Quick History Lesson On Dog Food
Dogs have been around for tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of years and during most of that time they’ve been eating raw meat diets. Before they became domesticated animals, they lived as wolves. Even after domestication, dogs were happy eating raw meat and scraps that humans didn’t want. By comparison, the first bag of commercially-produced dog food entered the market about 100 years ago and didn’t gain much popularity until World War II. During World War II, the food industry discovered that they could use unwanted meat and grain products in pet food. This would not only save consumers money on feeding their pets, but would also help drive profits since food companies could now sell previously unwanted meat and grain products.
Of course, much has changed in recent decades. Many dog foods today are more nutritious and they do not rely on cast off ingredients. You can easily find dog foods that use high quality, nutritious ingredients for your dog, but there are still plenty of lower quality dog foods that do contain lower nutrition.
Most dog foods today are made, directly or indirectly, by one of the five large pet food manufacturers in the market: Mars, Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, and Del Monte. Due to corporate buying and selling, these corporations also own many of the smaller dog food companies pet owners usually think of as producing boutique, “holistic,” “natural,” or organic foods. Large pet food companies commonly produce dog foods that range from the highest quality to lower end foods with inferior ingredients. They produce grain-free foods, prescription diets, limited ingredient diets, and other specialty foods. In short, they produce dog foods for every budget and pet owner lifestyle. What’s more, the production facilities of the plants run by the large corporations often have very good quality control measures and they are often less likely to be subject to recalls than some of the smaller dog food companies. (Of course, your idea of quality control and that of USDA inspectors may not be the same, but the facilities and products are meeting inspection standards.) It’s no longer possible to simply refer to commercial dog food companies as “good” or “bad.” The same company that makes low quality foods also makes top quality foods. It’s more important to understand each product line and the ingredients used in it in order to make informed decisions about foods. Factors such as where and how the food is made, what ingredients are used, the brand’s history of recalls, and so on, are important to understanding whether or not you should feed the food to your dog.
As you can imagine, the complexity of the dog food scene has become frustrating to many pet owners who just want to feed their dog a wholesome diet. They want to know what is in the food and have confidence that the ingredients are fresh and healthy at all times. This is another reason why many people prefer to feed a raw diet.
While a raw food diet for dogs isn’t going to work for many dog owners, you’ll definitely want to spend the next 20 minutes or so reading this information so you can form your own conclusion about the diet which is best for your dog.
The Raw Food Diet For Dogs – A Brief Video Overview
To start things off, here’s a 12-minute video overview about feeding your dog a raw food diet. If everything in this video makes sense to you and you’d like to read more, please continue reading. Switching your dog to a raw diet isn’t as hard, time consuming, or costly as you might think it is!
Why Raw Meat Instead Of Kibble?
Plain and simple, dogs are carnivorous. This is not a debatable fact. If you’d like more info about why dogs have been classified as carnivores, feel free to check out my article on dog food digestion which can be found on the main dog nutrition page. As you’ll see through my many dog food reviews, many commercially-produced kibbles contains corn and other grains and plant matter such as fruits and vegetables which sound great, but in reality, do not provide dogs with enough animal protein for optimum nutrition. It always looks nice to see fruits and vegetables on a bag of dog food but this should never be a major focus for any food you feed to your dog.
Dogs Have Never Cooked Their Food
No dog of any kind, wild or domesticated, has ever cooked their food. As humans, we feel that cooking food is natural, necessary, improves flavor and increases our ability to chew or eat food. That’s true for humans but not dogs! By cooking food for dogs, we are actually burning off many of the nutrients they need. Sure, we can add in supplements to a dog’s kibble to make up for the nutrients lost during the cooking process, or we can just feed them the most natural and nutritious food source: Raw Meat! It’s what dogs have been eating for thousands of years. Cooking is used in the process of making kibble to break down many of the ingredients used so they will be more digestible to dogs but with raw meat this is not necessary.
