More and more dog owners and professionals are taking a second look at what they feed their family dogs. The majority of puppies are fed on dried dog food to get them eating and growing. As they get older the dried food changes to the same adult variety and this has long been the way that owners have fed their dogs.
Elizabeth Roberts explores why more dog owners are taking their pet's diets back to nature.
However, concern is mounting over what ingredients actually make up the average dog food, so the manufactured brands are fast being pushed out over the growing popularity of the Raw food diet or BARF as it is also known.
BARF stands for Bones and Raw Food and this is primarily what you would feed your dog on, no dried dog biscuits, no cooked chicken or sausages but a huge variety of uncooked meats and pureed vegetables.
The Raw food diet is not a new phenomenon; it has been around for centuries. Dogs in the wild would live off whole carcasses including organs, which ensured that they got the right vitamins and nutrients to survive. The philosophy behind natural raw food is that the best way to feed your dog is by giving them a diet that they have evolved to eat – natural raw meat and bones.
But why are dog owners turning their back on the kibble and going Raw? Well many Raw – converts have reported a huge change in their dog’s health, appearance and smell since being fed a raw diet.
Tracey Knock started feeding her Golden Retriever bitch, Jasmine on a Raw diet at 6 months old. “Jasmine had a rash that the vet couldn’t explain, and I put it down to the Pedigree Junior Kibble that we were feeding her on. I also noticed that the food would affect her behaviour – she would have highs and lows like a kid after a fizzy drink!" After reading up on the Raw diet, Tracey decided to give it a go, and so out went the Kibble and in came Raw Meaty Bones. (RMB)
“I really wanted to give her a natural meaty diet which didn’t have added salt, flavourings and colourings.” Remembering Jasmine’s reaction to finding two meaty chicken wings in her bowl, Tracey says that she was quite confused, “she looked into the bowl, then back at me with a very quizzical expression and then back at the bowl, but it didn’t take her long to tuck in.”
Tracey feeds Jasmine on mince such as chicken, beef, turkey or green tripe, muscle meat such as Ox heart and then a RMB. Jasmine also occasionally gets a banana and non-bio yoghurt or a raw egg with the shell on. “Her favourite treat is pig’s trotters – she would run through the house showing everybody her prize!” recalls Tracey.
Generally, feeding a Raw diet means buying the meat either in bulk from specialised companies or going to your local butcher and asking for leftovers. You can then freeze the meat keeping it fresh and take out what you need for each day allowing it to defrost. You can then decide on the amount to feed your dog depending on their size and energy levels. Slightly more work than just opening the bag of dog food and pouring it into their bowl, but the results are amazing.
The Raw food diet consists of muscle meat, raw meaty bones and offal. Muscle can be minced or ground meat, breast meat, diced meat, heart and pretty much anything without a bone. You should feed your dog on muscle meat for one of their daily meals, the other meal should be a Raw Meaty Bone. This is just an edible bone covered in meat; for instance chicken wings, thighs, legs, whole chickens, lamb ribs, chops, necks and whole rabbit. Raw fish is also good for your dog to eat but some dogs may turn their nose up at it.
Many dog owners freeze the meat and then allow it to defrost before giving it to their dogs, but this is not just for convenience, freezing Raw meat actually kills the Neosporun Caninum form of bacteria which can be harmful to dogs, and so when it has thawed, the meat is nothing but goodness for them.
On a regular dog food diet the commercial food must be complete and balanced so that the dog can get sufficient vitamins. The Raw diet which offers variety in the different foods that the dog can eat, should contain enough variation in vitamins and minerals. However some dog owners like to add vitamin boosters to the diet such as oil capsules, vitamin E and A and calcium carbonate tablets so that they have the right amount of vitamins and nutrients.
Have you tried the raw food diet? How did your dog get on? Let us know - we'd love to hear your own stories or tips!