Is raw dieting right for your dog or cat? Can it be done safely, easily, and cost efficiently? What are the benefits of a raw diet?
Food is the building block for all the cells in an animal's body. As such, it is vital that we as pet guardians pay attention to what we are feeding our dogs and cats.
Raw dieting can be extremely beneficial for many pets because it is essentially the most organic and unprocessed form of food we can offer. It can be relatively user-friendly, too, due to the number of commercial raw options on the market, including avant-garde raw kibble options. Just like any diet, though, raw feeding is individualized for every animal.
Raw vs Dry Kibble
Unlike most dry kibble brands, reputable raw diet companies avoid hormones and antibiotics in their meat sources, but be sure to ask if the livestock is grass-fed and pasture-raised.
Many people shy away from raw options based on the cost, but it can be cost-effective, especially when you take into account that you'll be saving money in the long run on complications often caused by processed dry kibble diets, such as bladder stones and dental disease.
Preparing a raw food diet can be time-intensive, but thanks to commercially prepared raw foods that meet AAFCO standards, prep is easier and more minimal than ever. Freeze-dried options are becoming mor readily available as well.
Raw food has a high moisture content, particularly beneficial for pets who don't often visit the water bowl. The packaged meat is not made up of indigestible byproducts like road kill, ill or euthanized animals, beaks, nails, and feathers. These meaty "leftovers" are usually what make up the crude protein content of a dry kibble diet.
Additionally, dry kibble often contains preservatives like carcinogenic BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin which are linked to mutations and diseases. Wheat and corn fillers attract pets to dry kibble, but that doesn't mean dry kibble is a healthy choice to feed the animals under our care.
Transitioning: How to Feed a Raw Diet
It is important to transition your pet into a raw diet instead of switching from dry kibble all at once. Raw food requires acidic digestive juices, but commercial dry kibble diets often tamper with the normal stomach acid content. To build up the right amount, small raw portions should be fed on an empty stomach alternating with dry kibble meals so as not to overwhelm the system.
If the gut gets too overwhelmed, your dog or cat may vomit after eating. This is often mistaken as being due to the ingestion of bacteria or parasites, a leading argument used by anti-raw dieters. However, gradually you can work your pet up to regular portions of just raw food without any vomiting once their stomach adjusts to the new food.
Prepping a Raw Food Diet
Before feeding, be sure to thaw the meat. Warming it to body temperature is generally okay and sometimes recommended for old, young, or debilitated animals. Most raw pet diets can be cooked if the bone fragments are ground finely enough, and cooking might be recommended by your veterinarian for immunocompromised patients.
It is also worth noting that meat for human consumption is not appropriate for raw food diets. This meat is not processed as cleanly as the raw meat purchased from a commercial dog or cat feed distributor because it's not meant to be fed raw. The meat on our dinner plates would pose a health hazard if fed raw due to the high presence of surface bacteria!
Proper hygeine when prepping the raw food should also be maintained. A clean kitchen is essential before and after prep, and prepping should also be done promptly with no food, tools, or dirty counters left sitting out.
The Importance of Balance
Balance and appropriate portion size are important for raw diets, but many pet parents who turn to raw food without consulting a veterinarian underfeed and/or don't offer a sufficient balance. Be sure to schedule an exam to discuss if a raw diet is right for your pet and gain insight on how to feed a raw diet prior to beginning a new feeding regimen.
Raw diets should maintain a healthy ratio of calcium to phosphorous, organ meat to lean muscle meat, and vitamins and minerals. Both dogs and cats can also benefit from vegetables in the diet, even with cats being obligate carnivores.
Dehydrated foods, non-GMO grains, and healthy oils like coconut and fish oils can also be beneficial additives to a raw diet. Ancient Arts carries nutritional supplements that provide a broad but full spectrum of required daily vitamins and minerals to ensure that your dog or cat receives complete, balanced nutrition.
For more information on raw diets and some recommended commercial brands, visit these sites:
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