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Pet Health

Is Raw Food Good For My Dog?

Val Cairney May 15, 2020 161

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Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike.  So, I have been working in the pet industry for almost 10 years now and I hope to deal with a lot of the issues and questions that arise as I deal with pet parents on a day to day basis.  I am not a veterinarian, but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.

So I thought we could talk about the rapidly growing industry in raw food for dogs and cats.  It’s funny how the movement to this began, first off with the freeze-dried raw products and then before you knew it the frozen raw had become the go to food for people that have moved to this alternative feeding.  It’s interesting that for years and still today, people are very against by-product in kibble.  By-products by AFFCO standards is anything outside of the main meat portion. So for example the chicken breast as opposed to the thigh or leg.  Now, AFFCO, if you are wondering, is the Association of American Feed Control Officials and they set the standards for pet food in the United States.  But you’ll see AFFCO written on your Canadian Brands, on their bags as well because the Canadian brands will follow AFFCO standards because there’s a lack of regulatory bodies in Canada.  So most of the canadian companies that do pet food will follow AFFCO standards, and you will see that actually right on the bag. If customers read that there was liver or heart or some other organ in kibble they often would throw up their hands, they’re appalled as they do not want “garbage” in their pet’s food. Meanwhile, that is a big part of the raw diet.  Most formulas in raw have ground bone and organ meats. It’s all ground and its in the mix.  So it’s very interesting, the sort of the dichotomy between the two and how things have sort of changed with regards to that.

So basically what’s the difference between say a freeze dried raw and frozen raw.  Freeze dried raw is very similar to the frozen raw. It can be a dinner patty or nuggets that have the particular protein, beef, chicken, duck what have you, with ground bone, liver, vegetables and sometimes fruit and herbs or even seed.  The product is then freeze dried with the moisture extruded and formed into nuggets or pucks.  The option with the freeze dried products is to simply crumble the product onto existing food or rehydrate the product with warm water and feed as is.  The frozen raw product often comes in what could be called a dinner formula or what’s called a pure formula.  This means that a dinner would be the same in that there is the protein, bones, organ meat, vegetables and these are all ground up and then frozen in the form of patties or containers whatever that company does for presentation.  The pure formula would be solely the protein with organ or bone.  This is usually the formula recommended for cats that are being fed raw due to their carnivore nature.  Basically the product is thawed and fed to the pet.

The freeze dried can sometimes be a good starting point into raw and it is less messy with a lesser ewww factor because you don’t see any blood as the products thaws.  It can be pricey to feed freeze dried pucks that are rehydrated especially for a large dog, because to feed that dog on the freeze dried pucks alone, you could easily be looking at 15 pucks per meal.  That can be very expensive.  But, as a supplement or as a meal topper it can be quite useful. 

So, let’s go to the frozen raw and look at benefits.

Benefits.  Well… that’s where things become a bit subjective.  There is a documentary called Pet Fooled that is quite good to watch but it is slanted towards feeding exclusively raw, but at least it does address cost and recommends high end kibble at the very least if the cost of feeding raw is prohibitive.  The pet parents that I encounter that feed raw, are quite dedicated to the process and believe that it has made a world of difference in their pet.  I think that moving to raw often comes about because the pet has had chronic issues with skin, weight etc. that after having tried just about every pet food on the market, as a last resort, they try raw and low and behold it seems to be the answer.  And you know, if it works, then stick with it!  I do think that if you have a dog and you are feeding mostly pure formulas, it is recommended to supplement that course with fortification powders, or you give them vegetables raw or cooked from your home kitchen. 

Remember, dogs are not carnivores, they are omnivores so they do eat plant based food as well as animal protein. 

