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More and more holistic veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists are now advocating feeding natural, fresh, and preferably raw foods to dogs. Some dog parents embrace raw diets wholeheartedly, while others are hesitant to feed raw foods, especially raw meat and bones, to their dogs.
This page looks at the pros and cons of raw diet for dogs, and tries to answer some of the questions that you may have about feeding your dog raw foods.
Hopefully, it will help you make an educated decision as to whether or not raw diet is the way to go for your dog.
A variety of meats can used as part of a raw diet for dogs. The key is "rotation" - try different types of meats so that your dog can get all the different nutrients contained in different meats. For example, you can feed your dog:
Pork, rabbit, and fish should not be fed raw - you should cook them first to kill parasites such as tapeworms or trichinosis organisms that can be present in these meats.
In addition, organ meat such as liver and heart can be given to your dog occasionally, but these meats should not be over 10 percent of the diet.
When introducing raw meats to your dog, be sure to introduce one new meat at a time. For example, feed chicken meat for a few weeks, then lamb for a few weeks, and so on. By doing so, if your dog is allergic to a particular protein, you can easily identify which meat he is allergic to.
Bones contain a lot of calcium needed by dogs. Raw meaty bones (RMBs) are safe for dogs to consume. Some good examples of RMBs include:
However, cooked bones, especially chicken, turkey, fish, or pork bones, can splinter easily and should never be fed to dogs.
As well, bones that are frozen hard should not be given to dogs since the rock-hard bones can break teeth.
Large meaty raw bones that cannot be broken up easily can be fed to dogs occasionally as a snack. Dogs can clean their teeth naturally when chewing and gnawing on bones.
According to some holistic veterinarians (e.g. Dr. Pitcairn, author of Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats), dogs seldom get infected with bacteria such as E. Coli and salmonella after eating raw meat.
In fact, Dr. Pitcairn indicates that in the 15 years of working with dogs on raw diets, he has never seen one single case of E. Coli or salmonella in his dog patients.
Because dogs are by nature carnivores, they have a much shorter digestive tract and have much stronger stomach acids (hydrochloric acid) than people. These acids can break down harmful bacteria and fully digest animal meats, bones, and fat.
Also, dogs can keep food in their stomachs (in acidic condition) for up to 8 hours and pass just small amounts of digested food to the small intestine quickly. This ensures that bacteria are killed (in the stomach) and that they have little or no chance to multiply.
In contrast, foods are kept in a human's stomach for only about 30-60 minutes, but can stay in the small intestine for a long time. This creates a much higher chance for bacteria to multiple and cause problems.
Also, if you freeze meats for at least three weeks, most of the parasites will be killed. Therefore, one way to eliminate parasites in raw meats is to freeze the fresh meats for 3 weeks before feeding them to your dog.
While there are a lot of benefits of raw feeding your dog, there are occasions when raw feeding is not advisable. For example:
See this page for calcium and other supplementations.
When feeding a raw diet to dogs, the best way to maintain a healthy balance of minerals (especially calcium and phosphorus) is to feed 2 meals per day.
The first meal is a RMB meal while the second meal contains muscle and organ meats. You can also add other protein sources (e.g. eggs, dairy) and veggies to the second meal.
Remember, if you feed RMBs to your dog and the RMBs is about 50% of the diet, then your dog should get enough calcium and supplementation of calcium is not necessary.
There are several ways to transition your dog from a kibble diet to a raw natural diet.
The first way is a gradual transition. Slowly switching over by first adding a bit of raw food to the kibble until your dog has totally got used to eating the new raw food.
By transitioning slowly, it will not only help your dog get used to the new taste, but will also allow the dog's digestive system sufficient time to adjust.
If there is not sufficient time for the system to adjust, diarrhea or appetite loss may occur since the bacterial flora in the dog's system cannot adjust abruptly to the new food.
Another way is to fast the dog for a few days. Fasting is a good way to cleanse the dog's system, decondition old taste habits, and stimulate the appetite.
You can do the following:
Some people also have reported success in switching over to a raw diet cold-turkey. No fast, no gradual transition. Just throw away the kibble and start the raw diet from day one.
No matter which way you use to switch over to a raw diet for dogs, it is advisable to do the following:
If you are uncomfortable feeding your dog raw meat, there are alternatives. For example, you may want to try to just sear the outside of the meat a bit, or cook the meat completely.
This is a raw but dried diet which contains raw meats, organs, bones, plus a lot of added supplements such as essential fatty acids, probiotics, enzymes, plant nutrients, etc.
It is grain-free, and contains no artificial flavorings, preservatives or colorings. The food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages.