Would you eat dry crackers every day?
Food fads are not a new thing when it comes to nutrition both in humans and pets. Just like fashion, diets have ups and downs in what is popular and what is not. Some diets have staying power and stand the test of time whilst others get negative feedback for one reason or another.
The same is with dog food, or is it? Years and years ago, back when I was a kid, commercial dog food was almost unheard of, it was only available in the occasional shop with limited stock and was very expensive, it was considered a luxury. Instead, nearly all dog owners prepared their own dog food, it was part of the routine in the kitchen for most households. Dogs ate real food and not dried, boring biscuit day in and day out. There were two diets most dog owners chose from, eating raw meat BARF (Bones and Raw Feeding) or cooked meals. The result of either of these diets was healthy, happy dogs. Variety is indeed the spice of life and dogs enjoyed eating real meat or raw, crunched-on bones, often getting leftovers from their owner's plate, the saying "put it in the dog's bowl" was common and the dog often got a variety of goodies at night with their regular meals. Meat back then was far more organic, the demand on the food chain was less and so meat didn't have as many antibiotics and preservatives pumped into it, which made for healthier meat fit for consumption for both humans and dogs. Dogs didn't suffer as many dental problems, intestinal issues were very few, allergies were almost unheard of and there were more satisfied dogs. Having an interesting diet meant fewer "food-related" behavioural issues for example "coprophagia" or "obsessive food possession." So why did this diet fad change all those years ago to commercial kibble and why are we now seeing a turnaround back to raw feeding?
It's simple; Life speeded up for most people, time became more limited, working days got longer and less time was given to truly look after and care for your dog both inside and out. This included preparing your dog's meal. So along came dog kibble or biscuits and canned foods, complete with their marketing frenzy to make it easier! But what are the consequences of choosing these convenience foods over a raw or sometimes cooked diet for your dog?
Imagine eating dried crackers every day, twice a day............... forever!
Hmmm! Pretty tough huh! Well, that's what you are expecting your dog to do every day. Dog kibble for the most part is just biscuit, each bite is the same as the last, each crunch is the same as the last and most dogs don't even know they are eating food as they hoover it down so quickly it's gone in a matter of seconds, usually with not much enjoyment and satisfaction and only because it had been sprayed with yummy smelling odour additives. For a dog eating, times are "an event" in their day that is important to them. In the wild, after hunting dogs eat socially together. The hunt and eating event is important for survival and also bonds the pack together, it's an event that the entire pack enjoys. Each kill will be different, sometimes a large animal, sometimes smaller. With a smaller kill, there is less to go around but with the pack, nothing is wasted, everything is eaten, the flesh, bones, offal, fur the whole lot is digested, and nothing goes to waste. Not only is this an efficient way to eat it also ensures an all-around nutritionally balanced diet. The nutritional value of eating all parts of another animal ensures a balanced diet where all parts of the animal's health are catered for. Quite simply eating raw food is what dog's should be doing! It's natural, it's carnivorous and it's what a dog wants as well as being what evolution and nature intended.
Processed food, as we know it as humans, is best kept for treats or as a convenient quick-fix food. We also know that processed food is less nutritionally sound, loaded with preservatives, added vitamins, food colourings and scents to trick you into believing the type of food you are eating is good for you. It's likewise in kibble and canned foods. The packaging, information and clever marketing are heightened using terms like "fresh" vitality" and many other words to entice you into thinking your dog is eating healthy food when in fact it is not! How do we know this, just look at the ingredients on the packet to see what you are actually feeding your dog! Countries around the world are now clamping down on human and dog food packaging and its contents with diet and healthy eating taxes as science started to show the true identity of the content of these foods.
Busting The Myths
As you would expect companies making or selling kibble or canned foods will seek to dissuade you from feeding RAW or Home Cooked diets. Somewhat surprisingly though, so will many Veterinary Doctors. The reasoning here is clear, they want you to buy the food they sell! Surprisingly, Veterinary Doctors receive very little nutritional education during their studies because the range of animals that they are trained to care for is vast. What exposure they do get is often supported or "sponsored" by large manufacturers of dog food. Suppliers of dog kibble are quick to give you reasons as to why you should not go down the raw food diet route too. Here are some of the myths that you might hear being spread to dissuade you;
They say - A raw meat diet is not a balanced diet!
