Raw Food Diet for Dogs
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“Animals need unadulterated, fresh, whole foods that are moisture-dense,” says Karen Becker, DVM, in her video discussing myths and truths around raw dog food. “Animals don’t need grains, fillers, artificial preservatives, colors, additives, chemicals, byproducts, or processed foods.”
Serving a raw food diet is one way many owners are naturally meeting their dogs’ nutritional needs. If you’re new to raw food, you might feel a bit unsure or even intimidated. We’ve compiled a brief primer to get you started. Read on to explore the components, benefits, and various types of raw diets.
What Is a Raw Food Diet for Dogs?
Say goodbye to processed nuggets from a bag and mushy food from a can. A raw diet features the types of natural, healthful foods your dog’s ancestors used to eat in the wild. Essentially, it’s a species-appropriate diet that’s tailored to your dog’s natural nutritional needs. The food is raw for a specific reason: Cooking and high-pressure processing can destroy the vital enzymes and vitamins. In addition, raw food provides the nutrients dogs need without the preservatives and fillers found in a commercial diet. It’s normal to have doubts. However, if you think a raw diet is complicated, time-consuming, or inconvenient, think again. Choosing a raw food like Darwin’s means no fuss, no prep — just whole and natural raw ingredients. Here’s what a typical raw diet includes:
* Muscle Meat:
Real meat (without bones) is the foundation for a raw diet. For instance, Darwin’s meals contain beef or poultry (duck, turkey, or chicken).
The Benefits: Muscle meat provides dogs the essentials: protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.
* Bones Dogs Love Bones:
Especially real bones rather than the kinds you find on the shelves of the pet food store. Meaty bones like beef rib bones, beef marrow bones, and duck necks make excellent treats.
The Benefits: A nice meaty bone can combat boredom, serve as a mental stimulant, aid in digestion, and contribute to cleaner teeth and fresher breath. In addition, bones are excellent from a nutrition standpoint. Beef rib bones and beef marrow bones provide minerals, calcium, and fatty acids. Duck necks contain Omega 3 fats, selenium, and vitamin B3. Because raw poultry bones are soft, dogs can even chew and digest them. (However, you should never feed your dog cooked poultry bones.)
* Organ Meat Otherwise Known as Offal:
Organ meats are a key dietary component. After all, in the wild, your dog’s ancestors dined on the whole animal rather than just the portions you find palatable. You can feed your dog both internal organs (including, heart, kidney, liver, lungs, and spleen) and entrails (including ears, eyes, feet, muscles, and tails).
The Benefits: Offal is packed with key nutrients, including amino acids, B-complex vitamins, vitamins D, E, and K2. It also provides trace minerals including chromium, copper, and zinc.
* Fruits and Vegetables:
You may chuckle upon picturing your dog munching on a salad or crunching on an apple. However, your dog’s ancestors indeed dined on fruits, veggies, and other plant matter — and they’re an important component of a dog’s diet.
The Benefits: Healthful fruits and veggies are packed with vital nutrients, including fiber, minerals, and vitamins. In a raw diet, plant matter and vegetables often serve as the sole source of fiber and antioxidants. They also provide important enzymes. Dogs who don’t eat vegetables and fruit need supplements in order to get complete nutrition.
Your favorite breakfast staple is also a superfood for your dog. You can use it as a treat or incorporate it as a regular dietary supplement.
The Benefits: Not only are eggs an affordable treat, but they also a nearly complete source of amino acids and rich in fatty acids, iron, vitamin A, and other nutrients and minerals. (Check out a list of even more human superfoods that your dog may enjoy.)
Why Raw Diets Rock!
If you’re like most dog owners, you’ll notice a change in your dog after switching to a raw diet. And if your pet has experienced any challenges such as allergies, digestive issues, or various health conditions, the change may be even more dramatic. Here’s what to expect:
A boost in energy level
Healthy skin and a shiny coat
Cleaner teeth and fresher breath
Smaller stools with less odor
A decrease in health conditions (such as arthritis)
Improved weight maintenance and a firmer body
A stronger immune system
Along with enhancing health, quality of life, and longevity, a raw diet can pay off in another way: Many dog owners also notice their vet bills decrease after they switch to a top-quality raw food like Darwin’s, as their pets experience fewer health issues. Talk about a win-win situation!
Types of Raw Diets for Dogs
Depending on their owners’ beliefs and preferences, one dog’s raw diet may look completely different from another’s. Take a look at the pros and cons of four types of raw food diets (including our top pick, the Ancestral Diet):
Prey Model What is it?
This diet adheres to strict guidelines focusing on foods that dogs would eat in the wild. Die-hard believers of the prey model eschew fruits, vegetables, dairy, and supplements. The “Whole Prey” diet involves feeding the entire animal, including innards and pelt/feathers. A typical meal might be a rabbit, quail, or duck carcass. The “Franken Prey” diet features various types and cuts of meat to round out a meal.
Benefits: With this diet, dogs get a mix of muscle meats, organs, and bone. Unlike kibble, the Prey Model diet excludes processed foods and grains.
Drawbacks: Many experts feel that dogs have evolved from carnivores to omnivores — diets that exclusively emulate prey aren’t complete and balanced.
This diet also ignores that wild dogs did forage for fruits, vegetables, and grasses. Prey Model meals can be short on vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and they may not have the proper balance of fatty acids. Some owners also find the diet’s strict guidelines a challenge.
BARF Diet What is it?
BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (or Bones And Raw Food). Essentially, the components of this feeding model are muscle meat, organs/offal, raw meaty bones, fruits and vegetables, supplements, and possibly dairy.
Benefits: More a nutritional philosophy than a precise feeding model, the BARF Diet overall offers balanced nutrition. People new to raw food may appreciate that it is much less restrictive than the Prey Model.
Drawbacks: Some critics feel the BARF diet places too much emphasis on bones and supplements.
What is it? Formulated by renowned pet nutrition expert and Darwin’s consultant Steve Brown, the Ancestral Diet is a research-based model focusing on the animal and plant material that dogs’ ancestors once hunted and foraged. The basic breakdown is 75 percent meat, 25 percent fresh vegetables, and nutrient mix containing trace minerals.
Benefits: This carefully formulated diet naturally yields meals that are nutritionally complete and balanced. Ancestral Diet food is high in protein, contains balanced fats, and features at least some fresh food.
Drawbacks: We’d like to be modest, but we admittedly have not yet discovered any cons to the Ancestral Diet.