One of the more strongly debated topics in pet care these days is whether or not to feed your pet a raw food diet, both if it’s completely homemade by you or manufactured by a pet food company. With all of the news about contaminated pet food products made outside of the U.S. harming our pets, many people find the raw food diet more appealing than ever. Here are some pros and cons to consider when thinking about a raw food diet for your dog or cat.
What is a raw food diet for pets?
Simply defined, a raw food diet is when you feed your pet uncooked meat (including freeze-dried products), either prepared at home or made commercially. Raw food advocates argue that cooking removes nutrients from meat, and that traditional pet foods have too many processed grains and other ingredients that could hurt your pet’s digestive system. Those against raw food diets think that raw meat has too many unsafe components like bacteria and parasites that could be harmful to your pet.
Dogs and the raw food diet
Many dogs regularly eat raw food diets, like sled dogs in the Arctic. Before the introduction of commercial pet food, dogs commonly ate human food scraps, both raw and cooked. The most serious risks of raw food diets come from bacteria, pieces of bones, and lack of education on the part of the owner that leads to an unbalanced diet. Dogs need a balanced raw food diet that includes muscle and organ meats, and some egg, dairy, and fruit and vegetable products. Owner education is especially important if you are making the food yourself. Advocates say that the health benefits of raw food diets are worth the extra prep time, expense, and learning curve.
Cats and the raw food diet
The raw food diet is more complicated for cats than dogs, because of their more exacting nutritional requirements. While dogs can eat a wider range of foods, cats are strict carnivores and need the proper amounts protein, amino acids (taurine and arginine), fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals in their diet. Cats in particular don’t need the grain fillers that come in traditional commercial pet food. Experts believe that it is trickier for cat owners to prepare homemade food for cats, either raw or cooked, because of their particular dietary needs. If you’re thinking about switching your cat to a raw diet, you may want to start with manufactured raw food until you’re sufficiently educated in feline nutrition to make it yourself, because you will have to add special supplements to the food on a regular basis.
- Aaron Seminoff