We can all agree that a healthy diet is an essential building block for a healthy lifestyle. In recent years we’ve experienced a shift in our buying habits as people become more educated and aware of the importance of clean eating. Rather than selecting processed food filled with preservatives, additives and low quality ingredients, we now reach for more whole foods and organic, locally-sourced ingredients.
When it comes to our pets, the same should be true! It’s time to rethink the type and quality of ingredients we are feeding our pets every day. Kibble, although advertised as “healthy”, “high-quality” or “natural”, is always heavily processed and contains preservatives, additives, byproducts and fillers. There have also been a number of recalls in recent years where harmful ingredients like melamine have gotten incorporated into the pet food supply chain. This is why we as pet owners are reaching for minimally processed healthy alternatives to kibble such as raw pet diets or fresh food made of real, whole human-grade ingredients.
Raw or BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or bones) diets are increasing in popularity among pet owners eager to test the benefits of a less processed diet for dogs and cats. While raw feeding introduces higher quality meat to your pet’s diet, it also introduces some risks such as an imbalanced nutritional profile, bacterial contamination, and household safety and handling issues.
In this article, we’ll cover what a raw pet food diet is, important factors to consider when feeding raw, and why you should consider fresh, gently-cooked dog food & cat food to support your pet’s health.
What is a raw food diet?
Feeding raw for dogs or cats refers to a diet of raw meat (and associated animal parts). Many raw diets also call for the addition of fruits and vegetables. Raw feeding guides direct pet owners to create meals containing a variety of natural ingredients, such as a selection of raw cuts of meat (turkey, rabbit, chicken, fish, goat, beef, etc.), tendon, heads, feathers, bones, beaks, and hair that would mimic a whole prey diet.
Raw Fed Dogs shares this raw feeding breakdown:
- 80% meat, sinew, ligaments, fat
- 10% edible bone
- 5% liver
- 5% other organ meat
While feeding raw food is likely to be more healthy than processed foods like kibble, there are also many important considerations when planning a complete raw diet for pets. These include a balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio, appropriate amounts of organ meat, consumption of bone with pH as a factor, making sure your pet is getting important supplements and natural oils, safe versus unsafe bones, and more.
It is also important to note that there are so many sources for raw feeding that in fact give different advice. Some follow the above breakdown, mostly ignoring the benefits of vegetables or fruits, while others talk about the importance of including these natural sources of nutrients in a raw diet. Before switching your pet to a completely raw diet, it is a good idea to consult your vet or a pet nutritionist!
Is feeding raw the best way to create a healthy diet for the domestic dog & cat?
Most of our pups are FAR from the wild canines of nature roaming the forest. Because humans care for their furry friends so well, the common domestic dog has a much longer life expectancy than wild canines, which typically only live around 5 to 7 years.
While the raw feeding philosophy of “bringing your dog back to its natural, wild roots'' makes sense in principle, it’s important to fully understand a raw food diet may not be the best for domesticated pets. Some aspects may actually be unhealthy and pose health risks to your pet and household.
In addition to those nice, meaty cuts, raw dog food often contains things that aren’t so edible….
- Uncooked organ meats that can contain toxins
- Leftover carcass material
- Bone fragments
- Parts of the animal not cleared as human-grade or restaurant-quality meat
- Harmful bacteria that can be retained in meat even when received frozen – this affects both your pet consuming the raw food, and you handling it
Important ways in which domesticated dogs are different from their wild counterparts
Although members of the canine family, the domestic dog is very different from its wolf ancestors. Dogs evolved from wolves more than 11,000 years ago, leaving a lot of time for significant DNA shifts and adjustments in the way they digest food.
A study analyzing dog versus wolf DNA found dogs had between 4-30 copies of the gene for amylase, an enzyme which helps break down carbohydrates, while wolves have only 2 copies. This shows that domestic dogs have evolved to be capable (and genetically programmed) to break down starch in their diet while cohabiting with humans over the past 11,000 years.
Other differences in dog’s DNA versus wolf's that impact digestion:
- Dogs contain more copies of the gene, MGAM, which codes for another enzyme important in starch digestion
- The gene responsible for starch digestion is longer in dogs, a genetic characteristic important to plant-eaters, signifying dogs have evolved to digest an omnivorous diet
Robert Wayne, an evolutionary biologist who studies dogs at the University of California, Los Angeles, says. "This [study] suggests [that] dogs are different from wolves and don't need a wolflike diet. They have coevolved with humans and their diet."
Health, safety & nutrition considerations to watch for when feeding raw pet food
The dangerous bacteria that can be retained in meat and produce (even when received frozen) can be a safety threat for both your pet consuming it, and for you handling it. Potentially disease-causing bacteria in saliva and feces include e. coli, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter.
Is anyone in your home at risk of infection, pregnant, or immune-compromised? Many veterinarians advise raw pet food feeding is not recommended due to the risk of disease from bacteria and pathogens.
How often does your dog come over and give you a little lick after eating, or head straight for the chew toy after meals? Ew!
