CliffsNotes: The raw food diet is drawn from the premise that while our domestic companions have evolved from their ancestral wolves, they “are simply not genetically optimized to consume the 50% carbohydrate content of today’s commercial kibbles.” Raw food diets adhere to the meats, fruits, vegetables, and grasses that primitive canines found in the wild, and emphasize a ratio of high protein/moderate fat/low carbs.
Campaigners of raw diets also point out that, similar to human food preparation, the high-heat process of commercial kibble strips dry food of vital nutrients, and the high starch content contributes to inflammation, which compromises the immune system. By eliminating these factors with raw meals, dogs absorb more vitamins and minerals, with visible results including increased (and consistent) energy, easier weight control, firmer stools, improved breath, less skin irritation, and softer and shinier coats.
The Full Story: This has placed the proverbial bee in the bonnet of conventional dog food manufacturers, and this could be a good thing. As a general rule, consumer awareness and cultural trends help raise the bar, and many new and established pet food brands have invested in research and innovation to meet the demands of label-conscious pet owners. For a deep-dive into most available canned, dry, dehydrated, freeze-dried, cooked frozen, and raw frozen commercial food options, we like the detailed reviews and ratings provided online by Dog Food Advisor.
In addition to specific ingredients, the most important factor to consider when reading labels or preparing raw meals is the prescribed portions per food group. Remember that in the wild, carnivores will eat prey in its entirety, so it is important to incorporate bones and organs into a meal plan. For example, when feeding raw, we follow the guidelines of the “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” (aptly, BARF) diet: 70% muscle meat; 10% raw edible bone; 5% liver; 5% other organs; and 10% veggies, fruits, and nuts. This handy calculator makes it easy to determine the appropriate daily serving of a total meal based on a dog’s age and weight.
We recommend investing in a kitchen scale in order to accurately measure each ingredient … for newbies, this will alleviate considerable anxiety. After only a few meals, you’ll get the hang of it and can eyeball a recipe (a spoonful of yogurt here, a few blueberries there)!
The good news is that a slow transition to raw will be easier on your dog, so starting with one meal a week shouldn’t seem too daunting. Even if that’s all you can manage in the foreseeable future, your dog will benefit greatly!
Now, for some real talk …