02/01/2020 0 Comments
The Healthy Dog Raw Diet
What is Raw Feeding?
A deeper look at raw vs. commercial or vet diets, overall nutrition understanding, ingredients breakdown, rotational feeding and benefits of diet research.
You may have seen a fridge or freezer in your local pet shop, or a tray full of bulk dehydrated meats that always seem to intrigue and amaze; duck feet? Why would you ever feed your dog a foot? Don’t get us started on bully sticks and bully ends – we could devote an entire blog (and may in the future) to the characteristics and feeding methods for bully sticks!
What most don’t know about these options for main diets and treats is that they all qualify as a raw diet. So what is a raw diet? Why feed your pet raw – and what are the benefits? Here are a few key points about raw feeding and raw diets we’d like to share with you. Remember, you can also call us for a raw feeding consult! See our services for more info.
Raw feeding is a relatively new trend in holistic pet care that has evolved over the past decade as pet parents become more interested in the quality of the food they provide for their pets. Although the convenience of a dehydrated kibble or easy-open wet food can be quick and cost effective, a more biologically appropriate diet could help with a variety of health issues as well as assist in general maintenance of overall health. Biologically appropriate simply means the closest to diet of origin as possible for your domesticated pet, be it dog or cat, or even ferret or fish! Think of it this way; dehydrated and canned food often contains preservatives and extra unnecessary filler ingredients to hit the shelf life necessary as well as addict the pet with flavour enhancers and binders. You wouldn’t feed your pet snake only rendered mouse-meat pumped full of chemicals – so why do we do this with our dogs and cats?
The truth is that the media push for bagged and canned brands often has to do with their sale connection to veterinary clinics. Most vet clinics will have an in-house brand of food which often contains headers directed toward specific health issues, e.g. weight, teeth, urinary tract or sensitive digestion food. This over-promotion of unhealthy food creates an endless loop of business for said vet clinics and sales for said food; but what if you could attack the issue right at the point of ingestion? That’s one of the things raw feeding can accomplish!
Once you take away the preservative, flavour enhancing and rendering additions to a food, what are you left with? Hopefully, whole ingredients – which means the nutrition your pet is receiving is coming from a whole source (e.g. keratin from carrots, antioxidants from blueberries) as opposed to a vitamin pack or a chemically created source. If you turn over your bag of food or can of food and read that large ingredients list, it can be perplexing as to what a micro or macro nutrient (essential) is and what filler (unessential) is. To break down those terms, macronutrients refer to nutrients which provide energy: lipids, proteins and carbohydrates whereas the term ‘micro-nutrient’ refers to vitamins and minerals in general. Your pets’ foods itself, as well as treats, act as a vehicle for this nutrition. If your pet food contains a large amount of filler and unessential additives this means your pet is not only receiving a diminished nutrient intake but working overtime to breakdown and digest the intake into energy. This can and often does lead to issues with teeth, allergens, weight, organ function, crystal build-up in the urinary tract, sensitive digestion issues and so on, after which the pet is oftentimes then put on a staple veterinary food to help alleviate the issue it caused in the first place.
Of course, without a great deal of research, it can be difficult to know what every ingredient in these long lists on generic pet foods is; pets can also be picky to certain foods and once a pet parent finds something that their pet will eat, a lot end the research train right then and there. However, there is a simpler way to evaluate a food based on the first four ingredients test. Ingredients are always listed in the largest quantity used to smallest. The first four ingredients of a pet food will generally make up the majority of a product, which means the first four ingredients should be those that offer nutrition as opposed to filler ingredients. Filler ingredients you should not see in the first four ingredients include corn, wheat, chicken fat, barley, oats, chicken meal, etc. Dogs, though slightly more omnivorous than cats, and cats are what we call obligate carnivores – meaning meat (sinew and tissue) is required for their diet. Cats possess only one enzyme capable of breaking down carbohydrates, which is why many mainstream cat diets are rightfully tailored toward grain free ingredients. The first four ingredients in a dog or cat food, whether raw or commercial, should be meat variables, e.g. heart, lung, organ, etc. and denote specifically which protein is being used e.g. lamb, beef, chicken, etc. Cats in specific require a certain amount of taurine, which dogs can ingest as well as it is water soluble – meaning they urinate out the excess taurine their body is not using – and this should be further down on the list. If you’re not seeing meat descriptors in the first four ingredients, it’s time to start shopping for a new food!
