As puppy parents, we’re more informed than ever before—especially when it comes to our dogs’ diets. The traditional, kibble-based diet most pet owners have been using for years is not the ideal way to feed our pups. Kibble is almost always high in starch, carbohydrates, chemical preservatives, and other processed ingredients that should be avoided. Canines, which are natural meat-eaters, do not benefit from carbs and starches, mostly because they did not evolve to properly digest them. Not to mention that kibble lacks many of the vitamins, enzymes and minerals essential to canine health.
In essence, raw feeding is an attempt to supply our dogs with the diet their bodies evolved to fit. It’s also meant to return dogs to a fresh, all natural and nutrient-rich diet. Raw feeding can get complicated (and messy). So, if you’re new to the raw feeding movement, here are 5 common mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
Before adopting a raw feeding diet, we suggest consulting a veterinarian. Working closely with a vet knowledgeable in raw feeding is essential to creating a diet that meets the unique needs of your individual dog. For in depth info on the philosophy behind raw feeding, watch this three-part series on the subject by wellness veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker. For tips on beginning a raw feeding routine, read this primer on how to get started.
Not Balancing the Diet
One of the biggest complaints lodged against raw feeding is that it can lead to an imbalanced diet. Raw feeding is not throwing a lump of raw meat in a food bowl and calling it a day. It takes research, dedication and planning. Raw meat alone does not make for a well-balanced diet. To meet all the necessary nutritional requirements, you’ll need to include a wide range of foods, from bones, organ meat, and fish, to vegetables, fruits and possibly even supplements. The specifics, of course, will vary depending on the type, size and health of your dog.
Not Customizing the Diet
As any puppy parent will attest, each and every doggy is different. Which means, in most cases, their raw diets should be different, too. Some pup’s have sensitive tummies, some have immune system and inflammation issues. Some struggle with joint pain. Your dog’s medical history and current health should inform the way you shape their raw diet, as you might be able to improve preexisting health concerns through your raw feeding approach. The supervision and guidance of a veterinarian with raw feeding experience is invaluable to properly customizing your pooch’s diet.
Ignoring Fruits & Veggies
Fruits and veggies aren’t always necessary when raw feeding your dog. However, they can help add variety, vitamins and flavor to your pup’s food bowl. Additionally, they offer health benefits that a solely animal-based diet usually lacks. Like prebiotics—which foster healthy gut bacteria—antioxidants, and fiber. Just make sure your chosen fruit and veggies are pet-safe, and that you remove pits and any other inedible portions before handing them over to your dog. Also, because dogs have a tougher time digesting these foods than humans, we suggest juicing or slightly steaming them before feeding.
As mentioned, imbalance is a common issue with raw diets, especially for those puppy parents new to the process. Insufficient calcium levels, for example, are not uncommon. Adding supplements to your dog’s raw diet is one way to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Which supplements you’ll want to add will depend on the health and specific needs of your dog. Ground eggshells and oyster shells, for instance, help add calcium, while including fish oil can provide omega-3 fatty acids. Issues like joint problems may also be relieved through supplements.
Not Monitoring Fat Consumption
One of the easiest mistakes to make when raw feeding is giving too much fat to your pooch. Fat is healthy, of course, and they need plenty of it. But like every living thing, they don’t need too much of it. If there’s too much fat in your dog’s diet, they’re probably missing out on other necessary components, like vitamins and minerals. Which, in the long run, can cripple your dog’s health. As a general rule of thumb, cheaper meats are usually fattier, whereas higher quality organic meats are richer in protein. Again, the specifics will depend on your pup’s unique dietary needs, but 10% fat is a good starting point for balancing out your dog’s raw diet.