The Raw Feeding Method A Report on Its Claims & Benefits Written by: Maggie Rhines
It is well recognized and accepted that pets are members of the family. Many people have a genuine love for the animals they care for, and it is usually for this reason that pet owners everywhere are constantly looking for the best ways to care for their pets. Whether it be toys, grooming methods, beds, clothes, or food, the best of the best is what almost all pet owners feel their pet deserves. This report discusses one of the most important aspects of pet care. It talks about a natural feeding method for pets, dogs in particular. The raw food system, popularized as “BARF”, “raw feeding”, and “the raw food diet” is a system of feeding pets raw food. This is done in an attempt to follow the theory that raw foods are what pets would have naturally eaten if left to thrive in the wild In this report, we will discuss: · · · · ·
What is the theory behind raw feeding and what makes it so popular with current pet owners. Who are recommending the raw food diet. Is it worthwhile to make the switch for your pet? Are there any risks involved with the raw food diet? How do the supporters of the raw feeding system answer to the challenges or arguments of people who believe in more traditional feeding methods.
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What Is The Raw Food Theory? The raw food theory is a theory for feeding pets that has gained incredible popularity in recent years. The theory believes that domesticated animals should be given raw food instead of commercialized pet food or home cooked food because raw food is closer to what these animals would have eaten had they been living in the wild. According to the theory and based on the digestive anatomy of these animals, raw food is the appropriate food for them. Since an animal's digestive system, a dog for example, has not changed or evolved a great deal prior to domestication, their digestive system and stomachs are capable of digesting raw food. Dogs who live in the wild, like wolves and dingos, hunt for their food and eat it raw. The raw food theory believes that domesticated dogs should be given the same type of feeding system so as to make their diet more natural. Based on the theory, this is a healthier diet for pets.
Why Is It So Popular? The popularity of the raw food theory can be attributed to two main things. The first is the movement towards a more natural and more organic lifestyle. Since multiple scientific studies have highly correlated many of our modern foods, environment, and ways of life to major diseases or illnesses, people have been looking for more natural ways of living. This means eating organic and natural food, caring for the environment around us and making sure our surroundings are not polluted, and living a simpler lifestyle. Because of this movement towards the natural and organic, people who are also pet owners sought to give their pets a natural and organic lifestyle as well. For pets, this meant finding an appropriate diet which will keep them healthier for longer, as well as getting the correct amounts of exercise. The raw food diet fits the bill. Though the organic lifestyle did play a role in the raw food theory's popularity, it is the second main reason that really sky-rocketed it into stardom. That is the commercial pet food scandal of 2007, which killed literally hundreds of pets all over the world. Those who are unfamiliar with the scandal can read news archives from the time, beginning with the early months of the year which is when the story first broke. The problem was due to some inappropriate ingredients found in the dog food. These ingredients were poisonous to dogs, and caused gradual or sometimes quick deaths among the animals. Commercial pet food companies had to recall thousands of bags of both dog and cat food in order to prevent further fatalities. The deaths of all of these pets rocked the world. It put the spotlight on commercial pet food companies, what ingredients they put in their pet food, and what measures they take to make sure that the pet food
is actually safe for pets to consume. It turned out that some commercial pet food companies have been lax in their methods. Ingredients used in the products were not always of the best quality, and the chemicals, preservatives, artificial flavors, supplements, and fillers were all put to the test and some were found to be potentially harmful to pets. As a result of the findings, many pet owners lost their trust in commercial pet food and sought to find ways to feed their pets healthier and more natural food. This scandal boosted the popularity of the raw dog food diet, and its renown hasn't faltered since. Even when commercial pet food companies claimed to take extra care in their products, and even when governments stepped in to conduct more stringent tests on commercial pet food, pet owners steadily lost interest in the commercial products and continued to feed their pets either home cooked or raw food meals. Apart from these two issues, other factors continue increasing the raw food diet's popularity. Factors like: - Testimonials from happy pet owners who claim that the raw food diet has done wonders for their pets. - An increasing amount of literature regarding the subject. - The manufacturing of commercial food that follows the raw food diet, such as frozen raw dog food and raw dehydrated dog food.
