Dog Nutrition Series: Raw and Homemade
This is the final part in the series on dog nutrition. The first two posts are an Introduction and a discussion on Kibble and Wet Food. This post will go over raw diets and homemade diets. There is a list of sources at the end of this article to get you started on research when it comes to choosing the best food for your dog. Remember to consult your veterinarian when making any changes to your pets diet.
What is a Raw Diet?
A raw diet is exactly what it sounds like, feeding your dog uncooked meat, animal products and vegetables in order to provide a balanced diet. It focuses on feeding whole foods in a way that more closely mimics their natural diets. There are companies that sell frozen, dehydrated or freeze-dried food as well as a movement of owners who make their own at home. There are 2 main branches of raw feeding, BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) and PMR (Prey Model Raw). PMR is based on feeding the whole animal and include muscle meat, bones, organs and hair, feathers and nails. The BARF diet includes everything in the PMR diet as well as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
What is a Homemade Diet?
A homemade diet is one that is simply made at home. It also focuses on feeding whole foods that are minimally processed. They can be a complete diet, used as a topper or mix in, or used occasionally to help with digestion or illness. They can be cooked, raw, or a mix of the two.
Why feed raw or homemade?
The primary reason that most people choose a raw or homemade diet is because they want to make sure that they are feeding their pets high quality food and know exactly what they are eating. There are no preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors or other questionable ingredients.
What are the benefits of a raw diet?
There needs to be more studies on raw diets, and there are a few in the works, but anecdotally people report better dental health, shinier coats, healthier skin, better digestion, more energy, less allergy symptoms and improved health for those with chronic illnesses. In addition, most dogs seem to love eating it and owners love that they are able to better understand what it is that their dogs are eating.
What are the problems with raw and homemade diets?
There are 2 main issues with raw and homemade diets. The first is the risk of disease such as e-coli and salmonella that can be in raw animal products. The chances that a healthy dog will get sick from eating small amounts of these food-born bacteria is fairly low, however it is easy for a person to get sick from it. To avoid any issues, always keep meat frozen and thaw in the refrigerator, until ready to use and don't leave partially eaten food out in their bowl. Also make sure to practice good hygiene when preparing raw or homemade food. Wash the counter and utensils after you have finished and wash your hands thoroughly. The second is that they are not properly balanced and lack certain vital nutrients. This is primarily the case for homemade diets as commercially available raw diets should meet nutrition requirements. If you choose to do a homemade diet, it is very important that you consult your vet or a veterinary nutritionist and do a lot of research to make sure you are including everything your dog needs.
So should I feed a raw or homemade diet?
Good question, and unfortunately only you can answer that. You must take into consideration your budget, time, your dogs life stage and illnesses or allergies. And with all diet changes, it is important to consult your vet beforehand.
For more information, I listed some resources for you to start your own research. I encourage you to scour the web and the library as well as speak to your vet about nutrition and nutrition resources. Just remember to keep in mind who is publishing the information.