Raw Food for Dogs - 12 Common Errors When Feeding Raw Dog Food Diet
The B.A.R.F. diet is without a doubt beneficial for dogs of all ages. However, this does not mean that you should jump onto the bandwagon without sufficient preparation. Proper understanding of what feeding raw dog food entails is key to success.
Yes, you may have read hundreds of websites and tonnes of materials on the topic. You might even have bought all the necessary equipment to lovingly churn out homemade raw meals for dear doggo.
But hold your horses for a while, and read about some common mistakes made by dog owners. The information might save you from a future heartache.
1. Not discussing with the vet first before feeding raw dog food
Each dog is an individual. Before giving your dog raw food, it is a good idea to first discuss this with your veterinarian who knows better about dog nutrition than you do.
It is advisable to work out a plan with your regular vet. The plan should suit your dog’s specific needs. A puppy has different needs from a senior dog from an adult dog from a sick dog from an obese dog and so on.
Consider these cases: an adult dog with diabetes, a puppy with skin problems, a senior dog with arthritis, an obese disabled dog, a toy dog with missing teeth, a Basset hound that just had stroke. All these dogs have different dietary needs.
Consulting with a vet will ensure that the raw food recipe you follow provides balanced nutrition for your pet. You will need to consider your dog’s current health condition and its future needs on top of protein, fat, mineral and vitamin requirements.
2. Ignoring complete, balanced nutrition of raw food for dogs
Some DIYers think that a homemade hamburger patty made only from minced beef is good enough. The reality is, building a meal from scratch is far more complicated.
The meat and fat ratio needs to be balanced with other ingredients such as organs, vegetables or fruit as well as vitamins and minerals. Each ingredient is an essential nutrient which serves different functions.
Nutrient deficiencies and diseases can be caused by a diet with too much muscle meat and not enough of the other “parts” that create nutritional balance. Look at the diet of a dog’s wild cousin.
It eats the whole animal (e.g., a rat or rabbit) that contains muscle meat, bone, tendons, organs, skin and fur. The natural diet of canines also includes some greens which have been partially processed by their prey. All these comprise a nutritionally complete meal.
However, the animal parts that we choose to feed our pets might not include those that provide much needed fat, fiber, minerals and vitamins.
Striking the perfect balance of nutrients involves a lot of calculations – dog weight and age, nutrient content of different animal parts, nutrient content of other ingredients, proportion of ingredients, needs of different dog breeds and dog’s health issues.
3. Using enhanced meats for B.A.R.F.
What are enhanced meats? These are raw meats that have flavoring, seasonings, broth, sugar or with any other additives. It may be a no-brainer for most pet owners yet some have actually made the error of using enhanced meats for their dog’s diet.
Some grocery store meats are injected with a sodium and nitrate solution. Commonly enhanced meats are chicken, turkey, duck, and pork products. Always check the label of the raw product or ask the butcher for more information before purchasing.
Sodium is an important micronutrient for our pets. However, excessive amounts of sodium can result in dehydration, diarrhea or sodium ion poisoning in extreme cases.
4. Using too many ingredients in one meal
On the other spectrum of errors is being too gung-ho. It is important to feed your dog a variety of meat from different animal sources because each type of animal has its own nutritional profile.
This doesn’t mean that you feed your dog every conceivable type of animal meat for every meal. The same applies to organs and greens.
Why not? Because it is simply not practical. Imagine a bowl stuffed with a pinch of every kind of organ, vegetable, fruit and animal meat.
Not only would the quantity add up to overfeeding but it would make your dog’s meal monotonous and possibly imbalanced. The best way to do this is to stick to a single source of protein for about a week, or until you notice that fido is digesting the food well.
Then, introduce new sources gradually. Once your pet is used to consuming various types of protein, feed it a different one every day — but never more than one per meal. This will give it a balanced diet without putting it at risk for health problems.
5. Including too much fat from meat
Fat is essential but in small quantities. In addition to feeding your dog an appropriate amount, you need to regulate how much fat your dog is receiving in its raw diet.
If you try to cut costs by feeding your dog cheap meat, it will be consuming too much fat. This error is particularly easy to make when you buy minced meat, which is usually the cheaper option at the market.
It is easy to overlook how much fat minced meat contains when everything is all mixed up. The butcher will not be able to tell you the percentage of fat in that 500gram packet.
6. Adding too many supplements to the raw dog food
Some supplementation of minerals and vitamins may be necessary if you cannot find certain ingredients to formulate your dog’s raw diet. Organs such as cow tripe or lamb gizzard, for example, are not always easy to obtain.
In such cases, some dog owners go crazy with adding too many supplements. Overdosing is not good either and may end up being counter-productive.
This goes back to point number 1 and 2 of this article. Get advice from your vet and do not ignore balanced nutrition because every dog is different.
