Should You Feed Your Dog Like A Wolf?
Should you feed your dog lots of raw meat? How about bones?
Maybe you’ve heard that raw diets are healthier and more natural for your dog but you’re concerned it will make your dog sick.
Many people worry that bacteria (Salmonella specifically) in raw meat might infect both their dogs and possibly themselves.
Vets warn pet owners all the time about how hard and necessary it is to make a dog’s every meal complete and balanced. They make creating a balanced meal seem like an impossible math equation.
You have to decide for yourself if the benefits of a raw diet for your dog outweigh the possible risks.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the most significant differences between commercial kibble and raw diets, and the real fears about the safety of fresh foods for dogs. This will help you make an informed decision about what you choose to feed your dog.
Difference #1 – Processing
The most apparent difference between the two types of food (kibble and raw) is the amount of processing. Raw diets don’t undergo any cooking or heating measures to process them. All the delicate micronutrients like vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes are intact in their most bioavailable forms. This raw state makes them easier to break down and use in the body for energy.
Kibble, on the other hand, can be processed as many as four times before it reaches your dog. Kibble is heated, extruded (steamed under pressure), and then dried (more heat). Added to that, some of the original ingredients may have been pre-cooked before reaching the manufacturing plant, such as meat meals, and your dog’s food may be cooked four times over!
This repetitive heating destroys amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals because they are all very vulnerable to cooking processes.
Naturally, raw diets contain more nutrients than kibble does due to the amount of processing kibble undergoes.
Note: Some commercial raw diets are processed with irradiation and pressure to make them sterile. Most holistic veterinarians consider these diets to no longer be raw. These diets may still have health benefits for some dogs and are much less processed than kibble.
Difference #2 – Enzymes
These delicate parts of your dog’s diet are critical to his health. Without them, he can’t digest his food, his skin condition will deteriorate, and his immunity will become stressed.
Enzymes serve as catalysts for digestion to break down nutrients inside the gut; a process started with the saliva.
Dogs produce the enzymes protease, lipase, and cellulase in their saliva and other parts of their digestive system. These enzymes are responsible for digesting protein, fats, and fiber, respectively.
The enzyme responsible for carbohydrate digestion, amylase, isn’t usually made in your dog’s saliva. Amylase only appears in the saliva after your dog eats large amounts of carbohydrates consistently. Unfortunately, this creates a lack of amylase in other parts of the body.
It is vital that these digestive enzymes come from your dog’s diet as well. Lack of digestive enzymes affects more than just digestion. Here are some of the other roles of enzymes in the body:
- Supporting the Immune System
- Protecting Respiratory Health
- Supporting Healthy Teeth and Gums
- Reducing bloating, gas, heartburn, and constipation
- Removing toxins from the body
- Supporting joint movement
They also reduce symptoms associated with IBD and Allergies (like skin irritation and excessive shedding) by breaking down foods before they leave the intestines.
Unfortunately, kibble diets lack enzymes that your dog depends on for extra bodily functions like these, and we see the effect. Skin allergies are the number one reason pets are taken to Vets today.
Raw diets are a winner in this category because they contain all those enzymes to aid your dog’s whole body.
Difference #3 – Carbohydrates
While a raw diet typically centers on meat with healthy fats and protein, kibble is starch-rich containing as little between 30% and 70% carbohydrates from grains, legumes, and potatoes. These carbohydrates are often cheap replacements for meat proteins. Further, dogs have no nutritional need for carbs and are poorly designed to digest these massive amounts of sugars their entire lives.
Excess soluble carbohydrate (starch and sugar minus fiber) intake links to diabetes, obesity, allergies, leaky gut syndrome, chronic inflammatory conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis, and cancer in dogs.
To learn more about carbohydrates in kibble start reading here: Rising Canine Obesity: What’s the Cause?
Difference #4 – Meat Sourcing
For a homemade raw diet, you will likely purchase human grade meats from the local grocery or butcher. The quality of these meats far outstrips that of meats used in kibble.
Kibble is full of what’s called 4D meat. 4D meats include dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals which also may consist of drugged animals (antibiotics, hormones, etc.), USDA condemned “inedible” meat cuts, carcasses, feathers, feces, beaks and feet from chickens… Okay, you get the picture, and it’s not a pretty one. Sourcing your meats for a raw diet can be much safer.
To learn more about the 4D-Meats check out this article: 4D Meats in Dog Food – What Are They?
The Risks of Feeding Raw
Has your vet told you that raw diets are a sure-fire way to make you and your dog sick?
Veterinarians say it, the FDA says it, and the AVMA made a public warning. All the prominent officials with the money and influence tell you about the “dangers of raw food.” And they don’t mince words with it either. They can be flat out harsh on raw feeders.
