Looks like I stirred up a hornet’s nest with my raw feeding column. I think we all get lost sometimes in the science, and forget the logic. There is a lot to be said for scientific research, but you have to take in all of that research and not just pick and choose.
Don’t get me wrong, a dog can live a long, healthy life on kibble. The better the kibble, the better your results, and the safer your pet will be. But there are dangers that can hide in kibble. Many people have decided that those risks far outwheigh any of the potential risks raw foods pose, especially in light of the benefits.
First, dogs are carnivores. They are members of the order carnivora, species Canis Lupus, subspecies Familiaris, and while people want you to think they are radically different than a grey wolf, Canis Lupus, they are not, they are considered a subspecies. A conservative estimate puts 99.8% of a dogs DNA coming from wolves. In domestication, they may have adapted to metabolizing some starches, but their digestive system, from teeth to butt, remains primarily designed to process meat.
Some people say that there is no scientific proof that raw foods are appropriate for dogs. They say that there is only anecdotal evidence that they work, but no proof. How about this for proof. The very fact that dogs exist today says that raw foods are scientifically proven safe and effective, because until the last century, thats what dogs ate. For millenia before kibble, dogs ate raw.
When you really think about kibble dog food, it’s a great leap of faith that what is on the label is what is in the bag. A recent study found 10 of 21 products tested were mislabeled, either containing something not on the label, or not containing something that was. There have been massive recalls for products having inappropriate levels of contaminants, including bacteria like salmonella and toxins like vomitotoxin or melamine, or insufficient or harmful levels of certain vitamins. I’m not saying every bag of kibble is dangerous, but often we are expected to trust a manufacturer, and too often, our pets are exposed to dangers they do not deserve, because someone wanted to shave a few pennies here or there.
From a nutritional standpoint, would you feel confident your children were receiving adequate nutrition from a diet of 100% processed foods? Cereals, hot dogs, processed cheese? Do these scream balanced diet? If they ground them all up into a convenient pellet, would you feed that? Or would you prefer if your kids had some fresh steamed broccoli and carrots, baked chicken breast, fresh pasta?
Raw food is hard to hide things in. You can see the ingredients. If you prepare your own, you know exactly what is there. Do we need to worry about exact vitamin levels? If we put a little work into ensuring a balanced diet using different meats, bones, organs, it is very easy to balance a diet. Maybe not in every bite, as some kibble manufacturers claim to provide, but over time it is far more balanced than most of us will ever find in our diet.
AAFCO sets the minimum standards for pet food nutrition. Many raw diets have passed AAFCO’s testing. If your diet is based generally on one of these, it is easy to deduce it would be balanced too. Because fresh chicken is fresh chicken, whether it is from farm A or farm B, they all have the same nutritional values. It is only once a manufacturer processes it, cooks the vitamins and nutrients out of it, and mixes it with grains or other carbs, that you start having to worry about how nutritious the food is, and how many of the vitamins you need to add back in that were there in the fresh food to start with.
Still unsure or worried about getting enough vitamins or zinc? There are plenty of inexpensive vitamin supplements available for your pets, that you can add to both raw or kibble foods. And there is no reason you can’t add things in on your own. Coconut oil, turmeric, kefir, salmon oil, yogurt, blueberries, the list goes on and on. Maybe not every day, but here and there. Like we do. People food.
Because pets are people too.