Raw food can be an incredible and healthful way to feed your pooch. Unfortunately, it can also be dangerously deficient in crucial nutrients including organs, vitamins, and minerals. This article will hopefully clear up any confusion you might have about what you are feeding your dog or guide you in the right direction to find out what is in their food.
There are two basic types of raw food: commercially prepared and homemade. There are pros and cons to each category, the main ones being commercially prepared will generally have a guaranteed analysis listed on the package making them a better option for new raw feeders and/or people with busy lifestyles. They can be a little more expensive than a homemade diet, especially when you buy brands with convenient portioning (e.g., kibble-style raw or 1/4lb snap lines) as this requires more specialized machinery on their end. Homemade food can be cost saving when meat is sourced directly from farmers or other suppliers however it will not come with a guaranteed analysis and so more research on your part is definitely required to ensure you are correctly balancing Fido’s food.
5 Questions to Ask Your Raw Food Manufacturer/Supplier:
1. Is this meal balanced?
Balanced raw food should consist of breakdown close to the following for prey model: 80-85% muscle meat, 10-15% bone, 5-10% organ (with half that amount being liver) and ~70% muscle meat, 10% bone, 10% organ (liver again being half), 10% fruits and/or veggies for BARF feeders. Why does balance matter? Unbalanced food can lead to “skeletal issues, organ degeneration and endocrine abnormalities as a result of dietary deficiencies of essential fatty acids, calcium, trace minerals and other nutrients” (Dr. Karen Becker)
2. What Protein(s) is/are in the food?
Sounds basic, but there are companies out there that sell “mixed” protein products without clearly stating what proteins they contain. This is problematic for a few reasons, firstly if your dog has or develops any sensitivities while on the food it will be impossible to know what protein they are having an issue with. Second, it makes rotation very difficult. Ideally, your pet is eating a variety of proteins each week, if you are always buying a “mix,” there is no guarantee they are not just getting chicken every time. The third thing we always worry about is balance. If you do want to go with the mix formula because you are not remotely worried about allergies, and you are still rotating in a variety of specific proteins along with your mix, you need to know that the blend is made of a suitably balanced blend to ensure your pet’s meal is not lacking.
3. What is the fat content?
Fat cannibalizes vitamins and minerals, so staying on a high-fat diet longer term can not only give your pup more junk in the trunk, but it can also leave them severely lacking in their essential vitamins & minerals. Dana Scott, Editor-In-Chief of Dogs Naturally Magazine gave an excellent talk all about fat content in relation to nutrient bio-availability this year for Raw Roundup. Specifically, she focused on why feeding too much fat can be a significant issue for your pet’s health mainly because the higher the fat content in a food was, the lower the vitamins and minerals (like zinc, iron, copper, manganese, thiamine, vitamin A, E, etc.) would be.
4. How and where were the animals in the food raised?
Sounds like a weird question but it is actually essential for a few reasons. Animals being fed grains (even just during the final stages of their life) has a significant impact on their nutrient makeup (see fat content question above). Factory farmed animals (e.g., chickens) are rarely exposed to sunlight, this is an issue because dogs and cats cannot synthesize Vitamin D in the sunlight like we can. They need to be getting it from their food, and if the animals they are eating were not exposed to adequate sunlight, they would likely be deficient.
5. Is the meat used human grade?
This one is pretty self-explanatory. A slaughterhouse has two sides: the human grade side and the “rendered” side. Rendered animals are made up of the dead, dying and diseased animals and therefore do not constitute a quality food source.
Woofs & Wags,
The Holistic Pet Radio Pack