Now that we have a better understanding of ingredients and the difference between a shelf or vet diet and a raw diet, let’s move on. When we see a food that is biologically appropriate – containing only essential nutrients and nothing else - administered the nutrition is being wholly absorbed. Without fillers to gunk up the system, there is less to pass through, meaning poops will be smaller, fur can become softer and shinier, and less residue will be left on the teeth. Organs can function at an appropriate pace to break down the nutrition it is given and send the right nutrients to the right places. Raw food also helps with teeth in particular as the bones can help scrape against plaque and tarter; in fact, dental foods that claim to scrape against plaque and tartar often neglect to mention that it’s not so much the size of the kibble and the scraping which assists with the dental care but an addition of potassium chloride to the food. Another problem area, urinary crystals, can be directly dealt with by choosing proteins that contain less mineral like calcium; likewise, digestive sensitivity can be appropriately handled as sensitivity causing proteins can be reduced and more easily digestible proteins can be administered. This, and our preferred raw feeding method, is called a Rotational Diet.
Just as every pet is different, every animal protein has a unique nutritional advantage. For instance some meats are fattier or leaner, mineral heavy or mixed with greater amounts of bone. For this reason, most raw experts suggest feeding what is called a rotational diet. Rotational diet means your pets’ diet include a well-rounded amount of red or white meat. Red meat differs from white meat generally in bone content; chickens, fish and other small white meat animals contain many tiny bones that cannot be removed in the rendering process. This means the meat will contain a high calcium and magnesium content, which can lead to build-up in pets with sensitive urinary tracts. Cats in specific have longer, thinner urinary tracts which can become blocked with crystals, especially in males. This is why cats are recommended a mostly red meat diet with only one or two days a week specific to white meat, aside rabbit. Rabbit is unique as it offers an incredibly low fat and low protein white meat with no small bones in the make-up; however, rabbit is also so lean that it does not create a fully rounded diet if a pet were to only eat rabbit. A pet eating only rabbit may become nutrient deficient. For dogs, a good half and half white meat and red meat diet geared specifically toward their sensitivities is a good rotational diet.
Sensitivities refer to the problem areas discussed previously; urinary, weight, allergy, etc. These sensitivities often show themselves by way of loose stool, vomiting, itchy/red ears or paws, dry, irritated skin, rashes or other discomforts which can lead a pet to overly scratch, lick or chew at a particular trouble area. If you notice any of these sorts of discomforts, one might be quick to assume injury, illness or another worst case – while this should not be completely ruled out, neither should diet be completely ignored, as a good portion of the time these smaller signs are due to the nutrition they are receiving permeating through their system. It might be worth it to attempt changing your pets’ diet to see if this accommodates the issue; this includes treats, as, for instance, a dog with a chicken allergy being moved to a beef dominant diet will still be showing signs of irritation if they are receiving chicken based treats. A good timeline for results on diet change tend to be around four weeks for digestive (runny poops, throwing up) and eight weeks for skin related irritations (dry skin, itchiness, rashes, redness, scratching, etc.). This gives the system time to adjust to the new food and filter out what’s left of the problem diet; it takes longer for a new diet to permeate the skin and alleviate issues. The main causes of sensitivity in standard diets tend to be chicken or grain; however, remembering the four ingredient test, looking at what the majority of the food is made of can sometimes help narrow down what might be causing a pet to react and have sensitivity.
As you can see, raw feeding is a very beneficial system in understanding and catering to a pets’ biological need, maintaining good health in many aspects and rooting out problems that otherwise might go masked and ignored by a commercial or medicated diet. However, we as pet parents and pet experts do understand the daunting task of picking a new food to be administered in a new way and introducing it into your pets’ and your schedule. This is why we’ve decided to start this series of blogs in our Doggos Bloggos, the Healthy Dog Raw Blog. Tune into our blog and follow us on Facebook to stay up to date with this series, wherein we will be dissecting raw feeding, raw feeding transitions, raw feeding benefits and raw feeding questions in a consistent and easy-to-read format. Message us your raw feeding questions on Facebook or via our website or Instagram and we promise we will make sure that the information is not only provided to you, but elaborated in a full blog post – there is no “quick” discussion on health and wellness for humans or animals alike and as science is always changing, growing and evolving based on what we know, so too does our ability to have the best and healthiest possible lifestyles for our companions and selves.
We hope you enjoyed our blog and felt it was informative and helpful! Our next blog will go over raw feeding transitions from a kibble-based diet and offer in-between solutions for a deeper look at raw options, diets, benefits and more. We are looking forward to sharing this important information for you and your pet; until next time, try a duck foot or a salmon tail for your little one, or maybe pick a one ingredient treat from your local store! You may just find your pet scrolling through our blog next time browsing for more delicious, local, sustainable – not to mention healthy - treats!