Many pet owners only start looking into healthier, alternative diets when their pet is sick, overweight, or has developed a skin condition. A pet’s diet greatly affects their overall health and can prevent major health issues from developing. Raw food diets have been found to offer major health benefits including shinier coats, healthier skin, healthier stools, better dental health if they chew on raw bones, and increased energy.

Raw food diets don’t need to be as intimidating or intense as it sounds. In this post, we break down what a raw food diet could look like for your dog, and how to get started.

Keeping Your Dogs Gut Healthy

First things first, we must understand our dog’s gut!

A dog’s gut is full of bacteria and microbes that make up the gut microbiome. A dog’s microbiome is important as it affects everything from your dog’s weight, nutrient absorption, digestion, and overall physical and mental health. An unbalanced microbiome in dogs causes issues like inflammatory bowel disease, skin issues, and a higher chance of developing more serious health conditions. Healthy immunity begins in the gut.

It has been found that feeding your dog raw food can be a very healthy, nutrient-rich diet. But you need to be very careful if you choose to provide raw food to your dog because it can become contaminated easily. If you do decide to try a raw diet, especially if you want to try raw meat, make sure to talk with your vet and follow the FDA guidelines to keep it safe.

Some basic tips would be to make sure you feed your dog’s raw food in a stainless steel bowl rather than plastic, be sure to thoroughly wash the bowl with soap and warm water after every meal, and do not leave raw food out to sit all day and accumulate bacteria.

Don’t stress about going 100% raw if you don’t feel fully comfortable just yet. Many pet owners only substitute a couple of meals a week with raw food and their dogs still reap the benefits. This is the best option for those who plan on sticking to a hybrid raw diet for their dog combined with their regular kibbles and proteins.

Tips For Raw Food Beginners

Many are looking towards a raw food diet to help an itchy dog. Some dogs have allergies, skin infections, and yeast issues. These issues are commonly traced back to the dog’s diet or made worse by the dog’s diet. Cleaning up the diet can do wonders for itchy dogs and dogs with skin problems.

Starch is in all kibbles and processed dry pet foods. So if your dog has an allergy to starch you would have to begin exploring other food options. There is a wide variety of raw based proteins available for your dog to choose from and avoid allergic reactions. Kangaroo is the go-to option if you’re not sure what exactly your dog is allergic to. Or you can slowly begin to test out options from chicken, turkey, bison, salmon, pork and much more.

You also don’t need to go 100% raw, especially if you don’t want to get into raw meat. Begin slowly introducing raw foods into your dog’s diet to see what they like. Every once in a while add eggs, salmon, pieces of chicken, or sardines to their dinner to get them excited.

Raw meals can become a substitute for kibbles or processed foods as you and your vet work to discover the culprit of your dog’s skin issues. It can also be super beneficial to help your overweight dog shed those extra pounds. Vegetables help dogs feel full longer, so they are not always feeding or begging to be fed.

Controlling What Your Dog Eats

The best thing about making your dog's meals is being able to control exactly what they eat. It can be hard to determine how much of each ingredient is actually in your store-bought food. Many are also full of artificial colors and flavors and filler ingredients that your dog doesn’t benefit from. Here are some good raw options that offer health benefits to dogs:

Egg yolks: Yolks from pastured hens raised in sunshine and eating a proper diet are rich in vitamin D. You can feed eggs several times a week.  

Tumeric: It helps relieve inflammation and promotes joint health. It can also balance the digestive tract and help maintain cholesterol levels.

Kelp: It’s a great source of Iodine which is a nutrient that tends to be deficient in most homemade raw dog food diets.

Mussels: Mussels contain Manganese which is an essential trace mineral that activates important metabolic processes in the body. It also helps detoxify the body.

Fish: Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are all rich in vitamin D, as is cod liver oil.

Omega 3: Sources of ahiflower or hemp have a good source of a healthy fat called GLA, which is an omega-6 fatty acid. Green-lipped mussels also contain omega-3 fats.

Vegetables For Dogs

A balanced diet is the most important thing for our dogs. Many don’t realize that this includes vegetables! Vegetables provide essential nutrients, including fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Without the plant matter providing those nutrients, an all-meat diet would need supplements. When switching to a dog raw food diet - make sure you look at the ingredients and opt for “Dinners'' that include vegetables along with the protein choice. An example of a fully balanced raw food meal would be called “chicken dinner” as opposed to “pure chicken.”

If you are only feeding your dog meat-based foods then they are missing out on essential sources of antioxidants and other phytochemicals. These help your dog’s immune system and a healthy gut. Additionally, most pet stores also sell additional toppers for raw fed diets that you can sprinkle on top to get the added nutrients.

It has also been discovered that adding more vegetables into your dog’s diet can help reduce the risk of developing cancers. Leafy greens are important for good gut bacteria in dogs, just like it is in humans. There have been studies that concluded that feeding your dog green, yellow or orange vegetables 3 times a week can reduce their chances of bladder cancer by 70% to 90%.

Ancestral dogs ate everything from vegetables, fruit, nuts, grasses, and even feces for their nutrients. Luckily our family dogs don’t need to worry about starving and we can pick and choose more carefully what they decide to consume.

Is It Worth It?

Overall, feeding your dog healthy raw meals works to improve their microbiome. Equipping them with a healthy immune system, digestion, and overall health. However, we don’t like to recommend raw meats as it comes with a lot of risks. Vegetables, grains, fruits, and fermented foods offer many benefits and are definitely worth a try.

If you’re interested in trying a dog raw food diet to help your dog fight a current illness, or for preventative reasons, always make sure to talk to your vet first.