What is the benefit of putting my Pet on a Raw Food Diet?
Oh, boy -- too many!
The most common benefits of a raw diet include:
Can Raw Food make my pet ill?
If you properly transitioned your dog onto raw, and if your dog eats a diet of safe, human-grade raw foods (in the proper proportions), a raw diet should not make your dog ill.
When transitioning onto raw, it's important to do so incrementally and introduce new foods slowly or your dog may experience digestive upset. Some detox symptoms are common when switching as well but these are not symptoms of illness. Dogs with GI disease may need more assistance to transition to raw but it can successfully be done. To read more information on transitioning and how to avoid digestive upset click here
With that said, anything you feed your dog has the potential to make them ill. And all dogs are different and of course, some are healthier than others so that must be taken into consideration. That's why I always suggest new raw feeders consult with their vet if their dogs have specific health conditions. From there, I recommend those new to raw move slowly and make sure they're sourcing quality foods and of course, using proper food safety handling techniques. These things alone remove much of the risk.
We’ve heard things like pets having ‘a taste for meat’ and becoming slightly aggressive on Raw Diets, are these misconceptions towards Raw Food Diets?
Yes, this is a common misconception!
I hear from new and established raw feeders every day. After 6+ years of running a blog and fielding questions, I've never once heard from a dog owner that had a dog become more aggressive on a raw diet.
In fact, most of the raw feeders I know have great control of their dogs around mealtime. My dog, for example, sits in front of his bowl and doesn't touch his food until he receives the "okay" command. Many other raw feeders have similar routines. In addition, lots of raw feeders actually choose to hand-feed raw meaty bones to their dog (I do too!) Hand feeding creates a closer bond between the dog and their guardian.
If raw diets were causing aggression, it's likely there wouldn't be thousands of raw feeders out there touting a raw diet (and the benefits they're seeing) or feeding their dogs by hand.
How much raw meat can I feed my Pet a Day? Does it depend on their size, if they are a cat or dog?
I only blog about raw diets for dogs so let me answer this with dogs in mind...
You can either use calories or a body weight percentage to get a rough idea of how much raw food to feed your dog. When using calories, you'll calculate your dog's caloric need to figure out how many calories they should be eating a day. The only problem with this method is that unless you feed complete and balanced prepackaged raw dog food, you may have trouble finding the calories in the food you're feeding. This is especially true if you're feeding a homemade diet you create yourself.
To get around this and to simply things, most raw feeders feed their dogs a percentage of their ideal, adult body weight. Percentages range based on your dog's life stage (puppy, adult, senior, pregnant/nursing), their activity level, and whether or not they need to gain weight or lose weight. I go into detail about how to determine how much raw food to feed your dog click here
The important thing to remember is that both of these methods give you a starting point on how much to feed but it will likely need to be tweaked over time (as your dog ages, and even during the various seasons!). In the article above, I talk about body condition (think of it like a person's BMI chart). You'll use body condition to determine if you need to tweak the amount your feeding your dog. If your dog is losing weight and is under an ideal body condition, you feed more. Likewise, if they're overweight, you'll decrease.
Most of us don't measure and weigh every single thing we eat each day so keep in mind that you don't have to do that for your dog to feed a fresh, raw food diet. As long as your paying attention to their body condition and overall health, it's okay to estimate food quantity.
Do Raw Food Diets help with illness?
I believe so! Obviously, a raw diet (or any diet for that matter) is not a cure-all for every disease or ailment but in my opinion, it can certainly help. I believe a REAL food diet, one full of high-quality, raw foods can be the best option for dogs, especially sick dogs. This is because a raw food diet will be the most nutrient dense (have the highest concentration of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes). It's also free of processing, preservatives, and other chemical additives (many of which are linked to diseases and other health issues).
In my FREE ebook, "Why You Need to Feed Your Dog a Raw Diet," I outline how traditional wet and dry pet foods (even the good brands) contribute to inflammation in the body and how the ingredients used can be linked to certain diseases.
I strongly believe a raw diet, consisting of real, unprocessed foods have tremendous healing capabilities. What's even more exciting is how many success stories I hear from pet owners all over the world who were able to stop and/or reverse disease through a quality raw diet and other natural means (i.e. cancer, liver disease, etc.).
How much food prep is involved a Raw Food Diet Plan for my Pet?
This depends on what type of raw diet you choose to feed.
Some dog owners feed prepackaged raw dog food that's as simple as defrosting and serving, with zero prep involved. Other dog owners choose to feed a homemade raw diet, which involves more time and preparation. It's difficult to give an estimate on prep time because it depends on the size of your dog, how many dogs you have, and how far in advance you prep their food. For example, do you prep raw dog food for the week, a month, or two months in advance?
