How safe are raw diets for your dog?
While the popularity of raw diets – one that includes raw meats, organs, and bones, eggs, fruits, and vegetables – is gaining popularity, there is still considerable controversy surrounding it.
For starters, people are afraid that feeding raw meats is not hygienic and exposes their dog to a host of pathogens and other health issues. Before we jump in to explain that it is important to understand that no diet is completely safe for your pet. Whether natural, cooked or raw, each has its pros and cons.
The pathogens that pet parents worry about – like salmonella and e-coli – have been found in kibble too. And anyway, as far as handling potential bacteria and pathogen is concerned, nature has endowed dogs with a digestive system that can tackle them with ease. Strong stomach acids and a short digestive track ensure that. However, more importantly, the heat process that canned food goes through, robs the food of most of its natural nutrients and leaves behind near-empty calories for your furry friend. Raw food retains all nutrients and also offers active enzymes and phytonutrients that are essential for a healthy life.
Understanding a raw diet
Typical raw diets include:
- Muscle meat usually attached to the bone
- Bones - whole or ground
- Organ meats, like livers and kidneys
- Raw eggs
- Vegetables such as broccoli, celery and spinach
- Fruits, like blueberries or apples
- Some dairy (optional) like yogurt
What kind of benefits can you expect from a raw diet?
Once you start your dog on a raw diet, you will begin to notice a host of benefits soon:
- Cleaner teeth with less build-up
- Smaller, firmer, less smelly stools
- Greater energy
- Healthy skin and a shiny coat
- Better digestion
- Weight management
And here are a few difficulties you might face with the raw diet:
- Raw food diets can be expensive
- Making a balanced raw food diet at home can be challenging
- Not every dog takes to raw food
- Bones can cause choking, and hence it is important to offer the right bone as per your dog’s size
- Bacteria inside raw meat could be a threat to the people living in the household if proper hygiene is not followed
Is a raw diet safe for your dog?
The reason many people don’t consider a raw diet to be safe for their pet is because of a few prevailing myths. Let’s debunk some of these, shall we?
Myth #1 – Small dogs cannot eat raw diets
Toy and small dog breeds
have very small mouths, but the same amount of teeth as any other dog. What this means is that the teeth are squeezed into a small space and are out of shape. All these corner and crevices are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. When dogs eat raw and chew on bones, they are helping clean out those spots and leaving behind cleaner teeth. Make sure the bone is picked as per the dog’s size. Too small and they could swallow it and too large or heavy, and they could fracture their teeth.
Myth #2 – My dog is not a wolf!
While on the outside your lazy furry companion might not resemble a wolf, she is anatomically closer than you might think. If your dog’s ancestor, the wolf, ate raw, then by offering her processed food you are doing a disservice to her physiology while also causing her harm in the long run. Luckily, these damages are not permanent and by switching to a proper diet, you can reverse any effects.
Processed food contains a lot of grain and this is difficult for your dog to digest as it does not have the necessary enzymes needed to break down starch. Your dog’s digestive system absorbs processed meat within the dry kibble as a starch instead of a protein, and hence the body is unable to get all its benefits.
Myth #3 – Bacteria in raw meat is dangerous for my dog
We already spoke about it earlier, but here’s a little more information. Bacteria, such as salmonella and e-coli can be dangerous for your dog if his health has been compromised due to any illness. However, a healthy dog can easily deal with these bacteria, starting with its mouth.
Did you know that a dog’s saliva is antibacterial? This is why they lick their wounds and even try to lick yours. Further down, a dog’s stomach acids can kill all kinds of bacteria, provided the digestive system is healthy. Dogs can, however, pass bacteria through their stool and you must be careful how you dispose that off.
Myth #4 – It will make my dog more aggressive
If a vegetarian decided to start eating meat, it would not change their personality would it? Similarly, if you switch your dog to a raw diet it will not recognise it as raw and immediately turn into an aggressive beast. Any impact the raw diet has on your dog’s mind and body is only good.
What you must consider is the impact of a poor diet on the dog’s brain. If you were to eat a poor diet for weeks, would you feel like yourself a 100%? The same goes for a dog. If their stomach is not happy because of a bad diet, they are likely to demonstrate bad behaviour.
Myth #5 – My dog can choke on a raw bone
Any food or toy can pose a choking risk. In case of bones, it is a cooked bone that can cause more harm than raw. A cooked bone becomes brittle and can splinter when chewed, causing problems while swallowing or inside the stomach. Feeding raw bones is healthier. First of all, it makes your dog work on the food, which helps strengthen the jaw and enamel, while also cleaning teeth and gums. This will make such a difference on your dog’s breath too. Remember, you don’t need to feed a raw diet for your dog to enjoy the benefits of a raw bone.
Every diet has its pros and cons. The aim of this article was to help you understand that feeding a raw diet to your dog has its benefits and to also dispel some of the common fears that people have. We hope this can help you make an informed decision on whether a raw diet is something you’d like to consider for your dog. With the number of allergies and health issues in dogs on the rise, you must ensure they get the best diet for their health and wellbeing, all through their life.