What is Raw feeding?
Raw feeding consists of feeding a diet that has not been cooked in any way and is in it’s natural, raw state. It is the most natural way to feed a dog due to the fact that prior to being domesticated, it is the diet that dogs would naturally eat. This means that their bodies are adapted to eat this type of diet and therefore when fed, a dog will usually thrive.
Why did I switch Buddy and Jesse to raw?
As a pup, Buddy’s stools were very loose no matter what food we tried him on and so I started looking into the reasons behind this. The food Buddy was on prior to being raw fed was James Wellbeloved and despite the food being grain free, he still had loose stools. I had heard of raw feeding but had never really looked into it much and therefore after reading up the benefits that raw feeding has for dogs, I decided to look into it further and make the switch. Before changing Buddy’s diet, I decided to do more research into it first and because I was completely new to raw feeding and Buddy was only an 8 month old puppy, I decided to buy some premade raw completes to try him on. Jesse has been raw fed since the day I brought her home as a tiny puppy as we had seen this type of diet benefit Buddy in so many ways that I decided I only wanted to give Jesse the very best from the start since gaining more knowledge on Canine nutrition.
What are the benefits of raw feeding?
Once I had decided to write this Blog post, I figured that as well as including my own opinions and facts based on research, I’d also carry out a poll on my Instagram stories to find out what other people felt the benefits of raw feeding were. From the information that I have collected, I have compiled a list below of some of the benefits that people have experienced when feeding their dog a raw diet.
- Better Weight Management – This is because there is no added carbohydrates in raw food. Carbohydrates are not a dietary requirement for dogs because they can obtain all of their energy from the fats and proteins in their diet. Because of this, when a dog food contains carbohydrates, it means that they are getting more energy in their body than they need which can lead to weight gain. Once a dog is switched over to raw, they often shed a lot of weight and become much leaner due to the fact that they are only obtaining their energy from proteins and fats.
- Shinier Skin and coat – Raw fed dogs tend to always have a shiny, glossy coat. This is because, dog foods that contain carbohydrates tend to have a much lower protein content and dogs need the amino acids that are found in proteins in order to maintain healthy skin and a healthy coat. Because a raw diet is very high in protein, dogs get plenty of amino acids (including keratin which is needed for a healthy coat) and due to having natural sources of fats included in the diet, they have plenty of healthy oils which help to keep their coat in tip top condition.
- Better Muscle mass and improved overall body condition – Protein is the building blocks for good muscle mass and therefore when on a raw diet, dogs have much better muscle mass than those fed on processed dog food. In addition to this, most raw food companies will use very high quality meat and therefore this ensures that they are able to utilize the protein within their bodies easily.
- Cleaner teeth and fresher breath – One of the main reasons that so many dogs suffer from periodontal disease these days is because dogs that are fed on processed food often have high amounts of carbohydrates and starch in them which sticks to the dog’s teeth leading to a build up of plaque and tartar. Raw fed dogs do not have high levels of carbohydrates or starch in their diet and therefore their teeth tend to stay cleaner. Most raw fed dogs will also get the occasional bone which helps to scrape away any plaque or tartar that has been building up leaving the dog with pearly whites.
- Firmer Stools that are not smelly – One of the significant changes is the changes in the dog’s stools. Dogs that are fed processed food often have large quantities of undigested food in their faeces and therefore because of this, it does not form properly and is very sloppy. Raw fed dogs are fed a diet that does not contain any fillers, grains or carbohydrates and therefore they are smaller in size, properly formed and tend have a low odor because the dog is taking in most of the nutrients from the food that they have eaten. The more faeces your dog produces, the more money you are wasting as the dog is excreting the waste products from the food they have eaten so more faeces = more waste!
- More sustainable energy – Raw fed dogs have much more sustainable energy than those fed on a processed diet. This is because they are getting all of their energy from proteins and fats in their diet which is much easier for them to use than if they were to be getting their energy from carbohydrates. A more sustainable energy source is perfect for working and active dogs that are always out and about as it ensures that they do not become tired or lethargic.
- Improved overall health and behavior – Raw fed dogs also tend to be much more balanced in terms of behavior. They are less likely to be hyperactive because there is no additives in the food to cause this and the fact that there are no additives or nasties added also means that they are able to focus much better when training etc. Owners of raw fed dogs also tend to need less visits to the vet each year as raw fed dogs are less likely to develop problems associated with poor quality food, obesity and dental problems as well as many other problems that are commonly seen in dogs. This is good because it helps to save expensive vet bills.
Every dog is different and because of this, the benefits that you see when switching to raw will vary and the time it takes for you to notice the changes will also depend on the dog. However, once you switch to a raw diet, you will usually start to see the benefits after a couple of weeks.