7. Wrong use of bone in raw feeding
Raw meaty bones cater to a dog’s gnawing instinct. These provide nutrient-rich marrow as well as exercise the dog’s teeth and gums. However, you must be careful to give appropriately sized bones to avoid choking.
Not all bones are one and the same. It is critical to choose the correct type to avoid causing damage to your dear doggie’s teeth. There are cases of dogs’ teeth cracking from chewing on bones that are too hard for their bite.
Choking is a real hazard too. Many incidents have been reported at clinics involving bones obstructing the esophagus. Too many bone fragments in the colon can cause constipation.
Small dogs require soft bones from quail, rabbit and chicken. Medium to large dogs can have bones from chicken, duck, pigs and more.
Avoid weight-bearing bones as these are literally the toughest nuts to crack. These are found in large grazing animals like cattle, bison and deer. Examples of weight-bearing bones include femurs, tibias, marrow bones and knee joints.
They can cause fractures to teeth and the jaw of your dog if it is an aggressive chewer. However, if it is a gentle chewer, large weight-bearing bones can be fed with large amounts of meat still attached to encourage gnawing.
When providing any kind of bone, supervision is crucial to prevent any injuries. It is a common mistake to just leave the bone with a dog.
8. Feeding too much bone to your dog
Too much bone can cause complications ranging from constipation to vomiting. When just starting the raw feeding transition, for the first couple of days it is alright to provide slightly higher bone content than the recommended guideline.
This will help with the diet change. However, it is important to decrease the amount of bone to recommended guidelines if your dog’s stool has become dry, very hard or chalky.
9. Not feeding bones to your dog
On the other hand, overly cautious moms and dads end up not feeding any bone to their pups. Bone is a good source of calcium and phosphorus – critical for the growth of puppies and for the maintenance of a dog’s skeletal structure.
Both the soft and hard cartilage sticking to the ends of some bones are an essential source of glucosamine and chondroitin. These elements are needed for building strong joints.
Digested bone also helps to bulk up your dog’s stool and causes the stool to become firmer. The result is a less messy poop session and easy poop scooping for the owner.
10. Wrong storage of raw dog food
All raw meat and raw meat-based products may be contaminated with bacteria, like Salmonella and E. coli which can cause illness. It is advisable to handle any kind of raw meat with care and adhere to expiration dates.
The problem with incorrect raw food storage lies more with homemade dog food. Commercially prepared raw meals already come in single serving packages which can be thawed individually.
Homemade raw dog food is usually prepared in large amounts to save time and effort. This must be stored in an airtight container in the freezer to prevent bacterial growth. It should also be separated into meal-sized portions so that individual batches can be thawed as and when needed.
11. Overfeeding or underfeeding raw meals
If your dog is currently underweight, feed it about 3 percent of its body weight or slightly more. Overweight dogs should eat between 2 and 2.5 percent of their body weight.
This rule is on a per day basis, not per meal. The weight of each meal includes everything that goes into the dog bowl, not just meat.
The safest way to estimate the percentage of what your dog needs is to speak to your veterinarian first. Dog owners can sometimes be biased as to what is considered “overweight” and vice versa.
12. Transitioning too quickly to raw dog food
Doting dog parents who want the best for their four-legged buddies sometimes make the change to raw feeding too quickly. This can cause the dog a stomach upset or put it off this type of diet. It is best to transition gradually by working out a plan and schedule with the veterinarian.
As the old saying goes, “better to be safe than sorry”. Speak to your regular vet about your intention to feed your dog raw food. Then, work out a plan to implement this safely.
If making meals from scratch is too complicated, you can opt for commercially prepared raw dog food. A good brand incorporates all the essentials of a balanced and complete diet.
Some brands replace bones with eggshells to cater to calcium and phosphorus needs. This makes it possible for hasty chewers, dogs with tiny teeth and very old dogs to get the nutrients without endangering their well-being.
PetMD. 30 June 2020. What You Need to Know About Raw Food Diet for Dogs. (Online) Available at: https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/5-mistakes-people-make-when-feeding-pets-raw-food-diet [Accessed on 4 July 2020]
Keep the Tail Wagging. 19 February 2018. 5 Raw Feeding Mistakes I Made. (Online) Available at: https://keepthetailwagging.com/5-raw-dog-food-mistakes-dog-owners-make/ [Accessed on 4 July 2020]
Perfectly Rawsome. 10 Mistakes Beginners Make When Transitioning to Raw. (Online) Available at: https://perfectlyrawsome.com/raw-feeding-knowledgebase/10-mistakes-beginners-make-when-transitioning-to-raw/ [Accessed on 4 July 2020]CALIRAW. 24 May 2019. Most Common Raw Feeding Mistakes . (Online) Available at: https://www.caliraw.com/blogs/news/most-common-raw-feeding-mistakes [Accessed on 4 July 2020]