Commercially prepared Raw Food diets use the same science and knowledge gathered over many years when they are made as any other form of dog food. Therefore they are properly balanced and nutritionally sound.
With very little research if you choose to make your own food, you can ensure that you include all the required ingredients to ensure your dog's diet is balanced. Just as you do for your own diet.
They say - Feeding Raw will give your dog salmonella or other poisonings!
Dogs' bodies are good at preventing harmful bacteria like salmonella. Dogs' stomachs are highly acidic and have natural digestive enzymes and bile that help them process Salmonella and other bacteria without getting sick.
Of course, it is important to ensure that anything you feed your dog comes from a reputable, hygienic supplier.
First and foremost the food you buy must be from a reputable source, treating your dog like your child in ensuring the meat you buy is from a safe, clean and hygienic shop that stores the food correctly, we buy from Carrefours and Kibsons, both are highly reputable sources and you can buy bulk also at a cheaper price.
Food for thought: Various health scares over recent years have also had recalls on many major dog kibble brands due to contamination which is often played down.
Feeding Raw is Expensive
Pound for pound, compared to quality dry dog food, meat is almost the same price, when buying in bulk and picking cheaper cuts (you don't have to feed T-bone steaks) you can feed your dog together with veggies, yoghurt, herbs and fish. There are commercial raw-packed diets now available in the UAE, prices do vary as you would expect, do your research and pick what suits your budget or go DIY so you have complete control over the diet or if you do indeed, have time restraints go for the ready-made patties available from retailers (including Homely Petz!).
It's dangerous to give bones to your dog.
This is an easy one, you give raw bones, but do not give your dog cooked bones as they become brittle and splinter. When not cooked they snap and break down much easier for digestion. As long as you choose the size of bone to suit your dog's life stage then the occasional bone as a treat or part of a diet is suitable. We do not recommend having bones every day or to replace a raw food diet as they do not hold all the nutritional values required for a balanced diet.
My vet tells me raw food is bad for my dog.
This is a difficult one and will probably offend a few, but here goes. Vets are not nutritional experts. Should people fully trust the nutritional advice given by vets? While veterinary surgeons play a huge part in your dog's life and perform much-needed services, these services also include selling dog food driven by hard marketing dog kibble companies. Marketing from dog kibble companies is often incentive driven offering rewards for veterinary clinics to reach sales targets and they blind both your vet and you with "science marketing.' For example allergy foods, low-fat food, dental diets etc. Most of these can be managed by a raw diet where there are more natural sugars and fewer processed sugars, there are no wheat products or chicken "derivatives" to trigger allergic reactions in a dog.
Carbohydrates are high in dog kibble, and training is given by dog food companies to veterinary clinics that often claim that dogs need more carbs in their diet. Scientific research has shown that both dogs and cats have no evolved need for carbs and fibre which are a large percentage in commercially made dog food. As with humans, too many carbs make for a fat dog. Overweight dogs are a huge problem in today's world, unlike years ago as mentioned earlier. With overweight dogs come, heart problems, joint issues, cancer, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease. You very rarely see an overweight dog on a raw diet.
Do you want to learn and understand more?
A documentary about the pet food industry makes for an interesting watch.
Available on various media and streaming apps. The trailer and series are on the below link on Youtube, the documentary is called "Pet Fooled."
Pet Fooled Documentary - click here
From Kibble to Meat - how to?
Get in touch with us, do not change your dog's diet to raw overnight, it takes a little time to slowly introduce your dog to a better way of eating. Although you might think your dog has an iron stomach sometimes with eating all sorts of things he shouldn't like socks and sticks etc, they are actually very sensitive. So take it slow in introducing raw food and slowly reducing the old food, we recommend you do this over a minimum 3/4 week period.