You are here

Holistic Pet Health: Should your Dog be on a Raw Diet?

September 10, 2013

Main Image

Cats and dogs make great gentle pets for your family. I’m writing this now with my dachshund Peanut curled up on my lap. One look at him and it’s hard to believe that our pets’ distant ancestors are wolves and wild large cats. While our pets of course have evolved over the centuries into the kind and domesticated animals they are today, some experts say that their digestive tracts remain wild and are still built to digest raw foods. For dogs, this means raw meat and a variety of plants like grass and berries. Cats, on the other hand, are strictly carnivorous and can better digest raw meat and fish.

This brings up the question of what to feed our pets. I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not feeding Peanut steak tartare with a side of grass for dinner! I have noticed, however, that while his meals are strictly Kibbles, he likes to wander around the vegetable garden in my backyard and munch on blueberries and snap peas. Is it right to put our pets on a whole foods, raw diet?

There are many benefits to feeding your pet a whole foods, raw diet. The first is that the nutrients in fresh meat and produce help the animal with many common pet ailments such as poor dental and gum health, fleas, hot spots, digestive problems, and degenerative diseases. Anyone with a pet knows how frustrating, not to mention expensive, it can be to treat all of these diseases with vet visits and medication. 

Research from Dr. Francis M. Pottenger builds a strong argument for feeding cats raw meat. Pottenger did a study over many years and several generations of cats to determine the most beneficial diet for the animals. He divided the cats into groups, feeding one group raw meat and the other cooked meat. The cats receiving the raw food were healthy and active, while the cats fed cooked meat developed degenerative diseases.

However, just like a human deciding to switch his or her diet, raw food doesn’t work for everyone…or every animal. Animals that have preexisting gastrointestinal conditions or very old animals may not thrive when switched to a raw food diet. At the same time, like many people who cure their bodies with raw foods, it might help to put a sick animal on a nutrient-rich raw food diet.

If you do choose to put your cat or dog on a raw food diet, it’s important to ease them into it. Don’t switch all of their food right away as it may cause upset stomachs. Adding a bit of meat or raw fruit and vegetables into the diet gradually is the appropriate way to make the transition. It can also be expensive to put your pet on a fully raw diet. You may want to consider feeding them half raw food, and half dry kibble.

It is good to consider the source of the meat and produce that you are feeding your pets, as well. If your cat is on an all-raw meat diet, but the meat is full of harmful antibiotics and hormones, then you could be doing more harm than good. 

If you have any experience feeding your pet raw food, I would love to hear about it! Leave a comment to share your thoughts on the subject.