Dog lovers and general pet lovers alike pay close attention to what comes into their beloved pets' mouths. What you feed your dog is basically the most important thing you should be mindful of when owning one.
Dogs are naturally and biologically built to be carnivores. Today's domesticated dogs are direct descendants of wolves, which are biologically designed to eat raw meat and perhaps some vegetables. Although sled dogs and racing greyhounds have been fed raw food for a very long time, the idea to introduce the same kind of diet for household dogs is proposed only around the past decade.
In 1993, Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinarian suggested that it may be best for domesticated dogs to be reintroduced to their ancestral ways - the raw food diet. Basically, this dog diet consists of mainly raw meat, bones, and pieces of vegetables. He also questioned the nutritional value of commercial dog foods; stating that they are unnatural and may be harmful for dogs. Since then, his idea was called the BARF diet which stands for either Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
Benefits of Raw Food Diet
Although modern day dog food is a convenient way to feed pets, evidence clearly indicates the nutritional deficit of kibble as compared to raw food.
In a nutritional comparison, commercial dog foods contain an unnecessarily high amount of carbohydrates at around 46-74% -- around four times the amount of carbohydrates present in raw foods (14%). In the other hand, the raw food diet contained high protein and fat value of 56% and 25-30% respectively, while commercial dog foods offered only an average of around 18-32% and 8-22%.
With the higher percentage of essential nutrients, the alternative diet has shown a number of substantiated benefits such as:
1. Healthier and shinier coats and skin
2. Smaller, firmer stools
3. Better digestion
4. Improved weight management
5. Cleaner and healthier teeth
6. Better sleep and energy
7. Reduced allergic reactions
There are also numerous reports of the success of raw food diet in treating chronic illnesses in dogs. This may be due to the commercial food that the dog has been eating prior to being introduced to this alternative diet.
While the above facts are accepted by the FDA and many mainstream veterinarians, the raw food diet for dogs does not come without its own down sides.
Negative Effects of Raw Food and How to Avoid Them
Other than being expensive, time consuming, and hard to sustain, there are still many potential risks with this approach.
First of all, raw meats are highly susceptible to being contaminated by certain pathogens and other bacteria. Since a dog's digestive system shorter and highly acidic, they are highly resistant to such contaminations. However, it poses a threat for the dog's human owners. The bacteria from these foods will be excreted in the dog's stools, but it can easily be transferred to carpets and other household furniture as well.
Although it can be threatening for young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems, being exposed to these pathogen residues can easily be easily avoided by observing overall hygienic practices.
While rich in protein and fat, the raw food diet does not offer a lot when it comes to other vitamins and minerals. This is because dogs are known to digest raw vegetables poorly. Although this problem can be addressed by lightly cooking the vegetables to aid in digestion, the best way to make sure your dog is getting balanced nutrition is to consult a veterinarian for advice.