Whenever you ask pet owners, “what is a raw dog food diet,” 9 times out of 10, they will be on the fence about the subject. This is due to the fact raw diet for dogs tends to be considered a controversial topic. There are plenty of misconceptions about raw dog food diets and because of this, pet parents often believe the only safe and healthy diet a dog can be on is a dry diet.
In this comprehensive guide, we will break down what is a raw dog food diet, look at some raw food diet pros and cons as well as take a closer look at what a raw diet for dogs consists of!
What is Raw Dog Food?
Raw dog food is exactly what it sounds like: food that is raw. A raw dog food diet typically consists of uncooked meat which tends to come from organs or muscle, bones, eggs, few dairy ingredients and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Why is a raw dog food diet popular?
Many believe it is because this is exactly the kind of food a dog would naturally eat if it were not domesticated. While many people make the claim that a raw dog food diet is healthier than most commercial dog food brands, there are plenty of industry experts who disagree with this claim.
Raw Food Diets for Dogs: Pros vs. Cons
- Can support shinier and healthier coats.
- Can support healthy skin.
- Can help keep teeth clean.
- Can increase energy levels.
- Results in small stool sizes.
- Can support a healthier and stronger immune system.
- Can lower the risk of food allergies
- Possible cross-contamination from bacteria of raw meat.
- Possible to make a diet that is nutritionally unbalanced which can negatively impact your dog in the long-term.
- Possibility of a choking hazard on small or whole bones.
- Can be expensive.
Rules to a Healthy Raw Dog Food Diet
Just with any diet, a raw food diet for dogs needs to contain a few essential ingredients that can ensure your dog is receiving a fully balanced meal. Because of the importance of keeping a raw food diet nutritionally balanced, there are a few rules you need to consider.
1. Must Contain Plenty of Calcium
Dogs of all ages, especially puppies need an assortment of minerals to ensure complete balanced meals. The most important minerals which should be included in any raw diet are phosphorus and calcium. Luckily for you, most raw food diets consist of bones, great ingredients which contain calcium and phosphorus naturally.
To ensure you are supplying your dog with enough quantities of both, you should always include up to 15% or 1/3 of the meal with raw bones in each raw meal.
The best types of bones to include in a meal include:
- Chicken wings
- Chicken thighs
- Turkey necks
- Beef tail bones
- Lamb ribs
- Chicken necks
- Goat necks
- Raw eggshells (crushed)
2. Organ Meat is Important!
A common mistake many pet parents make is not supplying their dogs with enough organ meat in their meal. Organ meat is incredibly rich in essential nutrients and vitamins. A raw meal should consist of up to 30% organ meat unless you are using liver than keep that ratio to no more than 10%.
The best type of organ meat to use in raw meals include:
Keep in mind, many organ types of meat tend to be rich in Vitamin A. Because of this it is important to add in the organ meat gradually to reduce the risk of diarrhea.
3. What to do About Fruits and Vegetables
While fruits and vegetables are equally important to a raw food diet, don’t get too hung up over what to use or how much to use. In the end, how much you use is completely up to you. To choose the best fruits and vegetables, think about your dog’s nutritional needs.
Some of the most important things to look for in vegetable and fruits sources include:
- Prebiotics-you will want to include plant fibers to help support a healthy digestive tract.
- Flavonoids-flavonoids are loaded with antioxidants, which can help regular cell signalin. You will want to use colorful vegetables. The more colorful the vegetable, the more flavonoids it contains.
- Lutein-this is another powerful antioxidant you will want to include in your dog’s raw meal. This antioxidant can help support healthy eyes, healthy skin and a healthy cardiac system. You can use fruit and vegetables such as oranges, broccoli, and kale.
- Carotenoids-another powerful antioxidant that is essential to optimal canine health. These antioxidants can be found in fruit and vegetable sources that are yellow, orange or red in color.
- Lycopene-this is an antioxidant that is responsible for slowing down the cancer generation process. It can be found in fruit and vegetable sources that are red in color.
- Chlorophyll-this is a compound that is typically associated with helping plants grow. However, it can also help keep canine cells healthy, can help detoxify the liver and help promote a healthy digestive system.
4. Don’t Forget the Muscle Meat!
Once you have the right amount of bones and organ meat figured out, your next step is to look at lean muscle meats to use in your dog’s raw meal. Muscle meat consists of protein, which is an essential component of any canine meal. Muscle meat should make up ½ to 1/3 of your pet’s raw meal, but this can be dependent on how much muscle meat you are able to use, to begin with.
The best type of muscle meat to use include:
- Ground Beef
- Beef Heart (no more than 5%)
- Ground Bison
- Ground Lamb
- Stewing Lamb
- Pork Ribs
- Pork Loins
- Pork Shoulders
- Boneless Chicken Thighs
- Boneless Chicken Breasts
- Stewing Beef
5. Don’t Overdo it on the Fat
While fat is considered a good thing for your dog, too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect. It is important to understand that while fat can contain protein, it also contains up to two times the number of calories than any other protein source contains alone. It also doesn’t contain enough vitamins and minerals your dog needs. Because of this, you want to make sure you use an even balance of enough fat to be beneficial, but not too much to create an unbalanced raw meal.
The best types of meat sources to use with high-fat content include:
- Chicken necks (skin included)
- Dark turkey or chicken meat (skin included)
- Ground beef
- Pork Belly
The best type of meat sources to use with low-fat content include:
- Chicken Necks (no skin)
- Light Turkey or Chicken meat (no skin)
- Pork loin
- Lean Ground Beef
- Wild Game (no duck)
6. Don’t Use Starch!
While you can find plenty of starchy ingredients such as peas or potatoes in commercial dog food brands, in a raw diet, it is best to avoid using these types of ingredients. Foods heavy in starch tend to cause your dog’s body to continuously produce insulin, which can cause the body to store fat instead of burning it.
What does this mean?
It means, it can cause your dog to gain weight. This can also be due to the fact starch-rich foods are high in calories. There is no need to use starch in a raw diet even to give your dog additional calories because he simply doesn’t need it. You can use organ or muscle meat in its stead to supply your dog with the correct number of calories to fit your dog’s needs.
7. Switch it Up Regularly
Not only will switching it up keep your dog interested in the raw diet on a day to day basis, but it is also a great way to make sure you supply your dog with a variety of nutrients and vitamins to keep your dog healthy. Don’t be afraid to switch up the menu regularly and never be afraid to try new raw combinations.
How to Handle Raw Food Properly
To ensure you are reducing the risk of food-borne illnesses both for you and your best friend, it is best to practice proper raw food handling etiquette to keep things safe. Whenever you handle raw food, there is always a risk of cross-contamination with bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli.
With this in mind, make sure to clean utensils thoroughly and properly after every use, never use the same cutting material on two different types of meat to keep cross-contamination limited and always wash your hands after handling raw meat.
Raw Diet for Dogs: The Bottomline
We all want the best for our dogs, and a raw dog food diet is the very definition of what’s best. A raw diet for dogs is a great option, especially if your budget allows for it. To ensure you supply your dog with the best raw diet, be sure to use only the freshest ingredients, give them plenty of variety and ensure you are handling raw meat safely to ensure your dog is getting a completely balanced meal.