The trend of feeding a raw diet has continued to rise over the past few years with advocates of the diet shouting from the rooftops about their dog's health and wellbeing, visibly shown through their shiny, glossy coat.
The BARF diet, as it is also known, was first coined in Australia by a veterinarian but as with everything, evolution has brought about new approaches to the raw diet including complete meals, which mean dog owners don't need to be put off about feeding the diet worrying if their dog is getting everything they need.
With the changes to the diet in mind and taking guidance from dog owners about the benefits and hurdles of feeding a raw diet, this month K9 Magazine decided to ask vet Sue Armstrong, more about the pros and cons of feeding raw to get an insight into how the diet has changed and improved over the years.
The interest in feeding raw has become ever more popular in recent years, as someone actively involved with raw food food company, Natural Instinct's new product development, you why do you think more dog owners are considering going raw?
Until the last few years, feeding raw meant home formulating the diet, which was not only very time consuming for owners but very often would not be done well as there was very little good information available for people. Now the information base is growing and companies like ours have taken the work out of feeding raw for busy people by producing balanced complete high quality food that is simply defrosted and fed. We are also now a step further on, as many owners are seeing first hand animals that are fed on high quality raw and they are making their own minds up from the evidence before them.
What's the most common question you're asked by dog owners who want to feed raw?
Many people are worried that because the food is wet that they will need to feed a biscuit with it for their dog’s teeth! This is a common misunderstanding that people have - that dry dog food is good for the teeth. It is often the high carbohydrate (sugar) content of foods rather than whether or not it is wet or dry that causes a lot of dental disease in dogs.
What advice would you give to a dog owner considering feeding raw before they switch?
Do your research. Learn to read food labels and really look at what is in different types of food. Talk to us and to others who are already using complete raw food.
Before we ask more about what's involved in preparing to feed a raw diet, leading on from the last question we want to ask you about your experiences with dog owners who might have fed raw before but stopped. In your experience, what's the most common query or concern raised from dog owners in this position who stopped and are wondering if they should try again?
This does not happen very often as for most owners, once they have fed good raw diet, they don’t stop. We have had some who tried years ago when the quality of the products on the market was not as good and mainly basic incomplete minced products who need the reassurance that things have improved. So for many of them they are asking if the food is complete.
In the interest of balance, we'll now move onto the cons. If you're already researching a raw diet for your dog then the feeding of meat isn't an obvious concern to you, so what is?
From what we've discovered preparation and storage are two of the biggest 'cons' and hurdles dog owners have about feeding the diet. What advice would you give to anyone considering trying raw to make sure they're fully prepared?
On the practical side, owners need to be sure that they have adequate storage in a suitable freezer and have a low shelf available in the fridge for the defrosted product.
They need to consider the age of the dog and any illnesses that the dog might have that might mean that there are some varieties that would be more suitable than others and they need to be clear about how to transition across slowly from their old form of feeding to raw.
The gut has to adapt to a new form of food and this takes a few weeks. Downloading our transition sheet well ahead of time can help owners understand how to do this safely.
How much space do dog owners realistically need to feed a small, medium or large dog raw?
This will depend upon their proximity to one of our local stockists as for those who can buy it as they need it then they may not even need a freezer.
I have a large male GSD who eats a Kilo pack a day, so I have always two defrosted and two in the freezer so I am never caught out by a weekend. For those who prefer to buy online and in bulk then a small freezer will be reasonable even for a very large dog.
Sue, we'd love to ask you some quick fire questions to hear more about your day and own dog, Tali, are you up for it?
What three words sums up the ethos of Natural Instinct?
Professional, supportive and ethical.
Describe a typical working day for you, how does it begin?
I am up and out of the house by 6.30 a.m. every morning and walking my GSD before work begins. Emails and breakfast start at 7.30 a.m. and I am usually consulting by 8.30 a.m. 6 days a week. Another walk punctuates the middle of the day and then it is home by 7.00 p.m. followed by case work ups most evenings! (Laughs) Anyone want to swap?
What three items do you never leave home without?
My dog, my phone and the car keys!
Finish the following sentences:
my dog is...my sanity.
my job is...one of the most fulfilling jobs in the world if you don’t weaken.
Finally, we know you are involved in new product development so what's next for Natural Instinct?
We are constantly working on improving our formulas and broadening the range to meet the needs of individual dogs and cats. We are also committed to education and research into raw food feeding for an even better future.
Thanks so much Sue!
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!