Raw Food Diet for Dogs: the Nutritional Gold Standard
A Raw Food Diet in Dogs is the Gold Standard of Canine Nutrition
What is the benefit of a raw food diet for dogs, or even. fresh food diet for dogs? Almost every human has heard the adage "you are what you eat". We stress it to athletes, children, the elderly- really anyone seeking improved health or fitness gains has heard how important nutrition is. I personally know the benefits that a healthy diet brought to my life. For years, I struggled with health conditions that brought on chronic pain. Eventually, I switched my diet to a plant based diet, and relief of the chronic pain ensued. I felt better than I had in years and continue to improve daily.
I have heard the same story from people from all walks of life dealing with issues of chronic pain, allergies, weight gain, fatigue, diabetes, etc. If diet can make these incredible changes in humans, why would we not believe the same is true in our canine friends? I read the book Forever Dog by Dr Karen Becker and Rodney Habib. It was a game changer for me. The reality of a healthy diet and the benefits it bestows on our pets is backed by science. I never thought about how processed the kibble was that I was feeding my dog, until I read that book. I have since transitioned my dog to a fresh diet and we are transitioning to a raw diet, and the benefits have been unbelievable!
I sat down with Carrie Marble, the owner and founder of Bark N' Scratch Outpost (5835 W. Bluemound Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53213) to discuss different dog diets and the benefits of raw and fresh diets. Carrie is one of the most knowledgeable local experts on pet nutrition. She shared her insights with me so I could pass them along to you.
Carries Story and How She Became Passionate about Raw Food Diet for Dogs
Before I ask you to trust that Carrie is knowledgable and passionate, I want you to understand her story. Carrie was motivated to open her store after an experience with her own dog. Below is her story, in her words:
"Bark N' Scratch Outpost opened September 6, 2006. In 2005 our family was picked by a Bichon puppy named Snowbelle. After several months of puppy life and feeding a vet recommended food (which I had no idea had harmful ingredients in it), Snowbelle started to bite her coat off in spots on her side. Snowbelle also had anal sack problems and blood in her urine. After spending months trying pills, shots, and surgery to remove her anal sacs, the vet told us to euthanize her. 'This is Wisconsin, Snowbelle is a puppy mill dog, put her down and start over'
At the same time, our groomer expressed concern about Snowbelles coat. After I explained what was going on and all we had done, she showed me the species appropriate diet in her freezer that she fed her own dog. I began to feed Snowbelle the diet too. One issue was I had to go to Waukesha to buy the food. I worked the same hours the store was open, so getting there was always hard, but the effort was worth it. The raw diet was working! Her symptoms resolved.
One day, I realized I didn't have food for her dinner. My husband said 'why don't you open a store?' so I called the 800 number on the back of the food I was feeding her and asked how to get it delivered because I was opening a store. A few months after I opened the store, I thought Snowbelle needed a friend since I was so busy. Kakashi called us to be his family. Kakashi really helped us understand more about skin issues and fungus. Kakashi, like Snowbelle, lived the length of two lives in the standards of dog years today. He had energy for days and he lived his life to the fullest at the store. Kakashi loved to be social with all the people and kids and most of the pets that cam into the store"
Carries desire to see better health for her sweet Snowbelle, and her astounding experience with a raw food diet, led her to learn more about nutrition through classes, seminars, books and lectures. Bark N' Scratch Outpost now specializes in carrying less processed, species appropriate diets for dogs, cats, and small mammals like bunnies and guinea pigs. Carrie ensures that her staff are up to date on the latest information in pet nutrition and have information on the products she stocks.
When asked how Carrie began to acquire her knowledge and what she does to stay on top of the latest research, she replied "Dr Karen Becker would attend a vendor trade show and speak for hours in the afternoon about everything going in her veterinary clinic and how species appropriate nutrition plays a role in her clients health. Dr Barbara Royal held classes the staff and I attended in Illinois. We have read books written by these wonderful vets. Now we ready trade magazines written by other holistic vets. We also are Plant Paw members of Dr Karen Becker and Rodney Habibs Facebook group. Our staff is currently reading The Forever Dog"
Carrie and her staff live what they preach. They are passionate about bringing great health to local pets and believe that nutrition is the cornerstone to good health, with fresh and raw diets being the best.
What is a Raw and Fresh Diet?
Both raw diets and fresh food diets have a place in your dogs diet. There are differences though, that everyone should be aware of before proceeding. Whatever diet you choose, both fresh and raw have benefits that far exceed the over-processed kibble many of us are feeding our dogs. Myself included, as I stated earlier, I never realized how over processed the food I was feeding my dog was. I was feeding a high quality kibble, but since transitioning him to fresh food, we have seen an improvement in his allergies, his arthritis, his anxiety and his reactivity. Some of the benefits are from training as well, but the combination of training and a high quality diet has been life changing for him. Murphy has a softer coat, more energy, and is far less anxious and reactive than he was in the past.