Some veterinarians will even isolate raw-fed dogs that come into their clinic and require their employees to wear protective gloves and a mask when handling these dogs.
The most significant risk in raw meat is Salmonella. These bacteria have serious health risks, especially in dogs with already compromised immune systems. This includes dogs who have been on antibiotics or steroids, dogs who are sick, and very young or geriatric dogs.
The truth is that your dog is equipped to handle salmonella very well. Excepting immune-compromised dogs, healthy dogs regularly carry salmonella. They harbor it in their gut all the time. Some reptiles and birds are the same way. This constant exposure does what vaccines are supposed to do: provide familiarity with the disease to keep the body ready to fend off infection.
Your dog’s immune system is designed to deal with bacterial contamination in raw meat.
The real danger to your dog is not salmonella. It’s the state of his immune system. Weakened immune systems lose their ability to fight and are prone to overreactions i.e., allergies. A healthy immune system is like a knight in his armor, ready to fend off an invasion.
Now, in all fairness, we must look at the risks of feeding kibble as well.
The Risks of Kibble
Kibble diets are very processed, like eating fast/junk food every meal and calling it healthy. Kibble lacks enzymes to support the body in healthy functions and proper digestion. They are very high in carbohydrates that are damaging to our dogs’ guts and overall health. And, kibble is often full of unhealthy meats, even for dogs.
Kibble diets have put our dogs at risk for diabetes, obesity, allergies, leaky gut syndrome, arthritis, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerances and sensitivities, and malnutrition.
Kibble is an easy place to hide poor manufacturing practices because it all looks the same in the end. In the case of Purina’s Beneful dog food, dogs have become sick and died because of their kibble. Hundreds of dogs were reported to have symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting (often red with blood or in reaction to food dyes), becoming lethargic, losing appetite, having seizures, kidney failure, diabetes, motor skill problems (lack of control over limbs, limping, and collapse), and pancreatitis.
Evidence shows there is as much risk for salmonella in commercial kibble as in raw foods.
The media has done an excellent job convincing people that kibble and other commercial dog foods are somehow risk-free, but this isn’t true.
Many kibble products and similar commercial pet foods contain known carcinogens and toxins. These include food dyes, synthetic Vitamin K, synthetic selenium, Carrageenan, and preservatives like BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin.
That said, not all kibble is such a low-quality product. Many high-quality kibble products that use healthy meats, fewer carbs, added enzymes, and natural preservatives are available. Unfortunately, marketing/advertising strategies make it difficult to single these foods out.
Should Your Dog Eat Raw Meat?
The main differences between raw and kibble diets are pretty convincing. It’s clear that the raw foods have the best nutrition.
It’s an accepted fact in human nutrition that eating more raw whole foods is better for your health. However, pet owners are told that they can skip whole-foods for their dogs and give them “complete and balanced” nutrition from a bag of processed crunchy bites. Nonsense!
For some dogs, a raw food diet may be the most appropriate, nutritionally complete choice. Others might do better on a home-cooked diet. All dogs will benefit from a fresh-food diet that with as little processing as possible.
Dogs that are sick, elderly, or have sensitive stomachs may not be able to tolerate a raw food diet with the associated bacteria risks. These dogs will benefit from a home-cooked diet. Or you may choose a dehydrated or freeze-dried food that has been sterilized.
The risks for disease in factory-farm animals is higher than the chances in free-range or grass-fed sources. For this reason, some pet owners may be making a better choice feeding their dog cooked meats when they cannot get free-range and grass-fed meats.
Whether you choose to feed your dog a raw, home-cooked, or commercially prepared diet, try to select that diet for the nutrition it offers your dog.
For Satisfied Dogs!
– Cassy Kay
Becker, Karen DVM. “Digestive Enzymes for Pets – One Easy Solution for Your Pet’s Digestive Woes” healthypets.mercola.com. Web. April 23, 2018. https://products.mercola.com/healthypets/digestive-enzymes-for-pet/
Becker, Karen DVM. “Raw Meat: The Completely Healthy ‘Pet’ Food Your Vet Probably Vilifies.” Healthypets.mercola.com. Feb. 15, 2011. Web. Aug. 19, 2017. < http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2011/02/15/raw-meat-the-best-and-healthiest-diet-for-pet-cats-and-dogs.aspx>
Becker, Karen DVM. “The Feeding Mistake Linked to the Cause of Most Disease – Are You Making It?” healthypet.mercola.com. Apr. 1, 2013. Web. Aug. 19, 2017. < http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2013/04/01/raw-food-diet-part-1.aspx>
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