Raw Food Diet for Pets
Our pets are natural carnivores. Have you started looking into a ‘raw food diet for pets’? If not this is the most important key to a holistic health program for all domesticated pets. Your dog has evolved from the wolf, and it’s digestive system is quite the same even after thousands of years of domestication. Carnivores have very short intestinal tracts geared to the consumption and digestion of raw foods.
Canines are considered “omnivores” as they eat a variety of grasses, berries and vegetables in addition to prey. ( my dog loves carrots and I add them grated to her raw meat meal) Your cat is a true or “obligate” carnivore (meat only diet) and is specially designed by nature to hunt small rodents and birds. Her digestive tract, as well, is intended to assimilate raw meat best.
The Benefits of a Raw Food Diet
Raw food diets have been shown to help the body deal with many common ailments such as flea infestations, hot spots, continual shedding, poor dental & gum health, allergies, gastro-intestinal problems, immune disorders and degenerative diseases. Diet is the foundation of health. The fresher the diet, the more nutrients are available for the animals system to utilize in building immunity, healing from illness and warding off disease.
Raw diets have been common practice in European countries for decades, especially Germany, where it is commonly recommended by veterinarians. The fear of feeding raw meat in this country seems to stem from a fear of salmonella, e. coli and parasites. In over 10 years of feeding raw food and seeing countless animals on raw food diets, salmonella and e. coli have not been seen to be a problem. (Remember, their digestive systems are designed to accommodate raw meat.) Parasites could be contracted through eating wild, whole prey or game meats, but is much less likely from properly handled human grade meats. Infection is more likely to occur through ingestion of feces or soil, or poorly handled meat.
Dr. Pottenger kept cats as laboratory animals for experiments in human health. As his research and cat population grew, he resorted to feeding them raw meat scraps from a local packing plant instead of cooked kitchen leftovers. Within a few months, he noticed distinct improvements in the cats eating raw meat. This prompted Dr. Pottenger to undertake a whole new experiment: he segregated cats into different groups – some of which were fed a cooked meat diet and others who received a raw meat diet. All observations were noted in great detail over many generations of cats. At the end of the study Dr. Pottenger concluded that cats fed a heat processed diet were deficient and suffered from innumerable ailments ranging from low immunity, irritability, and allergies; to skeletal deformation, organ malfunction, poor development during kittenhood, low birth rate, birth defects, infertility, and shortened life-span. (If you wish to learn more about the Pottenger study, you can purchase a summary of the study as book or video from the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation.)
Some exceptions to “raw is better” are the older, weaker animal who may not tolerate raw food, or animals with certain gastro-intestinal problems where the gut has to be restored to a healthier state using herbs and/or supplements. In these cases, a home prepared, cooked diet the best substitute for a raw food diet.
Raw Food Diets
Ideally, our companions would eat an all raw diet that includes some viscera and raw meaty bones. Generally, the more raw food you can include in your companion’s diet, the better – but some is better than nonepet owners choose to feed their companions a ½ raw and ½ dry (dehydrated or kibble) Ideally the kibble you give should be starch free. Many dry foods of high quality today contain potatoes as a big part of their ingredients. This is not the ideal food for dogs or humans either. It turns to sugar quickly in the bloodstream and leads to blood sugar problems like diabetes. I recommend Wysong dry and other brands of dehydrated raw dog foods. They are very high quality and they do not include starches in most of their products. These can be used if you cannot feed raw meat with bones. However, the best way to feed your pets is fresh raw meat, bones and organs just like in the wild. This is what they love and crave.
You can try either mixing the dry in or preferably feeding raw for one meal each day and dry or cooked for the other. It does not have to be complicated – you can feed raw chicken and turkey necks and chicken backs as part or all of a meal several times a week. Raw poultry bones do not splinter, they crunch. This is a great way to clean teeth, exercise chewing muscles, and provide a natural source of balanced calcium and phosphorus, as well. As always, naturally raised, hormone and antibiotic free or organic meat is best. For my little 10 lb dog I feed her organic grass fed beef or bison, or venison when I can get it, mix with ground up carrots and broccoli stems. I add some nutritional yeast, ground dried egg shells and mix it up and bag it in little bags enough for a week and I am good to go.
