While the raw diet for dogs has its detractors, especially veterinarians and canine nutritionists, its supporters list many benefits. They believe strongly that the diet not only helps their dogs become healthier but the humans benefit as well.
Benefits of Raw Dog Food for Dogs
Fans of the raw dog food diet have given several reasons why they've found the diet to be so beneficial to their dogs. While there isn't much scientific research to support their claims, there are many anecdotal reports from satisfied users of the raw diet for dogs.
Safer Food Choices
Many people change to a raw food diet because of their fears over the safety of commercially prepared food. There have been many public recalls of major dog food brands in the last few decades that have left a bad taste in pet owners' mouths over feeding kibble and canned food. Owners who practice a healthy lifestyle are concerned as well with the amount of chemicals and preservatives in commercially prepared food. They believe these additives are leading to more diseases for dogs like cancer as well as skin, coat and allergy problems. While one can't say a raw food diet is free of risks since salmonella and other pathogens can be a real concern, supporters believe the benefits of feeding the diet outweigh the risks when it comes to providing a safer diet.
Improved Skin and Coat
One of the first significant changes that people who switch their dogs to a raw food diet notice is the change in the dog's skin and coat. Dogs on this diet tend to have more lustrous, shinier coats and issues like dry skin and skin allergies seem to disappear fairly quickly.
Another notable change that raw dog food feeders report is that their dogs seem to be more energetic. Some even report their dogs appear energetic but in a more focused and less frenetic manner, which might be due to the decrease in carbohydrates which can have the same effect on people. The level of starch in commercial kibble can cause a dog's blood sugar to rise after eating which leads to insulin project and that "hyper" burst of energy which eventually leads to a drop in blood sugar and a sleepy dog. This scenario does not happen with dogs on a properly balanced raw diet. More carbohydrates and starch also tend to lead to fat dogs.
More Access to Nutrients
Cooking food can lead to less of the nutrients that are naturally occurring. As all commercially prepared kibble and canned diets are cooked as part of their processing, raw diet feeders believe that dogs receive much less of the nutrients they possibly could gain from their food. Another facet to this claim is that cooking kills necessary enzymes in the food that are needed for digestion. However, this is not accurate as dogs already have the necessary enzymes in their stomachs to digest their food properly.
Better Dental Health
Dogs on the raw food diet can show improvement in their teeth because of the inclusion of bones helps to clean their teeth and gums more than commercial kibble or canned food. This benefit may vary from dog to dog as some owners grind their bones rather than allow dogs to chew them whole. Others feed a commercial raw food diet that's composed of medallions or patties. Even so, raw feeders feel that their dogs still experience dental benefits because the healthier ingredients lead to fresher breath.
Decrease in Major Illnesses
This is an often repeated claim that is as yet mostly anecdotal without any long-term scientific studies to support it. Owners believe that their dogs changing to a raw food diet has led to a stronger immune system and less serious illnesses like cancer, kidney diseaese, diabetes, allergies, and more. Dogs also reportedly suffer fewer problems from arthritis which could be due to the increase in protein, fatty acids and other nutrients which slow the development of joint and skeletal problems. They also are less likely to become obese, assuming their owners are not overfeeding them.
Less Risk of Bloat
Another benefit of the raw diet for dogs is the high water content in the food. This means that the potential for gastric torsion, or bloat, occurring is decreased. This terrible condition can be fatal with deep chested dogs like Great Danes, German Shepherds and Weimaraners.
Meal Times Become Enrichment
Because dogs on the raw food diet have to "work" more at their food, especially if they're eating raw meaty bones, meals become a form of mental enrichment. Dogs can leave their meals feeling calmer and less hyper because they've had a mental and physical workout. It also provides dogs with an excellent opportunity to engage in their natural need for chewing, which can also lead to happier, more relaxed dogs.
Benefits of Raw Dog Food for Owners
Dog owners who believe in the raw dog food diet highlight that the diet not only helps their dogs, it helps them as dog owners. There are a few clear benefits of the diet for owners.
More Time With Your Dog
One of the most significant benefits that raw dog food feeders believe they get is a longer, happier lifespan with their dog.
Easier Clean Up After Your Dog
In addition, most owners love the fact that their dogs have firmer dryer stools that are easier to scoop up and less odorous. Along with this change they'll often notice a marked decrease in flatulence which will make any dog owner happy, especially if you live with one of the "gassier" breeds.
Fewer Veterinary Bills
Another benefit is a reported decrease in veterinary bills. While the raw dog food diet is more expensive than most commercially prepared kibble and canned diets, a reduction in veterinary visits, medications and procedures for serious illnesses may save owners more money over the long term.
How Owners Might Dilute the Benefits of a Raw Dog Food Diet
While there are benefits to feeding this diet, if not fed properly owners can lessen the positive impacts. Some of the most common ways that owners can make mistakes with a raw dog food diet are:
- Preparing nutritionally unbalanced recipes that can have short and long-term negative effects on a dog's health.
- Feeding the wrong types of bones that can cause obstructions and choking incidents.
- Not feeding any bones, which can reduce necessary nutrients in a dog's diet like calcium and phosphorus.
- Overfeeding their dogs without consulting with their veterinarian about the right amount of raw to feed each day. This can lead to obesity, although this can happen with any type of diet.
- Not practicing safe food handling skills to prevent foodborne illnesses like salmonella.
Is Feeding Raw Best for You and Your Dog?
If you haven't made the decision yet about switching your dog to a raw diet, talk to your veterinarian about the pros and cons. It's important to research the diet thoroughly and understand how to feed a raw dog food diet properly. It's very easy to make common mistakes with this diet that can negatively impact your dog's health. While there are obvious anecdotal benefits to the diet, make sure you're aware of the risks as well to make an informed decision.