The Science and the Myths: Raw Dog Food Explained
Perhaps you’ve already discovered that there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there about whether or not it’s a good idea to feed your dog a raw diet. Your veterinarian may even be on the ‘Never!’ side of the equation (not all vets are, by the way. Many support raw food diets as long as appropriate precautions are taken to ensure they are balanced and complete and that proper handling of raw food doesn’t lead to illness.)
Where’s the Science?
At Rawmate, we base our decisions on scientific evidence. Do we think there could be more studies done that compare raw food and kibble diets? Sure. But if you go digging, there is a growing body of research already out there that is looking at the pros and cons of different types of diets for your dog.
What’s Good About Kibble?
It’s dead easy to scoop out a portion and plop it in a bowl. Kibble also tends, on average, to be less expensive than raw food. But quick, easy, and cheap shouldn’t trump optimal health. Our dogs are part of the family and can’t go out and choose what is best for them to eat. We owe it to them to find the healthiest diet possible, one that will ensure they thrive at all stages in their lives.
How Dry is Too Dry?
One of the downsides of dried foods is the fact they are dry, making them harder to digest. Many dry pet foods also contain lots of filler carbs and if your dog is consuming too many, that can lead to obesity and has been linked to a higher risk of urinary stones.
Problems with Processing
The way dry dog food is made can also be problematic. Both high heat treatments and extended storage times can decrease the amount of nutrition available when consumed.
More protein and amino acids are available in whole, unprocessed foods than in highly processed diets. Just like when you are shopping for yourself, your healthiest options are those found in the periphery of the grocery store - fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meat, dairy, eggs, and so on are obviously better for you than highly processed options found in packages in the middle of the store. The same thing goes for your dog.
More Nutrients in Whole, Fresh Food
According to a study published in The Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, “the exclusive use of conventionally processed diets for dogs, especially dry diets, leads to considerably lower intake of creatine which is a natural compound of the diet of this carnivorous and omnivorous species.” Whole, fresh foods in general contain more amino acids, enzymes, beneficial bacteria, and antioxidants.
The interaction between nutrients and micronutrients is complex and not yet fully understood. It’s great to see scientists paying more attention to whole foods rather than focussing exclusively on extracted single elements or supplements.
Raw = Easier to Digest
Not only do raw diets seem to promote a healthier, more varied microbiome in dogs (you can read one such study here), raw diets are also less likely to contain stuff that’s hard on your dog’s system. The worst cases, like the 2007 melamine contamination scandal, can result in mass recalls and the illness or death of thousands of pets, but even some of the side products of high temperature processing have been linked to health problems like impaired renal function and cancer.
One of the myths that persists when it comes to talking about raw food diets is that they contain dangerous microorganisms like salmonella. It turns out that dogs fed both raw food and processed foods pass salmonella in their stools. They don’t, however, experience any illness associated with this. Dogs seem to be well-equipped to deal with bacteria they may encounter in their diets (or from drinking out of muddy puddles), but their human friends are not quite so resilient. As you would when preparing raw meat destined for the barbecue or your family’s dinner table, use proper sanitation methods when handling raw pet food and everyone should be fine. Likewise, use a bag when you are picking up after your dog (no kidding) and wash your hands after walking your dog or preparing a raw food meal.
Can You Do it On Your Own?
Sure. Though it’s not that difficult to research and prepare a raw food diet yourself (there are more and more resources available online and many vets who agree that raw food diets make a lot of sense), there are now alternatives (like the Rawmate subscription meal plan) that take the legwork out of providing a raw diet yourself.
If you’d like to investigate the convenience of Rawmate as an option for your dog, check out our subscription plans on the Rawmate website.