Browsing the supermarket aisles, you’ll realise the options for feeding your dog are expansive. Between wet food and dry, the competition is fierce. Originally the pet food industry made use of scraps. Leftover meats not fit for humans, the gristle and viscera, bulked up with cereals. Recently, consumers have pushed back against these empty calories so the companies have upped their game, competing to prove they have the healthiest food for your pet. Unfortunately, no matter how well intentioned the ingredients list, the cooking and processing destroys a lot of the good stuff. Sure, it’s absolutely convenient, cheap and looks healthy enough. But packaged pet food has side effects for many dogs. Eczema, dental issues, irritable bowels, arthritis, a dull coat and more are all things that can be traced back to packaged food.
There is, however, a quiet movement growing. Dog owners are increasingly turning to raw feeding for their buddies. They believe it’s the healthiest option available, and since their dogs are family they only want the best for them. If you haven’t heard of it, or only have a vague idea, here’s a rundown.
Dogs are carnivores. Their digestive tracts are uniquely developed for meat-based proteins. Raw feeding means giving your dog raw food including meat, bones, organs and green tripe, like their ancestors would have eaten in the wild. It’s important to provide a mix of proteins to make sure they get all the required nutrients. Aim for a mixture of minces, meaty bones like chicken frames, possum portions, chicken and turkey necks, rabbit and hare etc. You must, of course, make sure the bones are appropriately sized for your pup and NEVER feed cooked bones. Green tripe is an important part of the regime. It smells bad, but can be fed frozen to reduce this, and dogs love it! Try and feed it daily if you can. You want to include organ meats about twice a week, and whole fish or tinned sardines can be fed three times a week.
Adult dogs can be fed 1-2 times a day if they’re at a healthy weight. You are aiming to feed about 2% of their total weight each day, but if they are overweight or underweight you can adjust this as necessary. Puppies need about 6%, but we suggest doing more of your own research before deciding if this method is right for your puppy. Obviously as you’d be handling raw meat, the same health and safety measures should be used as you would with meat for your human family. Thorough sanitisation is essential.
The benefits of raw feeding can be numerous, including healthy skin and fur, cleaner teeth, higher energy, healthy digestive systems and smaller stools. It’s really not a whole lot more work than a standard diet. A bit of planning and measuring out and you’re good. You can choose to source your own meat supplies through supermarkets and butchers, work out what you’d prefer to feed, not forgetting to balance the nutrition as you go. This can give owners peace of mind, knowing exactly what their dog is getting. However, as the movement has grown, new companies have emerged whose owners are passionate about raw feeding.
Companies like Raw Essentials here in New Zealand provide a huge array of raw foods, delivered to your door, and are very transparent about the origins of their products. This can save you time and head space, and if you’re hesitant or just curious about the process, they offer starter packs to help you transition.