Another disadvantage to feeding your dog standard kibble is the dryness of the food. Not only does the dry kibble make your dog thirsty, but it’s very tough on a dog’s esophagus and absorbs essential fluids in the stomach which are needed for proper digestion. Dry kibble will expand in your dog’s stomach and can produce gas in some instances. That can lead to flatulence and, in some cases, bloat, which can be a life-threatening illness in which the stomach becomes distended and twists. Gas and bloat are even more likely with inferior foods that tend to expand more in the stomach.
More Advantages Of A Raw Food Diet For Dogs
A raw meat diet is what nature intended for dogs and most closely mimics the diet of all species of wild dogs, including their closest relative, the Gray Wolf. Wild dogs feed on the whole carcass of an animal including various raw organs, including the stomach, and even bones. Further, a raw meat diet provides nutrients in an unaltered form. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes are preserved whereas cooking meat destroys these naturally occurring nutrients. When you cook meat for dogs or use kibble, these important ingredients have to be added back after the cooking process (which dog food companies do). After switching to a raw food diet for your dog, you should notice the following benefits within the first month:
- Reduction in problems associated with dry skin
- Reduction or elimination of excessive itchiness and/or skin allergies
- Smaller and less stinky poop
- Increased pep and energy
- Healthier size and weight
- Less smelly breath
- Better dental hygiene and whiter teeth
Addressing Concerns Of A Raw Food Diet For Dogs
Below are some of the most common concerns people have about switching their dog to a raw meat diet:
One of the most serious concerns people have about feeding a raw food diet is whether or not their dog will have all of his nutritional needs met – and this is a legitimate concern. Wolves and dogs in the wild who eat a raw diet manage to stay healthy because they eat a wide variety of meat protein – and essential amino acids – from different kinds of prey. If you decide to feed your dog a raw diet, you should feed your dog a variety of different meat proteins so he will be getting all of the essential amino acids he needs. Along with the meat protein, be sure to include other healthy and wholesome foods in his diet. Smal amounts of dairy, veggies, and fruits will provide some of the other vitamins and minerals he needs. In addition to the meat protein in his diet, you should make sure he gets some organ meat from animals such as liver, heart, or kidneys. Many people who feed a raw diet give their dogs supplements to make sure they are getting all of the trace minerals and other vitamins and minerals they need in their diet. If you have any concerns about your dog’s diet you can always talk to a canine nutritionist or other dog food specialist to make sure your dog is having his dietary needs met.
Choking is another concern for people who feed a raw diet. The basic rule is that is is generally safe to give your dog raw bones. They are usually comparatively soft and pliable. Eating raw bones is good for your dog’s teeth and they help provide the proper calcium to phosphorus ratio in your dog’s diet when eating raw meats. However, you should not give your dog any cooked bones. Cooked bones, especially poultry bones, are brittle and they can splinter and puncture your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
Parasites And Bacteria (Salmonella, E. Coli, etc.)
Remember, dogs are not human beings and their digestive system is very different from ours. They have a much shorter digestive tract than we do which helps diminish the risk of parasite or bacteria-causing issues. Further, they have a very acidic stomach with a pH level of at least 1. That allows a dog to break down meat and prevent bacteria from colonizing. And finally, there are enzymes in a dog’s saliva that have antibacterial properties, further limiting the risk of any adverse effects caused by bacteria in raw meat. The risk of parasites and bacteria is far greater to the dog owner if proper handling of raw meat is not used and contaminates food which you or your family will eat.
Feeding Raw Meat Is Too Complicated
Not to worry! I’m going to walk you through everything and it’s much easier than you think with several different options to choose from. We’ll take care of this concern in just a bit. Sit tight and keep reading!
