While there is a range of diets you can follow to ensure your pet receives all the valuable nutrition it needs, the potential benefits of a raw food diet are making it an increasingly popular option for dog and cat lovers across the globe.
If you’ve made the switch or are considering moving your pet to a raw menu, here’s everything you need to know to help you develop the delicious and safe raw food diet.
Racing greyhounds and sled dogs have long eaten raw food diets. Then, the book “Give Your Dog a Bone” by Australian veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst, ignited the raw nutritional revolution in pet health, that began in 1993.
“Although the mind and the outward appearance of our modern dog has changed dramatically, the internal workings, including the entire digestive system, and the way food is utilised for growth, maintenance, repair and reproduction is fundamentally the same as its wild ancestors,” – Dr Ian Billinghurst.
So was launched the BARF diet, an acronym that stands for Bones and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. A raw pet food diet typically consists of:
▪ Muscle meat, often still on the bone.
▪ Bones, either whole or ground.
▪ Organ meats such as livers and kidneys.
▪ Raw eggs.
▪ Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and celery.
▪ Apples or other fruit.
▪ Some dairy, such as yogurt.
These ingredients have not been cooked or heated to a high enough temperature to kill germs.
On the other hand, commercially processed raw food diets are frozen or freeze-dried and combination diets that use blends of grains, vegetables, and vitamins that are mixed with raw meat purchased at grocery stores.
Overall, the key principle of raw diets is to provide a healthier and more natural diet for your dog, without any unnecessary inclusions or preservatives.
However, some mainstream veterinarians disagree with the research and findings, and so does the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), do not recommend feeding raw pet food or treats to dogs and cats.
The interest in feeding pet dogs and cats with raw diet is increasing worldwide. Raw pet diets can be home-prepared or commercially available. One reason for the increasing popularity of raw feeding might be the anecdotal evidence of the benefits of raw diet to pets’ health, where benefits of a raw diet in calcium oxalate urolithiasis, food digestibility, and in intestinal integrity, have been reported, among others.
There are no clinically proven benefits of a raw food diet. But, in the Netherlands, 60.5 per cent of the dog owners feed them at least some amount of raw dog food. In the U.S. and Canada, one-third of dog breeders use raw diets. Approximately 25 per cent of the agility owners in North America feed their dogs with raw or home-prepared or freeze-dried diets.
Supporters of raw food will argue that feeding a variety of foods will lessen the risk of nutritional imbalance. Moreover, the following benefits are often cited:
▪ Better digestion.
▪ Healthier coat and skin.
▪ Reduced stool volume and odor.
▪ Improved breathe and body odor.
▪ Healthier teeth and gums.
▪ Fresh and without preservatives, artificial colors or flavors.
▪ Raw foods are more likely to carry certain bacteria like Salmonella and E-coli than cooked foods, based on an FDA study.
▪ An unbalanced diet or a diet which lacks certain nutrients could be detrimental to your dog’s health if served for an extended period. For example, a calcium and phosphorus deficiency could result in bone fractures and dental problems, while a surplus of vitamin A could lead to vitamin A toxicity.
▪ Whole bones could be a choking hazard, damage teeth or cause an internal puncture.
Clearly, there is some compelling evidence suggesting that raw food diets may be a theoretical risk nutritionally. In addition, raw food poses a substantial risk of infectious disease to the pet, the pet’s environment, and the humans in the household. What is lacking, however, is evidence from randomized controlled trials or large cohort studies to evaluate risks or benefits of raw diets in pets.