What’s in your bowl?
Raw diets are on the rise but there is still a lot of controversy so let’s take a look at the benefits of raw feeding and whether there is any truth behind the myths!
Despite what you might think, raw feeding is not a new concept. Most dogs were raw fed before the invention of commercial dog food in 1860 and lived long and healthy lives. By the early 1900s, people had started taking notice of the new commercial dog foods and how convenient it was. Tinned food soon made its first appearance in the 1920s. Made from horse meat, its popularity rocketed until WWII when dog food was classified as “non essential”. Producers had to get creative which led to the first kibbles. It’s been quite the journey, you can read more about it here .
Raw feeding (also know as BARF – Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding) aims to provide dogs with a completely natural diet, free from processing and most closely resembling the carnivorous diet that their bodies are designed for. Animals in a zoo are given a diet that best mirrors what they would eat out of captivity and each species has a different diet which is appropriate for them. In fact, eighty million species survive on a raw diet, so why should dogs be any different?
But what’s wrong with commercial dog food?
There’s a lot of debate surrounding kibble and raw feeding but it is becoming more and more accepted that some dogs can’t tolerate the grain-heavy, additive-filled synthetic foods that are so widely available.
Studies show that kibble fed dogs have a higher level of metabolic stress and systemic inflammation. This can put a strain on organs as they try to digest a food not designed for their bodies. Take a look at the ingredients listed in many kibbles and it’s no wonder. It may be convenient and put in colourful packaging to appeal to us humans, but at what cost to a dog’s health?
So why should I consider raw feeding?
A raw diet is thought to have many benefits to your dog’s health. While it won’t cure everything, eliminating the additives, preservatives and other chemicals from their diet and replacing it with a natural, species appropriate diet can give a range of health benefits:
- Improve coat condition
- Increased energy and fitness
- Clean, tartar free teeth & fresh breath
- Boosts immune system
- Release of endorphins through chewing giving you a happy dog!
- Can aid in improvement of arthritis and other age-related conditions
- Smaller, more firm stools
- Decreases anal gland issues
- Improved appetite for fussy eaters
- Easier to digest so great for sensitive digestion and conditions such as colitis
- Allergies and intolerances can be easily accounted for
- Frequent reports of conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy needing less medication
You can read this study which further explains the benefits of raw vs kibble.
But isn’t raw feeding dangerous?
There are a lot of concerns around the safety of raw feeding. A dog’s body is much different to ours and is designed to eat whatever they catch in the wild. Many domesticated dogs seem a world away from a wolf when cuddled up on your sofa, yet there’s only 2% difference in their DNA. Although most of the western population has been feeding commercial dog food products since the early 1900s, it takes thousands and thousands of years for an animal’s body to respond to these changes and evolve in reaction to the changes.
The pH of a dog’s stomach kills off the bacteria in raw meat unlike the human digestive tract. Of course, general hygiene rules should be applied when feeding and preparing raw food for dogs, just like when preparing any raw meat. That being said, there has been several big recalls on kibble over the years with some including e.coli and salmonella, not forgetting the FSAs most recent kibble recall after dogs had died from high levels of vitamin D in their food.
So where do I start?
It’s important to give your dog a balanced diet and many people choose to feed a ‘complete’ raw food which still provides some of the convenience associated with kibble and wet food. Others prefer the DIY route. There are raw food shops in most large towns and cities now which can offer great advice and help on how to transition your dog onto a raw diet. There’s also national suppliers such as The Wandering Dog so you can have all your essentials delivered to your door. The BARF UK Facebook group is also a great source of knowledge for newcomers.
Raw really isn’t for me. Is there an alternative?
You can still feed your pet a biologically appropriate diet, free from any nasties. Some people prefer to home cook meals so they can still control what goes into the food and you can find some great ideas in this book. There are also some great dog food companies aiming to revolutionise the current market and give dogs an improved diet that is natural and as unprocessed as possible such as Forthglade, Orijen and Pooch & Mutt