What are the benefits of feeding your dog a raw diet?
This is a great question, and the benefits seem to be endless, from physical health improvements to mental benefits. The most common benefits from our latest survey (over 2,000 raw feeders) included less doggy odour, massively improved digestion, smaller and more compact poop size (due to the absence of difficult to digest processed fillers), improved weight, lowered IBS, lowered arthritis symptoms, smoother softer fur, improved dental health and teeth whiteness, improved breath, more consistent energy, less erratic behaviour, improved focus….I could go on but these are just a few of the most common.
Can you tell us a little bit about the study that was recently conducted into vegan diets? What conclusions were found?
This is also a great question and as with any research the devil is in the details. We need context to understand it. This recent study was a pet owner-based survey looking at the number of vet visits compared to the type of food they were feeding their pets. It concluded that owners feeding vegan diets had less visits than those feeding traditional dog food. But more than those feeding raw.
This is confusing as it is then potentially interpreted as healthier than traditional dog food. Our view is quite different. It’s simply less harmful. And even this is a short-term view, and no one is quite aware of the impact longer term of feeding your dog a vegan diet as it’s a relatively new concept. In evolutionary terms it’s a millisecond compared to the tens of thousands of years over which dogs evolved eating raw meat and scraps from the fireside. So, the key part of this is a vegan diet is potentially less harmful to your pet than traditional processed dog food, but neither are optimal for the health of your pet. A quality balanced raw diet is hands down a better option than either.
In my human practice I see lots of patients who rave about the benefits they have witnessed on either a vegetarian or vegan diet. These are generally short term and after a year or so they develop different and new symptoms to the ones they were looking to address. I fully support them in their choices. However, in every case it worked short term because it was simply better than what they were eating previously. Cutting out processed nitrite laden poor-quality meats is going to benefit anyone. It doesn’t mean therefore that a vegetarian template will bring them optimal health. Drinking two pints of strong lager at breakfast is less harmful than drinking eight. It doesn’t mean that the two pints of strong lager breakfast is a miracle cure, just slightly less toxic.
Are there any benefits to your dog eating plant-based foods?
In a word, it depends. Grains never, Legumes, never, but some vegetables and even berries or fruits yes, in moderation. People don’t realise that plants do not want to be eaten. They have developed a complex series of defences to protect themselves from predators, lectins, phytates, anti-nutrients to name a few. These do not benefit our pets. The soluble fibres from vegetable matter? Yes, they form the compost for beneficial bacteria to flourish and help bowel movement. They provide antioxidants to help neutralise free radicals. Some select plant-based foods can dramatically increase the health of your pet, but as an addition, never as a substitute.
Is it important to have an overall balance between animal protein and plant-based foods?
Yes, this balance is critical and will dictate the difference between survival and thrival. As carnivores, can dogs eat anything? Yes. It does not translate to “it benefits them”. Dogs are carnivores so they need to eat a protein-based diet to provide for the vast majority of their energy. This protein needs to be animal based for their health. Why? it provides the full spectrum of essential amino acids. In a digestible accessible form. A plant-based protein “can” do this in theory but they come with a host of inflammatory lectins, anti-nutrients and other problematic baggage that prevent absorption and lack key minerals as well as B12.
Do you believe there is enough information in the public realm for pet owners to make an informed decision about their pets’ diet?
I do. In fact, I believe there is too much information, most of which is either fictitious or misleading. There is a lack of quality science driven facts. Food and diet choices are quite funny things really. They evoke a “tribalism” in people and they become very sold by a belief system rather than the simple facts.
What would be your parting words of advice to pet owners who are trying to decide what diet to provide their dog?
I love animals and humans and would really, really love to inspire them all to enjoy better health, more vibrant days, increased energy, happiness, less annoying and avoidable symptoms. Your body and your pet’s body are a beautifully balanced finely tuned chemistry experiment. Eat the foods you evolved to eat and you are most of the way there.
The truth is, however well intentioned, your carnivore pet will never thrive as they should without the meat they require for health. If you want to know what to feed your dog then look to the group of people enjoying the best pet health, that’s your raw feeding community. Hands down, leagues ahead in terms of health and happiness. The facts speak for themselves. We are 30 million meals into this now and we have more heart melting success stories than we can ever digest.