Aside from the conventional dog food, pet owners are now exploring other options when it comes to the nutrition of their canines. One of which is the popular raw diet for dogs. As it’s called, this type of diet involves food items that aren’t heated or cooked.
The main goal of the raw diet is to bring back the natural diet of dogs in the wild. True enough, wild dogs eat raw meat, vegetables, and fruits. It’s believed that this is way better than the highly processed and seasoned dog food you can purchase in pet stores.
But is this suitable for your Pitbulls? What are the raw dog food pros and cons? Below, we discuss these in detail.
How the raw dog diet started
It was Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinarian, who first introduced the idea of a raw diet to domesticated dogs back in 1993. Ian called it as BARF or ‘Bones and Raw Food’ or ‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Food’.
Ian believes that before dogs became domesticated, they were used to an evolutionary diet that includes raw meat and bones. Aside from meaty bones, this diet also includes vegetable scraps to mimic the process of finding food in the wild.
Billinghurst believes that commercial food disrupts the natural nutrition of dogs. Also, he thinks that processed dog food harms the health of canines.
In 2007, a massive recall of dog food products was ordered by the FDA. This is in line with the agency’s finding that some pet food products can make pets sick. In worst cases, it can kill cats and dogs. This cemented the reputation of the raw diet as a better option since dog owners have full control over its preparation and contents.
However, modern veterinarians and the FDA have strong reservations about this diet, stemming majorly on preparation conditions and the possibility of contamination.
What the experts have to say
Dog experts have warned about the possible harm of the raw diet to dogs. As much as there are benefits, you should also assess the possible danger it may bring, especially if the Pitbull isn’t fit for such nutrition.
Dr. Lisa Freeman warned about raw diet in her published work in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association.
The raw diet isn’t the culprit per se; it’s the tendency of pet owners to choose this diet based on online myths.
If possible, Freeman recommends that pet owners cook homemade dog food if they want to ditch the commercial kibble or canned food.
Freeman also noted that the effect of having a shinier coat is due to the high-fat content of the raw diet. If this is something pet owners want to achieve, they can look for cooked counterparts. Another choice is compensating with supplements.
On the other hand, there are veterinarians that support the idea of a raw diet for dogs. Dr. Doug Knueven of the Beaver Animal Clinic says that a raw diet is beneficial to most animals.
But what can he say about the perceived danger of bad bacteria being present in raw meat? Knueven clarified that it’s in the way the food is prepared. It’s important to sterilize first to curb any potential contamination.
Still, Knueven points out that the raw diet isn’t fit for all dogs. First of all, dogs with kidney problems shouldn’t be fed with raw diet due to the very high levels of protein.
In this video, Dr. Karen Becker of Mercola Healthy Pets discusses her take about the raw dog food diet:
Possible benefits of the raw diet for dogs
Although the risk of a raw diet to dogs has been documented in various studies, supporters of the diet highlight the following benefits:
Shinier coats. Of all the perks of a raw diet, this is the most common among the proponents of the raw diet. This is due to the high-fat content on the meaty food.
Cleaner teeth. This doesn’t come as a surprise since chewing bones help dogs get rid of plaque and tartar. The more a dog chews the better it is for their dental health, more so for Pitbulls. Just take note, though, that bones aren’t ideal for small breeds.
High energy levels. It can possibly be due to the unadulterated calories and carbs in raw food that give dogs a boost of energy.
Reduced allergy. This isn’t an absolute benefit. Some dogs are just allergic to the synthetic ingredients of processed food. However, some are really allergic to specific meat types, raw or not.
Firmer and smaller stools. Thanks to raw fiber, Pitbulls who are in the raw diet will have a better bowel movement.
Common food items for a raw diet
It actually depends on the preference of the owner and to which food items the Pitbull is allergic to. But basically, these are the components of the raw diet:
*Ground or whole bones
*Organs like kidneys and liver
*Dairy like yogurt, cheese, etc.
*Green vegetables like celery, broccoli, spinach, etc.
There can be other ingredients to a raw meal. The FDA strictly instructs manufacturers of the raw diet for dogs to ensure that each meal contains high levels of calcium and phosphorus.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a basic recipe you can try for your pooch:
Raw food vs. kibble/canned food
There is a heated argument about this part. Supporters of the raw diet will easily dismiss processed kibble as harmful. But like anything else in pawrenthood, there are raw dog food pros and cons.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a regulatory organization that checks if commercial dog food products are at par with health standards. We can say that just like a raw diet, commercial dog food isn’t pure evil.
It all boils down to finding the dog food that matches your pet’s needs. For example, if you have a Pitbull with strong allergies, you need the strict guidance of a veterinarian if you’re planning to transition to a raw diet.
On the other hand, the biggest benefit to commercial dog food is its convenience. Let’s face it: not all pet owners have the time and budget to prepare raw meals for their pooches.
Like any products, there could be some bad apples in the industry. It’s important that you examine what you’re going to buy to get the value of your money.
