Is It Worth All the Attention?
Is raw food for dogs really worth all the attention (including from us at GermanShepherdPlace)? To try and figure that out, let’s review the basics behind the idea of raw feeding our German Shepherds.
Back to Basics
The premise behind feeding dogs raw food is simple: It represents a purer, more nutritional – and therefore more health-promoting – alternative to commercial foods.
How does a food qualify as providing good nutrition? The answer is really quite simple: As much as possible, it will be fresh, unprocessed and nutrient rich. A well-fashioned raw diet is a good deal more healthy for our dogs than the great majority of mass-marketed commercial foods. When was the last time you heard of a sick dog changing from a raw diet to kibble and getting better? But cases of chronically sick animals getting well after switching to a raw diet are numerous! Veterinarian Dr Richard Pitcairn shares this experience:
In 1985 he opened The Animal Natural Health Center in Eugene, Oregon, where he treated patients solely with nutrition, homeopathy and herbs. In his book, Dr Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, he describes how patients often had to wait to be fitted in to the clinic’s busy schedule. After booking an appointment, the clinic staff would give the caller a handout with dietary guidelines consisting of fresh, raw foods. Again and again people would call back prior to their appointment, to explain that their chronically sick animal, after switching to the healthy foods, was now well and that no consultation was needed!
Are all dogs on commercial foods unwell? We know that’s not the case – at least, not obviously so. Yet, the reality is that living bodies don’t always display outward signs of a compromised system – such as weakened immunity, or a developing cancer. Wholesome food creates strong, naturally resistant bodies that are better able to stand up against disease and infection.
Problems With Commercial Food
Many commercial dog foods only marginally meet nutritional requirements. And it must be realized that the manner in which their ingredients are sourced and processed often represent serious impediments to the goal of good nutrition.
Without exaggeration we can say that the incidents where veterinarians have established a connection between poor diet and the increase in chronic disease in cats and dogs are significantly increasing.
To learn more concerning commercial foods, please refer to the following articles on this site:
How Raw Food Addresses The Problem
Raw food is pure food, as nature intended. It provides optimal nutritional value, builds immunity, extends age, reduces incidences of disease, cleans teeth, exercises gums and enriches coats. Raw food is more easily absorbed by the dog’s body and more of it is digested and less eliminated compared to commercial foods. And remember, a healthy dog requires minimal veterinarian care, potentially saving thousands of dollars in the course of its life.
I realize that all this may seem like an effusively positive picture of the benefits of raw food; yet, I believe that anyone researching raw food for dogs, and reading case studies with an open mind will see that the enthusiasm is justified.
Nevertheless, to paint a balanced picture, it must also be pointed out that there is work, commitment and expense involved in providing a raw diet. Yet, not always to the degree you might expect. It’s a little like a good marriage – yes, there’s a cost in commitment and effort, but the rewards are well worth it! With raw food, it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition – More and more pet stores offer frozen raw food options. Then, there’s the freeze dried option (click here to read more). So, you may not even have to create the raw food meals yourself.
Getting great outcomes from a raw diet presupposes the use of well prepared and balanced raw food meals. We are not talking a random selection of butcher scraps, or merely chunks of raw chicken, beef etc. Such a regimen would not constitute a balanced diet. Dogs, like their human family members, have a range of specific dietary needs. Amongst these there’s muscle meat, organ meat, and meaty bones. To these must be added a variety of pureed fruits and vegetables and/or vitamins and minerals in order to round out what in the wild would come to them by consuming the whole carcass of their prey. An animal carcass, remember, also contains partly digested fruits and vegetables, plus brains, eyes and more.
What Else You Need to Know
In order to insure complete nutrition for your dog you need to provide the appropriate amounts and proportions of proteins and fats including taurine, along with a range of minerals and vitamins.This includes factoring in his or her stage of life – puppy, adult, lactating female, physical activity level, senior.
Choose one of the following approaches to giving your dog a great raw diet, one which is super-nutritious and balanced:
- Buy complete, packaged raw food from a reliable source, which usually means selecting frozen raw food from your pet supply store.
- Buy freeze-dried raw food. Read more on this option in the previous blog post: Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food: Gimmick or Godsend?
- Educate yourself on how to prepare a balanced raw diet, including the use of supplements, fruits and vegetables. Dr Richard Pitcairn’s book is an excellent resource to help in this regard – click the link for our review: Dr Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, 4th Edition (2017).
In the meantime, a good introduction to raw food can be found in the following articles:
Given what we know both about the superior nature of raw dog food, and of the problems inherent in most commercial foods, the matter of what we feed our dogs hinges, more than anything, on what’s the right fit for us as owners. I would suppose that for most GSD owners, the first question would be, “am I going to prepare the raw food myself, or buy a ready-made option?” The next question perhaps, would be: “What’s it going to cost?”
Finally, I’d like to say that if you made it to this point, having read the whole article, I congratulate you! For, I’ve not held back from laying out the hard facts – some of which are daunting. This is true concerning both the bad news regarding the substandard nature of commercial foods, and the realities concerning the cost and commitment involved in doing raw food. If you are even considering experimenting with raw, be kind to yourself. Consider first taking some baby steps – perhaps supplementing your current food with a freeze dried raw food. Or, begin to add a couple of chunks of fresh raw meat. Initial successes will provide building blocks on which to go further. Doing it in stages should ease the process in a couple of ways:
- It will help you not feel overwhelmed before even getting started.
- It will allow you to find your comfort zone concerning providing raw food for your dog. In the process, you can carve out a food budget, figure out whether it works for you to do all the prep yourself, buy ready-prepared foods and so on.
1The term “commercial food” is used in this article to refer to heat processed foods and foods with processed ingredients.