Spotted dog eating meat outside

Feeding Raw Diets

Though dogs and cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, feeding commercially made pet foods have been available for less than 100 years. Before then, pets were fed table-scraps or they hunted and ate live prey. Our pets have evolved,  but their digestive systems and nutrient requirements are still very similar to their ancestors.

Commercial raw food diets are generally a mix of raw muscle and organ meats, ground raw bones, raw vegetables and fruits, and fish or plant-based oils. These are formed in small bites, nuggets, chubs or patties that are sold in frozen and/or freeze-dried form. It’s a convenient way to feed a nutritionally complete and highly digestible diet.

Advantages of Feeding Raw:

  • No nutrients lost due to heat processing
  • Ingredients are easily digestible
  • Less pet waste (poop)
  • High moisture content for better hydration
  • Enzymes aid in digestion and dental health
  • Low carbohydrate and grain-free
  • Extremely palatable

Pets That May Benefit From a Raw Diet.

All pets can benefit from raw feeding, even as an additive to their normal diet. Some pet owners in particular should consider raw feeding for pets with:

  • Finicky palates
  • Bladder stones or urinary tract issues
  • Skin allergies or digestive sensitivities
  • IBD (particularly cats)
  • Weight issues

Transitioning to a Raw Diet.

Though many people feed raw exclusively, any raw addition to your pets diet can be beneficial. Some choose to add it to their pet’s diet as a supplement rather than feeding raw exclusively. Others feed kibble one feeding and then raw the next feeding, while, a few feed raw a few times a week.

If using as a topper or mix-in to your pet’s current diet, just add a small amount on top of your regular kibble. Decrease the amount of kibble so you don’t add additional calories.

If transitioning to an entirely raw diet, do it gradually. See our Transitioning Your Pet’s Food brochure for more information. Sometimes digestive upset can occur when introducing raw into your pet’s diet. If this happens, fast your pet for a day, then introduce a small meal of raw food, gradually increasing the amount over 2-3 days. If your pet continues to have digestive upset, consider a probiotic supplement like raw Goat’s Milk or canned pumpkin to help resolve the issue.

How to Feed.

Defrost prior to serving by placing in the refrigerator for a few hours. For a quicker thaw, place in a Ziploc bag and float it in room temperature water. Do NOT defrost in a microwave. It will cook the food and destroy many of the raw benefits. 

Many raw options are sold freeze-dried. They’re great for on-the-go feeding because they don’t require thawing before serving and are easy to prepare by re-hydrating with water, bone broths or raw goat’s milk.

What to feed.

Raw Meaty Bones.

In addition to food, raw meaty bones are a healthy, durable and long-lasting chew option. Raw bones are more flexible and less likely to crack or splinter into harmful shards than cooked or smoked bones. They also contain enzymes that, along with the mechanical action of chewing, are helpful in maintaining excellent oral health. Supervise pets when they are given a bone or chew to reduce the risk of choking.

Raw Goat’s Milk.

Goat’s milk is great for hydration and is loaded with probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that aids digestion among other health benefits. That’s because goat’s milk for pet consumption is unpasteurized so it retains all of the nutritional benefits, as well as hundreds of active and helpful enzymes. It’s also naturally lactose free and a great milk replacement, especially for puppies and kittens.

Frozen Raw Safety.

Unlike humans who aren’t equipped to handle foodborne bacteria like E. coli and salmonella, pets have acidic digestive systems which decreases risks from bacteria in raw meat. Just as we take safety food precautions when handling our own food, we should do the same for our pets. Follow these steps to ensure proper food handling:

  • Purchase food from a reputable manufacturer and retailer.
  • If you are concerned that feeding raw may expose your pet to harmful pathogens, look for manufacturers that use a High Pressure Pasturization (HPP) process. HPP is an FDA and USDA approved process that kills harmful pathogens while keeping the nutritional qualities of raw food. 
  • Ensure proper temperature storage.
  • Thaw appropriately per product instructions.
  • Wash your hands and any surfaces or bowls before and after handling.
  • Use stainless steel, glass, ceramic or other easy to clean, non-porous bowls when feeding.

Complete and Balanced

complete and balanced. These foods have either gone through feeding trials, or meet the nutrient requirements put forth by The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), and include the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement on their bag.

Raw diets meeting these requirements have all the essential vitamins and minerals pets need to thrive. That makes these raw diets the same, if not better, than dry food options. 

New research and technology makes feeding raw healthier and safer than ever before. Commercially prepared raw diets are made with whole foods that are minimally processed, highly digestible, and high in moisture content. Whether feeding raw or freeze-dried food as a topper, or as an exclusive diet, all pets can reap the health benefits of this biologically appropriate diet. 

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