Possible harm of raw dog food
To be fair, we also discuss the possible harm that a raw diet may bring along the way. First, there’s a high risk of contamination. If you don’t prepare and store the meat items properly, it’s easy to succumb to bacterial contamination that will cause digestive problems to your dog.
Here are some of the potential risks of raw diet:
Choking. The bones can choke a Pitbull or break their teeth. In some cases, a bone splinter can also puncture the esophagus or intestines of the doggo. This can be fixed easily by grinding the bone, though.
Bacterial contamination. Those who are against the raw diet argue that the main problem is the possible threat of bacteria not just to dogs but also to humans. This concern has basis since some pet owners tend to over-store large amounts of raw food.
If not frozen properly, it can easily spoil and harbor unimaginable amounts of bacteria. Some of the common bacteria in contaminated meat include Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.
Unbalanced diet. Here’s one common risk that newbie pet owners face. Those who have bare knowledge of nutrition are likely to compromise the balance of their pet’s diet. Commercial food products are formulated by experts. Unless you’re confident about your measuring and preparation skills, it’s best to stick to commercial dog food.
Re-serving leftovers. Some pet owners who want to save money tend to re-serve leftovers to their dogs. Remember, the moment the food is exposed to your dog’s saliva and other external elements, it becomes automatically exposed at high risk of spoiling.
Rules to follow
If you’re keen to feed your Pitbull a raw diet, here’s our short guide that you can use. Here are some rules that you should keep in mind:
1.Choose muscle meat
Just because it’s a raw diet doesn’t mean you can feed just about any meat cut to your pet. Always opt for meaty bones and lean cuts for your Pitbull. These contain high levels of protein that will help sustain their stocky bodies.
Among the best meat choices include ground beef, bison, boneless chicken thighs, lamb, and turkey. However, many Pitbulls tend to have allergic reactions to beef. Always check this part before heading to the market.
2.Consider organs as multi-vitamins
Even for humans, internal organs of animals are the healthiest picks. Internal organs are rich in nutrients and minerals. This is why you should feed around 10% to 30% of organs per meal.
If you choose liver, don’t feed it beyond 10% because it’s packed with lots of Vitamin A. Too much of Vitamin A can cause diarrhea to dogs. If possible, mix it with other internal organs like kidney, brains, spleen, and more.
The rule of thumb is that one organ type shouldn’t be more than 5% to 10% of your dog’s diet.
3.Don’t overfeed fats
Anything that’s too much is bad for your dog. This includes excessive fats. Although this food component can help improve the coat of a Pitbull, too much can bring in unnecessary calories.
You should know that fat has very high calories but very low vitamin and mineral content. If possible, you may want to allow those calories into something more nourishing.
This is the same reason why you should choose lean meat cuts or meaty bones.
4.Consider adding fruits
Dogs are omnivores, meaning they eat both meat and plants. This is the reason why you should infuse their raw meals with fresh fruits and veggies for added nourishment.
Tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, apples, cantaloupe, bananas, and blueberries are healthy for dogs. Anyway, your choice of fruit or veggie should depend on your Pitbull’s allergies.
Generally, aim for food that has high fiber content, lycopene, prebiotics, flavonoids, carotenoids, and antioxidants.
5.Skip the starch
Starchy food causes too much insulin production. Insulin is a fat storing agent which is the culprit why dogs become chubby. Avoid too many potatoes, grains, and peas if your doggo is already on the heavy side.
Also, excessive starch can disrupt the microbe balance on your dog’s tummy. You can diversify their source of carbs each day to prevent this from happening.
How much and when to feed
The amount of raw food per meal should be based on your Pitbull’s body weight, activity level, and condition. Generally, a 50-pound doggo should be fed with one pound of raw meal. It could be a bit more if your dog is physically active or training for sports.
In case your dog is a couch potato, you have to reduce the amount so they wouldn’t gain too much weight.
If you’ve been feeding raw food to your dog, you can check if you’re giving the right amount by running your fingers through the dog’s ribs. If you can feel the ribs but not see it, this means that the dog has the right weight.
If you can see the ribs or you can’t even feel it, it’s likely that you’re feeding less or too much.
How to transition your Pitbull to a raw diet
For those planning to transition their Pitbulls to a raw diet, the dog should be at least 12 weeks and older. You can use the following increments in transitioning your dog into the raw diet:
1st day: Switch 1/8 of their meal to a raw diet
2nd day: Switch 1/4 of their meal to a raw diet
3rd day: Switch ½ of their meal to a raw diet
4th day: Switch ¾ of their meal to raw
5th day: Switch the entire meal to raw
Take note that you can make smaller increments if your dog is picky or has strong allergies. It can take as long as two weeks or a month to fully transition the pooch. When it comes to changing their diets, never rush in.
For a dog that’s used to commercial food, raw diet for dogs is totally foreign. You have to observe for possible side effects.
Here’s a short guide for newbies switching to raw dog food: