Should you be feeding your dog a raw diet?

It’s a question we get asked time and time again because the advice given by a large proportion of dog enthusiasts on the internet is that you’re not giving your dog the best quality of life if you don’t give them raw food. On the flip side there’s equally a large number who say that raw feeding is harmful.  To complicate matters, vets sit on both sides of this discussion as well. So how do you decide if you should be feeding your dog a raw diet?

Let’s also clarify what raw food is… we term true raw as raw meat such as minced chicken, beef, lamb or tripe.

So, who’s right?

Well, neither. Yes, of course (same with humans) the more natural, fresh and less processed food is consumed in a diet the better it is for overall health but that’s no to say that dry kibble is bad… far from it… the dog food industry is massive.

With any dog food, raw or processed, there are pros and cons. But don’t worry if you are not feeding your dog a raw diet, their quality of life won’t be impacted. And if you do, it’s definitely not harmful to your dog.

It depends on your dog’s individual needs and situation (such as health, medication, allergies, age, breed and level of activity).

To give you an example, our own dogs are fed differently according to their age and work type. Our ‘working’ dogs are on a raw diet of minced beef, chicken and lamb – with added kibble and supplements in the lead-up to, and throughout, the shooting season to give them that little extra boost when their need is greater. This supports the additional energy and muscle required over the winter during the shooting season.

Our retired dogs on the other hand are fed quality wet food mixed with kibble appropriate for their age.

Salmon oil is always added to all feeds as we feel this really does improve the condition of the skin and coat- so we recommend this to everyone.

So, a few pros to feeding your dog a raw diet:*
  • A shinier coat and healthier skin condition: due to high-quality protein sources, and essential fatty acids
  • Healthier teeth: chewing on raw bones helps clean the teeth and contribute to overall improved oral hygiene (never feed cooked bones!)
  • Improved digestion: Easier to digest and a raw dog food diet can give relief to some dogs with sensitive stomachs and ease allergies caused by wheat, grains and some additives found in processed foods
  • Increased energy: greater percentage of concentrated proteins giving more energy
  • Less, more firm and reduced odour poops
  • Raw food contains bone or bone meal, which is a natural source of calcium – naturally supporting bone health and growth
  • Can reduce some allergies as true raw is free from grains, wheat and added artificial preservatives

*Source: www.rawdogfoodcompany.co.uk

Yes, there are a lot of positives, but if you haven’t physically got the space to store it (a decent amount of freezer space) and the cost is just too much, then quality wet foods are a good alternative. There is a massive selection out there including gourmet fresh prepared foods (available fresh or frozen) so discuss with your vet or local pet store who should have an expert in-house to advise what’s best for you and your dog. As with anything, prices vary…but the rule of thumb in our experience… the cheaper the processed foods, most likely the poorer the ingredients.

A lot of people do a mix, feeding quality wet food with natural treats such as raw turkey necks, pig ears, chicken feet/necks/wings, duck feet, etc. This gives them some of the benefits of raw, whilst not having to worry about space and cost.

If you are thinking about transitioning and feeding your dog a raw diet, always speak to your vet or a raw food specialist first to make sure it’s the right thing to do, but once you’ve made the choice, it’s important to transition correctly.

Any change of diet requires a slow transition period. During the transition, its recommended to feed one type of protein (type of meat) a week for each meal for the first 5 weeks. This approach helps your dog get used to different types of meat and also gives you a chance to identify and eliminate any potential allergies. Your raw food supplier should be able to advise on the best way to transition depending on the proposed raw diet you have chosen.

If you have any questions about feeding your dog a  raw diet, although we’re not a specialist, we’ll happily share our experience and the difference it has made. We’ve also added some other articles below to help, including really good articles from Petplan and The Kennel Club.

Don’t forget, there isn’t a definitive right way to feeding your dog. Be it raw, wet food or dry kibble – there are good and bad products out there. It really does depend on the factors covered earlier, so don’t think you’re causing your dog issues by ignoring sweeping statements. Do what’s right for your dog.