August is Rawgust - are you ready to make the switch?
What is Rawgust?
Rawgust is a celebration of raw feeding for the month of August. Raw feeding, also known as BARF, for Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding, is focused on feeding dogs a diet which replicates what they would eat in the wild.
Why I Switched my Dogs to a Raw Food Diet
Ever since adopting Avon when he was 4 months old he suffered from food intolerances (lots of gas, rumbling belly and runny poos). We took him to the vets and he was put onto a prescription diet for digestive issues (Hills Science I/D). This didn’t help and he also developed further allergies and skin conditions, as well as elbow dysplasia, so the vet put him on the prescription diet for skin and food sensitivities (Hills Science Z/D).
He was on this diet for a long time but his condition worsened until he was vomiting frequently, he would often refuse to eat his food, and would prefer to eat grass from the garden. Eventually he was sent for a gastroscopy and he was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease. He was put on medication and we were told that he would need to take steroids for the rest of his life, and he would need to cut out all treats and only eat the prescribed food.
I decided to do my own research and completed the online pet food nutrition course from Dogs Naturally University where I learned how bad the prescription diets are for dogs' health. I decided to try a raw dog food diet and completed the raw dog food nutrition course.
By this time we had adopted Piper who was already showing signs of skin conditions (apparently this is a common Staffy thing), so we transitioned both dogs to a raw diet. The results were amazing - Avon’s condition has dramatically improved. He now loves his food, no longer takes any medication and rarely has an upset stomach, even his elbow dysplasia is much better. Piper’s skin cleared up almost immediately and has shown no further signs of allergies.
Benefits of a Raw Diet
There are many health benefits associated with feeding a raw diet, the main benefits include:
- Improved dental health and fresher breath
- Increased energy
- Shiny coat
- Healthier skin
- Improved weight control
- Improved immune system
- Fewer allergies
- Healthier gut
- Smaller, firmer poo
What’s in a Raw Food Diet?
The bulk of the raw diet comprises lean raw meat which should make up 70-80% of the meal, with the remainder made up of 10% organ meat, which should contain 5% liver, to provide essential vitamins, and 10% bone for calcium and phosphorus. The addition of fruit, vegetables and seeds is optional and should only be 10% of the meal.
Is a Raw Food Diet Safe?
There are a few safety concerns with feeding a raw food diet. The main concern is the spread of bacteria such as Salmonella and E-coli. Other risks include not feeding a complete and balanced diet, leading to nutritional deficiencies, and the risk of choking on whole bones.
These risks can be avoided by following safe food handling processes, understanding the nutritional requirements of your dog, and feeding bones appropriate for their size. You should never feed cooked bones to your dog.
How Much Should I Feed my Dog?
An adult dog should be fed around 2-3% of their body weight. A puppy should be fed around 4-6% of their body weight. Puppies have different nutritional requirements than adult dogs so make sure the diet is suitable for the dog’s age.
Monitor your dog's weight and increase the amount fed if they are losing weight, or decrease the amount if they are starting to gain weight.
How to Transition your Dog to a Raw Food Diet
You should transition your dog slowly over a period of 1-2 weeks. If your dog has a sensitive stomach it is recommended to go slowly to avoid any bad reactions to the new food. As a guideline you should start mixing the new food in with the current food in the following proportions:
- Days 1-3: 80:20% current: new food
- Days 4-6: 60:40% current: new food
- Days 7-9: 40:60% current: new food
- Days 10-12: 20:80% current: new food
- Days 13+: 100% new food
Homemade Raw Food
The best way to know exactly what’s going into your dog's food is to prepare the meals yourself. However, it is important to ensure your dog gets a balanced diet that meets the AAFCO nutritional requirements.
If you would like to prepare your own food, you can find some easy recipes which have been designed to provide a complete and balanced diet here.
Commercial Raw Food
If you’re a bit squeamish about grinding up organs like me, there are a number of commercial raw food diets available.
After reading the labels of all the raw foods I could find, I now feed Avon & Piper on a diet of Big Dog raw food and Leaps & Bounds raw food. I started Avon the single protein options for dogs with sensitive stomachs due to his IBD, but I now rotate through all the flavours stocked at the local pet shop, and I also rotate between the 2 brands so that they get a variety of proteins and nutrients. These are both frozen products that come in individual patties. You can also get freeze dried raw food, but I've not tried this other than for treats. Laila & Me do a good range of freeze dried raw treats.
(I’m not affiliated with any of these brands but I know that my dogs love them!)
Since switching my dogs, Avon & Piper, to a raw food diet they have both shown a massive improvement in their health. Avon no longer shows any signs of IBD, his elbow dysplasia has improved, and he is much less itchy. Piper’s coat, which was quite wiry when we got her, is now soft and shiny and she no longer has the skin rashes which she used to suffer from.
A raw diet may not be for every dog, but it’s definitely worth a try. Are you ready to give it a go this Rawgust?
Disclaimer: I'm not a trained veterinarian and this advice is based on my own research and experience with my dogs. If you have any concerns speak to your vet before switching to a raw food diet.