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What is Raw Dog Food?

By Patrick Mahaney, VMD

Is it possible to make a raw food diet for dogs? In a word, yes. But first you must understand what is raw dog food. Raw food diets emulate the way dogs ate before the existence of commercial dog foods. After all, dry, canned, and other styles of cooked food for dogs were mainly created as a means of convenience. Unfortunately, this convenience may sometimes affect our pet's health. Here are some reasons you may want to consider a raw food diet for your dog.

A Brief History of Raw Dog Food

Prior to domestication and during the thousands of years before the creation of commercially available dry and canned dog food, canids killed live prey or scavenged on carcasses, vegetation, and the fecal material from other animals. None of these nutrient sources were cooked, unless the sun, environmental temperatures, or opportunistic bacteria provided sufficient heat. Dogs often endured extended periods between significant meals, on which they would gorge. To survive, early canines ate whatever they found whenever an opportunity presented.

These ancestors to today’s companion dog were likely not pristine examples of health, as malnutrition, intestinal parasites, and other diseases stem from inconsistent feeding and lack of appropriate veterinary medical care. However, modern society is now faced with an epidemic of overweight and obese dogs suffering numerous preventable and often irreversible ailments stemming from overconsumption of poorly balanced pet food. Fortunately, there is an alternative style of feeding for dogs — raw feeding.

 Benefits of Raw Whole Foods for Dogs

According to some veterinary nutritionists, dogs that eat raw whole foods tend to be healthier than those on other diets. Why? There are inherent beneficial enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and other energetic qualities in meats, fruits, vegetables and grains in their natural, unprocessed forms that are denatured or destroyed upon cooking.

"Nature’s products are so much more beautiful and complex, containing biological activity, harmony, and synergy," wrote Dr. Judith A DeCava in her book Good Foods/Bad Foods.  "Human products cannot come close to Nature’s work and are clearly lacking in many important areas."

For instance, many nutritionists believe dogs that are on a raw food diet are less likely to have adverse allergic reactions to the ingredients.

Transitioning Your Dog to a Raw Food Diet

If you are interested in feeding your dog raw foods, consult with a veterinarian to see if your dog is a suitable candidate. Veterinarians which have trained in eastern, holistic, or other methodologies are often more open to the raw approach. They may also have suggestions as to which balanced diets are available at your favorite pet food retailer. Homemade diets are always an option, but may be difficult to create and maintain over time due to the cost and ease of cooking key ingredients, leading to "recipe drift."

Image: Rudchenko Liliia / via Shutterstock

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