More and more adults are adopting healthy diets featuring organic and natural foods. Many also want to feed natural, raw foods to their dogs as a way of keeping them healthy. However, veterinarians urge owners to be aware of the risks and benefits of feeding raw meat to pets, particularly when it comes to the risk of illness from bacteria, most often pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. Here’s what you should know before making this choice for your pet.
A raw diet can be great for dogs, but you need to make sure you’re doing it safely. A raw dog food diet is designed to mimic a dog’s natural ancestral menu. The whole concept of raw feeding is based upon a dog’s instinctive carnivorous bias – a built-in desire to hunt and eat another animal.
The ingredients in the diet may change, but the concept remains the same: Dogs are designed to eat meat, bones and organs from prey animals as well as any plant matter found in their digestive system.
Dogs who are used to eating kibble may refuse to eat a raw diet at first. They may not recognize the meat as food because it doesn’t look or smell like their regular food. This can be especially true for older dogs who have been eating kibble for years. It may take time for them to get used to their new diet.
A raw diet is also generally more expensive than processed food. Meat can also go bad quickly, so the risk of wastage is higher. This cost can add up quickly, depending on the size and food needs of your dog. For example, raw feeding a Malshi puppy is going to be much cheaper compared to doing the same for a Malamute. Food costs are the biggest ongoing expense for pet owners, so it’s an important consideration.
The first step in choosing a safe food is to pick a source that lists ingredients, serving sizes and nutritional value on the packaging. Your veterinarian may have recommendations for specific brands and products that will fit your dog’s nutritional needs.
There is no one-size-fits-all option and some dogs may not tolerate certain foods well. If this happens, you can always switch back to kibble or try another brand or type of raw food until you find something your dog likes and can safely eat.
One thing you must never do is to feed your dog scraps from the table. If you’re going to feed your dog a raw diet, it needs to be especially prepared for them. Most raw food must be kept frozen until you use it for your dog. If it isn’t kept frozen, bacteria can grow rapidly in the food and cause your pet to get sick. Some companies sell freeze-dried foods that don’t need to be frozen; however, they can be quite expensive. Once your dog has finished eating, clean up any leftovers immediately and dispose of them properly.
The bottom line? It is still best to talk to your pet’s veterinarian before you experiment with raw diets. Dogs should not be fed a raw diet unless it has been approved by their vet because some may develop health problems if they have certain conditions or are allergic to certain types of foods. You and your vet must work together to determine whether your dog is ready for a raw diet.