This blog post is guest-written by my 15-year old daughter, Faith, who has a fierce passion for holistic animal health and enjoys spending many hours researching this topic. After seeing the benefits of a raw food diet in our family dog and cats, she knows the value of it and wrote this to share it with HFFG readers!
The Optimal Pet Diet: Raw Feeding Basics by Faith Poff (age 15)
Why Raw Food?
Dogs and cats were both meant to eat meat and bones. Raw food is truly their species appropriate diet.
Dogs and wolves are the same species (canine) and their gastrointestinal systems are identical. Their stomachs are acidic (pH1) which means they are able to dissolve raw meat and bones very well. Dogs digest raw meat and bones much better than grains and other dried foods.
Raw meat only takes about 4-5 hours to digest whereas dried dog food can take up to 15 hours (including “grain-free dry food”).
Feeding raw also helps prevent problems in your animals health. Most kibble is high in grains. Dogs and cats really have no need for grains and aren’t designed to digest them. Grains can negatively impact your cat’s kidneys and your cat and/or dog could become very dehydrated because of how dry kibble is. When switching to raw food, owners notice their pet drinks very little water.
Urinary Tract Problems are a very common issue arising in both dogs and cats. In most cases, it is caused by a too high intake of carbs. Kibble contains lots of grains and grains are carbs.
A raw food diet increases your pets energy level and stamina, making your dog and cat age better.
Better weight control and stronger immune systems are some of the other benefits from a raw diet.
And my favorite part. Isn't it frustrating to clean up a messy pile of stinky poop that your dog just dropped? When your dog eats raw meat and bones, like it's meant to eat, it actually makes your job a lot easier! When on a raw diet, your dog’s poop is held together better and it will actually dissolve over time. There is very little stench and it composts naturally quickly. That way, if you forget to clean it up, no problem. It will soon dry up, become sandy, and mix in with the soil.
Oh wait, I have another favorite. Very little shedding or pet dander! My brother tends to be allergic to cats, but not our raw-fed cats. That is because a raw food diet provides optimal health that reduces shedding and production of pet dander!
What about grain-free dry food?
Now, you may be thinking “what about the grain free kibble?”. That is an option, and obviously better than other kibble, but there are still many foods in there that are all very dry, which is not very good for your pet’s stomach or their teeth either.
The kibble gets stuck in their teeth causing discomfort and poor dental health.
Grain-free kibble also tends to be just as high in starches as other kibble, which commonly causes yeast issues.
So what do we feed them?
When a wild carnivore catches their prey, they eat the meat, some of the bone, the liver, and the other organs and intestines. Domestic pets need to eat like this too.
We call it “80/10/10”: 80% meat, 10% bone, and 10% liver and other organs. This goes for any pet on a raw diet.
The meat, bones, and organs are all entirely raw and either whole or ground. While some holistic pet owners opt to make their own raw dog food, this is best left to those who can truly measure and assess correct ratios for optimal health.
To make things easy, there are many companies who sell raw food mixes with these or similar ratios of ingredients at common pet stores. Your local pet stores might have some good options if you look carefully, particularly in the refrigerated/freezer section.
Here are links to two of our favorite companies to get good, high quality, raw pet food from:
Steve’s Real Food: This is the brand we have found to work best for our cats, especially as kittens, as it promotes a better coat and better growth due to the addition of ingredients like virgin coconut oil, salmon oil, and raw goats milk. The beef is grass-fed and our local pet store sells it in bulk boxes which saves us money.
Raw Delivery: This is a very inexpensive way to start, especially if you’re in Minnesota but they do ship as well. Most are just basic meat/bone/organ mixes, so your pets would also benefit from supplementing things like virgin coconut oil and omegas like salmon oil.
What about vegetables?
A common confusion when feeding your pet a raw diet is whether or not they should get vegetables. Should they? Should they not? This is really just up to the owner. If you are a cat owner, you don't need to worry about this factor. Cats are direct carnivores and do not need vegetables. Dogs don't really need vegetables either, but they can still have them. If you are going to give your dog vegetables, you will need to purée them because it is hard for them to digest a full vegetable. Wolves get their vegetables from inside the belly of their caught prey and it has already been predigested (puréed). Some already prepared, frozen raw dog food at pet stores already have puréed vegetables added to it to make your life easier.
But won’t they choke on bones?!
I know it can be very scary to give your pet a big ol’ piece of raw meaty bone! When you first give them one you'll probably think “Oh, and this is how I kill my dog!” But don't worry! Your dog’s or cat’s instinct kicks in and he’ll know exactly what to do. Your dog will bite the bone everywhere and make it bend all the way around before swallowing it and moving on to the next one. Your dog will be fine! I mean, look at those teeth! Same with your cat!
Here’s a video of a dog we had eating a whole raw chicken drumstick:
What about the cost?
It’s no secret that this type of diet is more expensive, just like a whole foods diet is more expensive for humans than McDonalds Dollar Menu. And the expense is reflected in the pet’s health, just like it is with humans. Less trips to the vet, less health issues, and a better quality of life. There are even many small visits that add up to large amounts of money that are not needed when a pet is fed their species-appropriate diet.
What about my vet?
Yes, your vet may freak out about you feeding your pet a raw food diet. It’s just like how our first pediatrician (that we’ve since fired) told me there was no difference between giving my kid conventional or organic milk and freaked out about raw milk. Be your own advocate and search for a vet that supports your decisions for your pet.
We have personally seen incredible things in raw-fed pets. Even while taking family trips and leaving the cats at home, we will not feed them dry food because we know it will impact their fur shedding, dander, and overall health substantially in that short period of time. (We have amazing friends who come and feed our cats their raw food while we are gone.)
I hope this information helps your pets to be as healthy as possible! Stay tuned for more posts about raising animals holistically including natural alternatives for health issues that are common to dogs and cats.
Resources for further reading:
What dogs are designed to eat and some helpful basics for switching https://www.truecarnivores.com/what-are-dogs-designed-to-eat/
How much should you feed your pet? This depends on their weight, size, and how energetic they are. Here is a link to a really helpful chart for this: https://www.rawdeliverymn.com/Articles.asp?ID=256