Aggression Issues: Some people are concerned that feeding their dog a raw meat diet will cause aggression issues or make their dog “blood thirsty.” There is absolutely zero scientific fact to back this up. Dogs can develop food aggression for many reasons which is usually a direct result of humans unknowingly reinforcing food aggression behavior. Feeding raw meat alone will not contribute to food aggression nor will it help decrease food aggression if your dog is already aggressive around food. Food aggression in dogs is strictly a behavioral issue and not a dietary issue.
Dangers Of A Raw Food Diet For Dogs
There is no 100 percent safe method of feeding your dog. As compared to the potential issues lower quality dog food can cause, I think a raw food diet for dogs is one of the safest diets available today. Nonetheless, a raw food or raw meat diet for dogs has its own inherent risks and inconveniences, so let’s go over those now:
Increased Risk Of A Cracked Tooth
This is rare, but worth mentioning. There have been cases reported of dogs cracking or fracturing a tooth while chewing on a bone. When you give your dog bones to chew, you should always supervise. Chewing on bones can also improve your dog’s dental health.
Risk Of Gastrointestinal Perforation
Another possible risk is if your dog swallows a bone with a sharp fragment. The bone could potentially cause a tear or hole in the wall of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large bowel, rectum, or gallbladder. If unidentified or left untreated, this can quickly become fatal. This is of higher risk with cooked bones as the cooked bone forms splinters when eaten. A gastrointestinal perforation is relatively rare with raw bones, but it does happen from time to time so I thought it was worth talking about.
Lack Of Documentation
The raw food diet for dogs only dates back in its present form a few decades to Dr. Richard Pitcairn and Dr. Ian Billingshurst when raw feeding was called BARF (biologically appropriate raw food). Household (non-wild) dogs have long consumed cooked human leftover foods and table scraps, including corn, fruit, and other vegetables. Dogs are incredibly adaptable and have adjusted to the many different diets humans have fed over many centuries. Since the advent of commercial dog food about 100 years ago, feeding kibble or canned food has become the norm. However, in the past couple of decades, many people have become interested in feeding their dogs a raw food diet again. There is relatively little scientific literature on raw food and dogs. This is also probably due to the fact that many feeding studies are carried out by and paid for by dog food companies and it’s probably not in their interest to promote raw feeding. The American Veterinary Medical Association has taken a position against raw feeding but not all veterinarians oppose the practice. Many canine nutritionists support raw feeding.
Increased Risk Of Human Food Contamination
The greatest danger to feeding your dog raw food is contaminating your own food supply! Dealing with raw food, especially in the kitchen, should be dealt with in a very careful manner and very strict cleaning should be performed as soon as possible after raw meat has come into contact with any surface or utensil. Your family should also be educated on the dangers of handling raw meat and the dangers of leaving contaminated objects uncleaned. Hands down, the greatest risk of feeding your dog a raw food diet is to you, not your dog. Treat the raw food for your dog with the same care that you treat raw food intended for your family and you should be fine.
A Raw Food Diet For Dogs Is Not A Miracle Diet
I’d like to take this moment to make something very clear. A raw food diet is not a cure-all diet. There is quite a bit of information on the internet giving the impression that a raw food diet for dogs will cure or prevent just about anything. Truth be told, if your dog has allergies now, your dog may still have allergies after switching to a raw diet. Some dogs can definitely benefit from a raw food diet, especially if you are personally choosing their food and preparing it yourself. But I don’t want to give you the impression this will cure or prevent all illnesses. Even human beings who eat right, exercise, and maintain good mental health can become sick, injured, and die from serious disease. The same holds true for dogs. Many people smoke a pack of cigarettes per day and live to 100. Likewise, many dogs can eat commercial dog food and live for a long time. Feeding a raw food diet can be beneficial for many dogs but it is not a guarantee of anything.
Getting Started: How To Prepare Raw Food For Dogs
Alright, now that we’ve got our research out of the way, it’s time to learn how to prepare a raw food diet for dogs. On the next page, I’ll take you through the process of preparing raw food for dogs. You ready? Let’s go!