seriously ill.
Additionally, there are other pathogens found in raw meats that can make your dog severely ill and threaten its life. Examples include Neospora caninum, Nanophyetus salmincola, and Trichinella spiralis.
Last but not least, there is the health risk that bones pose to your dog. Chewing raw bones can cause intestinal blockages, perforations of the stomach and intestines, and chipped or broken teeth.
In the end, the decision to switch your dog to a raw food diet should be done only after researching the nutritional needs of your breed. When deciding upon a raw diet, it would also be beneficial to discuss the plan with your dog's veterinarian.

Feature image credit


Sandra Scarr - Comment
Sandra Scarr25 Jun 2014Reply
It is idiotic to suggest that different breeds of dogs have different nutritional needs, just as suggesting that different races of people need different diets. All dogs are wolves -- a sub-species of grey wolf, regardless of size or conformation. For 12 years, I have been feeding the raw-meaty-bones diet (raw muscle and organ meats and meaty bones for minerals and to keep dogs' teeth clean). I breed Labrador retrievers and standard Poodles. At all ages, they all thrive on raw meats and meaty bones, beef and chicken primarily, but many kinds of meats are just fine. Bacteria are handled nicely by dogs' very acidic digestive system. No bacterial illnesses in 12 years. Have a look at Dr. Tom Lonsdale's web site, rawmeatybones,com for further information.
AbbyandSadiesMom - Comment
AbbyandSadiesMom25 Jun 2014Reply
I tried feeding raw food to my two cats. Although very expensive, they turned their noses up at it. Can't say I blamed them; that stuff stunk! They're very happy with a high-quality wet food and a few kernels of kibble. A strictly dry diet, be it dog or cat, is not healthy for the respective animal. Many sources on the 'net' explain why.
Rachel - Comment
Rachel25 Jun 2014Reply
I've been feeding my cats a raw diet for a year and a half. Yes it took time to convert my biscuit eating cats to raw food, it takes time and manipulation. They are very happy with it now and their coats are gloriously thick and soft with shiny teeth. The only warning I'd add is that for cats make sure you do the research, they need beef heart regularly (for taurine which is vital) and they need bone (mine eat raw chicken wings and rabbit) to meet their calcium requirements in addition to raw meat. And before anyone quotes feeding chicken bones to cats, raw is fine and natural it's when they are cooked they are dangerously brittle. Oh and as a side benefit to those housebound kitties you'll find that without all the bulking ingredients their litter deposits are a lot smaller and barely smell! I actually have to check the litter box regularly as there's no stench to warn me!

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