Should My Pet Switch to Raw Food?
July 26, 2022
Switching your dog or cat to raw food can bring positive benefits to your pet — often within 2-3 weeks.
Pets who switch from kibble to raw frequently experience cleaner teeth, smaller and firmer stools, improved gut health, and healthier skin and coats.
However, switching from packaged food to a raw diet can be intimidating.
Some vets don’t like their patients eating raw food (I’ll cover that in a minute).
Pet food manufacturers hate the competition.
Plus, there’s no shortage of misinformation on the pros and cons of raw food vs. kibble…
Or even how to make the transition easy for your pet’s digestive system.
Before we decide if a raw diet is right for your dog or cat, let’s take a few steps back and better understand what a raw diet is.
Raw Diet 101
Raw diets typically (should) include a combination of meat, skeletal muscle, organs, cartilage, soft bone, pet-safe vegetables, fruit, and supplements.
These diets can be commercially prepared (like those we offer at NorthPoint Pets) or made at home.
Whether you feed your pet fresh or frozen food, a well-balanced raw food diet includes all the nutrients your pet needs to thrive.
Why are people switching their pets to raw diets?
While science has continued to improve the nutritional value of pet kibble, this product has only been around for about 100 years. As kibble use has increased, there is no argument that nutrition-related disease in our pets has risen.
Many experts in human health and nutrition attribute these diseases to the consumption of processed food, and it is logical to suspect much of the same is happening in our pets
Pet owners switch to raw because they want to know exactly what their pets are eating, but also to be able to reduce the amount of processed food consumed
With processed options like canned and kibble, nutrients and beneficial components like antioxidants and enzymes are diminished or lost altogether. Vitamins and minerals are usually supplemented through vitamin packs.
A responsibly formulated raw diet typically consists of a balanced blend of muscle, fat, connective tissue, organ, and bone. Raw diets are popular with those who prefer to avoid excess carbohydrates, preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors.
In a nutshell, raw diets mimic what our dogs and cats would eat in the wild.
Why doesn’t my vet like raw food diets?
Most people make their pet’s raw food meals at home, and this is what gives vets heartburn.
The reason is two-fold: bacterial contamination and unbalanced diets that lead to critical nutrient deficiencies. Both are legitimate concerns arising from the fact that the human food supply is legally allowed to be contaminated with pathogens like Salmonella.
Without experience or professional guidance, most people creating raw food meals in their kitchens can sometimes cause more harm than good to their pets. This is why we often advocate for a well-made commercial raw food option or work with a qualified nutritionist to help you formulate a homemade raw diet. Food safety is a huge component of a responsible canine or feline diet – regardless of the diet being kibble, raw, or a combination of both.
Commercial foods (kibble or canned) provide a level of safety and security when seen through the eyes of a veterinarian. These foods are formulated by animal nutritionists to be complete and balanced. They are also produced in facilities to ensure all safety and pathogen mitigation techniques are in place.
Good vets wait for the scientific literature to document why specific nutrition strategies work or don’t. Big pet food manufacturers fund the research into their products, so while there are indeed documented studies on manufactured pet food, there is still a significant knowledge gap and lack of literature for ALL types of pet food. In fact, we still don’t know what ‘optimum’ nutrient levels are for most pets or even specific breeds.
Science also takes time.
Several scientific studies are being conducted on raw and fresh diets by reputable organizations at the university and manufacturer levels. These include DogRisk at the University of Helsinki, Finland, Instinct Pet Foods in the US, the Companion Animal Wellness Institute, and the University of Georgia. Some of the work is already published and includes topics like reduction in inflammatory biomarkers, benefits for atopy (skin issues), and arthritis. Others in progress include the effects of various types of food processing on disease risk and more.
Most of the information you’ll find about raw diets is based primarily on personal experiences rather than rigorous scientific research and won’t hold much weight with veterinarians.
Despite the researchers at CANWI, UGA, DogRisk, and the University of Helsinki studying raw diets, there hasn’t been enough published research to influence veterinarians….but they’re working on it!
This is why our highly educated veterinarians aren’t always on board with their patients switching from engineered kibble to naturally balanced raw foods.
This is also why you must consult an experienced nutrition professional about your pet’s health and eating habits. By discussing the pros and cons of raw diets and food safety with this expert, you can make an informed decision about how to improve your pet’s health and longevity.
About the Author:
Nicole is the founder & owner of multiple-award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut, USA. She has completed undergraduate work in biological sciences, business and holds an M.S. in Nutrition. Currently, Nicole is pursuing a PhD in Comparative Biomedical Sciences (Canine Nutrition/Metabolomics) at the prestigious University of Georgia in the USA.
Her background includes experience in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading figures in the human and pet health industries. Nicole has been heavily involved in police canine nutrition within the USA, helping to improve the modern care and feeding of working dogs. Her interests include working dog nutrition, raw feeding, pathogens, metabolomics, and nutrition’s relationship to disease in humans and canines. Her current research involves the exploration of the canine urinary metabolome and the relationship to diet.
Publications: Cammack, N.R., Yamka, R.M., and Adams, V.J. (2021). Low Number of Owner-Reported Suspected Transmission of Foodborne Pathogens From Raw Meat-Based Diets Fed to Dogs and/or Cats. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 8. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2021.741575. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2021.741575/full Contact: www.northpointpets.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-cammack-8400084b/?trk=author_mini-profile_title