Contrary to popular belief, there are several ways nutrients are actually being depleted from a raw food diet for dogs:
- By deep-freezing raw meat at very low temperatures to prevent bacterial growth, nutrients are lost amid the freezing process
- Calcium from bone fragments can cause variation in the nutrient content of the meal
- High animal fat levels in high-protein diets (most raw food diets are very high in meat & protein), while not being balanced with carbohydrates can be tough on your dog's digestion – when an animal’s diet is lacking in carbs, protein must then be converted into carbs resulting in less protein absorption overall
Most vets don’t recommend feeding raw
PDSA, leading UK veterinary charity vets recommend a complete & balanced pet diet that provides all the nutrients your pet needs for their weight and age to make sure they stay healthy.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) released a position statement in July 2018 regarding raw meat-based diets:
“The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) accepts the evidence for potential health risks to pets fed raw meat-based diets (RMBDs), and to humans who are in contact with RMBDs, or with pets fed RMBDs. The CVMA holds that the documented scientific evidence of potential animal and public health risks in feeding RMBDs outweighs any perceived benefits of this feeding practice.”
Amanda Boag, group referrals director for IVC, said: “While this is a decision for individual pet owners, we would urge caution. It’s very unlikely that a raw food diet will be nutritionally balanced — to achieve this, you would need to feed your pet all the pieces of an animal including their liver, heart, lungs and bones as well as supplements. In addition, feeding pets bones can put them at risk of gastrointestinal damage. I have witnessed dogs dying after getting septic peritonitis from being fed a bone that then leads to perforation of their gut.”
Fresh dog food and cat food is a safer alternative to raw & provides balanced nutrition
Unlike processed pet food, fresh, natural dog food doesn't need preservatives or additives because it doesn't sit on a shelf for years. A fresh pet food diet ensures you are confident in what you’re feeding your pet:
- Minimally processed meals
- Made from whole, human-grade ingredients you know and trust
- No harmful preservatives or additives
- Formulated to have balanced & complete nutrition
- Board certified vet-approved recipes
Fresh food is great as a hypoallergenic dog food diet to help you get rid of dog’s food allergy symptoms like itchy skin and coat, redness, and hives which make your dog less happy than they could be. Similarly for cats with itchy skin and allergies or food intolerance symptoms. In addition, fresh, minimally processed food is great for pets with sensitive stomachs and picky eater dogs and cats.
Home cooked pet food too much of a time commitment? Fresh pet food delivery is a convenient option for busy pet parents
Many pet parents are rightfully considering home cooking their pet food. Home cooked pet food is a great alternative to a raw dog food diet. When assessing a home cooked or gently-cooked dog food diet, it’s extremely important to follow a vet-approved recipe to ensure a balanced complete nutrition.
Feeding fresh is a great way to improve the health of your pets. But, with how busy everyday life is, even cooking healthy meals for your family can be a challenge. That’s why we created Kafka’s Organic to offer fresh pet food delivery, making it easier for you to feed home cooked-style food to your pet while still having time to cook your own healthy meals!
Kafka’s Organic is a local Vancouver BC company serving the community with fresh pet food meal delivery. Vet-approved fresh food recipes are formulated with superfoods and whole, human-grade, locally sourced ingredients. Recipes contain kale, carrots, sweet potatoes, bone broth & omega-3 fish oil to pack a punch of immune-boosting nutrition. These ingredients are gently cooked at low temperatures to retain nutrients while making it easy to feed.
Feeding Kafka’s is easy! It comes frozen so you can store in the freezer (up to 3 months), thaw for 15 minutes in lukewarm water before feeding, reseal the bag, then pop back into the fridge until the next feeding.
Furthermore, if you’re thinking about feeding fresh, Kafka’s pet meals are versatile. Although they are made to be fed as full meals, they are also great for pets when used as meal toppers or mixers. Using Kafka’s as a meal topper first is a great way to test this new diet and is easier on the wallet for owners with big dogs who eat a lot! Fresh food is also safe to add into both kibble-based and raw-based diets.
Pro tip: Kafka’s pet parents love freezing fresh food in Ice cube trays as healthy treats! And for the adventure pups, Kafka’s is the perfect way to pack your dog’s food along. Just throw it in the cooler, feed, re-seal, then back in the cooler it goes (stays fresh for approx. 3 days once thawed).
Learn more about how easy it is to feed fresh with Kafka’s Organic, and calculate the ideal meal plan for your dog & cat with our feeding calculator.
About Kafka’s Organic
Kafka’s Organic is reimagining processed pet food with healthy, locally-sourced, REAL food that cats and dogs love! Kafka’s Organic stands to create a community around the health & wellness of ourselves and our pets by making fresh pet food delivery available and convenient for pet parents in the Lower Mainland.
Pet food home delivery is currently offered in Yaletown, Olympic Village, Kitsilano, Downtown Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Langley, Surrey, Coquitlam, Richmond, Burnaby, Port Moody & surrounding areas. Delivery fees vary, but all orders of $60 and above qualify for free delivery!
What are you waiting for? Take a look at our fresh food for dogs and cats. Your precious pet will thank you for healthier, tastier meals!