Cats are true carnivores and cannot exist on a diet that does not contain meat.  We actually had a customer demand a vegetarian alternative for her cat because she was a vegetarian.  We tried to explain that that was not possible and a cat would die if it didn’t eat meat.  If you want to switch to raw, there are a few rules to follow.  It is recommended that you do a gradual switch from kibble to raw.  So, don’t just through raw meat at your dog out of the blue.  This is a very different digestion process so do it correctly.  Most raw pet food companies have a guide on their websites to help with the switch. Also, it is not recommended to mix the raw in with the kibble.  It is suggested that if you want to do a combo diet, one meal be kibble, the other be raw.  And remember, you are handling raw product so hand washing and sanitation of work surfaces is mandatory.  I have read some comments about raw being bad for that reason because if a dog has eaten raw and then licks a child’s face, there could be risk for salmonella.  From all the customers that we have feeding raw, none of them has said this to me nor seemed concerned.  So, again, this would have to be a personal decision.  I don’t know, my dog eats rabbit poop outside so I’m sure that’s not very good either. 

Now one thing I really want to address is feeding raw with puppies.  I spoke to two well known breeders registered with the Canadian Kennel Club about feeding raw to puppies.  One breeder said, she does feed raw to her adults but not to the puppies.  One of her reasons was that she wasn’t actually convinced that this was a good way to feed a puppy and secondly she didn’t want her puppies to be on a raw diet, have them be adopted and then find that the owners have no intention of staying on raw and abruptly change the pups diet.  If that new owner wanted to switch the pup to raw, she was fine with that, but it would be on the new owners budget and commitment.  The other breeder that I spoke to pretty much said the same thing.  Both breeders fed their adults on raw but not the puppies.  Personally, I am skeptical about puppies on raw as well particularly because the DHA and EPA they need for eye and brain development is not present in raw, not to mention the other vitamins and minerals that tested and formulated puppy food has.  For this reason when I hear someone is feeding raw to a puppy I always make sure they are adding some kind of fish oil to get the DHA that a puppy needs.  I have seen three puppies in the last year or so who are fed on raw and I have to admit they looked very skinny.  So, the take away from this is, if you want to feed raw to a puppy you really need to do your research. 

I do get asked if I feed my dog raw and the answer is no.  I tried it with one of our cats and I’m afraid the eww factor got to me.  My dog also has a condition that requires his immune system to be at optimum.  I just keep thinking that having his system fight the extra bacteria’s in raw may just not be the right thing for a dog that doesn’t need his immune system extra taxed.  I may be wrong, but I just don’t want to chance it and he is doing just great with his diet as it is.  As they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

So, the bottom line on raw vs. kibble can come down to a few things.  First, is your pet experiencing intolerance symptoms that have just gone beyond everything you have tried?  If so, perhaps raw is the answer.  For many it has been.  Also, most raw vendors have a calculator on their websites to help you figure out how much you would be feeding your pet and how much it would cost.  Take a few moments to do this, so you are sure raw feeding is in your budget.  Do some research yourself and read some different articles on line so you can make the decision to feed raw or not with informed comfort.  I’m hearing that many of the Vets are not on board with the raw feeding, and that could be for many reasons, either way it’s your decision and if you feed raw or kibble in an informed way,  that is as I say, being informed is caring.

Pet Peeves

Ok. So that brings us to my Pet Peeves section of the podcast.  This part is reserved solely for opinion and a bit of a vent.  The topic on this episode was raw food for pets so what could possibly something to have a pet peeve about, you ask. Well…here’s the thing, when pet parents are shopping in pet specialty they are putting extra money and what could be considered extra attention to their pet’s health.  Most people are doing what they think is best within their monetary budget.  There are great options for pet parents within different price points.  If a pet parent has decided to feed raw because they feel it is the quote unquote best feeding for their pet, then so be it.  What gets me, is for some reason some of these owners get quite sanctimonious about it.  If someone is feeding good quality kibble and the pet is doing just fine, then rah rah raw people need to be less judgmental.  If raw is the thing for our pet, great! If kibble works for your pet, great!  The best thing to do is some research, look at your pet’s needs, look at the budget and decide accordingly because, knowing is caring!

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Val Cairney

Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.

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