Why We Feed a Species Appropriate Raw Food Diet
First of all, let me begin by saying that if you are a kibble-feeding companion animal guardian, we've been right where you are!
As you will read, our decision to raw feed was well-thought-out and researched, and based on the immediate health needs of our new pup at the time. For the health and long life of your precious companions, we hope you too will give raw feeding serious consideration as the first step to a healthier pet. We know first-hand it can seem intimidating and overwhelming. If you commit to it, we promise to walk you through every step of the way!
Our first English Shepherd puppy suffered from constipation, loose stool, poor appetite, itchy skin. Talking to our veterinarian, dog friends/breeders, and searching the internet for answers led to the ingredients in the puppy kibble as likely culprits. At first, we switched to a holistic kibble without grains or eggs, which helped only marginally. Another friend then told me about the prey model-style Species Appropriate Raw Food (SARF) diet. I had previously heard of raw feeding which included meat, rice, and vegetables along with supplements, but it seemed so complicated. More research ensued. We research things to the fullest before diving in!
SARF made perfect sense, but we weren't quite ready to take the leap. However, when the toxic commercial pet food scare swept the nation in 2007 we knew it was time.
Immediately there were huge improvements in our puppy. The itchy skin disappeared, he was eager to eat for the first time since he joined our family, his stool was firm, smaller, and less frequent with no odor or flies (a huge plus by itself!), teeth and gums were healthy, and his coat became glossy. Maintaining his weight was easy, adjusting according to activity. We were also able to stop dosing him with toxic flea products since the fleas left in search of the 'friendlier' realms of an unbalanced host.
For all subsequent puppies that have joined our family since switching to raw was a breeze. Even our cat was raw fed. (Cats are an entirely different animal to raw feed and transition- contact us if you are contemplating raw for your kitty!)
People say that raw fed dogs grow a bit more slowly. One thing's for sure, they grow healthier! We’ve noticed that our pups are more balanced through each growth phase, looking much like miniature adults.
What is a SARF Diet?
A biologically or Species Appropriate Raw Food (SARF) diet is one based on the physiological needs of any given animal. For our discussion here, we are talking canines. Dogs are carnivores; in order to thrive and not simply survive they need primarily meat, organs, and bones. According to the Smithsonian Institute, dogs are categorized as Canus lupus familiaris. This came on the heels of DNA testing that confirmed dogs are more closely related to the Grey Wolf, Canus lupus, than previously realized, a whopping 99.8%.
The canine digestive system cannot truly digest grains such as corn, rice, and wheat since they do not produce the enzyme Amylase in their saliva which is specific to the digestion of carbohydrates. Along with putrefaction, an overabundance of yeast can establish itself in a dog's digestive tract due to these ingredients, causing bloating and discomfort at the very least, but also contributes to disease and both internal and external parasites. Commercial dog food manufacturers use grain as fillers to help the dog feel full. These are less expensive than high-quality protein sources so help keep their production costs down. Eating foods high in fillers means more to be eliminated as unused waste. This, in turn, means lots of stinky piles to clean up!
Take a close look at your dog's teeth. Their teeth and jaws were designed for ripping and tearing, not chewing and grinding like the flat molars of humans, although their molars are suited to some grinding action. The teeth are all pointed or jagged to shear, cut through, and nibble-off meat; and their jaws are hinged to crunch through bone and swallow large pieces of meat. Although some do feed their dog's ground meat, it's not quite biologically appropriate. We feed whole pieces, with bone-in. This is where it comes into play that they are benefited mentally. To see your dog truly enjoying his food, perhaps for the first time in his life like our puppy, the look of contentment on his face is a beautiful thing!
So, what do we feed our canine carnivores? They get a wide variety of human-grade raw meat with bones; like fish, chicken, beef, rabbit, pork, lamb, wild game much of it in its whole form or chunks large enough to really gnaw on and keep their teeth clean; organs, whole eggs, and raw goat’s milk as an occasional treat. They also enjoy beef and buffalo bones for recreational gnawing. Never give your dog rawhide which can block up their systems and be a choking hazard. Some folks also give supplements, although this isn't absolutely necessary. Our dogs get a good variety of healthy organs, meats, and bones for a naturally balanced diet.
Feeding a raw diet does take a bit of extra time and forethought. By feeding your dog only natural foods that are biologically active and species-appropriate, his internal and external body condition is increased. The likelihood of his developing disease is greatly reduced. Visits to the veterinarian due to problems are all but eliminated. When you choose to feed a raw diet, your dog will be healthier and happier!
Benefits of SARF
Improved quality and length of life due to greater health.
Improves mental and physical well-being.
A stronger immune system, less money spent treating disease.
Sparkling white teeth, healthy gums, fresher breath.
Organ health reduces the incidence of chronic disease.
Fewer, small stools with little or no odor.
Shiny coats with less shedding and body odor.
Eliminates/reduces skin allergies.
Full control over preservatives and chemicals.
Ideal for weight management.
Live enzymes in real food enhance digestion.
Fewer parasites, parasites do not thrive on or in healthy animals.
Myths & Misconceptions
Common myths and misconceptions floating around about feeding a raw meat diet:
"Won't my dog/cat get E.Coli or something awful?"
A dog’s immune system is beautifully designed to handle bacteria such as E.Coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, etc. In fact, feeding only sterilized food deprives their body of developing an immune response to these and other bacteria! In addition, their intestinal tract is very short, so toxins don't linger long before being expelled. The pH of their digestive juices is very acidic in order to digest meat and bone. All of these add up to a naturally inhospitable environment where bacteria cannot survive. Raw meat will spoil if left unrefrigerated for extended periods, so simply refrigerate leftovers and save for another meal, or discard if need be. The same common-sense practices you already use when handling raw meat for humans is all that's needed.
"What about worms?"
Worms proliferate in a highly mucous environment. Dogs on a raw diet have very little mucous in their system. A healthy animal can have a few parasites, internal and external. A recent independent study conducted of those raw feeding showed an extremely low incidence of worms and other parasites.
"My Vet says pets die eating raw!"
Sadly, yes, some have. It is rare though. Did you know some die choking on dry kibble, too? And what about all the pet food recalls due to contamination from toxins and pathogens? Think about this: countless pets die from disease due to commercial pet food. Of the deaths attributed to raw feeding, most are because the pet owner lacked education about the diet. Get educated!
“But, won't my dog turn into a bloodthirsty killer or become aggressive?"
Yes, we have heard this many times. The answer is most decidedly, No! This is a completely unwarranted concern. Many dog owners living in rural areas feed their dogs previously dispatched, small animals- head, fur coat 'jackets' and all- without ever losing so much as one such animal to doggie murder. Dog food aggression (resourcing guarding) can result no matter what a dog is fed. This is a behavioral issue that needs training.
"A raw meat diet is too high in protein, my dog will get fat."
Actually, the high water content in raw meat means this would more accurately be considered a high water diet! Surprisingly, a raw meat diet is around 20% protein, far less than the average kibble. Too much of even a good thing can put on excess weight. And many dogs do not lead a very active life. The best way to maintain a healthy weight on any dog is through a raw meat diet and monitoring.