If you're anything like most dog parents, chances are you've already heard about the raw food diet also known as the Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or BARF diet. Sure the whole concept might sound really straightforward, but it isn't just about replacing your canine companion's meals with homemade dog food.
Interestingly, there are a few key things to take note of to ensure that your dog's raw diet is going to be a success. Besides having an idea of how much raw food your pet needs, knowing how to prepare the right raw dog food recipes is also a must to pull the whole thing off.
This is the biggest reason why we've put together this comprehensive yet simple-to-follow blog post to get you in on everything you need to know. Make sure you read on to maximize the benefits of raw feeding while also learning a few pointers on how to prepare homemade dog food recipes the right way.
Making the Switch to Raw Dog Food Is NOT That Simple
Feeding Fido raw dog food would seem to be a straightforward and super easy task for any dog parent, but did you know that there are some things you will need to consider first before feeding your fur baby a raw dog food diet?
After all, this still deals with your dog's diet and there are a lot of factors that could be affected if you do this without the proper know-how. Apart from having a big influence on your pet's body weight, making the switch to raw food without ample preparation can also have an impact on your canine pal's overall nutrition.
Switching to raw dog food involves a lot of commitment
If we're being honest, we'd just like to tell you as early as now that making the move to a raw diet for dogs takes a lot of work. The whole thing is not just about choosing the right lean meats and other useful components to use like essential fatty acids, but also determining the ideal meat mixture for your pet to really optimize canine nutrition.
Although a raw dog food diet is oftentimes perceived as a dog’s natural diet or natural ancestral diet, plenty of us are not aware of what truly constitutes that. Is it purely meat? Should it be fresh kill? Are bones okay? These are just some of the questions that come to mind prior to feeding your dog a raw diet. So, what is the raw dog food diet to begin with?
Raw Dog Food Diets Are Inspired By Nature
The concept of feeding your pooch raw food stems from the roots of the history of dog food. Dogs, or rather their ancestors the wolves, are classified by experts as scavenging carnivores (or carnivores with an omnivorous streak). But what do these terms mean?
The main difference between "carnivores" and "scavenging carnivores"
Carnivores are animals that eat only meat, usually from a fresh kill. A perfect example of this is in the cat family, included are tigers, cougars and lions. Even our domestic kitties have a predilection for raw food hardwired in their DNA.
Scavenging carnivores are animals that eat mostly meat, and are also fine with eating ‘non-fresh’ kill. Examples are canines like hyenas, foxes, and wolves. This is also how wild dog eats in their natural habitats.
Although both carnivores and scavenging carnivores have a strong desire to catch prey and eat them, scavenging carnivores will eat and will mostly be content with an omnivorous diet. To clarify, omnivores eat both plants and animals or whatever is available.
Raw food diets: fad or favorable?
As dog owners who only want the best for their pets, switching from store-bought pet food to a raw diet is definitely something to contemplate. There are also a lot of questions to cover since making the jump to raw diets can have a very big impact not just on your dog's nutritional intake but on his overall wellness.
Is switching to a raw diet really a good choice, especially for your dog's health? Should pet parents consider homemade raw dog food as a viable option? Are raw-fed dogs healthier compared to their commercial food-eating counterparts? These are the questions we're going to tackle in the next part of our discussion.
The Importance of Having the Right Know-How Before Making the Switch
Before we start talking about the more technical details of giving your dog a raw diet, we'd just like to remind you that doing this is a very big commitment. It involves a few key factors that you should be prepared for or else things won't go as you expected:
If we're being honest, fresh meat is much more expensive compared to commercial food. Opting for a raw dog food diet regimen means being ready to adjust your finances. However, you'll also enjoy a lot of money-saving benefits in the long run in terms of vet bills and other expenses.
The main pull of commercial dog food options is that they are really convenient. All you have to do is open a bag or can and you're good to go. However, this isn't the case with homemade dog food recipes. It will involve a lot of elbow grease and some nutritional calculations, too.
Fresh meats, bones, organ meats, and similar ingredients of homemade raw dog food can quickly spoil without the appropriate precautions. One very crucial aspect of switching to a raw diet is that you will have to be constantly vigilant with meal prep and storage. This involves preventing cross-contamination and other measures.
Why the Raw Diet or "Ancestral Diet" Is Best
Dogs are descendants of wolves. In the wild, wolves hunt other animals and eat the choice parts when supply is plenty. They also eat every edible part when supply is scarce. What's really interesting is that wolves also consume fruits and vegetables when their usual raw meat diet supply is really low. This gives us the perspective that raw-feeding dogs is not something that's entirely new.
