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Is a raw food diet right for you and your pet?

With pet food companies being acquired by larger corporations and the continuing problems with pet food recalls, consumers are very concerned about the quality of the food they feed their pets. The number one question I am asked at Pet Source is “how safe is the food that I am feeding my pet?”

When a pet food company is acquired by a larger corporation sometimes the quality of the food may change. The new company may change ingredient suppliers or sometimes change the formula itself. These changes are not publicized and consumers are left totally unaware. Normally, your pet will let you know something has changed. You may notice a difference in his/her coat or in the palatability of the food.

This has led to the interest in feeding a raw food diet. Racing greyhounds and sled dogs have been fed raw diets for years. In 1993, an Australian veterinarian named Ian Billinghurst published an article about how a raw diet would benefit an adult dog. BARF, an acronym for Bones and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food was introduced. Dr. Billinghurst suggested that adult dogs would thrive on a diet based on what canines ate before domestication. You see television ads today suggesting that you should feed their inner wolf.

Before you jump in and change your pet’s diet, you should weigh the plusses and minuses of feeding a raw food diet. Potential benefits of a raw diet include shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, higher energy levels, smaller firmer stools, and feeding a non-processed food. Vitamin and mineral levels may be more available and not reduced from cooking. A raw diet generally consists of muscle meat, bones (usually ground), organ meats such as liver and kidneys, raw eggs, vegetables, fruits, and some dairy (usually yogurt). A complete raw diet will also contain a balanced vitamin and mineral package. A raw diet is designed to be fed uncooked and served cold. Generally, you will take a few days’ feeding levels out of the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator. You then remove the daily portion from the refrigerator and immediately feed your pet. After your pet has eaten, you pick up the dish and thoroughly clean. This prevents the potential of salmonella.A complete raw diet will also contain a balanced vitamin and mineral package. Click To Tweet

There are potential risks to feeding a raw food diet. They include bacteria threats to your pet and yourself, feeding an unbalanced diet may lead to health risks, large pieces of bones could lead to choking or cracked teeth. Carefully compare raw diets to be sure that the diet you choose is a complete and a healthy choice. There are raw diets that are not intended to be a lone diet. They are designed as a supplementary diet. Today’s dogs are no longer true carnivores. We have changed them into omnivores.  Is there an adverse effect of feeding a high protein diet to todays dogs?  Will it adversely affect livers and kidneys later in life? We may not know these answers for several years. Raw diets are also more expensive to feed.

I talk to a lot of veterinarians and some are for and some are against feeding raw diets. Our customers who feed raw, swear by it. It is not for everyone and every dog. I tried feeding a raw food diet to my English bulldog, Rudy, and he hated it. He does however love his freeze-dried raw food. He didn’t like the texture or the temperature of the raw diet. And remember that feeding a raw diet requires more management on your part to ensure safety for you and your pet. Do your research before jumping in. Make sure it is what you think is best for you and your best friend. If you decide to change diets, do so slowly. Let your dog’s stomach adjust.

Larry Jandrew has owned The Pet Source in Hendersonville since 1999. Before that, he spent decades in various capacities in pet food businesses.

photo credit: Günter Hentschel Sam, ein Hund macht Urlaub. via photopin (license)


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