Raw Food: The Best Pet Food Choice?

PetMD Editorial
September 11, 2012
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By Shawn Messonnier, DVM

There are a variety of food form choices people can offer to their pets, including dry, can, or a raw diet. How do you choose which one is right for your pet? I believe that a raw diet, when prepared correctly to be complete and balanced, is the best food choice for a pet, as it mimics what their bodies were designed to eat.  

Other reasons that many pet owners prefer to feed raw food include:

  • Raw food more closely mimics the diet the pet would eat in the wild, as it is as close to nature as possible.
  • Many pets prefer the fresh taste associated with raw food.
  • Raw food provides vital nutrients in their natural form.
  • Raw food provides live enzymes that are often missing from some kinds of processed foods.

There are times when it might be difficult, if not impossible or impractical, to feed your pets a raw diet 100% of the time. Perhaps your pet is being boarded at a boarding facility or veterinary hospital that will not allow an owner to bring the pet’s regular diet for it to be fed to the pet. Or maybe the owner, while traveling with a pet, finds it challenging to properly store or transport raw food. And finally, an owner’s financial state may make feeding it impossible to feed a raw diet all the time. No worries! Here are some ways to incorporate raw into your pets’ diet. 

1. You can choose to feed raw at just one meal per day, instead of all meals. If you are concerned that alternating between a raw food diet to a processed diet, and then back again to a raw diet could present problems such as acute and temporary gastrointestinal issues (such as vomiting or diarrhea), this can be best avoided by using rotation feeding throughout the pet’s life. In a rotation form of feeding, different forms of food including raw, canned, dehydrated dog food, and even freeze-dried dog food can be offered to the pet at different times throughout the day or week. This will not only adjust the pet’s taste preferences to all forms of food, but will allow its gastrointestinal tract to adapt to the various forms of food and will minimize any chances of the pet developing gastroenteritis that could occur when the pet’s food is switched from one form to another.

2. When on the road or out of town, you can choose to feed freeze dried raw, which is a raw diet with the moisture removed, while the enzymes stay intact. This makes it simple to transport and store since no freezing is required. These freeze dried pieces can also be crumbled on top of traditional kibble for taste and health benefits.

3. You can treat your pet to a raw bone. Raw bones are an excellent source of minerals, essential fatty acids, proteins, and enzymes; a balanced source of calcium and phosphorus; and are a natural source of chondroitin for joint health. 

4. Use freeze dried raw for treats. Instead of choosing a highly caloric and highly processed dog biscuit, give your dog a treat of freeze dried raw.

5. Sprinkle freeze dried raw powder on your pet’s kibble. A simple tablespoon of freeze dried raw powder is very palatable and can help picky pets gobble up their food, while getting the benefit of raw.

Feeding raw, even part of the time, can give your pet health benefits (in addition to being extremely palatable and tasty for the pet).  It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing.”

Image: Redphotographer / via Shutterstock