However, instead of making them hunt for prey, we make our own raw dog food recipes at home. Sure it's not as convenient as opening a bag of dry dog foods or their wet canned varieties, but a bit of elbow grease and having a food processor goes a long way when it comes to a raw diet.
Raw dog food and its link to your pet's ancestral heritage
The raw dog food diet is designed to be as similar to your canine companion's ancestral menu as possible. Yes, it is formulated to cater to the dog’s carnivorous bias. This is the reason why it is a lot better than what most of the world is feeding their dogs these days. As a reminder to pet owners, we should stick with the preferences of our dogs and not the other way around.
Just take note of the choices you usually see at your local pet store. A dog is not designed to eat corn or wheat. Just take a look at dogs' teeth and the effects are pretty evident. Considering the wolves' preference for raw meat in the wild, this gives us the notion that raw food diets suit dogs naturally.
Commercial dog food can have adverse effects on your pet's health
While it is true that a puppy, a juvenile, or an adult dog can stay in tiptop shape by simply consuming store-bought pet foods, not all dogs can maximize the nutrients they provide. It's not uncommon to hear about dogs suffering from food allergies and similar health concerns due to their diet.
Furthermore, the protein content of the grain is not what is optimal for our dogs. Commercial kibbles are composed of at least 50% carbohydrates. This is rather far from the almost 99% raw meat diet that wolves—and down the line, dogs—were designed to eat.
Homemade dog food recipes are aimed at providing the right nutrients
With homemade raw dog food, you can easily achieve this nutritional requirement while also boosting your pet's overall diet with other beneficial components like healthy fat and green beans as well as healthy oils like fish oil, cod liver oil, and olive oil.
Some people may argue “Hey, dogs have evolved alongside humans for a few thousand years, surely they have adapted?” Okay, that is partly true, but again, a dog merely "putting up" with what food you provide is not a dog who is getting what nature intended.
As an analogy, replacing your dog's meals from the shop with raw pet food could be compared to withholding breast milk from an infant. While the infant will survive with a steady consumption of baby formula, nothing still beats breastmilk in making and keeping him as healthy as can be. The same goes for dogs and the raw dog food diet.
Raw Dog Food Diet Pros and Cons
While it has a lot of benefits for your canine best friend, switching to a raw diet for dogs also has some disadvantages that you should know. We're also going to walk you through what these are so you can make an informed decision as you go along. Let's start things off with the pros of raw dog food diets:
The Advantages of Raw Food Diet for Dogs
It supports gastrointestinal health by providing all the nutrients your pet needs without having to deal with artificial ingredients, fillers, preservatives, and additives that your dog shouldn't be eating in the first place.
It helps keep allergies at bay by giving you control over the ingredients in your homemade dog food recipes like lean meat, ground beef, organ meat, bone meal as well as other common components of raw food diets.
It promotes dental and oral health by stimulating ideal saliva production, which not only helps get rid of food debris in between the teeth, but also prevents the accumulation of bad bacteria, plaque, and tartar in the mouth.
It can be customized to suit your dog's needs with regard to the ingredients, portions, frequency of consumption as well as preparation techniques. You can even take things up a notch by adding components like ground ginger, fat-soluble vitamins as well and hemp seed oil to make your raw dog food recipe as diverse as possible.
It can be served regardless of age, sex, and breed. Many pet owners mistakenly think that raw foods are only appropriate for adult dogs. Interestingly, you can serve a puppy or a juvenile dog raw food.
There are disadvantages to the raw dog food diet, too
Now we've got that covered, let's check out the cons of raw pet food for your canine companion. It is important that we go over these disadvantages since going for canine raw diets is totally different with respect to simply purchasing a bag of dry food for your pooch. Below are the disadvantages of giving your dog raw food:
The Disadvantages of Raw Food Diet for Dogs
It can be a bit more expensive compared to store-bought pet food. This is because you will have to get your hands on ingredients like fresh meat, bone meal, cod liver oil, and olive oil, among others, to make the best raw dog food recipes for your fur baby.
It can possibly cause injuries in the oral and dental regions. It's not uncommon to include bones(not weight-bearing bones, just to ) when you feed raw diets to your dog. While the likelihood of these bones to splinter and nick your dog's gums, inner cheeks, and tongue is very low, the risk is still there. Bone splinters can also be potential choking hazards.
