The raw food diet for dogs consists of fresh meats such as chicken, lamb, beef, and fish, in addition to eggs, veggies, and fruits. Many pet owners begin this type of diet in the hopes of providing their pets with fresh, nutritious foods, as opposed to can or dry dog foods they feel lack the proper nutrients for pet health.
But when an uneducated, yet well meaning, pet owner feeds their dog the raw diet, they often fail to provide all the nutrient rich foods that make up a well-balanced diet.
Another problem with the this is the stomach issues it can potentially cause. Stomach problems can develop when a dog is switched from their dry dog food to raw, and there are a couple of main reasons for this. The first reason is that pet owners fail to slowly transition their dog to eating raw. When you change a dog’s way of eating too quickly it can result in diarrhea and general stomach upset.
Too often pet owners become alarmed by this sudden change in bowel habits and run to the vet thinking their pet has food poisoning caused by eating the raw. And most vets will also mistakenly blame the bowel upset on the diet itself instead of the sudden dietary change, or lack of dog exercise.
Also, dogs will process dry dog food and raw foods very differently. A dog’s body will view dry dog food metabolically as starch, while their body processes raw food as a protein. If raw foods are mixed with dry food for a meal there can often be a digestive confusion that can result in excessive gas.
When you introduce a new food to a pet that has a normally healthy gut, you should first offer it as a treat for one day and keep a close eye on their stool. You can increase the number of these treats over the next few days and continue to monitor their bathroom habits. If the stool remains normal, you can then replace one entire meal of dry food with the new raw food.
Continue offering only one meal of raw and one meal of dry to see how this change is tolerated. If your dog’s stool remains normal it’s then safe to discontinue the dry food. This type of slow transition is gentle on the dog’s stomach and won’t cause, vomiting, diarrhea or general GI upset.
Bone should make up about ten percent of this diet. Feeding your dog too much often results in constipation, and can majorly affect a dog’s digestion.
Each dog will have their own bone tolerance. Some may need less than ten percent, while others will need more. When you first start this diet, it’s best to begin with pieces like duck frames, chicken legs and wings because they have softer bones and are easier for a dog’s digestive system to process.
Keep a close eye on your dog’s bathroom habits during this time. If their feces contains chunks of bone or is white and chalky, you’ll need to back off the bone percentage and add more meat to their meals.
While the eating raw does contain a large amount of meat, it's complemented by other ingredients, such as veggies, fruits, bone, and eggs. It will take a lot of variety in this diet to cover all the vitamins that dogs need for the proper balance of omega 6’s and omega 3’s.
Commercially manufactured raw diets will also contain these extras: The most popular is the BARF, which consists of just fifty percent of raw meat, with the other fifty percent consisting of other ingredients.
These additions can include salt, cod liver, veggies, liver, kelp, eggs, and even cheese. Veggies are harder to digest. Because of this, veggies must be cooked and finely minced in order to aid in proper digestion.
Fruit can also be the perfect addition to this dietary change and for many reasons. Berries such as blueberries and raspberries are a good choice because they contain antioxidants. Fruit can provide much-needed variety, flavor, fiber, and vitamins. Fruit can be added to each meal stewed, pureed or diced.
Like veggies, the fruit content should be kept under thirty percent considering most of the dog’s nutrition will come from protein. Never feed your dog raisins or grapes which can lead to kidney damage and avoid fruits with a higher sugar content.
While not every dog will need to take supplements while following this diet, some will. The most important nutrient you must ensure your dog is getting enough of is calcium. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to add to the diet.
If you plan to purchase commercially prepared raw food, a balanced amount of calcium will have already been added. If you’re preparing your own food at home, oyster shell or ground egg shell can provide the type of calcium boost that’s needed.
Your dog will also benefit from a good omega 3 fatty acid source such as flax seed oil or fish. Both of these oils contain anti-inflammatory benefits.
Other supplements options you can add will depend on your dog and their unique needs. Additional minerals, vitamins, and joint supplements can be added if needed.
The Federal Drug Administration warns about the potential risks that are involved when you decide to create your own raw food diet for dogs, especially when it comes to handling meats, which can be contaminated with E. coli, listeria or salmonella. The dog may become ill from contaminated meats, and the owner can also fall ill from handling it.
But with good handling practices, this diet is really no more dangerous than handling meats when you prepare your own meals.
Good handwashing practices and using food before the expiration date will prevent both dog and human illness. If you’re still concerned, make sure you purchase all meat from a reputable source and use thawed meat within three days in order to prevent bacteria levels from rising. For most dogs, low bacteria levels do not pose a health risk. However, for dogs with a compromised immune system, this may be inappropriate.