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We have become so used to feeding processed food to our dogs that we tend to forget that our canine friends used to survive on a raw diet alone. But it seems that more and more dog owners are returning to a more ‘natural’ way to feed their dog.
After the 2007 Pet Food Recall, when food manufacturers all over the world recalled units contaminated with melamine and cyanuric acid, many concerned dog owners began to think about alternatives to mass-produced dog food. One of these is the a Raw Diet.
Raw feeding refers to the practice of feeding dogs a diet made of mostly uncooked meat, bones, and organs such as kidneys and liver. One of the most vocal proponents of the raw diet is Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst. In his 1993 book titled "Give Your Dog a Bone", Billinghurst proposed the "BARF" diet, which stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food.
Supporters of the raw diet claim that feeding your dog only raw food can give them healthier skin, a shinier coat, cleaner teeth, among other benefits.
It must be noted, however, that most of these claims are anecdotal. Studies on the actual effects of the raw diet remain inconclusive. Dr. Lisa Freeman of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, also published a study claiming that the shinier coat attributed to raw diet is due to the high fat composition of most raw diet regimens.
Nonetheless, like in any other diet, the key to making a raw diet work is by making sure that your dog gets nutritionally-balanced meals.
Because very few dog owners follow a structured dietary regimen, deficiency problems are quite common among those who give their dogs a raw diet.
There is also a high risk of feeding your dog too much of something. For example, livers, considered as a staple in raw diets, are very rich in Vitamin A. But too much Vitamin A can lead to vitamin A toxicity. Imbalanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratios can also lead hyperparathyroidism and fibrous osteodystrophy among younger dogs.
Most raw feeeders claim that these concerns on pathogens and other health risks are overblown. Feeding your dog a raw diet, after all, is not that different from cooking dinner for your family. As long as your counter, knife, and ingredients are clean, you don’t have to worry about making your family sick. The case is the same as preparing meals based on raw food.
The fact is, done properly and conscientiously, a raw diet can be a great dietary option for your dog. This is because you have the power to choose every morsel of food your dog consumes, rather than having to rely on commercial recipes.
A raw diet also means avoiding preservatives in commercial dog food. Ground and parcelled bones also help clean your dog’s teeth.
If you decide to put your dog on a raw diet, your first step should be to consult your vet. Each dog has their own nutritional needs, so you have to plan out your dog’s diet so you’re not missing a nutrient or two.