RAW FOOD - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
As it appears that there are now more raw food suppliers offering their products than ever before, that more people are considering trying raw, and that there is still so much controversy about this subject, we thought it would be a good idea to put together some information for you so that you have an idea of the questions to ask and make your own decision as to whether this is the route for you to follow, taking advantage of our own research and experience.
When it comes to researching what is the best option to feed your dog, have been there, got all the T-shirts as the saying goes, and came away even more confused than when I began looking! One vet says yes, the other says no – talk about controversial!
Going through all the pro’s and con’s what emerged as the biggest critique against raw food was that it was so often not correctly balanced. Problems that could arise is that the food could be lacking sources for all the nutrients and vitamins and not contain sources of trace metals such as zinc, iron and copper. Without these your dog (or cat) could become anaemic. Although I was researching raw food and dogs, I did notice that where cats are concerned that some diets may lack an amino acid called taurine, of which high quantities are found in mice, but may not be high enough in many of the meat products. As so few of our domestic cats engage in chasing and eating mice today as food is so readily available, I thought this was an important factor to take note of.
Another main concern was that even if the food contained all the correct vitamins and trace elements needed for optimum health, if not balanced properly problems could ensue here as well. An example is that the excess level of one compound such as zinc, may cause depletion in another, such as copper.
I had to make sure that the food would not be deficient in antioxidants and that there was the correct fatty acid balance for appropriate and balanced skeletal growth and immune health.
My final decision was that I wanted to go the Raw Food route for my dog as I still believed it was the best option, however, making it myself was not an option – far too time consuming and difficult to ensure that my dog was getting all he needed – I had definitely increased my knowledge on nutrition, but not to the level that I could make the food for my dog myself – simply adding in some premix vitamins etc, was not going to do the job in the long term especially as my dog had existing health concerns.
My next step was to find a supplier that would meet all the criteria necessary to ensure that Brady was getting the very best and that all perfectly balanced.
This is the list that I put together for myself and then started looking for a supplier I could use who could supply as many of my criteria as possible.
As I prefer to go to a professional when I am ill or to a nutritional expert if I needed help with my own diet, I felt that if somebody was going to be responsible for the food my dog ate, they needed to meet the basic criteria below:
- To be a vet or at least have certification that he/she knows enough about the physical aspect of our pets to ensure that the food they made would take care of all the physical components, the various life stages, as well as any illness the dog may have.
- To have expert nutritional knowledge and not just the knowledge of the original BARF diet. This would ensure that all the ingredients were not only present, but that present in the correct quantities.
- A supplier that was registered with Department of Agriculture Act 36 of 1947 who could legally state on both labels and advertising material that the food was registered. This would ensure that the food had been, and was tested on regular basis for safety and quality. Here is an important point as research into various suppliers showed me that on occasion one of the raw products offered for sale may be registered and was used on labels and advertising, but not all of their products contained the necessary V numbers. If a product does not contain the V number on the labelling then that product is not registered. I believe that it is not an easy feat to get products registered as such as it requires both testing and time and the Department of Agriculture must ensure that all its standards have been met (Nush do you have a list of the standards etc that are required? If so I can put a link here to what is required)
- If at all possible that the food was registered as a Complete food. This meant that every single aspect of the food would contain all my dog required and I did not have to add any kibble to the food at all. Raw bones of the correct type should be added.
- The first ingredient on the label I was looking for was whole carcass muscle meat of the highest quality human grade raw meat – not just meat scraps and mechanically deboned meat which has an inferior amino acid profile and physical quality. By having this as first on the recipe, it would ensure that this was the ingredient with the highest volume in the recipe.
- I wanted to know the percentage of liver which was included in the food. In research I discovered that often too much liver is added into the food both for palatability and cost effectiveness. If we bear in mind that the liver tends to harbour heavy metals over a period of time and can lead to ill health, I wanted to make sure that the ratio was correct and that I was not feeding my dog anything toxic.
- To ensure that the rest of the internal organs were included to supply the body with the necessary building blocks that my dogs organs required.
- Nush I remember you said that in the cape you only use meat that has not been grain fed – can this be put in here and I can mention because of allergies, and if so does this apply to both the food in Cape and Gauteng? If so please supply the wording.
- Just as I choose for my own family I wanted as many organic products as possible to be included in the food and to be seasonal so that the best available at the time food manufactured was used.
- That all the fruit and veggies that were added were for human consumption (and organic where possible) and not spoilt, soiled or about to be tossed.
- Food had to contain no Colouring or Artificial Preservatives
- I wanted absolutely no grain or cereal of any type in the food.
- The food to be easily available and packaged in the frozen state (easier and kills parasites)\
Reading through this is does sound that I may be looking for a lot, and I suppose I was, but if I was going to change to raw diet I wanted to make sure that every single thing had been done to ensure that my dog was getting it all and that every objection from the veterinary fraternity had been overcome.
As Brady had a history of various medical conditions (including thyroid and diabetes), an ‘iffy’ tummy due to a bout of pancreatitis, was prone to being allergic, I had to make sure that my criteria were met. Yes, I knew I would probably pay more for a food of this calibre, however I knew that if I were successful that it would result in less vet visits due to better health, extend his life period, and have all the other benefits that a raw diet supplies, such as cleaner teeth, no bad breath, shiny coat and sparkly eyes, no smelly flatulence, healthy stools, no impacted anal glands (dogs fed raw tend not to have problems with impacted anal glands), and most important, that he would really enjoy the food he ate – I knew that due to his health history that I may not have much time left with him.
After much research and trying out all the raw products on the market with varying degrees of success (having an ‘iffy’ tummy, if there was too much fat in the diet his tummy objected within 24 – 48 hours), I did find what was right for Brady and to say he thrived on it is an understatement.
Instead of being at the vet monthly, his health immediately improved and vet visits were not required until it was time for him to go The Rainbow Bridge – I firmly believe that the Raw dies gave him at least an extra few years and that if he had been healthier, he would have had more time – unfortunately although Raw can help the body to heal itself, it cannot turn around long term illness. His teeth became whiter and cleaner and looked like the teeth of a 3 year old rather than a 10 year old - his coat was beautiful and shiny, his eyes were sparkling, he overall seemed so much happier and boy did he love his food!
Personally I have never regretted the decision I made and any new dogs coming into my home will start off on Raw right from being a pup.
We do hope that the above gives you more knowledge and insight, however we do suggest that you do more of your own research – to say this subject is controversial is an understatement, especially as the majority of vets in South Africa prefer a kibble product. This is another reason why I did the research, I wanted to be able to show my vet the product I was using really met every single one of my dog’s needs. Good luck in the research!
Questions often asked
Is it better to purchase a ready made product or buy the ingredients and make it myself?
Purchasing a ready made product is the best option, however there are questions that you should always ask before doing so. Some examples are:-
What is the benefit to my dog by feeding a good quality Raw Food Diet?