There’s no denying, our knowledge of canine nutrition is improving. Generally speaking, owners are aware of the value of good nutrition for their dogs and are changing or adapting feeding habits accordingly. One such adaptation – and an increasingly popular choice among dog owners is a raw food diet, aka the BARF diet (Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food)
But what is all the fuss about? Is it just a fad? Is it safe and what can it actually do for them?
1) Creating a healthier coat
The omega fatty acids and amino acids present in raw dog foods, like Benyfit or Natures Menu, are much higher in quantity since the cooking and processing of foods tends to reduce them. These acids have a huge range of health benefits, but most noticeably they can improve the shininess of a dog’s coat, as well as the health and softness of their skin.
2) Improving your dog’s dental hygiene
Raw meat has proven to be great for a dog’s dental health. This is largely because it has more enzymes that tend to fight the bacteria that is the cause of a host of issues such as bad dog breath, plaque building, tartar buildup, gum disease, and more. Of course, you still need to brush your dog’s teeth but, in general, this can help maintain their good dental health better than wet dog foods and perhaps even better than the abrasion that kibble provides.
3) Adding muscle tone
Dogs process and synthesize the animal proteins in raw meats much better than they do from processed foods. As such, this can improve their metabolism, helping them burn fatty deposits all the better while increasing their ability to build and maintain their muscle mass. This means your dog is not only stronger, but will have more stamina and higher energy levels, even if they’re overweight, senior, or suffering from mobility-issues.
4) It may improve behaviour
The mental and emotional health of your dog is tied to their physical health. When they have poor metabolism and less energy, they’re more likely to be restless and more difficult to train. Many dog behaviour specialists have posited that raw food diets can give them more stamina for play and work, improving their behaviour, while also making them more relaxed after dinner thanks to the fact they’re getting a more satisfying meal. It may result in a much better-behaved dog.
5) Increased bioavailability
Bioavailability is one of the features often touted in high-quality raw dog foods from brands like Country Hunter. What this effectively means is that it’s much easier for dogs to get the nutrients they need from raw foods. Processed foods tend to take longer to digest, and more of the nutrition quality gets wasted in the effort of digesting them. Raw food, as it is slower to digest should allow for greater absorption of minerals and nutrients.
Are there any drawbacks?
As with all diets, there are potential drawbacks worth noting. If your dog’s diet is unbalanced, it may lead to issues, such as poor bone health – due to a lack of calcium - or too much Vitamin A, which can cause rather nasty and very dangerous Vitamin A toxicity. It’s also wise to choose foods that don’t have whole bones, as they can be a choking hazard. And remember, raw dog food should always be stored carefully to prevent bacteria from spreading throughout the food.
How to feed a raw food diet
First, it’s important to make sure that the raw food you choose has all of the nutritional quality to meet the needs of your dog. As with wet foods and kibble, there are different puppy food types, foods for adult dogs, senior dogs, lite ranges for overweight dogs, and more. It’s important to choose a variety of raw foods to make sure they get the whole range of nutrition over the week. Furthermore, you should switch gradually if you’re feeding them kibble or wet food previously. Switching too quickly can lead to digestion issues.
Raw food comes in a variety of forms, from frozen blocks to free flow mince, portioned ‘nuggets’ and ‘chubs’.
Some raw foods are nothing more than raw meat and bone combined. A complete raw food will also contain some vegetables, herbs and fruits. Whichever you choose, it is recommended that 60% of their meal comes from the raw meat source, 20% comes from a mix if fruit, vegetables and herbs and 20% comes from easily digestible carbohydrate such as cooked brown rice, oats or sweet potato.
A dog should be fed 2 – 3% of its bodyweight each day. So, your average sized medium dog at 12kg for example will need about 300g per meal.
What about the price?
There’s no denying that, on average, a raw dog food diet tends to cost more than the average dry kibble or wet tinned food alternative. However, the costs can vary widely depending on the quality (and of course the quantity needed). And if you want to buy a raw dog food that caters to specific needs, such as for dogs with sensitive tummies, you will probably pay a bit more.
However, for example, if you were to feed Natures Menu Complete Lamb dinner, it would cost you in the region of £1.10 per day for a 12kg dog.
Food for thought?
There’s no denying that the evidence is mounting for the benefits of a more natural diet for your dogs. And hopefully, the points above indicate just how healthy a raw dog food diet can really be.
As with all pet related issues, it’s important to do your research and ensure you’re getting the best foods for your individual dog. If you’re in doubt or would like some advice, then pop in store and have a chat with one of our helpful members of staff!