Some Considerations for a Raw Dog Food Diet – Part 1
Why Raw Food?
A raw food diet for dogs means feeding the pets without using any commercial processed or cooked food, but only meat, bones and some vegetables. The raw diet principle take into consideration the dog’s ancestral origins, its nutritional needs and eating habits.
Most of the studies made on dog nutrition are ordered or paid for by big pet food companies, so they are not considered trustworthy by the raw feeding community. Even more, these studies are the main source of information also for veterinarians, while there is no solid scientific research done on the effects of the raw food for pets. With little information on dog’s nutrition and with many pets suffering from gastrointestinal diseases, some veterinarians have developed alternative ways of feeding their pets, without using kibbles.
The argument on raw diet started with the fact that dogs are carnivores proven by their anatomy and physiology. Dogs have hinged jaws and sharp teeth; therefore, their mouths were designed to grab and bite off, to ripe, tear and chew large pieces of meat and bone.
Dogs have a short digestive system and the digestive process usually lasts between 8 and 9 hours in adult pets (the process is faster in puppies). The food passes through the oesophagus and gets into the stomach, which is simple, with an undeveloped caecum. The stomach is able to support large quantities of meat, bone, organs, and hide, which are processed with hydrochloric acid and become liquid.
Protein digestion begins in the stomach and continues in the small intestine, where the biggest part of the food is assimilated into nutrients. Dogs have relatively short intestines (around three times the body length). Unassimilated food passes into the large intestine, which is the last stop before the waste is eliminated from the body.
This means that dogs have changed on the outside, but their internal anatomy hasn’t changed with their physical appearance. Even if dogs were domesticated more than 10,000 years ago, their bodies are still designed to process food in the same way they were doing it in the wild. The fact that they are able to digest kibbles and other processed food does not actually mean that this is the healthiest eating option these pets can get from their owners.
Studies have shown that gastrointestinal diseases are some of the most listed as the cause of death in dogs (according to Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine), while the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports that 53% of dogs are overweight, which generally causes diseases like diabetes and arthritis. Most of these cases are the result of a lack of information on pet’s nutritional issues and the low quality of most commercial pet food. Even more, feeding the dog exclusively on kibbles seem to cause periodontal
On the other hand, feeding raw food to dogs is a controversial trend. The risks and benefits of raw meat diets haven’t been studied enough and none of the studies done until now is considered relevant, but there is some evidence on advantages when changing the dog’s diet. There are also risks pointed by a large number of veterinarians all over the world. When reading about the main disadvantages, owners must also take into consideration other factors, like the fact that most veterinarians sell dog food and that big dog food companies financially support veterinarians’ associations and schools.
Raw food enthusiasts consider a “natural” diet a healthier one, but all noticed positive changes occur only if the diet is done correctly based on the dog’s real needs. Dogs need protein, essential amino acids, essential vitamins and fatty acids from natural animal sources, fiber and nutrients. Their system doesn’t require high quantities of carbohydrates, as it cannot digest them properly. In fact, it is considered that, back in the wildlife, a dog’s diet was around 56% protein, 25-30% fat and only 14% carbohydrates, and by following a raw diet that respects this ancestral model, the pet’s health and living will improve.
These are some of the changes mentioned by owners who have adopted raw food diet for their dogs:
- Shinier coat and healthier skin
- Cleaner teeth and clean, fresh breath
- Higher energy levels
- Better weight maintenance
- Smaller, almost odourless stools
- Puppies develop in a more appropriate way, quick growth being avoided
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