Who Recommends This Diet? The raw food diet is attributed to Australian veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst. His book, 'Give Your Dog a Bone' was published in December of 1993. Though many people say the idea was in existence prior to the publication of the book, it was Dr. Billinghurst and this book that spread the word about the theory, as well as coined the term 'BARF' which stands for 'bones and raw food.' 'Give Your Dog a Bone' was soon followed by other publications, also from veterinarians, namely Dr. Richard Pitcairn's 'New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats' and Dr. Kymythy R. Schultze's 'Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats.' All three doctors recommend the raw food diet for pets because they firmly believe that this type of diet is what pets should be eating. They believe that putting your pet on a raw food diet will lessen their chances of acquiring diseases, allowing your pet to live a longer and healthier life. Other health benefits claimed by the doctors include: -
A shinier coat Minimized or decreased dog odors. Firmer stool, as well as decreased stool production Minimized or non-existent allergies A better immune system Better dental hygiene Increase in energy and stamina
Better weight control Better management of current illnesses (for old dogs) and decreased percentages of acquiring illness (for younger dogs)
These health benefits are also claimed by some dog owners and dog breeders who say that they have witnessed these changes in their dogs. Because of their success with the diet, these same people also recommend the raw food diet. Their testimonies give great support to the raw food theory. Apart from these testimonies, however, holistic veterinarians also support and recommend the raw food theory. The theory lines up with the belief of feeding your pet a natural and organic diet, making many holistic veterinarians believe in the feeding system, and have faith in the benefits that the theory will bring. They believe that the raw food theory is the way to giving our pets longer lives. Finally, several nutrition specialists also recommend the diet and support the theory. These specialists agree that the nutrition a dog receives from the raw food diet is perfect for their needs. When followed correctly, a diet of raw food is said to provide dogs with a healthy and balanced diet that provides dogs with the correct amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals. However, it is important to point out that the raw food must come in the correct proportions. Specialists recommend that the dog's diet be mainly composed of meats (about 70-75%) and the rest of vegetables or fruit. This is because a dog's digestive system processes food differently from the human digestive tract, and they need a good amount of protein, a minimal amount of fruit, and absolutely no grains (they will get their carbohydrates from starchy fruit and vegetables) since their digestive system cannot digest grains.
Is It Worthwhile? Many pet owners whose dogs have been eating commercial pet food for years and have been getting along just fine wonder if switching to the raw food diet is worthwhile for their pets. The research I have done shows that, yes, it is always worthwhile and is a great step to take in caring for your pet's health. Though most raw food supporters agree that the diet works best when dogs start on the raw food system as puppies, older dogs can still be switched to the raw food system and receive its many health benefits For example, supporters and practitioners of the diet claim that old dogs with arthritis are able to cope better with their disease because the raw food induces the production of lubricant for their joints. Apart from arthritis, other old age dog illnesses are also helped by the raw food diet. For younger dogs, the chances of illness are lessened. So it doesn't matter how old or what stage your dog is in. Given the observations made by practitioners, it is worthwhile to make the switch to the raw food diet for dogs because your dog will be given the chance at a healthier and longer life. Though your dog will benefit from making the switch to a raw food diet, it doesn't mean that they will
make the switch easily. Many dogs who have been fed a commercial pet food diet or were being fed a home cooked food diet for many years will have to be weaned into the raw food diet. This is because the taste of raw food will be foreign to them, and they need to be introduced to it slowly. There are different methods or techniques for weaning a dog into the raw food diet. The different techniques can dependent on how old the dog is, whether or not they are picky eaters, and how much food they currently have in their systems (some weaning methods require starving or fasting a pet before making the switch.) Pet owners, together with their veterinarians, will have to assess the dog's personality and eating habits in order to determine how best to make the switch. Finally, pet owners should be wary about whether or not their pet has special needs. Some pets who were born with diseases, epilepsy is one example, may not take to the raw food diet very well. There are some dogs who cannot eat the raw food diet because they were born with a pre-existing condition. It must be made clear, however, that it isn't so much the raw food that is bad for them, but it can be the specific type of raw meat that is being fed. Most veterinarians prefer to put these types of dogs on a special diet, one that can be tailored to help them cope with their particular ailment. If you have a dog that needs a special diet and have other dogs that do not, it is probably best to feed your pets separately. This can assure you that your pet with special needs really stick to their diet, and avoid any of the complications raw food may bring. It should also be noted that pregnant dogs are not included in the list of dogs with special needs. If a dog started on the raw food diet as a puppy, going into heat and pregnancy should not be a problem for them. They can continue to eat raw food throughout their pregnancy. In fact, practitioners claim that the raw food diet helps pregnant dogs throughout their pregnancy, giving them an easier time while they are carrying their whelps and while they are whelping as well. Supporters also say that the raw food diet lessens the chances of false pregnancy in dogs.
