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What Is A Raw Dog Food Diet?

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Video: Dr. Justin Shmalberg, DVM


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What is a raw dog food diet?

A raw dog food diet (as opposed to a cooked dog food diet) is made of ingredients that are uncooked. Typically they are high-meat diets, but this may include toxin-housing organ meats, or leftover parts of the carcass after the rest of the cuts of meat have been removed. Raw diets utilize parts of the animal that are not always cleared as human-grade, or restaurant-quality.

Because raw diets are typically ground in manufacturing facilities, it's common for a raw dog food diet to include ground bone (or bone meal). The reason we do not recommend bone content in our dog meals (beyond the obvious reasons that this is a lower quality ingredient) is because it can cause variations in the calcium and nutrient content of the meal. Sharp pieces are not always removed, and the bone acts as a (potentially harmful) filler.

Raw dog food diets are either shipped frozen and thawed by owners, or shipped entirely raw. While some raw diet proponents argue that cooking may lead to nutrient loss, the reality is that gently cooking enables us to preserve more than enough nutrients, while also minimizing harmful bacterial risk for dogs and humans. Additionally, the deep freeze than many raw diets encounter before reaching a dog's bowl take a greater toll on the nutrients than any cooking may.

At the end of the day, one of the greatest challenges with a raw dog food diet is that you have a product that certainly looks like ground meat, but it's not entirely clear just based on visual appearance what is in the diet, despite what may be on the label.

Video: Dr. Justin Shmalberg, DVM


Created by Dr. Shmalberg, fresh dog food, individually portioned and delivered to your door.

Fresh Dog Food Recipes


Facts about raw dog food

The reality with raw dog food diets is that they present many risks to dogs and their humans, without any research showing that they present additional benefits. Because of how raw dog foods are processed, we have seen much higher rates of bacterial contamination (within dogs and owners), presenting a risk for illness that is not worth the uncertain benefits.

We have seen that the high level of animal fat in high-meat diets (which raw dog food diets are) can be problematic for a dog's digestion, and that this excess protein must be converted into carbohydrates, due to the lack of any whole carbohydrates within the meal itself.

The underlying misconception about raw diets is that they must be healthier, because wild animals are healthier and that is how they eat. Unfortunately, healthier as their lifestyles may appear, wild animals do not live as long as our domesticated dogs. And as much as our dogs may remind us of their wild cousins, they have long-ago adapted to an omnivore's diet and a domesticated lifestyle that doesn't leave their bodies prepared to handle dangerous bacteria, nor rough objects found in a raw diet.

Even for dogs that do well on a raw dog food diet, a gently-cooked diet presents the same nutritious benefits, is free of the danger of contamination, and balances nutrients more successfully than a meat-heavy raw diet is able to.


Videos Transcription:

What is a raw dog food diet?

There is certainly a number of pet parents who are feeding raw on a number of commercial products out there on the market. A raw diet, as the name implies, is something that typically has not been formally cooked. Raw diets may be pasteurized in some cases, which can be considered a form of cooking, but the vast majority of true raw diets are products that are typically frozen, and the product itself can be any number of things from the animal source protein that is included in it.

Some may include carbohydrates, and others may not. Typically, we think about them being high-meat diets, but the meats that are in there may not be the type of cuts of meat you associate with eating, so they may be things like organ meats, but they could also be leftover parts of the carcass after say, the chicken thighs, chicken breasts (in the case of chicken) are removed. This product is typically ground in a manufacturing facility.

Many of them will include ground bone in there, which can cause some variation in the calcium content in the diet as well as in the nutrient content when the organ meats are ground in there. Then that product is shipped frozen, and it has to be thawed by the individual pet parent. Even though there may be medallions or patties of some type, they have to be sort of pieced out in a certain number, sometimes cut, so people are having to handle larger quantities of raw diet freezing, thawing, and maybe going through that cycle several times. At the end of the day, you have a product that certainly looks like ground meat, but it is not entirely clear just based on visual appearance what is in the diet in spite of what may be on the label.                   

Facts about raw dog food

As raw diets have become more popular, there has been a push to obviously gain more information about them. We know that all foods that an animal ingests can have some bacteria, but based upon how raw foods are processed or really just frozen after they go through a processing plant, there are higher rates of bacterial contamination. We know that as a fact. Other people will talk about how raw diets must be healthier because wild animals are healthier.

Well, wild animals unfortunately live less long than our domesticated dogs, and part of the reason is if they are sick, they unfortunately do not survive, and so we always see healthy dogs in the wild, or healthy wolves, because unfortunately, the unhealthy ones cannot get enough food. We therefore really do not know if they are any healthier. Their foods do tend to be high protein, high fat foods. Feeding a high protein, high fat food may not always be the best.

There are some conditions for which we do not want excessive amounts of protein or fat. Excess protein is converted to carbohydrates, and excess fat can be problematic for digestion. For those dogs that do respond to a diet like that, there has been no conclusive evidence that there are any benefits when we compare a cooked diet of the same composition.         


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