It is more demanding to prepare since raw dog food recipes need a thorough meal prep. Besides making sure to be very meticulous in choosing the best ground meat, say lean ground beef, you also have to calculate if your homemade raw dog food will also provide all your pet's nutritional needs. You may even need to consult a pet nutritionist to prepare your dog's meal.
It can make your dog prone to bacterial contamination, particularly E. coli and Salmonella, which can get in the picture if raw lean meat, muscle meat, or organ meats are handled and prepared incorrectly.
It requires proper storage since raw meat will spoil just after two (2) hours at room temperature. This applies to all homemade diets for dogs involving raw recipes. Not doing so can have a significant effect on your dog's health almost immediately. Just to emphasize, frozen raw food diets can be stored in the freezer for six (6) months up to a year.
The Recommended List of Foods for the Raw Food Diet
First of all, we are aware that these days, even raw dog food has been commercialized to the extreme. There are even commercial varieties that combine raw grains, processed vitamins, leftover raw meat, and vegetables. Just to be clear, we are not advocating that type of raw dog food diet for your dog.
Natural is STILL the best way to go
What we support is feeding your dog a mix of fresh raw meat and maybe a bit of vegetables and fruits as the healthiest menu possible. As we stressed previously, what's really awesome about raw diets is that there are no limits on the ingredients you can use—so long as you reach out to a pet nutritionist beforehand.
The raw dog food diet is really diverse
Before we walk you through the usual mainstays in canine raw diets, we'd just like to remind you that these are things that dogs naturally eat in the wild like wolves, dingoes, jackals, and foxes, just to name a few. While raw meat is going to be an obvious ingredient, you'll be surprised with other stuff you can use for raw dog food recipes.
What Raw Food Can I Feed My Dog?
According to many dog owners who are also raw feeders, what's really amazing about preparing a raw dog food recipe is that the ingredients are versatile, delicious, and nutritious at the same time. Even if you are not a dog, chances are you'll agree that the following ingredients are going to make a mouth-watering meal:
Just some of the ingredients you can use for raw pet food
Organ meats such as kidneys and livers (hey, they are delicacies in some parts of the world!)
Raw eggs (eaten by some people too)
Muscle meat, most often still on the bone
Ground meat, such as ground beef, ground pork, and ground chicken
Ground-up bone, also known as bone meal (this is for calcium and vitamins, people!)
Apples and other fruits
Dairy products like yogurt and cheese
Vegetables like celery, spinach, and broccoli
Ground-up spices that are safe for dogs like ground ginger
Raw homemade dog food is aimed at producing positive effects
You can think of raw pet food as providing a much healthier diet for dogs while also upping the flavors that your pet can enjoy at the same time. As we highlighted earlier, this type of diet isn't just for adult dogs. This diet is so versatile that it can also be applied to puppies and juveniles.
A lot of dog parents share that the change in their fur baby’s health is almost immediate. They even point out that switching to raw pet foods had the same effect as cleansing and juicing detox has on humans—only made doggie-edition!
But remember that making the switch isn't an instant deal
Of course, you cannot simply switch your pooch to a raw dog food diet overnight. There are some crucial things you will need to read up on and do first. If you're looking to improve your dog's diet using natural means, then let's move on to the next part of our discussion.
The 5 Must-Knows and Must-Dos for Feeding Raw
Every good thing requires advanced preparation, and the same is true for feeding your pooch raw food. You cannot just decide to do it and start on the same day without any prior planning. Why? Well, this concerns the health of your precious fur baby so you better be ready to put in some effort.
Don’t worry, the returns are so positive, that you’ll end up wondering why you haven’t done this earlier. Besides being able to have more control over your pet's body weight, many dog parents also share they've seen a lot of improvement as regards energy and vitality when they did the switch.
So what are the important things to take note of when shifting your dog's diet from "commercial" dry food or canned stuff to raw? Without further ado, here are some of the must-knows and must-dos for feeding your dog raw:
#1. Know what’s safe.
Not all types and sources of meat are good for your pooch. We don’t mean to buy gourmet, but at least be sure that you’re getting your meat from reputable sources. Being safe does not end here either. You also have to know what types and parts of animals are safe to give to your pooch.
As a general rule, keep clear from cow and pork brains because have very high cholesterol content. In contrast, tendons and sinews are okay since they promote constant chewing. A good rule to follow is to stick to animal parts that a dog would have access to if it were a wolf.
It is also smart to have some probiotics on hand, especially if you're switching to raw with adult dogs or senior pooches. A gradual progression is recommended when raw food is concerned since drastically changing a dog's diet will just lead to disaster.
