The same way with mothers deciding whether to breastfeed their infants or not, pet owners have different opinions regarding feeding their pets. People tend to be passionate when it comes to this topic because a healthy diet is a factor for dogs to have a long and healthy life. In addition, this will also contribute to their mental and psychological well-being.
Is there such a thing as a perfect food for our dogs? Sadly, there is none. If there actually is, everything will be easier for both dogs and owners. There will be no need for debates because there will be a sure way for dogs to avoid illnesses and live longer.
The majority of owners feed their pooch commercial dog food in the form of dry kibbles and canned food. However, more people are looking into healthier and more natural options. A raw diet for dogs is one option that has grown popular in the last decade. However, along with its popularity is growing controversy regarding its benefits and risks.
Benefits and Risks of a Raw Diet For Dogs
One of the main reasons why the question ‘Is a raw diet suitable for puppies?’ cannot easily be answered with a resounding yes or no, is that there is a tremendous amount of conflicting information about it, which tends to be subjective. There should always be balanced information for you to be able to make an educated decision.
Before we discuss the risks and benefits, we need to define what a raw diet is. A raw diet for dogs is commonly known as BARF, which stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding.
According to proponents, dogs should be given food they were originally designed to digest. They believe that the wolf, the dog’s ancestor, thrived on a diet composed of raw meat and bones from their kill, and not from processed grains and cereals found in commercial dog food. For them, carnivores have a difficulty digesting carbohydrates, which is why they should eat quickly digestible nutrients such as meat and bones.
A typical raw diet for dogs:
- Muscle meat (often still on the bone)
- Organ meat, such as liver and kidneys
- Bones (either whole or ground)
- Raw eggs
- Easily digestible vegetables and fruits, like broccoli, spinach, celery, apples, and others
- Some dairy, like yoghurt
Benefits of a raw diet for dogs:
Preparing your dog’s food gives you total control of what ingredients will be included. Considering the number of pet food recalls, you won’t put your dog at risk with food filled with low-quality meat and artificial fillers, colours, flavours, and preservatives found in dry kibbles and canned dog food. There are commercial raw diets, but since they are usually frozen, they don’t require preservatives.
A home-made raw diet for dogs is made with fresh and natural ingredients. Since you will be preparing it, you know what goes into it and you can avoid ingredients that your dog is allergic to. When ordering a commercial raw diet, the food can be tailored fit to your dog’s needs. Advocates also swear that dogs have shinier coats and healthier skin, cleaner teeth, better digestion, stronger immune system, and higher energy levels because of the raw diet.
Risks of a raw diet for dogs:
Raw meat has been found to contain salmonella, Escherichia coli O157: H7, Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium botulinum, and others, which are known as human and canine pathogens. These bacteria are released in the dog’s stool and could be transferred as the dog moves around the house. These pathogens are specifically harmful to the elderly and very young children. Also, bones can cause choking, intestinal blockage or punctures, as well as chipped/broken teeth.
- Health Raw diet for dogs could potentially cause nutritional deficiencies, mainly vitamins and minerals because it can be difficult and time-consuming to make sure they are balanced. In addition, raw vegetables added to the diet can be difficult to digest.
- Inconvenient and Expensive Unlike commercial kibbles and dried food, raw food diet is expensive and time-consuming to prepare. Because you have to use fresh ingredients, they are costlier. It can be inconvenient especially if owners have a busy schedule or travel frequently.
Raw Diet for Puppies
Contrary to popular belief, puppies can thrive on a raw diet. However, it is important for owners to do their research and consult a veterinarian and canine nutritionist before trying out anything.
Basics in feeding a raw diet to puppies:
- Age to start raw feeding.
At 3 to 4 weeks, when puppies have been weaned, you can start feeding boneless and white minces of raw meat such as fish, chicken, and turkey. When everything goes smoothly, you can introduce red minces of duck, pork, beef, and organ meat at 4 to 5 weeks. Their diet can now include ground bone. By 6 months, most puppies can eat meat on the bone. It should be large enough for them to gnaw and not small enough to chew and swallow.
- Give your puppy time to adjust.
Whether your puppy goes straight to a raw diet from weaning or transitions from commercial kibbles or canned food, its stomach still has to adjust to the new diet. Since some puppies cannot initially tolerate organs and red meat, slowly introduce it to them. The quality of its stool and frequency of defaecating will differ as it detoxes from its previous diet. If it does not get better in a week, take the puppy to the veterinarian to know if you should continue with raw feeding.
- Age to start raw feeding.
Watch out for:
- Bad breath
- Itchy skin
- Provide daily balanced meals.
Young puppies should start eating balanced meals daily composed of muscle meat, liver, organs, and bones. Ask your pet’s veterinarian or canine nutritionist on how you can provide the complete nutritional needs of your puppy based on its age and size.
Pet parents need not debate whether puppies should eat raw food or not because there are different ways to feed a puppy. It is also worth knowing that with all food choices, it is a case-to-case basis. What is right for someone else and their dog may not be appropriate for you and your dog, and vice versa. There are benefits and risks involved and you have to decide whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
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