Frequently Asked Questions About Feeding Your Pets a Raw Diet.
There are many, many questions, myths and misconceptions about feeding your dog or cat a diet of raw meat. We don’t have all the answers, but here we try to explain what raw is (and is not) and why we believe it is a healthy alternative to store-bought, mass-produced cat and dog food.
What is raw feeding?
When raw feeding, what you see is what you get. There are no hidden ingredients, no fillers. All the mystery is taken out of your pet’s meals. A raw diet is composed of the same food you eat, but as it suggests, nothing is cooked.
Why should I feed raw?
Raw is the most natural of all foods. Highest quality protein, muscle building, living tissues & bone provide the natural source of nutrients absolutely necessary for good health in dogs & cats. In the wild, cats and dogs did not have little cooked pellets that contained cooked vegetables and grains, (or cooked meat, for that matter), thus their systems are not made for digesting these ingredients. A raw diet is a direct evolution of what cats & dogs ate before they became our pets.
Should I cook the raw food?
No. The object of feeding raw food is to maintain optimum nutritional sources. Enzymes and nutritional values are lost in the cooking process.
What about safe handling?
As with any raw meat, certain practices are recommended. Keep the raw meat frozen, thaw in refrigerator or in cold water. After thawing, use mean in two to three days. Never leave raw meat out at room temperature for long periods of time. Always wash hands, food bowls & cutting boards with warm soapy water.
Some pet owners who have made the switch have noticed dramatic changes in their pets, including:
- Shinier, healthier skin
- Fresher breath/cleaner teeth
- Improved digestion
- Improvement with allergy symptoms
- Decreased shedding
- Increased stamina
- Firmer, smaller stools
- A general increase in overall health
How do I start my dog on a raw diet?
A dog on a raw diet should eat several different meats. For example, one type of meat may be higher in iron; while another may be higher in vitamin A. This is why a rotating diet is recommended in order to maintain a healthy raw diet. Also, your dog does need organ meat, for its high nutrient content. It’s recommended to feed liver or kidney as 10% of their diet.
When you first start your dog on raw, introduce one protein source at a time. Feed chicken for a week, then beef for a week, and so on, to introduce these foods to your pet’s system. This way you can easily detect a protein allergy.
A note on bacteria: Raw meat is not safe for humans because of bacteria like e-coli and Salmonella. But when a dog is in good overall health, canine digestive systems are have some natural immunity to bacteria, and can handle the bacteria in meat without issue.
Grains are completely unnecessary- since commercial pet foods are always grain-based diets, many people are used to the idea that their dogs need grain. It’s just not true. Some of the positive effects of feeding raw are related to eliminating grain from your dog’s diet.
Raw bones are beneficial for your dog’s dental hygiene. Raw knuckle bones (the joints) in particular are great because they are soft and still have some tendons and muscle meat attached. These bones clean your dog’s teeth in addition to providing them with a nice oral workout – not to mention a healthy dose of natural calcium. Raw knuckle bones are soft and allow dogs of all sizes to scrape their teeth into the bone, nicely cleaning food and tartar from their teeth.
A raw bone is not going to splinter. NEVER feed cooked bones! Cooked bones run the risk of splintering.
How much does my dog need to eat?
The general rule is to feed a healthy adult dog between 2-4% of its weight daily, and then adjust as needed. If you have an overweight dog, start on the lower end of the spectrum, if you have a dog that needs to gain a little bit of weight, start closer to 4%. You will also be able to judge by looking at your dog – if he is looking a little thin, bump up his meat intake. Raw diets are ideal for growing puppies. Puppies may require up to 10% of their weight daily.
Will my dog get sick eating raw meat?
The dog is a carnivore with a digestive system and process designed to break down and assimilate protein, bones, and fat. Their stomachs have a much higher level of hydrochloric acid to digest and assimilate meat protein. Dogs are surprisingly well-equipped to deal with bacteria. Their saliva has antibacterial properties; it contains lysozyme, and enzyme that lyses and destroys harmful bacteria. Their short digestive tract is designed to push through food and bacteria quickly without giving bacteria time to colonize. The extremely acidic environment in the gut is also a good bacteria colonization deterrent. Raw meat diets are easily digestible and have no carbohydrates.