#2. Know when there’s a sale.
Meat can get pricey in the long run. This is especially true if you live in an area where meat production and supply are not as high. Here's a practical answer: Get your hands on a big freezer and keep your eyes peeled for meat sales. There is usually a meat sale after a holiday so go shopping on those days!
Apart from meats, you can also get a lot of ingredients for a dog food recipe on sale like fish oil, bone meal, cheese, yogurt, and eggs, among others. A quick heads up, though. Don't go for a bone meal that is sold in hardware depots and gardening stores. They are formulated for plants and may contain chemicals that may be harmful to your pooch.
#3. Manage your schedule like a pro.
Feeding your dog raw means having to shop and prepare food in advance. You can easily freeze them in batches but don’t forget to make sure that you always have a bag thawing in the refrigerator for the next feeding.
This means that you’ll have to be a bit more organized with your time. There’s a silver lining in this, though, reports by pet parents who’ve started feeding their fur kids raw say that their lives are a lot better and smoother running after doing so.
Maybe the "skills" learned in feeding your pet a raw dog food diet easily overflow to other areas of your life. You are not just honing your skills in making a dog food recipe or two, but you're also taking other aspects of your life up a notch in the process, too. It’s a grand slam!
#4. Understand that contamination can happen if you are not careful.
Most of the detractors of the raw dog food diet say that this diet is not safe for humans taking care of the dog because of contamination issues. Sure, a dog’s stomach can handle some nasty bugs (they are a bit tougher than us puny humans), but sanitation and contamination issues are things all of us need to know and understand, no matter what food the dog is eating.
The first thing you should remember when raw meat or bones are concerned is to keep them appropriately chilled. It is ideal to prepare and store (by freezing) a dog food recipe within two (2) hours of taking the raw meat and other ingredients out of the fridge. Moreover, make sure that their juices do not reach other foodstuff while you're at it.
#5. Be ready with your wallet!
If we're being honest, feeding your pooch a raw dog food diet can range from $2.50 per day up to $5 a day for a medium-sized dog (25-35 lbs). This is not cheap compared to super-premium commercial dry dog food which usually costs $1 a day for a medium-sized dog.
At first glance, it does seem a lot more expensive. But the thing is that you will also save on vet bills and all other sorts of expenses you’ll have to pay if your fur baby is not in the peak of health. While switching to a raw dog food diet can be a bit costly when you're just getting started, its money-saving benefits will manifest in the long run.
What Research Says About the Raw Dog Food Diet
Have you ever wondered why there isn’t a lot of research about feeding your dog raw? And while we're on the subject, have you also speculated about why the majority of research you can find is mostly advocating a diet consisting of commercially manufactured dog food?
Well, the answer lies in the fact that about 95% of all the research you can find is funded by commercial dog food companies. Small wonder why they are advocating their own product, right? We know this sounds rather ridiculous, but we're just as surprised as you are.
Evolution vs. research results with partiality
Think about this: Are you going to believe in research based on a few decades of commercial dog food (and funded by the same companies peddling the food being advocated), or are you going to believe in thousands of years of evolution and nature?
Are you going to believe photos of happy dogs eating kibbles or are you on fur kid nibbling away at a chunk of real bone? There’s a lot to ponder, given the truth about manufactured pet foods for cats and dogs. Surely we’ve given you enough to think about.
We hope that this article helped you out and that you’ll be on your way to plunging head-on into making the right choices for your pet. Got a question? A suggestion? Feel free to drop us a comment below.
HOMEOPATH & CO-FOUNDER OF ZUMALKA
Suzie Cyrenne is a certified Homeopath with over ten years of experience creating natural products for cats and dogs. She co-founded eCommerce brand, Zumalka in 2013 with her husband Matt and is on a mission to help thousands of animals naturally improve their quality of life and shares her experience on their popular YouTube show. Hence, she created a line of high-performance natural pet supplements to target the root cause of common health issues.
Suzie was influenced by her mother-in-law, who practiced homeopathy and made natural remedies from home. After being on prescriptions for many years for a skin issue without resolution, she wanted to try something new. Her problems were cleared up within a few months of dedication to a better diet supplemented by homeopathic remedies. That's when she knew that homeopathy worked! During this process, she wondered why there weren't better options for pets and soon created a popular line of natural remedies that have helped thousands of pets across the USA.
When she’s not traveling or reading the next personal development book, you can find Suzie snowboarding, working out, or enjoying a daily hike.
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