If you’re a dog owner then chances are you’re familiar with some of the popular brands of dry biscuit such as James Wellbeloved, Burns, Pedigree or Arden Grange. Or you may have used some of the wet foods which are available, for example from Natures Menu, Forthglade, Chappie, Butchers etc.
In any pet store you’ll find shelves full of different dog foods, all of which promote themselves as the best for your pet. But, if you’re looking to change to a different option, where do you start? And what do you do if you’re not happy with any of them?
Well, the good news is that there is a third choice which is growing in popularity…… raw food.
Although the raw diet has been available for dogs for a quite a while now it is only in recent years that it has seen a massive growth within the pet food market. There could be many reasons for this increase, but it’s mainly due to:
- a greater understanding of the link between an animal’s food and their health, energy, and behaviour. (It’s not surprising when you think about it – if we constantly eat an unbalanced diet we notice quite quickly how it affects how we feel and act.)
- more and more pet owners want to understand exactly what their animals are being fed.
The most important plus point with raw is that it’s a very natural way to feed your dog.
Consider what dogs would eat in the wild… they hunt down their prey and then devour the whole carcass. Raw feeding provides something as close as possible to this natural diet but in such a way that it can be packaged, transported, and stored cleanly in our houses.
Raw feeding is also known as BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding). In other words, it’s designed to be right for dogs’ stomachs and digestive systems. It doesn’t have any ingredients such as cereal or sugar, and the diet is made-up of raw meat and bone combined with other ingredients such as offal, fruit, and vegetables.
There are many health benefits to your pet by feeding them a raw diet. Simply by switching across to it many owners have reported positive changes to their dogs including:
- less flatulence (from the dog!)
- Calmer behaviour and less hyperactivity in younger dogs
- Skin conditions have improved or cleared up completely
- Cleaner teeth
- Firmer stools with less odour
- Stomach sensitivities or conditions become easier to manage
If this all sounds interesting, let’s look at the two ways that you can introduce the raw diet to your dog.
The “Complete” Approach
With the prepared foods the manufacturer does all the difficult work by combining the ingredients in the correct proportions to ensure the food gives a balanced diet. You just need to put out the correct amount of food each time for the weight/activity of your dog.
The downside to this is it can be a costlier approach for larger dogs – the prepared food is more expensive to buy, and bigger dogs will get through the food quite quickly.
The “Do-It-Yourself” Approach
This way uses “just meat” which normally comes in small blocks (easy to store in freezers) or bags of mince (easy to separate into smaller portions in advance), which you then combine with either a mixer biscuit or fruit and vegetables. When the meat is prepared in the factory it is often mixed with minced bone. This ensures the dog will get their omega 3 fats as well as minerals such as calcium.
This approach does take a bit more forethought and preparation. You need to ensure that you have defrosted some of the meat in advance and know what you’re going to mix in with it.
To complement the raw diet there are also chews such as marrowbone, paddywack, chicken wings, knuckle bones, lamb ribs and necks. The recommendation is to give your dog these two or three times a week – they’re great for keeping teeth clean and have many nutritional benefits.
Raw bones are quite safe to feed to dogs since they are softer, and hence more flexible, than cooked bones, so won’t splinter. You do need to consider the age of the dog compared to the size of the bone – more information can be found here:
There are of course both pros and cons to all foods, and raw is no different. The main drawbacks or objections that we’ve come across are either space in the freezer at home, or the planning/preparation that needs to go into each meal. You don’t just have a bag of biscuits in the cupboard that you can scoop out of!
We have fed our three dogs on mainly dry food for most of their lives and, like most dogs, they took to some brands better than others. Recently we completely changed our approach and have now switched across to Natures Menu raw. And the dogs love it!
This post isn’t intended to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t feed their dog. All dogs are individual and just because one food is right for one dog it doesn’t follow that it’s right for all.
As always, we’re very happy to discuss any feeding concerns or questions in more detail. Feel free to pop into the shop, look through our freezers and have a chat if you’d like to know more. We also have leaflets and guides for the Natures Menu range that you can take away and read at your leisure.