Lately, it has become more and more common for people, myself included, to feed their pets a diet that is known as BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food). The goal of this type of feeding is to give cats and dogs a diet that is appropriate for their digestive system and is as close as possible to what they would eat as wild animals. Though many traditional kibble companies claim to give your cat or dog biologically appropriate nutrition, often these promises fall short due to byproducts, additives, and other subpar ingredients in the food.
There are several ways to feed a raw diet: some people take the more time-consuming approach of making their own raw food. (This is a great method as long as you are very careful that your dog or cat is receiving the right nutrients). There are also many commercial raw food companies, such as Stella & Chewy’s and Primal, that make it easy for pet owners. They manufacture raw food in both freeze-dried and frozen form, which takes out all the guesswork of making it yourself.
Pet owners far and wide have seen positive effects in their pets after switching them to a raw diet. Some of the benefits of raw feeding include:
- Cleaner, whiter teeth (and thus, fresher breath). It is a common misconception that the act chewing kibble will clean a cat or dog’s teeth and scrape the plaque and tarter off. However, this could not be further from the truth. In fact, kibble contributes to poor dental health because of the large amount carbohydrates in the food; this would be like us humans eating crackers to clean our teeth. On the flip side, raw food contains naturally occurring enzymes that protect the teeth and gums, and don’t have unnatural starches and sugars that promote bacterial growth in the mouth. Additionally, raw bones (which are a key part of a raw diet), act as “nature’s toothbrush” and help to clean the teeth.
- Shiny, smooth coats. People often notice that their dogs and cats have a much healthier coat due to raw feeding, and less dry, flaky skin. Just as humans have healthier hair due to proper diet and nutrition, so do our pets!
- Improvement (or disappearance) of allergies and itchiness. Many allergies are due to processed kibble; taking the kibble out of the equation, and feeding raw food instead, will help to greatly improve or completely alleviate these allergies. Also, many dogs are allergic to cooked proteins, but not allergic to them in their raw form.
- Improved body composition. On a low-carb, high-fat raw diet, pets thrive. They will likely shed a few carbohydrate-fueled pounds to reveal their healthy, muscular bodies.
Even if you do not want to completely switch your dog or cat to a raw diet, a good rule of thumb is this: a little raw goes a long way, and some raw food is better than none at all. For instance, for breakfast Sasha eats a high-quality kibble, and for dinner she gets a variety of commercial raw foods. She also gets frozen raw bones as a snack (and to clean her teeth), raw goat’s milk for the probiotics, and a frozen chicken back once a week. This is only a little more expensive than feeding kibble, yet from doing this I have seen improvements in her coat, teeth, and energy level!
A raw diet has helped Sasha immensely, and not only can I see the physical benefits, but I know that the money I am spending on her food is also preventative care in order for her to live a long, healthy life. I highly encourage everyone to try to incorporate at least a little raw food into their pets’ diets. Your pets will thank you!