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Reconnecting with what is good in food: Raw food diet for dogs

Raw food diet for dogs like this boston terrier

The popularity of the raw food diet for dogs is rising – diets that emphasize raw meat, bones, vegetables, and fruit. After all, racing sled dogs and greyhounds have for a long time been eating raw food diets. Extending these practices to your dog friend is the ‘brainchild’ so to speak of Australian veterinarian, Dr. Ian Billinghurst. He called his feeding suggestions the BARF diet, meaning the Bones and Raw Food diet.

It is Billinghurst who suggested that adult dogs would thrive on an evolutionary diet, all based on what dogs ate before becoming domesticated. He contended that grain-based commercial pet foods were harmful to a dog’s health. A lot of the mainstream vets disagree and also the FDA. There are thought to be risks documented in studies from veterinary journals. These risks are associated with bacteria that you can find in raw meat; that an unbalanced diet can damage a dog’s health over extended periods, and that dogs can choke on the bones, etc., even cause puncturing to their internal organs.

What today’s common pet food ingredients really are

Golden Retriever Puppy in front of purple flowers

Pet food today in the USA is regulated at state and federal levels, including the FDA in the US. On pet food labels, you will notice ingredients that are listed in their order of weights. The foods with the highest volume of water, for instance, will be listed first before the ones that are added in smaller food amounts such as the dry and fresh ingredients. Dr. Jan Becker, veterinarian, at the website, PetNutritionInfo.com, says that these are what you will typically find in commercially available pet foods:

  • Lamb and lamb meal
  • Poultry byproducts meal and poultry meal
  • Meat and bone
  • Soybean
  • Poultry tallow
  • Animal fat
  • BHA, BHT 
  • Fillers

However, since Billinghurst’s book, Give Your Dog a Bone has been published, there have been other raw dog food diets emerging, including even commercially processed raw food diets that are freeze-dried or frozen, as well as combination diets that use blends of grains, vegetables, and vitamins and which have been mixed with raw meat.

What a raw diet for dogs typically consists of

Boston Terrier looking confused in the fall
  • Muscle meat – often still on the bone
  • Bones - either ground or whole
  • Organ meats – such as kidneys and livers
  • Raw eggs
  • Apples and other fruit
  • Vegetables – such as broccoli, spinach, and celery
  • Some dairy, such as yogurt

Not only is eating natural raw foods excellent and imperative for humans, but pet owners are turning to raw food diets for their dogs and cats as well. You might not realize it, but feeding your pet a natural diet is surely one of the most important steps and gifts you can give your pet long-term.

Meat, bone, fiber, fats, leafy green matter, organ meats - that is what your domestic cat or dog of today would have eaten at the dawn of time in order to survive and thrive. You might be thinking here that it all sounds pretty easy to just give your dog raw meat. But beware, that is not giving him a meal that is complete or balanced.

If you are interested in starting your best friend off on a raw diet, you will need to also include finely minced greens – this could be greens like sprouts, or parsley, wheat grass or barley, beetroot, or celery,  broccoli tops, baby spinach, sweet potato, kale or edible weeds like chickweed, dandelion, or cobbles pegs. Why must your dog get all these greens? Simply because greens add all the beneficial fiber and blood-cleansing phytonutrients.  Do it for a while and see how your dog thrives.

Black Lab Laying on carpet next to a toy

Around 20% of your dog’s meals can consist of leafy green matter – it’s outstanding for dogs that need to lose weight too. Naturally, cats will require a lower proportion of plant foods; only around 5-10% is adequate for them.  Some cats will even graze on pots of fresh herbs or wheatgrass if it is grown around the house.

If it is not possible for you to formulate a complete, balanced diet based on some of these recommendations, there are reputable companies out there, particularly the organic ones which will include muscle and organ meats in their foods, with probiotics that have been added, along with ground bone, all in perfect balance.  Some ensure that their excellent raw meal is totally free of factory farmed meats. You will find plenty of information you need online as well.

Top healthy raw food to include in your pet’s diet

1. Omega-3s and DHA

Wild canines of long ago would eat reptiles, organ meats, bone marrow, and fish, giving them their needed supply of these healthy fatty acids. You can add one to two tablespoons of salmon oil or fish oil daily, or even feed your dog fresh, wild salmon a couple of times a week



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2. Probiotics and digestive enzymes

There are some animals who maintain their condition and their appetites better if they receive digestive enzymes in their food in every meal.

Probiotics help to maintain a normal balance of bacteria in the digestive tract. Dogs that receive antimicrobials such as antibiotics or other medications should receive probiotics during treatment and even for a week after treatment.

Don’t try and give antimicrobials when your dog has a digestive upset. An animal which has loose stools will usually have abnormal bacteria, but that doesn’t mean that the answer means killing off all the bacteria, whether it is normal and abnormal. That will just increase the growth of any resistant organisms, including the potential for side effects.

The whole process of diet change can also unbalance any normal intestinal bacteria, so it is suggested that probiotics and digestive enzymes be given to dogs transitioning to raw foods.

See if coconut oil is a good choice for your dog!

3. Quality protein (collagen)

It is essential that pets get protein in because it helps them grow and maintain their muscle mass. 

Collagen is a type of protein that forms tissue in humans and pets. Collagen for dogs improves and maintains their overall health because it is packed with all essential amino acids and other compounds that support joint health like glucosamine. Choose high-quality collagen.

4. Healthy Fats

Boxer laying On The Grass With Its Tongue Out

Fats in your pet’s diet, which would be the fat that is found naturally in meat and animal parts maintain a healthy coat and regulates a dog’s weight. And just like in people, healthy fats support brain health.

5. Bone Broth

Bone broth for dogs is packed with nutrients, including amino acids and trace minerals. A lot of these nutrients are not easily obtained from other foods, especially high processed dog foods. Bone broth fills in the gaps in your dog’s diet, helping him with health challenges like dehydration, joint aches, diarrhea, upset stomach, and allergies. It can be time-consuming to make, but a good alternative is bone broth powder. Just use about a cup of bone broth as a topper and pour it over your dog’s meals, etc.

6. Vegetables are good

Vegetables, particularly the green leafy ones add to a dog’s diet and produce a good deal of natural vitamins, minerals, and fiber. There is some controversy around the raw feeding community whether one should add vegetables to a dog’s diet, and whether they are an appropriate part of a raw diet. 

You are the one to take the first step in protecting your furry best friend

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Raw Food Diet For Dogs By Molly Boman

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