Be sure to keep yourself well by washing your hands and feeding dishes that come in contact with raw meat.
Do I need to supplement my dog’s diet?
Dogs require a vast array of amino acids that are only found in meat. Meat is also high in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 can be supplemented with either fish oil capsules or flax seed supplements. Some studies indicate that raw diets may be lacking in iodine. Adding kelp to the diet provides iodine, which is important in maintaining proper thyroid functioning. Iodine in the form of salt is added to most dry dog foods. Antioxidants and B-complex vitamins are supplied with alfalfa supplements or individual pills. Eating green tripe raw gives the dog essential fatty acids, amino acids and lactic acids to aid in digestion and processing of a high-protein diet, while its rubbery texture strengthens jaws and helps keep teeth clean.
General Nutrition Info for Cats
Water is an extremely important nutrient that contributes to overall health in every living creature. Cats are designed to obtain most of their water with their diet since their normal prey contains approximately 70-75% water. Dry foods only contain 1-10%.
Chicken meal is technically a muscle meat but the term “meal” denotes that it has been cooked for a long time at very high temperatures and may be lower in quality than meat that has not been as heavily processed. By-products can include feet, intestines, feathers, eggshells.
It is ideal to feed a grain-free diet. Unfortunately, grains are cheap so they are included in many commercial cat foods. Corn, wheat and soy are thought to be common allergens (as is yeast) and the carbohydrate fraction of these grains (especially grain flours) will cause a rise in blood sugar in many cats. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which negatively influences the thyroid gland. Given how common hyperthyroidism is in the cat, soy has no business being in cat food. Unfortunately, soy is a common ingredient used by pet food manufacturers.
Feeding a raw diet closely mirrors what cats would naturally eat in the wild and provides a broad range of benefits that include:
- Healthy skin and coat – Many cats are allergic to grains, which can lead to pathologic conditions
- Naturally, clean teeth – Many dry foods leave a starchy coating on teeth, which promotes plaque. Feeding a raw diet can lead to healthier teeth and gums.
- Decreased litter box odor – Many pet foods include a protein that is indigestible, which leads to an undesirable odor at the litter box.
- Natural weight control – Cats are healthiest on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet.
- Increased energy and vitality – Cat’s digestive systems are designed to ingest raw meat and are healthiest eating what nature intended.
Why should my cat eat a raw diet?
Cats are designed by mother nature to eat high protein diets that are very low in carbohydrates. This dietary model is beneficial for cats because their digestive systems are very acidic and short, which means they have a limited amount of time to extract the nutrients they need from their food. They need to digest food quickly and effectively. Raw food is perfect for their specialized physiology because nutrients are in their most bio-available form.
Should I cook my cat’s food?
Any cooking or pasteurization process changes the structure of proteins and requires more time and energy to digest. Due to cats’ short digestive and bowel transit time, some of these cooked protein sources are never completely digested. This can lead to compromised nutritional status and many symptoms associated with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
What about the protein in dry food?
The protein in dry food, which is often heavily plant-based, is not equal in quality to the protein in meat.
Plant proteins are cheaper than meat proteins, and so pet food companies will have a higher profit margin when using corn, wheat, soy, rice, etc. Cats lack specific metabolic (enzymatic) pathways and cannot utilize plant proteins as efficiently as animal proteins. Cats are designed to get their protein from meat – not plants.
Another important issue with regard to the protein contained in dry and canned food is that it has been cooked at very high temperatures for a long period of time. Over-cooked, over-processed canned and kibbled products decrease the biological value of the protein sources and the other natural nutritional value of food. On the labels of cooked products, there is a long list of supplements that have to be added due to the destruction of the naturally present vitamins and other nutrients originally contained in the ingredients. Taurine is one of the most important protein amino acids that is present in meat but is missing from plants. Taurine deficiency will cause blindness and heart problems in cats.