How the Anatomy of a dog relates to raw feeding:
Overtime dogs have evolved in many ways since becoming domesticated but they still share the digestive tract of their common ancestor – the wolf! Because of this, their bodies are designed to eat a raw diet. They have stronger stomach acids than humans and other animals which helps to break down their food and destroy any harmful bacteria whilst it is in their stomach. If the dog has ingested a large amount of bone then this will remain in their stomach for a longer period of time so that the acids in the stomach can break this down.
Dogs also have shorter intestines than humans do so have less time to absorb all of the nutrients that they need. Because of this, their bodies are better suited to eating a raw diet because muscle meat, organ meat and bones can be easily digested and absorbed whereas grains, carbohydrates and certain plant materials are much harder for them to digest. This then means that a large amount of their food will go undigested which results in sloppy faeces when a dog is fed processed food. Because of this, raw food has a much higher digestibility than other types of dog food and this can be seen by the size of the faeces produced by the dog. The faeces from a dog that is not raw fed will be significantly larger than the faeces of a raw fed dog. This is because processed food is not as digestible whereas raw food is highly digestible and therefore less waste is produced. Another reason that dog’s have developed a shorter digestive tract is because it means that there is little time for bacteria to begin to live in the intestinal tract and therefore anything harmful exits the body meaning that the dog is highly unlikely to get ill.
In addition to their digestive tract, dog’s also have a set of teeth that is designed to eat a raw food diet. They have canines that would have been used to take down and kill their prey before they were domesticated. dogs also have incisors at the front of their mouth which are needed in order to strip meat from bones. Their molar teeth at the back also allow them to crush and chew bones and whole prey items and therefore the anatomy of their teeth is also best suited to a raw diet. A raw diet also helps to keep their teeth healthy as stripping meat from and gnawing on bones helps dogs to maintain good dental hygiene which prevents them from developing periodontal disease which is a common problem these days.
Two Types of Raw feeding:
There are two types of raw feeding. Both have advantages and disadvantages and it mostly comes down to the needs of the individual dog and owner preference. The two types of raw feeding are:
Prey Model Raw – This form of raw diet consists of raw meat, bone and offal and that is all. It is balanced in the ratio 80:10:10 which means that the diet must contain 80% Muscle Meat, 10% Organ Meat and 10% Bone. The Prey Model raw diet is best suited to dogs with allergies and dogs that suffer from chronic ear/other yeast infections.This is because a BARF diet contains fruits and vegetables too and these fruits and vegetables will feed the yeast making the problem worse. A Prey Model raw diet is also beneficial for dogs with acute or chronic pancreatitis as digesting plant matter can put stress on their pancreas as their pancreas has to release more enzymes in order to break the plant matter down. By feeding a Prey Model raw diet, the pancreas is put under less stress and because of this any inflammation is likely to go down and it could help to get rid of the problem resulting in a much happier dog. In addition to this, some owners try to feed their dogs as close to their natural diet as possible and therefore this diet is the most natural way to feed a diet as it consists of whole prey, meat, bone, offal and nothing else. This diet is based around the fact that dogs are carnivores and do not need to eat plant matter in their diet.
If you would like to feed a diet that is based around the species appropriate, Prey model raw diet, the companies I would recommend to start you off are below:
Paleo Ridge Raw – Paleo Ridge raw sell a range of food with a good variety of minces and also some exotic meats. They sell a taster box for anyone who wishes to give them a try which includes a variety of their complete minces. Buddy and Jesse LOVE Paleo Ridge raw and always lick their bowls clean. Their 1kg boxes are perfect if you have multiple dogs or dogs that eat a large amount in one day too. Their packaging is also environmentally friendly and their meat is all ethically sourced.
Naturaw – Naturaw also sell a good range of dog food including an organic range. Over the shooting season, they also sell a range of game meat such as venison, pheasant and rabbit which are all firm favorites of Buddy and Jesse and they LOVE the furry rabbit mince. Naturaw also sell a taster box containing a range of their balanced meals for anyone wishing to try their food. Naturaw also only use environmentally friendly packaging and source all of their meat ethically which are desired qualities for a raw food company to have.
BARF Diet – BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. This form of raw diet consists of raw meat, bone, offal as well as a range of fruit and vegetables. The fruit and vegetables in this diet will be low starch vegetables so that they are easier to break down and will be less likely to cause allergies in sensitive dogs. Any fruits and vegetables included as part of a raw diet will be gently steamed and then pureed as this will ensure that the dogs will be able to digest them ensuring they take as much nutrients from the fruits and vegetables. This diet is based around the fact that dogs are omnivores and therefore they require plant matter in their diet in order to remain healthy. Plant matter can be a good thing to include as part of a dog’s raw diet as it provides them with important and minerals that they require in order to be healthy and it also provides them with fibre which helps to ensure that a healthy digestive tract is maintained. Most owners transitioning their dog to raw will stick with this type of diet as the Prey model raw diet is definitely not for those that are squeamish and therefore people feel much happier feeding the BARF diet when they first make the change.
