This article is not to be taken in place of veterinary advice.
Raw food diets are becoming increasingly popular, but they are no new concept. Raw diets are similar to the original doggie diet because the hounds of yesteryear hunted and ate raw meat on the regular. Dogs’ bodies are made to digest decaying flesh, and they are capable of processing bacteria and germs that can easily make humans sick. But until the last decade or so, the market availability for safely prepared and packaged raw diets was slim.
When we talk about raw diets, it’s more involved than cutting up some raw chicken and putting it in a bowl. Raw diets are supplemented with other ingredients to give dogs the nutrients they need. Companies commonly supplement raw meat with fruits and vegetables, organs, bone, vitamins, and minerals. So, we are not saying you should feed your dog raw meat alone. Getting raw food that is already prepared is definitely the way to go.
But if you’re like me, you grew up in a house where the dogs ate kibble and were perfectly fine. So what’s the difference between that and a raw diet? Can it really help dogs that already seem to live long and happy lives?
Think of it this way: When you give a sports car premium gas, it performs better than if it were running on regular gas. When you give a dog a raw diet, they’re more likely to perform better because it’s what they are meant to have.
When looking at all the factors, it makes sense that raw diets are more suitable for dogs than kibble, as long as you do them correctly.
How a raw diet will change your dog
They digest faster
Dogs absorb almost everything when you feed them raw food. Therefore, dogs poop less frequently and overall produce less fecal matter. Your dog is able to go longer on less food, compared to a kibble diet.
Additionally, because dogs aren’t consuming as much junk, they spend less time and energy digesting food. While kibble stays in a dog’s stomach for 7-9 hours, raw food only takes 1-2 hours to digest. Less energy spent digesting food = more energy to have fun.
It helps balance out their physique
Dogs have been known to lose excess weight or gain needed weight on a raw diet. Depending on where they’re at, a raw diet helps dogs get to a healthy weight.
It’s pretty simple: upgrading to higher-quality food gives dogs more energy because there is less junk to filter out. Your dog gets the essential nutrients they need to feel their best, without carrying a load of carbs and fillers in their bodies all day. From our experience, 10-year-old Jack Russell Brecken switched to a raw diet, and now has more energy to keep up with the rest of the pack on hikes and beach excursions. His owner definitely notices a difference in his energy levels.
Less satiating; more scrounging
Because raw diets minimize the need for extra ingredients, this can leave dogs feeling like they got less than they’re used to. This could lead to scrounging, or in other words, looking for where the good treats are hidden. It’s like going to the Olive Garden and getting the salad without the breadsticks: maybe you feel lighter because you just had the salad, but you’re not as full or satisfied without the breadsticks.
What to look for
Always check the ingredients | As we mentioned earlier, raw food diets are supplemented with ingredients other than meat to get your dog the most nutrients. If you can find a food that uses real vegetables and whole foods rather than synthetic vitamin packets, your dog will get more nutrients per meal. And of course, the most-used ingredients will always be labeled first, so you’re really looking for direct protein sources to be the first few ingredients.
Avoid freezer burn | If you see freezer burn on a raw food product, it’s likely past its prime. If you can help it, choose food without freezer burn for optimal quality.
Wash your hands | Dogs are capable of processing germs that humans are not. That’s why it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly when handling raw food. And you shouldn’t cook raw food because it will lose a lot of nutritional value.
Signs of Refreezing | If the product has time to thaw out, it will fill with oxygen. So you can tell if products have been refrozen if there’s a lot of air in the bag. (You’ll be able to tell because the bag will look and feel like a balloon.) Avoid re-frozen food because it could easily be contaminated.
Who is this diet ideal for?
Most dogs can benefit from switching to a raw food diet. But there are a few groups who can especially benefit:
Seniors: Much like humans, when dogs get older, their metabolisms slow down. Raw diets have higher water content and less fat than kibble. Additionally, senior dogs benefit from a low-glycemic and low-phosphorus diet, which usually has less bone in it. Less bone = less ash. ‘Ash‘ is what vitamin and mineral deposits are referred to in the dog food world. Ash can easily build up in kidneys and can form stones or crystals. Kibble sometimes will have a lot of ash in it and that’s bad for senior dogs. Many senior dog diets are designed with this in mind, so it’s something that can help make your dog’s golden years especially golden.
Picky Eaters: Raw food tends to be much more palatable than kibble. Raw meat triggers a siren in your dog’s brain that goes, this feels right. And that’s due to generations of dogs hunting for themselves and eating raw meat. So if your dog is picky when it comes to kibble or wet food, raw food is definitely worth trying.
Dogs with Allergies: Having a dog with allergies can make it difficult to find foods they can eat. Additionally, narrowing down what your dog is allergic to can be easier with a limited-ingredient diet. Most raw food diets have fewer ingredients than an average kibble formula. And because these meals are so customizable, you can usually get raw food tailored to your dog’s needs.
How to start
You may have experienced what it’s like to switch kibbles on your dog. It can be messy. But when you go from kibble to a raw diet, the transition is smoother because there are fewer ingredients that are easier for dogs to digest in raw food diets. Whereas when you’re switching between kibbles, you’re introducing your dog to all sorts of new supplemental ingredients.
For the safety of your dog (and the floors in your home), we recommend easing them into a raw diet. Start by introducing a bit of the new food with their old food, and gradually give them less of their old food. Try this over the course of a week, and hopefully, your dog’s tummy will have a smooth transition.
If you want to try switching your dog to a raw food diet, here are a few brands you can check out:
My Perfect Pet
If you want your dog to try raw food, but you’re skeptical about handling raw meat, try My Perfect Pet. This food is lightly cooked and packaged in bricks, making it easy for you. They have a wide range of formulas for both dogs and cats. Learn more about My Perfect Pet here.
Tuckers Raw Frozen Dog Food
Tuckers vacuum seals each serving of food for optimal quality. They make it really easy: measure out how much food your dog should have based on their chart, thaw, and serve. They also have raw frozen bones and treats, if you want to really treat your pup. Learn more about Tucker’s Raw Frozen Dog Food here.
Primal Pet Foods
Primal is a popular brand that makes freeze-dried and frozen patties. They even have kibble-shaped raw food, for the real kibble-lovers out there. Additionally, Primal has starter packs for dogs and cats that feature different flavors, so you can see if your dog likes it before committing to an entire bag. Learn more about Primal Pet Foods here.
Stella & Chewy’s
Stella & Chewy’s have made a raw protein kibble, that has raw nutrition sprinkled on baked kibble. If you want to try raw food, but can’t get down with serving your dog raw meat, try this mix. Having a kibble / raw nutrition blend can be really beneficial for highly active dogs who burn more calories than the average dog per day. Learn more about Stella & Chewy’s here.
We wish you the best of luck transitioning your dog to a raw food diet. Leave us a comment telling us about your experience feeding your dog a raw diet!