Part 3 in our series on The Husky Diet.
Many good dog owners get very passionate about the subject of what foods they feed their dogs, and really, why wouldn’t they be passionate about what they feed their dogs? A good sound diet can contribute to the longevity and good health of our pets. The problem is that there is so much conflicting information about these diets that it makes owners confused and even afraid to switch their dogs from a kibble diet to a Raw Food or Homemade Cooked Diet. As with the section on Kibble Diets, I present you with information on these types of diets, both the pros as well as the cons, so that you can make a good informed decision as to what diet works best for your Snow Dog. As with all diet changes, please make all changes slowly to allow for your dog’s digestion to adapt to the new food stuffs. Also, please consult a Canine Nutrition Specialist who can guide you in making sure that your Raw or Homemade Diet is complete in nutrition. An unbalanced or incomplete diet will take its toll on your dog’s health.
The Raw Food Diet; The Benefits of Raw Food Feeding
The Raw Food based diet is one that has grown in popularity in the last decade fueled mainly by the seemingly endless food recalls from the manufactures of kibble based food. Many owners love the feeling of being in full control over the quality and the safety of what their dogs will be ingesting. There are two major types of raw diets, commercial and home prepared. Commercial Raw Diets can be either in fresh or frozen form, only ground meat, or ground meat with bone and offal ( the organ meats from the animal), or with fresh some fruits and veggies ground into the mixture too. Most typically these meat mixtures are formed into a consistently sized meat patty or “puck”.
The Commercial Raw Food Diet
The commercially prepared Raw Food Diet is convenient as the food is already in handy “puck” form which can be kept frozen until it is ready to be used. The pucks can be thawed out overnight in the fridge and are ready to use for the dog’s next meal. It also allows you to mix and switch up protein sources and that can keep your dog’s appetite piqued, perfect for the Snow Dog who easily gets bored with his food. And the consistent size of the meat pucks (usually ½ pound size) makes it easy to calculate how much to feed your dog at each feeding. When handling raw meat, proper hygiene to prevent cross contamination is essential but is no different from the precautions needed when handling raw food for human consumption.
You can feed a ½ raw and ½ kibble diet just make sure that you do not feed the two together at the same feeding. Raw food is digested at a different rate than the kibble and can cause gastric issues in your dog if the two foods are mixed. Raw food is processed as a protein and held in the stomach in an acid “bath” while kibble will be viewed by the digestion mainly as a starch.
The Homemade Raw Diet
The Homemade Raw Diet consists of whole meat and bones with veggies, fruits, grains and supplements added. The only difference is that the mixture is not commercially ground, instead, it is fed more or less whole and left for the dog to chew up. Raw Homemade Diets are an excellent way to address and meet the needs of dogs that are either allergic to certain foods as they can be made to meet your dog’s specific nutritional requirements.
Until you know how your dog will react to a raw or whole food diet, supervision is necessary. Dogs that are gulpers of food will try to swallow large chunks of raw food and can choke on large bones. People assume that since wild canines eat a whole prey diet that their dogs will automatically be able to safely handle eating a raw diet. This is simply not always the case. If your dog is a food gulper then a commercially ground raw food puck (thawed) is a much safer option for your dog. Also dogs, that have issues with poor tooth health should avoid the whole food diet. They can get the same nutrition from the commercially ground raw food pucks.
Please be aware the Raw Food Diet must be given in balance to address the vitamin and mineral requirements of the dog’s diet for your dog to stay healthy. If you are considering feeding an all raw diet, you MUST do some research on this subject first, or ideally, consult a medical professional like a canine nutritional expert, who can assist you with developing a diet that is complete for your dog’s nutritional needs. Dogs have their own unique needs for proper health and nutrition. Feeding a nutritionally incomplete diet will result in imbalances of vitamins and minerals within your dog that will pose threats to his long term health. Any diet on which your dog fails to thrive ends up being a poor choice for your dog so make sure you “bone” up on this subject before making the commitment to feed this diet to your dog.
Raw Feeding Guidelines
The specifics of a good balanced Raw Food Diet are complex. This is a just a very quick overview of what the average Raw Food Diet might look like and it should NOT be used as a complete reference.
The approximate overall ratio of a feeding should be :
- 80% meat, sinew, ligaments, fat,
- 10% edible bone,
- 5% liver,
- 5% organ meat.
- Meats are high in phosphorus. Bones are high in calcium. When meat is fed 10% you have pretty much the exact ratios of calcium required by a dog. Whole prey, fish, eggs, and tripe help to complete a balanced ratio.
