Can cats and dogs benefit from a raw food diet?

Raw feeding for your pet means raw meat, bones, vegetables and fruit. Better known as the BARF diet, an acronym for Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. BARF is based on a diet your dog or cat’s ancestors would have eaten in the wild.

Dogs were domesticated over some 14,000 years ago (for cats it’s harder to determine as they are independent little characters). Biologically and physiologically cats and dogs are deemed 98% the same as their ancestors, the wolf and wild feline.

The commercial pet food industry grew out of opportunity and convenience (in the late 1860s) rather than necessity. Yet cat and dogs have become increasingly sick with certain breeds having a much shorter life expectancy and with dogs sharing over 65% of the same disease states as us humans.

Processed foods lack raw food elements such as enzymes, naturally derived essential fatty acids, phytonutrients and antioxidants that are all destroyed during cooking. These elements are certainly very important for your cat or dog’s health.

What are the main benefits of feeding a raw food diet?

1. Naturally clean teeth
Raw meaty bones give your cat or dog the grating action and enzyme activity required for healthy gum and pearly white teeth. Manufacturers are aware of this and try and replicate this bone requirement. Contrary to belief bones in raw state and size dependent, are very safe for your pets.

2. Good digestion
These raw foods are biologically easier to breakdown and consist of enzymes and prebiotics to aid digestion. Once the digestion works efficiently the rest of the body will prosper and gain nutrients required.

3. Strong healthy bones
Raw meat and bones provide the right amount of calcium and phosphorus, in a biologically appropriate form for cats and dogs (because this is what nature intended). Dogs as young as two years are getting arthritis, hip dysplasia and luxating patellas. Commercial pet foods are laced with synthetic minerals to replicate this ratio of calcium and phosphorus rather than providing the very essence of what they need.

4. Conditioned skin and coat
Cooked foods and poor fats have shown in limited research to spark a negative immune response that can cause inflammation in the body and that may lead to many common health problems but one obvious sign is a dry, itchy skin and lack lustre coat. Common food triggers that may cause skin problems include by-products, beef, pork, cow’s milk, wheat and wheat containing products, corn, fillers, eggs, soya, yeast, artificial colouring and flavourings.

5. Strong immunity
When the body receives exactly what it needs in a natural state it will always thrive and respond well (as nature intended). Creating a harmonious balance called equilibrium. 

So how can you get started with raw food? There are a number of companies that provide packaged, frozen raw food for animals. Pets at Home offer Natures Menu for cats and dogs in the UK. Check out their guide on getting started here. Or alternatively, you can prepare such food yourself. Before starting your pet on any kind of new diet, please first consult with a veterinary physician.

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