Feeding a Raw Food Diet

“Pets developed eating raw animals and their digestion has not changed.  Their temperament, size and colour have been altered by selection, but their physiology has not been altered by domestication. The closest our city pets can come to their natural food is a balanced and complete raw food diet.  If the raw food is handled safely and the diet is complete and natural, there is no reason why an animal would become sick [from eating raw meat].  Thus far, there have been no reports of human illness as a result of feeding raw food to pets.” Dr. Lea Stogdale, Aesops Veterinary Care, Winnipeg, April 2007

You may have heard some unsettling information about feeding cats and dogs raw food.  It is important to educate yourself about the facts before simply accepting concerns at face value.  There are now plenty of resources available in order to make an informed decision.  Many veterinarians like Dr. Stogdale believe that feeding dogs and cats a raw diet is biologically suitable.  While processed dry pet foods have been available only in the past 40 or 50 years, both species have been consuming raw food throughout their evolutionary history.  In that light, it is an unreasoned assertion when you hear that evolution has somehow changed their physiological systems.

As a species, humans are encouraged on a daily basis to avoid over processed foods and to favour whole, fresh foods.  Yet most of us don’t extend that common sense thinking to our pet’s diet.  Cats and dogs actually thrive on fresh meat – meat that includes muscle meat, organ meat, bones, fat, and connective tissue.

In the multi-billion dollar pet food industry, processed dry kibble dominates the market.  The bulk of the ingredients in dry food are plant based and the reason behind that is because plant proteins are considerably cheaper than utilizing meat as a main ingredient.  Because those ingredients are so common, many people have come to accept grains and corn as suitable ingredients in our pet’s food.  They are not.  With fresh meat, our pet receives the most complete array of required amino acids while the other tissues almost perfectly complete a well-balanced diet.  And unlike processed pet foods, raw meaty diets are rich in enzymes and healthy bacteria and are not compromised nutritionally by the destructive methods of heat processing.  Real foods are a real source of natural vitamins and minerals while dry pet food relies on the addition of synthetic vitamins and minerals.  The health benefits of raw food diets can be amazing and range from healthy coats, sweetened breath, small stools, easier digestion and cleaner teeth.

There are a few basic rules in feeding your pet a raw diet.  The first to remember is that feeding raw means that you are feeding the whole animal carcas that includes ground bone and organ meats.  Buying ground muscle meat at a grocery store does not provide a balanced diet nor does a diet solely from chicken necks and backs.  The second basic rule in raw diets is to ensure that no more than 45% of your pet’s diet comes from one animal.  Rotating different meats allows your pet to benefit from different levels of enzymes, fats, vitamins and minerals.  As with our own nutritional requirements, rotation and variety in our pet’s meals provides him or her with balance over time.  Some people feed a raw diet that is 100% whole ground prey; some people feed a diet that is 60% to 75% whole ground animal and supplement with finely ground cooked vegetables or tripe (the stomach lining and contents of an animal rich in digestive enzymes and nutrients).  What proportion of the meal should be meat is debated among raw food feeders.  If you are adding in veggies, an average mix would be 60-75% meat and 25-40% vegetables/fruit or tripe.

There are many commercial raw food diets available.  These diets vary in formulations, cost and quality.  Recognized meat suppliers, pet food stores, and neighbourhood or rural suppliers are all involved in selling raw pet foods.  The quality of the whole animal diet can range from animals that have been rejected from the human food chain because of disease, to human food grades, to non-medicated (hormone/antibiotic free) and/or organic.  When purchasing whole ground animal carcasses, it is important to remember that you get what you pay for – the cheaper the supply, the more likely the meat is of questionable quality.  For your pet’s health, it is essential to do your homework and find out the source of your supplier’s meat.

To make a raw diet more cost effective, some people purchase meats directly from a meat supplier.  Some of these suppliers provide ground meat, bone and organ meats in bulk which people then repackage in more manageable serving sizes at home and freeze while some people purchase the animal whole and grind it themselves.  Commercial raw food diets are also available and probably provide the best source of quality ground whole animal carcasses.

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