There are many, many feeding philosophies that are circling the dog food world, and a increasingly popular one is raw feeding. Although this a rather new feeding philosophy in the US, many other countries are already familiar with feeding raw, fresh foods to their dogs. When I tell people I feed raw, I usually get a wide-eyed stare or a cringe, followed by a, “Ew! Why would you feed your dog that??” When I first started feeding raw, I remember being incredibly hesitant, especially when I saw the price tag, but after I made the switch two and a half years ago, I’ve never looked back. There are many benefits to feeding fresh foods, and here are just a few reasons why you should switch, or add fresh foods into your dog's diet.
1. Kibble and canned food is incredibly processed. Most people don’t think about why we feed kibble, other than out of habit. We’ve been feeding kibble to all our dogs, and they’ve all been fine, why stop? Some kibbles (not all) are made from unspecified by-products, so the meats can come from varying sources, and are sometimes deemed inedible for people, but somehow okay for our beloved pets. Most kibbles are also much higher in carbohydrates, and a species-appropriate diet should be high in meat. Kibbles are incredibly heat processed; they are cooked at about 500 degrees or higher, killing any bacteria, but also killing amino acids, probiotics, and changing the structure of proteins. Canned food is not only heat processed, but pressure processed as well. With all this processing, many synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back into the food. A lot of people are against eating processed foods because they are bad for them, and this is just as true for your dog.
2. Less poop! My first two dogs were on kibble and canned food for the majority of their lives, and the poop was not only rancid smelling, but they pooped up to five times a day. This meant I was pretty much cleaning their poop every single day. Most of the time I would have to use more than one poop bag to clean up one pile. All that excess poop is because most kibbles and canned food have carbohydrates which dogs can’t digest very well, so it comes out as waste. The synthetic vitamins and minerals added onto the food are not bioavailable, so it comes out as excess waste as well. On raw food, poops tend to be minimal, rock solid, with an inoffensive odor, and tend to turn to dust in a week.
A raw fed poop, versus kibble! Image from Quora .
3. Better dental hygiene. Who doesn’t love a good doggy kiss?! However, that smelly doggy breath isn’t as welcome. On a raw diet, most dogs have much healthier teeth and gums. The meat acts as a floss removing things caught between their teeth. The probiotics in the food also push out the bad bacteria in your dog’s mouth, creating better breath. Kibble has been long touted as great for your dog’s teeth because it is crunchy, and that chewing action is supposedly beneficial for your dog’s teeth. This is not true. Let me give you an example: imagine eating a handful of saltine crackers. The saltine crackers create a coating on your teeth, and if you were to go to your dentist and say, “I’ve just been eating saltine crackers! That keeps my teeth clean and healthy!” that wouldn’t go over so well. Raw meaty bones help keep dog teeth clean, their breath fresh, and keep them from destroying your furniture!
4. Keeps your dog at a healthy weight. Over 50% of dogs are overweight, or could shave off a few pounds. Because kibble contains so many carbohydrates (think potatoes!) most dogs put on a bit of weight, even on the higher end kibbles. The carbohydrates aren’t digested or used by the body, and just sits around as excess waste. My English Labrador was on kibble for seven years of his life, and at his heaviest was 128lbs. On raw, he slimmed down to 63lbs. The meat and fresh foods is mostly utilized and gives your dog lots of energy and keeping your dog in shape!
My Labrador Retriever in 2016, 8 years old, kibble diet, 130lbs
My Labrador Retriever in 2017, 9 years old, 8 months of being on a 100% raw diet, 64lbs .
5. Better skin and coat. Hair is mostly made up of proteins, and because commercial diets are either low in proteins or the proteins are super denatured, dogs eating them tend to shed a lot or have a dull coat. Commercial diets often do not have a balance of omega 3s either, so dogs on a commercial diet tend to have flaky or red, itchy skin. Raw diets include a ton of protein from meats, omega 3s, and B vitamins to help with skin and coat!
Sasha the German Shepherd, 4 years old, bathed about once every 3 months.
6. They love it! Dogs love the taste of fresh meats! I don’t know about you, but it makes me happy to see my dogs happy and excited to eat their food! Kibble is usually so processed they have to spray fats or put artificial flavors on it to entice dogs to eat. My Labrador loves all and any food (of course), but is particularly excited to eat his raw food. My Beauceron does not have the highest food drive, but when I am preparing her raw food, she will jump up and down to try to see what is in her bowl, and RUN to her crate because she knows she’s fed in there. I am always excited for a good meal, and it gives me great joy to see my dogs happy to eat their food as well :)
My Beauceron puppy loving her raw diet!
Even if you do not have the time or the resources to feed your dogs a 100% raw diet, adding any amount of fresh foods (whether it is meat, veggies, or fruits) are beneficial. Do whatever you can to improve and heighten your dog's diet.