At Pet Planet, we are often asked to explain the difference between raw pet foods and more traditional forms of pet food. Raw diets consist of bones, ground meat vegetables, fruit and other whole foods. The theory behind feeding raw food is that our pets’ ancestors ate raw meat and bones, and that raw food represents a more natural diet for our dogs and cats. It is also believed that cooking your pet’s food may also kill many of the nutrients that they require.
There are many versions of raw diets available today that range from complete thaw-and-serve diets to individual component products. When selecting any diet for your best friend, careful research is key; choosing the correct raw food regime is no exception.
Why should I consider a raw diet for my dog?
Our domestic dogs are descended from canis lupus, the wolf. Despite evolution, the dog has reached its present state with a digestive system that undoubtedly makes it a carnivore. Although domestication has changed the dogs’ external appearance and temperament, the digestive system and nutritional needs have not changed from those of their wild relatives.
What advantages are there to feeding a raw diet?
You may see many advantages when feeding a raw diet such as:
- Cleaner teeth and a healthy, odorless mouth
- Low stool volume
- Healthy skin
- Shining coat
- Fewer arthritic symptoms
- Improved urine acidification
- Improved circulation
- Consistent quality of food compared to kibble
Raw diets are also sometimes used as a form of treatment for certain diseases, as they are grain free and have a low Glycemic Index. Raw diets also carry little to no risk of renal damage.
What diseases have been known to respond well to raw diets?
Raw diets, with additional Vitamin A are an important treatment for cancer. Cancer cells feed on carbohydrates which are not present in a raw diet and Vitamin A is thought to prevent the growth of cancer cells. The liver in raw offal (entrails and other organs present in a raw diet) is an excellent source of Vitamin A.
Most kibble fed dogs have a tendency to develop oral disease. Dogs do not produce the enzyme amylase, normally present in human saliva, which helps break down carbohydrates. Because of this, tartar and plaque are more likely to develop in a dog’s mouth. A raw diet, without carbohydrates minimizes the possibility of oral disease. Other diseases that respond well to a raw diet are: Diabetes, Obesity, Epilepsy, Allergies and Bowel Disease.
How much raw food should I feed my dog?
The amount to feed will vary from one dog to another depending upon age, activity level and size. Generally you will feed adult dogs 2 to 2.5% of their body weight, active dogs 3% and puppies 5% per day. Overweight or senior dogs need 1.5 to 2% of their body weight per day. Let your dog’s activity levels, appetite and body condition be your guide!
Do raw foods cause health problems due to bacteria?
Proper handling is an important key to raw food safety. Raw pet food is, in essence, no different than the food you prepare for your human family. Human quality, raw pet foods handled appropriately by both the manufacturer and at home are safe and pose no bacterial threat to your pet or your family.
What about Salmonella?
Poultry meats can contain Salmonella strains that may infect humans. Studies show that dogs, even those being fed raw food, are not a source for Salmonella infection in humans. Salmonella does not colonize in most dogs and even when it does, bacterial shedding is rare. In addition, it would be difficult for your pet to be a source of infection since there is no likely mode of transmission between humans and dogs. The Salmonella organism is fragile, and disappears quickly from the environment after shedding. It is also well known in veterinary and human pathology that casual contact with the Salmonella organism will not cause a Salmonella infection. The infectious dose for humans is approximately 1 million organisms. Such numbers would rarely be reached through casual contact with your pet.
What about dog treats?
Treats are not a necessary part of your dog’s nutritional requirements, but most people enjoy giving their dog an occasional treat. Healthy treats can be given providing they remain a small part of the overall diet. Try these suggestions:
- Low fat plain yogurt
- Fruits & vegetables
- Premium low grain biscuits
- Low fat cottage cheese
- Raw bones
Will my dog become aggressive if I feed it raw meat?
No. Feeding a raw diet will not change your dog’s basic personality, and will certainly not turn a laid back pooch into an aggressive, “blood thirsty” dog. However, because most dogs desire their natural diet of raw meat more than kibble, if your dog is naturally possessive or has a tendency to guard his food, a raw diet may intensify or bring out these traits in your dog. In this case Pet Planet recommends a focus on training your pet to correct these behaviors, rather than a diet change.
What about my cat – can I feed her a raw diet too?
Cats are true carnivores and need a meat diet. Cats derive the same benefits from a raw diet that our dogs do. In fact, raw food from animal sources is one of the best sources of essential amino acids like taurine. Often, once food has been cooked (such as in commercial cat foods) synthetic forms of vitamins, minerals and amino acids must be added back into the food in order to meet your cats’ needs. Hunting cats also eat the stomach contents and small intestinal contents of their prey. This provides them with a source of dietary fiber and nutrients like Vitamin E that are available primarily from plant sources. In order to mimic this, you can give your cat access to some natural greens like cat grass and supplement their diet occasionally with vitamin E.
How much should I feed my cat?
Adult Cats need about 5-8% of their body weight per day, depending on their activity level. Their food should be divided into 2 or 3 meals daily. Kittens require about 8-10% of their body weight per day (weigh your kitten each week and adjust the amount fed accordingly). This amount should be split into 3 to 4 small meals daily. Kittens reach their full adult weight around 10-12 months and as they approach this age, it is a good idea to gradually taper off to 2 or 3 meals daily and begin feeding closer to 5-8% of their body weight. These percentages are meant to act as a guide only – every cat is different. Adjust the amounts to keep your cat at a healthy weight.