Raw food diets not only mimic what your dog’s ancestors ate in the wild—they are also packed with natural flavors and valuable nutrients.
Some owners opt to make their pooch’s raw pet food at home with raw meats, organs and bones. This process can be fun and gratifying, but it’s also time-consuming and messy. Fortunately, there are freeze-dried and frozen options; these choices take the guesswork out of a raw food diet.
Designed for Raw Protein
Whether a fluffy Pomeranian or a rough-and-tumble big mixed breed, your dog is designed for raw protein. Pull back your dog’s gums and check out those powerful, pointy teeth. Their jaws chop up and down—not in a side-to-side grinding motion—which is ideal for cutting meat into chunks.
A dog’s gut and digestive system is also optimized for meat. Meat-eating animals—like dogs—also have a higher concentration of stomach acid to break down meat and bone. Dogs’ intestinal tracts are short and smooth, designed to push protein through quickly.
Raw dog food, also known as the BARF Diet (an acronym that stands for Bones and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food), is about more than just meat. It’s a mix of muscle meat, bones (either whole or ground), organ meats such as the liver and kidneys, raw eggs, vegetables and fruit.
Conventional Kibble Can’t Mimic Raw Food
Most conventional kibble contains grains like corn, oatmeal or rice to bind the protein source together. Grain-free dog food doesn’t use these inexpensive, lower-quality binders; instead, you’ll find ingredients such as potato, peas or lentils.
As you’ve already learned, dogs simply aren’t designed to ingest a lot of carbohydrates. “All carbohydrates, no matter what the type, ultimately break down into sugar,” notes Dr. Laurie Coger, veterinarian and owner of HealthyDogWorkshop.com. “Sugars feed obesity, cancer, and inflammation in the body, leading to diabetes, arthritis, chronic ear and skin infections, and worse.”
Conventional kibble can contain substandard ingredients, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and other food-grade chemicals. The process of creating kibble can strip otherwise wholesale ingredients of their nutritional values. Manufacturers try to add these nutrients back in via synthetic vitamins and other enzymes, but it’s simply not the same as food in its natural, raw state.
Raw Dog Food Benefits
Proponents of the BARF Diet say that there are many raw dog food benefits. “Owners often mention that their dogs don’t smell anymore!” notes Dr. Coger. Other BARF benefits may include shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, higher energy levels and improved digestion.
Such pet nutrition may also improve a dog’s immune functioning. “I have seen several cancer dogs exceed their projected survival time, with no chemotherapy, by switching to fresh food and supplements,” says Dr. Coger.
Shelf-Stable Freeze-Dried Options
Dog food that must be kept in the freezer is certainly easier than making raw food from scratch, but freeze-dried options are even simpler. Primal Duck Formula Nuggets Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Dog Food doesn’t have to be refrigerated or defrosted. Simply pour this mix of grass-fed, ranch-raised elk and bison, cage-free quail and duck, and steelhead trout from bag to bowl. Multiple sources of protein provide a great mix of nutrients. The low-glycemic fresh fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients and help maintain digestive health while limiting overall carbohydrates.
If your pup simply loves treats, you can try something like Halo Liv-A-Littles Grain-Free 100% Chicken Breast Freeze-Dried Dog and Cat Treats. With 80% freeze-dried chicken protein, these snacks let you reward your dog in a low-calorie, natural and nutritious way—with no artificial colors or flavors.
How to Transition Your Dog to Raw Food
While a raw food diet is what your dog’s ancestors ate, it’s probably not what your pup is accustomed to eating. Sudden changes in diet can result in digestive issues, so introduce any new food slowly by mixing it with your fur baby’s current food for the first 7-10 days. Each day, decrease the amount of the old food and increase the portion of the new raw dog food.
Whenever serving raw food, be sure to follow basic food safety principles, including thoroughly washing your hands and all surfaces the raw food comes in contact with. If your pup is a messy eater, you may also want to wipe down his face after each meal.