Over the years the Raw Food Diet has waxed and waned in popularity. Largely prominent in the 1980s with Leslie and Susannah Kenton’s Raw Energy Movement, it dipped away for a while before gaining momentum in the 21st century. Today, the Raw Food diet is hugely popular in Australia, with a new generation claiming its benefits encourage a trim and healthy lifestyle.
The raw food diet is based on eating foods that have not been heated above 40C. The rationale is that by keeping food raw, the nutrients normally destroyed by cooking remain and fewer harmful chemicals are consumed.
The pros of an all raw diet are many, including:
- Boosted intake of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals
- Boosted intake of healthy fruits, vegetables and fats
- Fewer calories
- The avoidance of potentially harmful chemicals created with high heat cooking
- Environmentally-friendly way of eating
- Fewer problems with the immune system
- Fewer food allergies and sensitivities
But do these pros still stand when feeding a dog a raw diet?
Let’s think about it. The philosophy behind raw diets is that they follow evolutionary nutrition. In terms of humans, prominent Swedish scientist Karl von Linne states, “Man’s structure, external and internal, compared with that of the other animals, shows that fruit and vegetables constitute his natural food”. In terms of canines, one only needs to look at their teeth and anatomical structure to understand that dogs are designed to eat a raw meat, organ and bone based diet. Yes they are clearly designed as carnivores, but can you really imagine them having a cook off around the fire to tenderise their meat? Your dog’s hinged jaws are strong and equipped with teeth for tearing and crushing meat and bones so why do we feel the need to offer them a “soft” alternative?
While dogs have been domesticated by humans for over 30,000 years, it wasn’t until savvy business people capitalised on the fact owners were looking for cheaper and more convenient sources of food for their pets that prepackaged dog food came about. Today, canned meat and offals are ever present, as are foods based on cereals, grains and processed carbohydrates. Great for retailers and consumers, but not so much the dog.
Today’s pet dogs are plagued with all manner of health issues and allergies. Sadly, often the disease is treated without addressing the cause. Perhaps a look at diet could do wonders for many of these health issues?
The benefits of a raw diet for dogs
When feeding the correct, appropriate raw diet the health benefits for your dog include:
Stronger immune system
A raw diet standardises and strengthens your dog’s immune system by delivering a balance of essential fatty acids, trace elements, cartilage, marrow and immune normalising agents and strengthening nutrients which fight infection and inflammation. When feeding omega-3 fatty acid sources such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, you are essentially feeding immune boosters that increase the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria and protect the body against reactions to infection.
Functions of a dog’s correct diet not only serves as nutrition, but also for hygiene, better breath and oral health. No wild canine has access to a toothbrush and doggie toothpaste, so how do they get around tartar build up? With raw bones, briskets and tripe. The simple meaty bone provides a way of chewing and cleaning the gums and teeth to scrub and clean. Raw tripe has the added benefit of containing enzymes and texture which serve to prevent gum disease. As gum disease is strongly linked to heart disease in dogs, this should make eating raw tripe an essential part of every dog’s diet.
We all know that what we feed our dog can affect their coat and skin. If not, we wouldn’t see dog food brands claiming their products are “good for coat and skin health”. Commercial dog food has a dehydrating effect on a dog’s skin and hair. It can also contain ingredients likely to cause a reaction, ingredients such as beef, chicken, pork, fish, eggs, grain and dairy that have all been treated with artificial preservatives, additives and colours. These ingredients can result in red, irritated, itchy and inflamed skin. If your dog’s diet lacks in protein, further changes to skin and hair can occur, including brittle hair, the stopping or slowing of growth and scaly/greasy skin. Dog’s can get welts, dandruff, “hot spots”, inflamed skin, a dull coat, baldness and hyperpigmentation.
Because a raw diet requires work on the part of the jaws and teeth, eating raw takes time. The time it takes to gnaw away at a whole meaty bone gives the stomach time to activate its gastric juices so that when the food finally does hit the stomach, it has a much better chance of being properly digested. It’s with this in mind that so many dogs suffer stomach irritation or indigestion having gulped their commercial food.
Greater physical development
Dogs undertaking working or sporting duties require correct structure and muscle development. But regardless of your dog’s duties, by feeding a diet of raw meat and bones, your pet can lose unwanted fat while increasing their muscle mass simply by tearing and pulling at their food. This way of eating increases your pet’s metabolism rate, it’s activity levels, and promotes a healthy lifespan.
Feeding your dog a natural and raw diet means feeding your dog no fillers. Fillers, such as rice, corn and soy are cheap and push the profit margins for pet food manufacturers, but in terms of dog’s health, they’re completely unwanted. Even the latest craze of “grain free” manufactured dog food still means that another filler has been used instead. And just because it’s non-grain doesn’t mean it serves a nutritional purpose. It too will likely just be dumped by your dog, with research showing that up to 70% of dog stools are made up of food from the day before.
In summary, a raw food diet can result in fewer vet bills, naturally clean teeth and healthy gums, stronger neck, jaw and shoulder muscles, greater bioavailability of naturally occurring nutrients, smaller and less smelly stools, lower chance of obesity, increased mental and psychological health, greater energy, better skin, a brighter coat and fewer health problems such as arthritis.
So what are you waiting for? Why not incorporate more raw into your dog’s diet and start introducing variety to your dog. Most dogs would love to rip into raw chicken, quail, duck, rabbit, fish, kangaroo, venison, lamb, pig and beef. It might mean a more expensive grocery bill, but think of your dog’s health and happiness, not to mention those reduced vet bills!
Start small, with one or two raw bones and week and see if you notice the difference.