Guide to Raw Feeding

There are many factors to consider in choosing whether to move to a raw food diet for your dog. Different vets have different opinions, and online forums and other resources contain a mind-boggling amount of information and opinions on the merits and pitfalls of food choices.

Raw Pet Food Benefits

Raw offers many benefits including fresh, non-processed foods that are rich in vitamins, enzymes and bio-nutrients. Traditional kibble is processed at very high temperatures, often exceeding 5000 F, and this can destroy many vital nutrients, particularly enzymes, proteins, and other essential nutrients such as anti-oxidants. As a consequence of the high temperature processing, all foods lose their naturally rich color and become dark brown.

By contrast, raw vegetables maintain colors of red, yellow, green and orange that are naturally full of vitamins. In addition, raw foods lack the preservatives commonly found in kibble including BHA and BHT, which could potentially lead to cancer if consumed in excess quantities.

From a physiological standpoint, dogs have a shorter gastrointestinal tract than their human counterparts. This means that a raw diet can pass through much more quickly, thus reducing the time in which any harmful bacteria could multiply. This allows pups to gain the benefit of raw enzymes present in raw meat, and excrete the bacteria before it reaches harmful levels. Choosing meat from reputable sources along with safe, proper handling and storage are also essential to risk reduction.

Raw Pet Food Risks

Raw food, however, is not without its own risks and counter benefits. Raw food is unprocessed, which means the meats and vegetables are in their whole form. Raw foods are much harder for the body to “break down” and digest than their cooked counterpart. This can be beneficial for building a strong digestive tract in a young or otherwise healthy pet, however, for certain pets this may present a considerable challenge.

Also, raw meats purchased at a grocery store are not intended to be fed raw and may contain dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and other pathogens that could pose serious health problems for certain pets. Particularly for older pets, immune-suppressed animals or pets with dental problems (for whom chewing raw foods can be painful), other options may be better.

Some raw diets contain whole bones. Avid raw feeders often include whole animals such as chickens or rabbits in their feeding protocols. There is a chance that bone shards can cause medical complications with this type of feeding. As raw food diets have gained popularity, the incidence of veterinary procedures to remove bones from the GI tract has also increased. When swallowed, whole, raw bones or bone shards can obstruct the intestines, cause constipation, lodge in the roof of the mouth and break the teeth in extreme cases. For this reason, a commercially prepared raw diet or an investment in a high-powered food grinder are wiser choices. NEVER feed your dog a cooked bone.

Should Your Dog Be On A Raw Diet?

We do not recommend feeding raw to sick dogs or dogs with compromised immune systems. At the end of the day, you need to be comfortable and confident in feeding him fresh raw food (whether commercial or home prepared). But with a little research and a gradual transition, raw food can be a wonderful alternative for many dogs.

Ensuring It's Complete

There are many great brands of complete raw diets: Small Batch and Primal are our office favorites. If you have your own supply of raw meat, or would like to use a unique protein such as venison, duck or rabbit, our base mixes are designed to be fed with raw (or cooked) meat.

Here are just a few ideas as far as what types of meats to consider adding to your dog’s diet. The following also contains information on food energetic, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Cooling meats can be helpful for dogs who show signs of ‘heat’ – such as skin allergies, hot spots or hyperactivity. Warming meats may help dog who show signs of ‘cold deficiencies’ – such as sluggishness or timidness.

  • Fresh or raw meat (this can be ground beef, turkey, chicken, venison, buffalo or other exotic meats) we suggest using a meat that is hormone and antibiotic free.
  • Chicken – is considered a warming food, nourishing the blood, spleen/pancreas, stomach and kidney.
  • Beef – is a neutral food that’s good for nourishing the spleen/pancreas and the stomach. It’s good for building blood, bones and yang muscle strength. This is recommended for animals who are thin, spare and who lack confidence.
  • Turkey – is warming. It has a calming effect on animals due to the tryptophan in the dark meat. Dark meat helps to create more moisture than the white meat, too. Good for intestinal problems caused by yin deficiency or dryness (i.e., irritable bowel syndromes with blood in the stool or frequent vomiting of dry hair balls. Also good for constipation with blood.).
  • Venison – is a warming food. This meat is good for an animal that’s sluggish and gets cold easily.
  • Pork – is one of the most cooling of the animal meats. It is good for restoring fluids to the body in diseases such as diabetes. Pork loin or butt can be used for inflammatory bowel problems with dryness and blood. Pork needs to be boiled and all of the fat removed before feeding.
  • Lamb – is warming. Lamb should be fed with caution to animals that show signs of ‘heat’.
  • Rabbit – is considered neutral.
  • Tuna/Mackerel (canned or raw) – are neutral. May be beneficial for sluggish animals with heavy, hanging abdomens, moist lung problems or arthritis that is worse in damp weather. Choose whitefish for more sensitive animals. Sardines are a favorite with many dogs and cats.

Raw Feeding Resources

Click here for contact information for Dr. Laurie S. Coger, DVM, CVCP who offers telephone consultations and can provide support to pet owners and answer raw feeding questions.