Raw Food Diet for Dogs:
A raw diet is species appropriate for all animals provided you use the appropriate food. For example, feeding raw meat or organs to a small mammal that does not eat meat is not species appropriate. However, feeding raw fruits and veggies to bunnies or guinea pigs is species appropriate. "A raw diet for dogs consists of species appropriate ingredients such as organ meat, muscle meat, and bone that are not cooked" says Carrie.
Raw diets in dogs have been shown to reduce several health issues including obesity, digestive issues, allergies, arthritis, chronic pain issues and many more health issues. Just as Carrie noticed significant improvement in Snowbelle after transitioning her to a raw diet, several of her staff have had the same experiences with their dogs. The scientific literature is filled with evidence pointing to the benefits of a raw, species appropriate diet.
Carrie stated that when you feed a raw diet, whether you prepare it at home or purchase it, the key is diversifying the food. "There isn't one brand that is best to feed all the time. Feeding one food everyday actually causes nutritional deficiencies." She recommends a practice called rotation, which means using different proteins and different brands, not the same brand all the time. "Different foods are made in different states and so they have different kinds of local nutrients in the foods at different levels" she points out.
Fresh Food Diet for Dogs:
A fresh diet is a diet that may contain organ meat, muscle meat and bone, but it is slightly cooked with fresh healthy vegetables. Dog owners can add ingredients like eggs, duck eggs or even bone broth to the fresh food. Carrie states "It is easier for your dog or cat to get all the nutrients if can from the fresh veggies if you chop them up so the body can absorb the nutrients easier"
Fresh diets have significant health benefits over processed kibble. The kibble most of us have been feeding our dogs is so over processed that it is the equivalent of feeding our children a diet of McDonalds and Burger King. A fresh diet, rich in nutrients and micro nutrients, can help alleviate allergies, reduce inflammation, reduce anxiety and help improve behavioral issues in dogs.
If feeding a raw or fresh diet is not an option for you at this time, take steps to overall improvement in your dogs diet. Try adding lightly cooked veggies, fresh fruit or raw proteins to your dogs food bowl, use them as training treats or replace a portion of their meals with fresh or raw food.
How to Start Feeding a Raw Food Diet to your Dog:
The process of transitioning a dog from a diet that is over-processed to one that is rich in nutrition and full of raw or fresh food can be daunting. After all, figuring out calorie counts and nutritional needs can be overwhelming. Carrie and her staff have found a way to make this process easier as well:
"When starting on a raw food diet, we recommend the following:
- First three days: 95% old food, 5% new diet
- if all is good, then for the next 3 days try 90% old food and 10% new food
- if all is good, then for the next 3 days try 85% old food and 15% new food
Every three days, change the percentage by 5%. If you get loose stool, return to the previous percentage that worked and stay there until your dogs stool is normal again. Once your dogs stool is normal, try advancing the percentage again. Using a probiotic/enzyme or using pure pumpkin can help during this time."
If feeding a raw diet is simply not feasible right now, Carrie advises adding water to the current kibble you are feeding. "Your pets body is looking for 80% moisture in its food. Dry food is 10% moisture. You can also add water and let it break down the food overnight to almost a canned consistency that is much easier for your pets body to assimilate."
Final Thoughts on Raw and Fresh Diets for Dogs
Of all the diets out there for our dogs, raw is the gold standard, followed by fresh. Both of these diets supply our dogs with much needed hydration, nutrition and sustenance needed for optimal health. There is science to back this up- the book, The Forever Dog by Dr Karen Becker and Rodney Habib cite many scientific studies supporting the need for our dogs to eat biologically and species appropriate diets.
Carries final word on this subject to me was, "Everyone has heard you are what you eat. We have seen it in action. Our 16 and 15 year old babies were very healthy most of their lives. Since they both had a foundation of health that started with being fed a raw species appropriate diet and exercise, they were able to weather a few health issues and still live to a forever dog age". Isn't that the goal we all have for our pets?
If you are in the Milwaukee area, consider visiting the staff at Bark N' Scratch Outpost to discuss your dogs specific needs. The staff are incredibly helpful, professional and knowledgable. They are lead by a woman who is passionate about sharing her knowledge of pet nutrition and it shows. Bark N'Scratch Outpost is located at 5835 W Bluemound Rd, Milwaukee WI 53213. You can also contact the store by calling 414-444-4110.
Nutrition goes hand in hand (or paw in paw) with fitness, enrichment and exercise. Check out our services for a complete list of services that Milwaukee Paws Pet Care offers.
This is great information and I wish more pet parents were able to feed their dogs raw. But for those who can’t, even adding some fresh ingredients is better than straight kibble. Do the best you can afford.
EXACTLY, Lisa! We should all do the best we can afford for our dogs, and the more we know, the better we can do! Every little bit helps for sure!