We all want to feed our dogs the best possible diet, but it can be a little tricky to figure out what that really means.
Many pet parents and dog nutrition experts talk about raw diets – in other words, feeding dogs a diet that includes raw meat and veggies manufactured specifically for animal consumption. The pet food industry has hopped on board, with a variety of raw meals, toppers, meal mixers, and treats available to pet parents.
So, what is raw feeding exactly? (Hint: it’s not the same as feeding them raw meat from your grocery store!) And what are the benefits for your dog?
What is raw feeding?
Dogs are “opportunistic carnivores” meaning they thrive with meat as the main part of their diet, but are able to consume plant material as well. (Sidenote: cats are “obligate carnivores” meaning they need meat to survive.)
Raw feeding is meant to provide meat as the main portion of your dog’s diet, with other healthy ingredients in a well-balanced meal. Note: This doesn’t mean picking up a pound of chicken or raw beef at your supermarket, and tossing it into your dog’s bowl! Many raw animal diets are manufactured through high-pressure processing (HPP), which kills bad bacteria, leaving only good bacteria behind, to make it safe for your fur-baby to eat.
Why feed your dog a raw diet?
Manufactured raw pet foods provide high protein levels and optimal nutritional value. Raw food has shown success as a natural solution for addressing health issues such as indigestion, obesity, dry skin and inflammation, urinary tract problems, and dental hygiene.
Here are the main benefits that many pet parents see after incorporating raw food into their dog’s diet.
Raw diets can improve your dog’s dental health by reducing buildup of plaque and helping to prevent dental disease. Your dog has naturally acidic saliva which helps to reduce plaque, harmful bacteria, and tartar in the mouth. The live enzymes found in raw food help maintain healthy flora, which is a fancy way of saying: it allows your pet’s saliva to keep doing its job!
Because raw foods are generally low in starches and sugars, they don’t stick to your dog’s teeth as easily as kibble does. By contrast, dry kibble can actually increase your dog’s risk of dental disease, because the high levels of sugars and simple carbohydrates stick to your pup’s teeth and are harder to scrape off.
Your dog’s stomach contents are naturally highly acidic when meat is present, allowing for easier digestion. Eating a diet of kibble by itself lowers the acidity in your pet’s stomach, making it work harder to digest food. Raw food helps maintain healthy levels of acidity in the stomach, which controls bacteria in the gut and makes digestion easier.
Dogs have a much shorter intestinal tract than humans. This means their bodies are designed to digest food quickly as it passes through. High-starch diets like dry kibble take a lot longer to fully break down, and they can often move through the intestine too quickly to become fully digested. This can cause tummy troubles like gas, indigestion, and unhealthy bowel movements.
Your dog’s body can digest raw foods faster and more efficiently than kibble. After switching to a raw diet, many pet parents observe better digestion, less gas, and more compact stools. One study found that feeding puppies a raw diet early in life may reduce their chances of developing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) later on.
Skin and coat health
Raw diets offer an optimal balance of the omega fatty acids, amino acids, and enzymes that your dog needs to provide skin cells with necessary protein and hydration. This keeps their hair follicles strong and healthy. That’s a fancy way of saying: it can keep skin hydrated, protect against inflammation, and allow hair to grow shiny and soft. As an added bonus: When the hair follicles are healthy, they can hold onto the hair better which often reduces shedding!
Switching to raw food may also help pets who are suffering from rashes or other skin issues due to food allergies. Raw diets often don’t include ingredients that typically cause allergic reactions, and can be a natural solution to improve your dog’s skin health.
Raw foods can be an excellent solution for picky eaters! There are many raw toppers and meal mixers which can be added to a bowl of dry kibble to enhance the flavor. Many pups love the taste (and smell) of meat, and adding a little bit of raw food such as frozen bone broth – even if you don’t switch to a fully raw diet – can entice the pickiest eater to get the nutrients they need. It’s all about building a better bowl!
When feeding your dog raw foods, select foods that are specifically manufactured for dogs to eat. Raw meats found in our supermarkets contain bad bacteria and are not safe for animal consumption. Many brands that manufacture raw animal diets use high-pressure processing (HPP), which kills bad bacteria.
Is raw right for your pet?
Remember, like humans, each pet is different and has their own individual dietary needs. Speak with a pet nutrition specialist or veterinary provider before making a change to your fur-baby’s diet. Our nutrition experts are here to help you find the right diet for your pet.