In the beginning, it may feel like more work. But once you get the hang of it and get a system in place, it's not too bad. I have a 120-lb Italian Mastiff and my boyfriend and I spend about two hours doing a big meal prep. We freeze everything into individual meals and it usually lasts us about two months. Meal prep is something I plan to cover on the blog at length soon because once you have some guidance on how best to set everything up, it can run pretty smoothly.
It's also what you make of it. Turn on some music, pour yourself a glass of wine (or grab a beer) and before you know it -- you're done!
What is in the typical dish contain and how long is it’s shelf life?
Raw diets can vary quite a bit and may change based on the version you feed.
But to simplify, every raw diet usually contains muscle meat, edible bone, and organs/offal. From there, it's optional whether you choose to include plant material (fruits, vegetables, herbs), nuts and seeds, and/or dairy.
If you're purchasing prepackaged raw dog food, it's best to ask the manufacturer what the shelf life is.
If feeding a homemade raw diet, it can hold up to 1-2 days in the refrigerator if it's a ground mixture and a little longer if it's in larger cuts. Though, raw meals will last much longer if frozen. The USDA recommends tossing out any whole, raw meats from your freezer after a year and any frozen, ground meats after 4 months. I think a good safety net would be to use the 3-month rule for frozen, raw meals. If you're freezing cooked meat, I'd feed it in 2 months or less.
Is there any raw food I CANNOT give my pet?
Yes, of course! The same foods you know to be dangerous to dogs like macadamia nuts, chocolate, etc also apply here and should be avoided in both cooked or raw form. For a complete list of foods to avoid your dog, I would ask your vet or fire up Google. With that said, there are a lot of foods that are cautioned against in traditional "what not to feed your dog" articles that are safe (and even beneficial) in moderation.
For example, garlic is one of those ingredients. It gets a bad rap because it contains trace amounts of thiosulphate. In the right amounts, this substance can cause liver damage and other more serious health issues. However, studies show large quantities need to be consumed for this to occur. What many dog owners fail to realize is that garlic has antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties. It boosts the immune system, fights off fleas, and is a natural antibiotic that doesn’t disturb the delicate and beneficial bacteria in the gut, which is key for digestion and immunity. It’s generally safe for dogs to eat ½ clove per 10 pounds of body weight each day (though I advise you to check with your veterinarian first).
But with anything, if you read conflicting information and you're not sure, play it safe! Avoid feeding anything that you're not sure is safe or makes you uncomfortable. There are plenty of ingredients out there!
Is there any point in a pet’s life when they shouldn’t be on a Raw Food Diet - such as if they are ill, pregnant, very young or very old?
Great question. Raw may not be the right fit for every dog.
First thing, if you're not going to take the time to learn how to feed a balanced and varied raw diet to your dog, it's best to stick to prepackaged raw dog food or traditional pet foods. Raw meat alone will not give your dog everything they need nutritionally and feeding a diet of nothing but hunks of meat can cause problems over time.
Believe it or not, most dogs can eat raw. Remember, eating raw food happens in mother nature every day for wild and domesticated animals around the world. It's us humans who make it complicated. :)
Puppies can be weaned from their mothers milk directly to raw and there are many breeders who do so. Senior dogs can also eat raw diets, as long as you transition slowly and give them time to adapt. I talk about this in my transition article referenced above. Pregnant dogs can also eat raw, though I don't recommend you switch their diet as soon as they become pregnant. It might be easier if your dog was already accustomed to raw.
For dogs that are sick, I believe raw diets can be beneficial but it depends on a variety of factors. What are the health issues your dog has and how can a raw diet be adapted? There may be certain foods, ingredients or even macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) that need to be adjusted for certain health conditions. This is where having a conversation with your veterinarian or an experienced nutritionist comes in.
Some people believe that immunocompromised dogs should not eat raw diets. The thought is that their impaired immune systems may not be able to deal with the bacteria in raw meat as well a healthy dog would. I personally don't find this to be a hard and fast rule because nutrition actually plays a major role in strengthening the immune system! Plus, there are accounts from pet parents all over the world who have found success treating cancer with ketogenic, raw diets and supplements. And cancer would be a prime example of an impaired immune system.
As with anything it may depend on your dog. Since I'm not a veterinarian, I'm can't tell you that every dog can eat raw. I can only share my personal opinion. Obviously, if you (or any dog owner) has concerns about the health of their dog and which diet is appropriate, they should contact their veterinarian.
But here's one more thing to consider:
At the end of the day, remember raw food isn't some special category.
It's REAL food -- plain and simple. All species need real food to thrive, so I wouldn't completely discount raw diets when it comes to illness. I know if I were sick, I wouldn't touch processed food. Instead, I would only fuel my body with high-quality, nutritious raw and cooked foods.