- Organ meats should not exceed 10% of the diet overall and 5% of that should be liver. Feed liver once a week and try to find an organic free range fed source whenever possible.
- Pork or Salmon should be frozen for two weeks before feeding to kill parasites in the meat.
- Feed trachea, trim, poultry feet as they are an excellent natural source of chondroitin and glucosamine that help build and support healthy joints in your dog.
- Always feed only raw bones as cooked bones will splinter and pierce the stomach or the intestines.
- Always be on the safe side and supervise all bone chewing activities in case you have to intervene.
Adding Supplements To The Raw Diet
There is much controversy around should Raw Diets be supplement. Some experts say that if you do it right, the diet is balanced and complete, you should not need to add supplements. Others say that too many variables occur from dog to dog and you cannot accurately gauge how much nutrition is being absorbed from the Raw Diet and therefore supplementation is necessary.
In any case, those who supplement Raw Diets may want to add the following items: Calcium, Fish Oils, Plant Oils, Vitamin E, sources of Iodine, and Green Blends of alpha-alpha, spirulina, or other green foods.
Too much of a vitamin or mineral is just as bad for your dog as having too little. Do not guess when it comes to the nutritional requirements of your dog. Get expert advice from a professional.
How Much Raw Food To Feed Your Dog
Most dogs eat around two to three percent of their ideal adult weight per day.
- 30kg (66 lb) dog at 2% would eat 600gr (22 oz) of food and at 3% it would eat 900gr (32 oz) of food.
- 20kg (44lb) dog at 2% would eat 400gr (14 oz) of food and at 3% it would eat 600gr (22 oz) of food.
- 10kg (22 lb) dog at 2% would eat 200gr (7 oz) of food and at 3% it would eat 300gr (11 oz) of food.
If you are feeding a dog over 6 months of age, split into to 2 feedings per day.
If you are feeding a puppy 4 to 6 months old, split into 3 meals per day.
If you are feeding a puppy under 4 months old, split into 4 or more meals per day.
The Downside of the Raw Food Diet
While acknowledging that a Raw Food Diet has potential benefits for your dog’s health, there are some difficulties and problems with it too.
The biggest danger with the diet is that uninformed owners feed a nutritionally incomplete and unbalanced diet to their dogs and health problems occur over time. To further complicate matters, some nutritional deficiencies take many months to show up and you may not see the problem with the diet for quite a while. It is true that a Raw Diet should not be fed unless someone has fully researched that subject and preferably has consulted and canine nutrition specialist for some guidance in this matter, but with the proper understanding of the nutrition, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that your dog requires to be healthy, a sound Raw Diet can be safely fed to your dog.
For some people, a Raw Diet is just too much trouble to put forth the effort needed to make a lifestyle change for their pet. Depending on where you live, a Raw Food Diet can be expensive to feed and hard to get, especially if you are feeding hormone free and organically feed meat. The Homemade Diet can be time consuming to prepare and hard to fit into a busy lifestyle. Raw diets can be very inconvenient if you travel. If the dog comes with you must be able to transport the raw food while safely keeping it at suitable temperatures. If you are staying at a motel or hotel, they may not be equipped for raw food storage. Some boarding kennels will charge a premium for dogs on Raw Diets because of the space required for food storage.
Another issue is that not all raw foods are necessarily well digested or tolerated by all dogs. Raw vegetables can often be poorly digested by dogs. Whole chickens or any bony meat can easily become a choking hazard for some dogs. Feeding raw bones can cause tooth fractures for aggressive chewers while others dogs can swallow bone chunks which can become stuck in the GI tracts or cause intestinal blockages.
And lastly, and most controversially, there is the issue of bacteria and pathogens contained in raw foods. Raw foods have been found to contain Salmonella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli, Clostridium perfingens, Closeridium botulinium, and Staphylococcus aureus, all of which are known human and canine pathogens. If you choose to feed a Raw Diet then safe food handling practices are essential to prevent cross contamination. All dishes, utensils, and dishes and hands should be thoroughly washed and disinfected. Porous wooden surfaces should not be used to prepare food as they cannot be thoroughly disinfected.
You may want to take into account that if you have young children, elderly people, or someone who has a suppressed immune system functioning, they may be at higher risk of becoming sick from pathogens contained in raw meat. Dogs with poor or suppressed immune functioning may not be a good candidate to be able to handle pathogens found in raw food. Healthy dogs should be able to handle the pathogens because their digestive acid is designed to be able to handle such things. But always ensure that the food you are feeding to your dog is as safe and pathogen free as it can be.