Deciding to change your dog’s food isn’t a quick decision and it’s not always an easy one, but sometimes it’s necessary to find a balanced diet that will give them everything they need to be happy and healthy on the inside and out.
This month we are looking at raw dog food, answering everything you need to know about the subject, how to know what to feed and how to feed hygienically at home, to help you decide if a raw diet might be the right choice for your dog.
Craig Taylor is an expert in raw and natural pet food. He will be helping us to understand more about the diet, so begins by explaining the history of the raw dog food diet and when it first started becoming popular among dog owners.
Raw dog food for beginners
“A raw diet is one that would have been eaten by dogs and cats in the wild. Many people fed pets in this way before processed pet food became popular and more convenient options. Natures Menu started over 36 years ago in 1981 following demand from owners wanting a natural way of feeding their pets.
“We feel Raw feeding is the best diet you can give your dog, as it’s as close as possible to what they might have eaten in the wild. Packed with a wholesome quality blend of ingredients dogs can thrive on a diet of fresh meat blended with vegetables, fruits and healthy carbohydrates.”
Is the BARF diet ‘controversial’?
In the past, the BARF diet has sometimes been referred to as controversial. We asked Craig what makes the BARF diet considered to be so and he told us it’s all about educating and debunking myths and shared tips on how dog owners can prepare and feed a raw diet at home hygienically.
“Known around the world as BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food), raw feeding aims to give cats and dogs a diet appropriate to their digestive systems and as close as possible to what they would have eaten in the wild.
“A raw diet is not controversial - it’s just not always understood by owners and we believe there needs to be better education about the subject as a whole.
“We always actively promote responsible raw feeding and we offer the largest variety of feeding options in the sector, from our complete and balanced raw meals, to freeze-dried meals and steamed cans and pouches. We also have our new premium brand, True Instinct, the latest addition to the Natures Menu portfolio, which offers all the benefits of raw with the convenience of dry.
“Here at Natures Menu, we follow strict protocols to ensure that all our raw products are safely sourced, manufactured and stored, so that they are safe for raw consumption. Our foods are regularly tested, and our manufacturing and freezing processes mean that our products are fresh and safe to feed to your pets.
“Of course, as with handling any raw meat, it is important to keep things clean. Hands should be washed following preparation regularly, and your countertop and utensils should be thoroughly cleaned after being in contact with raw meat. You should also keep products frozen until needed and defrost overnight in a sealed container at the bottom of the fridge or leave in a covered container on a work surface to defrost at room temperate for no longer than two to four hours. Raw food packaging should also be disposed of safely in your rubbish bin.
“Rather than worry about your delivery defrosting on route via a courier service, our fleet of temperate controlled vans ensures your order is delivered completely frozen full of the finest, safest and tastiest ingredients – direct to your door, and even, if required, to your freezer!”
How to know what to feed a dog on a raw diet
Craig explained to us what the main elements of a high-quality raw dog food diet should include and how to calculate how much a dog needs to ensure they’re getting enough, nutritionally.
“A raw dog food diet typically consists of muscle meat, bones, vegetables and fruit. Responsible raw feeding is simple and safe. If you are considering transitioning your dog to a raw diet, this can be done over a period of seven days and is easy to do so.
“As a guide, from days one to seven, divide the daily ration of food into 50% raw for one meal and 50% previous food for the other meal and by day eight you’ll be able to feed 100% raw.
“During the transition process, ensure you spread meals about 12 hours apart and feed in alternating separate meals, we would advise you avoid mixing, if possible, for easier digestion.
K9 Magazine's Christopher pictured with some raw dog food nuggets during his review trial period
“We then have our Country Hunter range, which are all complete and balanced in 80% meat and 20% fruit and vegetable recipes. This range is available in single, novel protein options and offers more unusual meats such as venison, rabbit and duck. The whole Country Hunter range is also grain and gluten free which can be excellent for sensitive digestion. By making our complete options in easy-to-serve nuggets or single-serve portions, our ranges are perfect for even the busiest of pet owners who want to feed their dogs the best.
“For the more experienced raw feeder which requires some understanding of balancing nutrition, we offer a selection of meat, bones, biscuits, fruits and vegetables, so you can create your own raw meals at home. We recommend a combination of 60% of meat, 20% blended fruit and vegetables and 20% non-starchy grains such as brown rice or oats to make up a raw meal. For those wishing to feed a grain free diet, we would recommend 80% meat and 20% blended fruit and vegetables.
“Our bones and chews are the perfect addition to a raw or natural diet and can be fed as a meat element, snack or treat. Offering something for every experience level from beginner i.e. Beef Trachea to experienced i.e. knucklebone, there are also bone free chunks available.”
Raw dog food diet plan
Recently we embarked on a journey, switching two of our dogs, Christopher and Danny, onto a raw dog food diet. We had varying degrees of long-term success and it was a very good learning experience.
Both dogs had noticeably shiny coats, and their dry skin improved on the raw diet, but one of the biggest things we discovered when they were eating a 100% raw diet was that they needed to go to the toilet more often than usual, three-four times a day more often than usual. We were told this was because of the quality of the food they were eating, but it was something we would factor into our own scheduling, knowing what they might need and when, if we were to feed raw on a long-term basis.
The second noticeable change was Christopher’s temporary weight loss as a result of the protein-rich diet. Quite easy to combat, we had to assess his progress as we went and adjust how much food he was fed as needed. What was a good volume of food for him one week, wasn’t always the same the following week, so we constantly monitored and adjusted as needed, sometimes adding a dry mix was the best option to keep him full for longer too.
But the biggest revelation of the raw dog food diet came from an unlikely source because of a health issue.
By the end of our review, our oldest dog, Mia who was no longer eating a protein-rich diet was diagnosed with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). Using what we knew of our boys’ (very solid) toilet habits, we gave Mia some of their food and the outwardly visible signs of her tummy troubles cleared up within hours. After weeks of medication only to help solve the problem and stop weight loss as a result of an upset stomach, it felt like a revelation to be quite truthful.
Pulling on his experience, we asked Craig to share some of the most common benefits of a raw dog food diet and for balance, what some of the pros and cons dog owners should consider.
“The reported benefits of raw feeding include fresher breath, cleaner, whiter teeth, more stable energy levels and less hyperactivity, reduction of allergies and intolerances, increased palatability, less flatulence, harder, less smelly and much easier to pick up stools. For pets with sensitive stomachs, a raw diet has also been known in some cases to improve digestion.”