Pros & Cons of Feeding Your Pet a Raw Diet
If you're looking at a new food option for your furry family member, you may have considered trying the raw diet. Supporters of the BARF diet, or Bones and Raw Food diet, note alleviation of health issues for their dogs or cats, from no more allergies to bad gas going away. Would it help your pet? There are some definite considerations to keep in mind about starting to feed raw.
Pros of Feeding Your Pet Raw
The outlined ideas for a raw diet came from veterinarian Ian Billinghurst in 1993. He suggested that commercial diets were actually adversely affecting domesticated pets' health and feeding a diet more along the lines of what pets ate before domestication would be ideal.
One of the main things that many owners have noted with feeding a raw diet is that dogs and cats are excited about it. Sure, many of our pets will eat all day long, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a fur baby that doesn't love a tender piece of meat with a juicy bone, fresh veggies, and a dollop of yogurt.
Potential benefits that have been reported over the years include traits such as healthier stools. Indeed, some pets on a raw diet have smaller stools, with less flatulence than noted on a commercial kibble pet food.
In addition to gastrointestinal changes when feeding a raw diet, a prominent feature that advocates of a raw diet describe is a healthy coat and skin. The coat may be shinier, with a lustrous coat. In many pets that do well on a raw diet, the skin barrier may be stronger, which can show less itchiness.
Other things you may see when feeding a raw diet are better oral health, with cleaner teeth. Many owners also report higher energy levels for their pets when eating a raw diet.
Cons of Feeding Your Pet Raw
A major risk with feeding a raw diet to your dog or cat is the risk of nutrient imbalances. In many countries around the world, there are regulatory groups that evaluate the nutrient contents of commercial pet foods. In the United States, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO, evaluates foods and determines if they meet certain life requirements. In cats, if you don't feed sufficient quantities of amino acids such as taurine, your cat is at significant risk of developing health issues such as heart disease.
One of the unfortunate downsides to feeding a raw diet is the expense. There are some fresh and dehydrated options available on the market, but many people choose to create their own. You'll need ample freezer space to keep the pet food fresh, particularly if you get it in bulk from a source such as a local butcher.
While you can find plenty of different recipes online, it is generally safest to find a nutritionist to formulate a diet for your pet, even a raw one. This helps ensure that the food they are eating addresses not just their nutritional needs, but also any health conditions they have, such as kidney disease or diabetes. This is an additional expense, and you'll want to feed exactly what they prescribe to minimize the possibility of nutritional disturbances.
You need to also consider the time investment in feeding your dog or cat a raw diet. In many cases, you need to prepare all of the ingredients, weighing out meat and organs, cleaning and chopping vegetables, and looking into vitamin supplementation.
A big factor to consider when feeding your pet raw are the potential health risks. Uncooked meat may be contaminated with different bacteria, such as Salmonella and E. coli. Instead of having firmer and smaller stools, your pet could develop issues such as diarrhea and lethargy. Some pathogenic bacteria strains can even be deadly. You and your family are also at risk for exposure to illness-causing bacteria if you prepare and feed raw diets. Good hygiene practices are essential, washing all surfaces and dishes your pet comes into contact with.
While many advocates of a raw diet suggest that your pet will have a healthier mouth when eating a raw diet, you do need to be aware that feeding bones can cause problems such as broken teeth. Chomping on a bone can chip teeth and cause pain and infections in your dog or cat's mouth. Bone splinters can also puncture the intestines or cause obstructions. That said, splintering bone appears to be less likely for a pet eating a raw, uncooked bone than one chowing down on a bone that has been cooked.
Feeding a raw diet is definitely something you need to do your own due diligence with. Discuss it with your veterinarian or get a recommendation for a veterinary nutritionist. While there are considerations, such as potential bacterial contamination for you and your pets, many people note significant improvements in their pet's quality of life, regardless of whether it is subjective or not. If your pet is plagued by allergies or digestive issues, a raw diet may be the thing to help get them balanced again.
Would you like to learn more about your options? Take a look at the following blog post!
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