Raw Food Diet for Pets
When it comes to pet food, raw foods are much more nutritious, and can relieve your pet of many allergies resulting from ingredients in commercial kibble such as genetically modified corn, wheat, or soy. Canines are not biologically built to consume high carbohydrate diets such as those in processed kibble (often in excess of 50%). Many Naturopathic vets recommend a balanced raw food diet for dogs.
Canines are naturally designed to eat raw food diets. They have short digestive tracts and their stomachs are much more acidic than a human's stomach, which makes it much easier for them to digest and assimilate a raw meat or fish diet.
Why Some Vets Are Against Raw Foods
On the flip side, the danger of contamination such as salmonella poisoning and nutritional deficiencies resulting from not understanding how to approach a raw diet are a cause for concern. Many vets have treated pets who have suffered nutritional deficiencies while on a raw food diet, and feel strongly that such diets should not be fed to pets.
Are their concerns are valid? Absolutely! Just as there are many people that do not understand or follow the principles of a healthy human diet (resulting in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases), there are many pet owners, however well-meaning, that feed raw food diets to their pets without understanding the importance of balanced nutrition and food safety. Vets are justified in their concerns against raw diets. There are however some traditional vets (as opposed to those with a natural or holistic approach) that do not recommend raw diets based on a lack of knowledge or understanding of how important raw nutrition is. If your vet does not advocate raw foods, then my recommendation is to find a vet that does.
What Is A Raw Food Diet
Also known as BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food), a raw food diet consists of only raw ingredients that are considered biologically appropriate for your pet. It means not feeding your dog or cat any cooked and or processed food (especially the highly processed commercial kibble).
The ingredients mimic those that would be eaten in the wild by canines in their natural habitat, basically whatever nutrition can be derived from a whole, fresh raw carcass in its entirety, which includes the meat, organs, tripe (intestines), bones, some skin and hair, and stomach contents (typically foods of plant origin such as grass and berries). The nutrients found in bones and bone marrow are an important requirement in a balanced raw food canine diet.
The BARF philosophy is simply that dogs or cats eat what they have evolved to eat - namely raw foods. This is also the dietary philosophy accepted by most zoologists concerned with preserving any endangered animal.
Benefits of a Raw Food Diet
Let's take a look at some of the important health benefits of a raw food diet:
Drawbacks & Concerns of a Raw Food Diet
Let's also take a look at the concerns of feeding a raw food diet:
Raw vs. Cooked - The Pottenger Health Study
In 1945, Dr. Francis Pottenger published a long-term study of 900 cats over a 10 year period that compared the health of cats on a raw food diet vs. a cooked diet.(1) & (2) The results of the study were carefully recorded:
"The cats receiving raw meat and raw milk reproduced similarly healthy kittens from one generation to the next. Abortion was uncommon. Litters averaged 5 and the mother cats nursed their young in a normal manner. These cats had strong immunity to vermin, infections, and parasites. They possessed excellent equilibrium and behaved in a predictable manner. Their organic development was complete and functioned normally."
"The cats receiving cooked-meat scraps reproduced unequally healthy kittens, each kitten of the litter being different and abnormal in skeletal pattern. Abortion in these cats was common (25% in the first generation, 70% in the second generation). Deliveries were in general difficult, with some cats dying in labor. Mortality rates of the kittens were high, frequently due to the failure of the mother to lactate. The kittens were often too frail to nurse. At times, the mother would steadily decline in health following the birth of the kittens, sometimes dying from some obscure tissue exhaustion about 3 months after delivery. Others experienced increasing difficulty with subsequent pregnancies. Some failed to become pregnant."
‘‘The cats fed cooked meat were irritable. The females were more hostile to handle, occasionally viciously biting the keeper. The males were more docile, if not actually unaggressive. Sex interest was reduced. Vermin and intestinal parasites were very common. Skin lesions and allergies were frequent, being progressively worse from one generation to the next.”
Dr. Pottenger then went on to take the degenerates of later generations and feed them raw food. In a matter of 3 to 4 generations, the regenerating animals evidenced improved health and few irregularities. It took, he concluded, a full 4 generations to regenerate their health significantly.
Dr. Pottenger’s closing words were: “What vital elements were destroyed in the heat processing of the foods fed to the cats? The precise factors are not known. Ordinary cooking precipitates proteins, rendering them less easily digested. Probably certain albuminoids and globulins are physiologically destroyed. All tissue enzymes are heat liable and would be materially reduced or destroyed. Vitamin C and some members of the B complex are injured by the process of cooking. Minerals are rendered less soluble by altering their physiochemical state. It is possible that this alteration of the physiochemical state of the foods by heating them, may be all that is necessary to render them imperfect foods for the maintenance of health."
Similar results were found during long-term research studies on the effects of microwaving food. Not only were many of the nutrients destroyed, but these foods were also shown to have a detrimental impact on the blood and various systems of the body.
Microwaves - Why you should ditch them!...
- Why pets are getting sicker
- Healthy & balanced pet diet
- Tips on choosing a healthy pet food
- Home-cooked diet
- Raw food diet for pets
- Doing raw right for pets
- Home-baked doggy treats
- Bones - nature's toothbrush
- Bone broth recipe
- Pet food recalls
- Treating common pet injuries
- Pet-proofing your home
- Preparing for a new pet!
- Fleas, ticks, & mosquitoes
- Natural dog grooming
- Pet dental care
- Pet vaccinations
View Sources & References
- (1) Pottenger's Cats: A Study In Nutrition, by author Dr. Francis M. Pottenger, Jr.
- (2) The effect of heat-processed foods & metabolized vitamin D milk on the dentofacial structures of experimental animals. Am J Orthod Oral Surg. 1946 Aug;32:467-85.
- Image of Dr. Pottenger sourced from Images from the History of Medicine