Raw dog food enthusiasts are no longer on the fringe of society. This trend towards feeding our dogs similar diets to their ancestors is becoming more widely accepted as a healthy alternative to wet food and kibble.
Feeding natural dog food tends to come down to personal preference. Some owners don’t like to handle raw meat and prefer the convenience of commercially produced kibble. It smells less and can be easier to store. The convenience of dried food, however, can sometimes mean that the quality of the protein available is reduced.
It’s for this reason, the health benefits of raw food, that dog owners commonly make the switch. When choosing to feed raw, there are different meats available to cater to dogs with sensitivities, or even if you just want a bit of variety.
What are the benefits of feeding raw meat?
There are plenty of benefits for raw feeding that make handling and storing raw meat worth it, especially as far as your dog is concerned. Feeding raw will have the benefit of smaller and less frequent stools. Commercial diets in kibble form often contain extra ingredients to help with making it more palatable and keep it fresh for longer after the bag is opened. There’s more in the kibble that your dog won’t digest which drives the need to defecate those by-products more frequently.
Owners who feed raw have also claimed that their dog’s stools are less smelly which makes sense if they’re able to break down more of the food they’re given and use it to sustain themselves. The higher and more palatable protein available in raw meats will offer your dog more energy and is especially useful for puppies to support their growth.
The fresh vegetables and fruits available in a raw diet along with good quality meat helps their coats to shine and skin to remain healthy. It’s much easier to control the ingredients you use in a raw diet so if your dog is susceptible to being sensitive to different foods, a raw diet can help exclude anything that might not agree with their digestive system. One last noticeable benefit of raw feeding is dental hygiene. Most raw diets have some amount of bone available in it which means your dog’s teeth get a workout and they scrape off a lot of plaque without the need for extra brushing. Kibble breaks down a lot easier and needs less chewing than raw meat which really helps their teeth.
Picking the right raw meat for your dog.
Most meat is perfectly safe for your dog to eat but there are different benefits to each. What you choose to feed your dog is often down to your own personal preference or your dog’s preference, but their age, weight, and food allergies should also be taken into consideration.
Beef is a very common choice for raw feeding, it’s easy to store, easy to source and you can get high-quality cuts for very reasonable prices. It’s high protein and quite a lean meat with the least fatty cuts having at little as 17% fat content.
Chicken is an excellent source of protein with very little fat. Chicken is good for dogs who cannot digest rich foods or need a low-fat diet to help them lose weight. Chicken bones should be ground down to avoid splintering if feeding raw chicken bone as they’re so lightweight and break easily.
Just like humans, dogs benefit from the high Omega 3 content in fish. There are lots of anti-inflammatory properties to fish which is why most commercial diets for sensitive stomachs contain fish. Fish is great for dogs with food sensitivities and may help to settle sensitive digestive tracts.
If your dog is sensitive to the most used meats, substitutes like venison or kangaroo can be used. They’re sometimes easier to source depending on where you live. Kangaroo is increasingly common as it’s high in Vitamin B and Zinc. It also contains conjugated linoleic acids which are suggested to be good against diabetes and some cancers.
Which meats to avoid and why.
Dogs can eat most raw meats and it’s good to not just stick to one source of protein. Feeding fish, poultry, and meat from ruminant animals all have their different benefits so it’s good to add a bit of variety. If your dog has a sensitivity to a particular meat this can be cut out per individual dog’s needs. Pork isn’t a very common meat to find in raw diets because it’s often associated with cuts of meat that are high in saturated fats and will throw the protein balance of a raw diet off. Some pork is fine from time to time, but it comes with the added risk of parasites. Cooking pork kills off any parasites, but raw pork contains trichinella spiralis larvae which can infect your dog and cause vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
Buying and storing your raw meats.
One of the major differences between raw feeding and the convenience of a dry, commercial kibble diet is the storing process of each diet. Kibble only needs a dry, cool place to be stored in an airtight container to keep it as fresh as possible. The storage of raw meat is a vital aspect of raw feeding.
Meat should be frozen as soon as possible and not allowed to thaw out until you plan on feeding it to your dog. Raw meats like beef and venison can be frozen for up to nine months and remain fresh while fish and poultry have a shorter life of only six months of staying fresh while frozen. You shouldn’t defrost more than a couple of days’ worth of food at a time to make sure it stays as fresh as possible, and any defrosted meat should be refrigerated until eaten if you need to store it for a period. If raw meat is kept in a warmer environment, bacteria will start to grow on it rapidly so keeping defrosting and refrigerating as little as possible at a time will make sure it remains fresh.
Due to the long life of frozen raw meat, you can get yourself quite a good deal by buying large amounts at a time provided you have enough freezer space to store everything. You can buy a complete raw diet which often comes frozen and includes all the muscle meat, organ meat, and ground bone you need. The convenience of this means you just need a little extra research into reputable brands to make sure you’re not buying meat that has already been frozen for a long time.
Alternatively, you can source your meat yourself from a butcher where you’ll have more information and be able to trust exactly where it came from, but it adds the complication of having to prepare and portion your own meat. The better the quality of meat you can give your dog, the higher the nutritional value.
There are different benefits to different raw meats in your dog’s diet but if their meals are balanced then it’s just a case of what best suits your dog. It might be worth trying periods with different sources of protein to see what has the best impact on their health and energy levels.
BIO: Melissa Smith is a pet lover, part time pet-sitter, former dog trainer and writes for Raw and Fresh on all things pet-related. She adores her pug, Samson, and cat, aptly named Chester.