Why Feed Raw?
So, you have heard about feeding your dog a raw diet and you are curious. Is feeding a raw diet all hype? Is it just a trend? Are there real benefits for your dog? What is it like to transition your dog to a raw diet? We will answer these questions and more, below.
What’s Wrong With Kibble?
Kibble, canned, and “homecooked” commercial foods all have something not so good in common. They are very high in carbohydrates and often low in protein. They are also usually made with low-quality ingredients, by-products of other industries.
So, what is wrong with carbohydrates for dogs? While a Chinese Crested may not look much like his wolf ancestors, a Chinese Crested is still a carnivore just like all dogs. This means that they thrive on protein and need to eat very little carbohydrates if they eat any at all.
The true diet of a carnivore would not include the grains, potatoes, and legumes that today’s kibbles and canned foods offer. The diet would consist of whole animals, including the stomach contents which could provide some plants matter. Even the stomach contents of wild animals rarely would contain grains, potatoes, or legumes. It is more likely that they contain grasses, foliage, and perhaps some berries.
So, why are kibbles and things so full of foods that a carnivore wouldn’t and shouldn’t even eat? It’s all about making an inexpensive product and using waste products from other industries. Grains are very cheap to use, as are legumes and other starches, while meat is much more expensive. Kibble manufacturers need only buy cheap ingredients, spend lots of money on marketing and then put a premium price on the product. The marketing is really what sells the food, not the goodness of the product itself.
What do these starchy foods that no carnivore should be eating actually do to your dog? Excess carbohydrates and starchy foods cause widespread inflammation in your dog’s body. Inflammation has been linked with every chronic disease. This includes autoimmune diseases like hypothyroidism and diabetes, as well as cancers, kidney failure, joint pain, arthritis, liver failure, heart disease, skin disease, even allergies, just to name a few.
Another fact about carbohydrates is that they stick to your dog’s teeth and cause plaque and tartar build-up. Why are we still believing that kibble is good for our dog’s teeth when 70% of dogs have the start of periodontal disease by the age of 2? Compare this to a wild wolf who eats raw meat. If they had periodontal disease by age 2 and no veterinary cleanings, how are they living up to 13 years? It’s because they don’t have dental disease because their diet is good for their teeth.
Some of these starchy foods also have compounds known as anti-nutrients. These compounds actually bind with nutrients that your dog needs, like taurine which is essential for heart health. When the anti-nutrient binds with a nutrient, that nutrient is no longer available for your dog to use and passes through your dog’s body without being absorbed. So, your dog can be malnourished even though you are feeding him a seemingly high quality kibble..
Another factor of kibble and canned foods is that they are highly processed. During their processing, they are cooked at extremely high temperatures for extended lengths of time. This means that all the nutrients of the original contents of the food are either cooked out or corrupted. This is why manufacturers have to add so many synthetic vitamins and minerals to their food. These synthetic vitamins and minerals are considerably less useable by your dog.
Go and grab your kibble bag and take a look at the ingredients. Do you see vitamin B12 added to it? Go ahead and look, I’ll wait. Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that is extremely abundant in meats. So, why, even if meat the first ingredient of your kibble, would the manufacturer have to add vitamin B12? Because the B12 got cooked out of it.
Kibble for dogs is like fast food for us humans. You eat fast food because it is convenient, but you know it isn’t made with health in mind. Feeding your dog exclusively kibble would be like you eating exclusively fast food. Do you think that you would be healthy and live a long if you did that?
So, what is the solution? I’ve been hinting at it all along. A raw, species-appropriate diet that contains no starch and little carbs.
How Is Raw Better?
The benefits of raw food are hugely numerous. Raw food is intact, with all it’s nutrients untampered with. Raw food is 10% more digestible to dogs. The nutrients of raw food aren’t cooked out and there isn’t anything to bind them up and prevent your dog from absorbing the nutrients. This makes it so your dog is actually able to absorb all the lovely nutrients you are feeding him. In turn, these nutrients will nourish your dog into optimal health.
When your dog is getting enough nutrients his coat and skin will be healthier, his teeth will be cleaner, he will have a stronger immune system, and his inflammation will be much reduced. When his inflammation is reduced he is less likely to have chronic diseases and organ failure.
Here are a few of the benefits of raw feeding:
- Healthy, shinier coat
- Healthier skin
- Decreased shedding
- Smaller stool that degrade in the yard faster
- Less plaque build up on the teeth (when feeding raw meaty bones)
- More energy
- Improved digestion
- Less allergies
- Helps with some behavioral problems
This is not necessarily to say that once you switch your dog to a raw diet he will never get sick, never age, and never die. However, the majority of dogs on a raw diet get sick much less often, stay young longer, and live longer lives. I would have to say that dogs who are fed a raw diet have a much better quality of life overall.
What To Expect From Your Dog During The Transition Period:
When choosing a raw diet you can feed either a premade raw diet or you can make your own raw diet for your dog from meat, bone, and organs. Feeding variety is also highly encouraged on a raw diet. Some dogs do best if you switch cold-turkey while others will do better with gradual change. Most older dogs need to be changed over to raw gradually.
Making the change to a raw diet can be a bit challenging. Some dogs won’t know what to do with the raw food or they will be unsure about the taste or texture. This is especially true if they have been eating kibble for a long time. Some dogs who have been on kibble a long time might be sugar or salt addicts, so the transitions might take longer. Ultimately, it will be worth it.
Some dogs may also have some diarrhea or vomiting when changing to raw. This is because their digestive system has to get used to the new food. When you feed kibble the food is dry and the digestive tract gets used to that. On the other hand, a raw diet is filled with moisture so the digestive tract will have to adjust to that. On that note, you may also notice that your dog is drinking less water. This is because he is getting moisture from his food.
Some dogs also experience a detox period. When a dog is detoxing it could cause symptoms to worsen temporarily. These symptoms could be itching, digestive issues, or other issues. Rest assured that this is just his body detoxing and it should clear up once he is fully transitioned.
Once the dog is transitioned to a raw diet you will notice that he has much more solid poo. It is often much drier than kibble poo and may be harder to get out. However, this is a good thing. Having to strain just a little to get out poo is helpful for building muscle in your dog. This will keep him healthier, longer.
Once your dog has transitioned he should experience higher levels of energy. However, during the transition, he might have lower energy. This is especially true if he has a sugar or salt addiction.
Kibble is high in starches and carbohydrates which makes dogs sick. A raw, species-appropriate diet will help to reduce your dog’s inflammation, reduce his risks for chronic disease, and help him live a happier and healthier life. Some dogs will take instantly to a raw diet, but for some, the transition can be harder. Either way, feeding your dog a raw diet will be well worth it.