When introducing raw bones to dogs they may experience diarrhea, constipation, or both as their systems adjust. Remember to go slowly and feed small amounts at first. When beginning the introduction of raw bones, it may be helpful to crush them with a hammer or in a meat grinder until your dog becomes fully transitioned to a raw diet. For cats bones can be ground. If your companion has a delicate digestive system, consider grinding meat and bones through a 1/4 inch blade before feeding. Ground bones do not have the same teeth cleaning benefits as whole bones, however. You may also see similar symptoms as your companion’s system goes through a detoxification process during the transition to a healthier diet. Again, the key is to go slowly and persevere. In the long run, your companion’s increased health and vitality will be the ultimate reward.
Obvious precautions should be taken when feeding raw meat – wash hands thoroughly after handling the raw meat. Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not sitting on the counter at room temperature. Warm water can be used to thaw or warm the food after it has been mostly thawed in the refrigerator. Do not microwave raw food as the live enzymes are damaged and bones will harden even in just 30 seconds of micro waving. We do recommend avoiding pork as it has been shown to be a source of Trichinella. If you are concerned about bacteria, you can rinse it with several drops of food grade hydrogen peroxide in a sink of water or 1/2 teaspoon liquid grapefruit seed extract in a sink of water to help kill bacteria on the surface.
Transitioning to Raw Food
It is best to introduce raw food slowly into your pet’s diet over the course of two weeks. If your companion is used to having food available throughout the day, first transition him or her to eating only once or twice per day for dogs, and two to three times per day for cats before beginning the transition to raw food. Consider transitioning fully to raw in the beginning even if you ultimately intend to feed a mix of raw and cooked or dry. This will give your companion’s digestive system the optimal environment for generating healthy enzymes and flora. Start with 1 teaspoon for small dogs and cats and 1 tablespoon for larger dogs for three days or so. Then increase to 2 teaspoons or tablespoons for several days, decreasing the amount of regular food by ¼ to ½ in general proportion to the raw. Work up to replacing at least ½ the normal diet for several days. Finally replace one full meal with raw for a day or two, then fully transition to raw.
We recommend supplementing with digestive enzymes and probiotics for at least the first two weeks to help your companion’s natural digestive processes kick back in after eating cooked foods for so long. If your animal is resistant to the raw at first, you may want to use a bit of canned food to entice them. Cats, in particular, can be resistant to a change in diet. They tend to fixate on whatever food they are weaned onto and will resist switching to a healthier diet. We have found that grinding or shredding their favorite treat on top of the food can help.
The Benefits of Raw Feeding:
Vet bills are usually greatly reduced after switching to a nutritious species appropriate diet.
Naturally clean teeth and healthy gums from the natural scrubbing, massaging and flossing action of eating raw meaty bones.
Clean breath and no doggie odour after changing to raw feeding
Ripping and chewing raw meaty bones develops the neck, jaw and shoulder muscles of dogs.
Greater bioavailability of naturally occurring nutrients and enzymes in raw meat, organs and bones.
Stools are smaller, less smelly and quickly degrade into the soil.
Dogs tend to maintain a healthy weight and the chances of obesity are minimized since it takes longer to chew and digest raw meaty bones.
Kibble may sit around for hours untouched but dogs tend to be excited and love their raw species appropriate meals.
Increased mental, psychological and physical stimulation leading to greater well-being and satisfaction
Health problems such as arthritis, lack of energy, allergies, skin conditions and dull coats often improve when switching from commercial dog food to raw feeding.
Ability to custom tailor your dogs’ diets for their activity level, age, health problems and specific nutritional requirements.