The raw food diet – sometimes known as a BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) or raw meaty bones diet for dogs is something that has caught on in a big way throughout the UK, as dog owners seek alternatives to pre-packaged commercial dog diets, and look for alternative ways to feed their dogs in a more natural manner.
The basis of the raw food diet for dogs is to cut out kibble, cooked food and processed foods like tins of meat, and instead, provide for the dog’s nutritional requirements by giving them the type of food that they would eat in the wild.
There is still a lot of debate over whether or not the raw food diet for dogs is actually the best and most appropriate way to feed dogs or simply another fad that is at best simply ok and at worst, actually potentially harmful – but there is no debate over the level of interest that dog owners show in this type of feeding protocol, or the number of dog owners who are willing to give it a go.
However, feeding a raw food diet is rather more complicated than simply buying a bag of commercial kibble and dishing it up – to be able to feed your dog a raw food diet effectively, you need to develop a basic understanding of canine nutrition, plan ahead, and prepare and serve balanced meals that you buy, prepare and store at home.
If you are considering feeding your dog a raw food diet, are just starting out or even if you have been feeding your dog raw for years, giving your dog all of the perceived benefits of the diet and avoiding problems depends on feeding your dog the right combination of foods, in the right way. If you go about things the wrong way, you run the risk of making your dog sick, failing to meet their nutritional requirements, and causing problems rather than improving your dog’s health and condition – things you will of course be keen to avoid.
It doesn’t have to be complicated to feed a raw food diet to your dog, but you do have to do your homework and have a plan in place for your dog’s meals – and know how to avoid some of the pitfalls that may come up along the way.
In this article, we will look at five of the most common errors that dog owners make when feeding their dogs a raw diet, and how to avoid them. Read on to learn more.
Feeding your dog a raw food diet is something that requires a lot more planning and care than feeding a commercial diet, because you are responsible for not only ensuring that your dog likes their meals, but that they fulfil all of their nutritional requirements.
Not all meats are suitable for feeding to a dog – for instance, you can’t just feed your dog on ground beef mince or bacon and expect them to thrive!
Dogs need a combination of lean meat, organ meat and fat, as well as some bone material to provide calcium and help to keep your dog’s teeth in good condition. Identifying, sourcing and putting together raw meals requires a good basic understanding of canine nutrition, and the ability to plan and prepare meals that fulfil all of your dog’s nutritional requirements and that contain the right balance of ingredients to allow them to thrive.
Dogs fed a raw diet correctly don’t only eat meat – they also need some fruit and veg in their diets too, and potentially, other ingredients such as egg. In the wild, dogs are omnivores, and feed themselves by both hunting and scavenging for food, which means that they don’t eat meat alone, but also vegetable matter and fruit, which provides fibre, vitamins and minerals.
A complete raw food diet contains all of these elements in combination, not just meat on its own.
One of the main concerns about feeding a raw diet for dogs is the risk of handling, storing and feeding raw meat, due to the risk of bacterial contamination with things like salmonella. Raw meat is not per se dangerous to your dog – but if their food is not stored and handled correctly, it might make them (or you) ill.
However, as long as you keep your dog’s meat frozen or refrigerated properly and follow the same protocols that you would when preparing your own meals – like not leaving meat out at room temperature, not allowing raw meat to come into contact with cooked foods, and washing hands, bowls and food prep implements properly – feeding a raw diet should not increase the risks of you or your dog coming down with a bug.
When you feed your dog a commercial diet, guidance on how much to feed to your dog taking into account their age, size and activity levels is readily available, to help you to know how much food they need. However, when you are solely responsible for planning your dog’s diet and feeding them, it can be hard to know how large their meals should be, particularly if you are feeding different types of meat and other ingredients in each meal.
In order to determine how much to feed your dog, you will need to be able to work out how many calories they need in order to maintain a healthy weight, and calculate this into their portions, bearing in mind that different types of meats and other ingredients will have different calorific values.
Regardless of the type of food that you feed to your dog, you should be able to assess how well it suits them and whether or not it is appropriate for them by means of your dog’s condition.
A healthy dog that is fed the right amount of the right types of food will look healthy, with their coat in great condition, enough energy to do all of the things that they want to do, and normal digestion with healthy, firm stools and generally, showing all the signs of a dog that is thriving. However, if your dog’s diet isn’t a good fit for them or if they are getting too much or too little food or missing out on nutrients, your dog won’t thrive – and being able to recognise this is vital.
Critically assessing your dog’s condition will let you know if you need to make any adjustments to their diet, if they are missing out on anything they need, or if the diet isn’t a good fit for them – and being able to be objective about this is essential when feeding a raw food diet.