Feeding dogs a raw diet is a rising trend among dog owners around the world. Somewhat reflecting how we choose to approach our own diets, we no longer stick with what we've always known, whether prompted by health concerns or celebrity endorsements, we are more active in choosing what we put in our own bodies, so it stands to reason that we do the same for our beloved pets.
After all, it's up to us to keep them happy and healthy on the inside and out, but are there things you should know before you switch your dog's food?
In short, yes. How you transition your dog to a new diet can be crucial to getting a healthy response from your dog's digestive system.
Raw feeding is based on the idea that dogs are designed to digest and thrive on raw meat and there are factors you need to take into account before switching – such as your dog's age and activity levels, which allow you to choose the right food quantities and type.
And so with the rising trends in feeding raw, we asked Chris Brierley from growing raw dog food company, Cotswold RAW, for his thoughts on the subject.
Firstly, the basics of the BARF diet.
Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF)™ diets are based on fresh foods such as raw meat and bones, seasonal fruit and vegetables and minerals and are designed to replicate your dog’s ancestral diet.
Just as human food finds itself under the microscope (ingredient suitability, traceability, sustainability, obesity) - phrases like 'convenience' and 'mass-produced' in pet food are being replaced by altogether more thoughtful or responsible notions such as, 'natural', 'well-being' and 'nutritionally-balanced'.
Chris says, 'There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all pet food solution. We see the benefits in our own dogs with better teeth and coat, firmer less odorous stools and a more even temperament.'
How to begin transitioning your dog to a raw diet.
As the most popular to feed is still dry, Chris offered his advice on how to transition to raw from a dry diet. He says:
'We believe a raw diet is better for your dog and so we recommend not feeding kibble at all. If you must feed kibble, find a top quality, grain-free product and use it as a 'back-up'.'
He continued, 'Many raw feeding nutritionists suggest not mixing raw food with kibble in the same meal (as different enzymes are required to digest protein and carbohydrate) but in our experience, most dogs can cope. Your dog will probably be the one who will let you know which it prefers. However, it's best to think of it as you would feed yourself - maybe a ready meal when you get back late from work but a wholesome meat and two veg should be your staple.'
Not all dogs are equal. K9 Magazine's very own Danny is very adaptable, whereas Christopher the Rottweiler has a very sensitive stomach. Does this mean the transition process should vary?
In short, yes. There are things you can do to make the process easier on them. Chris offered this advice to owners of dogs with sensitive stomachs saying:
'For the more cautious, we would suggest gradually transitioning over seven days, feeding raw and a good quality, grain-free kibble in alternating separate meals.'
Cotswold RAW offer a transition sausage range of raw dog food to help owners switching to raw. Is this based on the ethos you've mentioned here?
'Raw has long had an image that is less convenient and a back-to-basics mealtime that requires a wholesale regime change in your home.
The creation of ‘raw’ sausages provided portion control, human food cues and serving simplicity. The more traditional mince options that Cotswold and others offer are also a great domestic solution to feeding raw. The raw ingredients should be fresh, of high quality and provide a complete balanced meal for your pet.'
When fully switched to raw, how do you know how much to feed your dog?
Chris advises to owners choose how much food a dog needs depending on their daily energy requirements which will vary according to many factors, including breed, activity level, age and environment.
He says, 'All dogs are different and the amount of food their need differs too. In broad terms, small and medium adult dogs need a daily ration of 2-3% of their body weight.'
He continues, 'Puppies will need more, older and large breed dogs will require less. We work closely with the team at Healthful Dog for our recipes and any specific client needs. If you have any doubts or concerns, contact your vet or a canine nutritionist.'
Three top tips to feed your dog raw full time.
Based on his experience, Chris said:
Plan ahead if you can...
'Quality raw food can be kept in the freezer for up to nine months. Every two to three days transfer the amount that your dog requires, and allow to defrost in the fridge.'
If you can't...
'If you’re in a hurry, soak in hot water in the kitchen sink.'
Keep in mind the raw food basics...
'All our packs are the perfect size for stacking in the fridge or freezer and Cotswold RAW's products are designed to keep for 48-72 hours in the fridge, but just as with all raw meat do not refreeze.'
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This is really helpful. To help us put a face to the name we'd love to ask you some quick fire questions, are you up for it?
Chris: Of course.
Q. What three words sums up the ethos of Cotswold RAW?
Chris: Rural, quality, specialist.
Q. Describe a typical working day for you, how does it begin?
Chris: Before work, I check both my personal email and the general sales email to monitor the volume of orders overnight.
When I arrive at work the first stop will be at our production unit to check in with the team to discuss the planned deliveries and production requirements for the day. Then my office day would consist of various sales and marketing roles. We are still a relatively small company so we do have to multi-task and so I can often lend a hand to the production side of things.
Q. What three items do you never leave home without?
Chris: My dogs, their leads and a cup of coffee.
Finish the following sentences:
My dogs are...both female Cocker Spaniels with very different characters, and very energetic.
My business is...exciting and rewarding.
Finally, what's next for Cotswold RAW, you're visiting the PATS 2016 exhibit for the pet industry aren't you?
Yes we are debuting at PATS in Telford at the end of September, which is an exciting opportunity for us to meet new clients and build relationships within the pet trade. We also have larger agricultural and county shows earlier in September which are always a lot of fun.
In terms of recipes, we have new flavours to add to our range and expanding our fresh meat treats - all planned for an Autumn release.
Have you tried raw? If you have any advice for fellow dog owners considering switching please share by commenting below – we'd love to hear from you!