If you are looking to change your dog over onto a raw BARF diet then I have listed some companies below for you to try out:
Luna and Me is another raw food company that I regularly use with Buddy and Jesse and they LOVE their dinner patties. Luna and Me also do a superblends range containing superfoods that all have amazing health benefits for dogs. They have a Starter Box available to purchase on their website containing a variety of their complete patties to get you started. They definitely have Buddy and Jesse’s seal of approval!
Nutriment is another raw food company that do a range of complete, balanced BARF dog food that is of great quality. Nutriment have on a range of awards for their food and Buddy and Jesse can never eat it quick enough. Nutriment also sell a Starter Box if you are interested in trying your dog on their food and I highly recommend them.
How do you know if a raw food is good or bad?
Just like processed dog food companies, not all raw food companies will be good and healthy for a dog. Raw food can contain fillers to bulk out the product and make it go further so that the company can produce more food for less increasing the amount of profit that they make. A common ingredient used as a filler in raw dog food is lung. Lung has no nutritional value for dogs and they cannot get anything from it and therefore if the food contains lung then there is a chance that it is not very good quality and these foods are best avoided. If you have any questions on ingredients in a raw food, get in touch with the company and they should be able to give you a detailed breakdown of the ingredients and why they are included. If they will not provide you with this, then it is best to find another company who is honest and only uses good quality ingredients. If you want to double check that the raw food you are feeding (or planning to feed) your dog is as good as possible then the Dog Food Directory on All About Dog Food have rated several different brands and given a breakdown of their ingredients which is helpful to have a look at.
How to get started:
Before getting started it is always important to do your research. The more research you do, the more understanding you will have on how to provide your dog with the balanced raw diet that they need. Once you have done your research, I recommend starting to feed raw using premade raw completes to ensure that your dog is getting everything that they need. A lot of raw food companies sell starter or taster boxes and therefore purchasing one of these is a great way to start.
In order to feed raw, it is also important that you have a good amount of freezer space that you can use to store the dog food. This allows you to bulk buy which can save you money and also ensures that the food is stored safely and correctly. Because I have four dogs, we have a large chest freezer to store all of our raw food in which works out really well for us.
Upon making the switch, it is really simple. One day the dog is eating their old food and then the next they are on raw. It really is as simple as that! I do not recommend mixing their old food in with the raw as most foods do not digest at the same rate as raw and this can cause a few issues. Firstly, kibble will remain in the intestines for longer and this can increase the chances that harmful bacteria could begin to live in the intestines making your dog sick and secondly, you will not start to notice the benefits of raw feeding until you have fully removed any other dog food from your dog’s diet.
Natural Treats and Chews:
Once you have started raw feeding, it is also important to make sure that you stop feeding any processed, unhealthy treats and chews as these will be having a negative effect on the dog’s health and could prevent you from being able to notice the benefits of raw feeding. Raw bones make up part of a raw diet and therefore these can be given a few times a week. Not only are they healthy for the dog but they also keep them busy and provide the dogs with enrichment. Chewing on bones can help to calm a dog down and therefore if you have an anxious dog, they can also help them to relax. Bones must always be fed under supervision and not all bones are safe to feed. Hard, weight bearing bones can lead to broken teeth and therefore these should be avoided.
Bones that are good for puppies and dogs new to raw feeding:
Necks – Chicken necks (smaller dogs), Duck necks (medium dogs) and turkey necks (Large dogs) – as a guide but any size can be given to any dog.
Wings – Chicken and Duck wings are great for puppies and dogs starting out on raw as they contain a fair amount of meat and the bones are very soft.
Lamb Ribs – These are much softer than beef ribs making them easier for a dog that is new to raw feeding.
Chicken Carcass – A chicken carcass is a great bone for puppies and dogs new to raw because it contains a lot of cartilage which is chewy but softer than bone. It takes a while to eat too so keeps puppies busy.
Lamb’s head and Knuckle bones – Great for cleaning teeth, ideal for heavy chewers, very long lasting!
We will write another blog post on non – raw natural treats and chews as well as supplements, natural flea and worming treatment so keep your eyes peeled.
We hope you enjoyed reading our blog post, thank you for reading and let us know if there is anything you would like us to write about or anything we could improve.
Buddy, Jesse and their Hooman xxx