What Are The Risks? Since Dr. Billinghurst's publication of 'Give Your Dog a Bone', many pet owners, veterinarians, and dog breeders who follow more traditional methods of feeding (commercial pet food and home cooked food) have asked about the risks of giving pets raw food. Those who follow more traditional methods of feeding claim, that feeding dogs raw food is very risky because of the potential bacterial infection the food can bring. Many of them who hear that raw chicken and sometimes whole chicken carcasses are given to dogs immediately fear the possibility of salmonella poisoning. This is a natural concern. After all, even children in schools are taught that raw food is the breeding ground for bacteria. Of course no one wants to feed their pet bacteria which could be harmful or poisonous. Another risk foreseen by those who have been feeding their pets more traditional methods is that of the perforation of the stomach or other parts of the digestive tract due to splintered bones. Again, concern
over a dog's internal digestion and the possibility of internal bleeding is completely normal. Similar to how it is normal for pet owners to be very concerned about how some dogs are reported to go through terrible transition methods when making the switch to raw feeding. A third risk is the accidental ingestion of pesticides and growth hormones from some raw foods. These chemicals are harmful to dogs, and can cause many health problems, and even death. Many home cooked food practitioners claim that the benefits noticed in the raw food diet are the same benefits noticed in dogs that eat home cooked food. The home cooked diet or hypoallergenic commercial pet foods is their answer to the risks posed by the raw food diet. These traditional feeders say that the home cooked diet has a decreased risk for bacterial infection because the food is cooked.
Countering Attacks While practitioners and supporters of the raw food system do admit that there are risks to feeding our dogs raw food, these risks are minimized when the system is followed correctly. In response to most attacks, supporters of raw feeding remind people that the raw food being fed to dogs should be fresh and from organic sources. Taking your food from organic sources means no pesticides or growth hormones were used. They also remind the public that the raw food method recommends serving dogs with human grade food. Human grade food passes through the strictest tests, and is therefore safe for your dog to consume. To those who fear the splintering of bones, supporters of the raw food method recommend that only very large bones be given. These bones are meant to be gnawed at. If a pet owner is very afraid, however, they can choose to eliminate the 'bones' part of their pet's diet and simply give them raw meat. A calcium supplement may be needed, however, in order to make up for the loss of this nutrient. Bacterial infections is a serious problem, and it is true that chicken and turkey carry the bacteria. Again, followers of the raw food diet advise pet owners to get their meat from trusted sources and make sure that the meat is as fresh as possible. Also, documents have shown that dogs have different stomach enzymes from humans, enzymes that can break down these meats and fight off these harmful bacteria. For those who are still skeptical, however, choosing to eliminate chicken or turkey from the dog's diet is also an option. With regards to home cooking, supporters of the raw food diet agree that home cooked food is indeed healthier than commercial pet foods. However, they claim that when food is cooked, though it does kill bacteria (if any are present at all) it loses nutritional value, making it less useful to your pet. This means you will have to either give your dog supplements or give them more food. Both of which are not natural forms of providing your pet with nutrition. Finally, dog breeders, and pet owners who follow the raw food system have all done so with the advice or supervision of a veterinarian. It is very important to consult your veterinarian regarding the raw dog
food system. They are licensed to assess your pet's condition, help your pet make the transition, and assist with the feeding schedules, methods, and menu. Remember to do so before making the switch!
In conclusion, my research has shown that the raw feeding method is a method safe and beneficial to pets. It is a system of holistic and natural feeding which can provide our pets with the healthier, happier, and longer lives they deserve. Backed by veterinarians, dog breeders, and plenty of practitioners, raw feeding is something all pet owners should look into, as well as keep as an option for their pets.
Maggie Rhines is the author of the book â€œGoing RAWr! Dog Lovers Compendiumâ€?, which is a guide to help owners who are switching their dogs or puppies to the raw food diet. To know more about her work, visit http://www.deliciousdogdiet.com.
Published on Mar 20, 2010
The raw feeding model for dogs is quite popular these days. But what exactly are the benefits and risks of this diet? This report looks at t...