How a raw diet can help your dogs digestive system
Many people don’t realise just how bad some so called ‘dog foods’ are and some of the alarming ingredients that they contain. Why would you have cause to doubt major brands that sell their food to millions? It is only when the dog is not feeling well, is off their food or has a regular upset stomach that you may start to question it. Once you have spent a few hundred pounds at the vets on various tests and treatments for upset stomachs then you might start to question the food that they eat. Let’s take a look at why what you feed your four-legged friend is so important and how a raw diet can help your dog’s digestive system.
Dogs are built for a raw diet
Dogs are built to live on a raw diet, one which is close to what they would find in the wild. While dogs have become domesticated, their anatomy hasn’t changed. The food that they thrive on includes proteins such as chicken, lamb, duck and turkey with other superfoods such as vegetables. These foods, when raw, are full of nutritional value and not the over-processed, cooked, additive filled and mass-produced foods that are available in many shops and supermarkets.
How the dog’s digestive system works
Unlike humans, a dog’s digestion starts not in the mouth but in the stomach. It requires specific enzymes to break down and digest the food. These enzymes are designed to digest raw meats and not cooked and processed carbohydrates and kibble. The stomach ‘acids’ are incredibly powerful, so much so that if you touch the acid in a dog’s stomach you would actually burn your fingers. In order for their digestive system to function correctly, they need to be fed a biologically appropriate diet.
Gut flora – Improving a dog’s digestive health
Gut flora is the name given to the good bacterial microorganisms that live in the digestive tract of humans and animals. The additives and chemicals found in many processed foods can upset the gut flora, leading to bad gut health. In turn, this can cause intestinal permeability which is also known as ‘leaky gut’. Lining the gut is a delicate intestinal mucosa. This lining allows tiny digested nutrients to pass into the blood stream much as tea would pass through a strainer. Providing an effective barrier to keep toxins, pathogens and undigested food particles to enter the dog’s bloodstream, if it becomes damaged or traumatised, it stops being able to prevent these nasties from escaping – hence the name ‘leaky gut’. When the toxins are allowed to leak through the intestinal wall, they can enter the bloodstream, compromise the immune system and lead to symptoms other than digestive ones including skin sensitivities such as itchiness and flaky, irritated skin or worse.
The things you may notice with a non-raw fed dog
If your dog suffers from digestive issues you may notice one or more of the effects below. Perhaps you have already spent time and money at the vets trying to get to the bottom of it or maybe it’s something you notice now and again. In any case, a switch to raw is the
answer and can help significantly improve the digestive health of your dog. Typical reactions or conditions caused by the wrong diet, or those that can be helped by the right diet include:
- A large amount of waste. Due to the fact that many of the ingredients of processed foods are not useful to the dog, they will often pass a lot more than those who are on a raw diet using up all of the nutrients.
- Loose or inconsistent stools.
- Bad flatulence which is common with a dog that is fed grain.
- Vomiting and diarrhoea – This is often a sign of a more severe reaction to something which can be an extreme intolerance to certain foods. Diarrhoea can be acute or chronic and often, with the right cause of action, and the right diet, can be stopped or prevented.
- Bloat – gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV as it is otherwise known, is a condition where the stomach twists and fills with gas. It can be fatal and is often caused by a dog eating or drinking excessively prior to or following a period of activity. Dogs eating a dry or processed diet containing more salt are often more at risk.
- IBD – Inflammatory Bowel Disease is chronic irritation of the intestinal tract. Symptoms are regular chronic vomiting or diarrhoea and this can often be treated by feeding a species appropriate diet.
- Acid reflux – As with humans, dogs too can suffer with acid reflux. Again, certain foods can irritate the condition. Symptoms include gurgling, burping and persistent bad breath.
- Constipation and colitis – Colitis is an inflammation or irritation of the colon or large intestine. A common symptom is diarrhoea. It can be acute or chronic and can last several weeks or more.
While some of these conditions will need to be diagnosed and treated by a vet, a natural, raw diet can significantly improve quality of life and can help to ease and prevent the symptoms.
The problem with processed foods
Most of the time people have no idea what is in the processed food that is being fed to their dog and little understanding of the effects that it can cause. The fact that these foods are cooked means that the majority of the nutritional value is killed during the cooking process. It is also more difficult to digest. There are many additives which can include damaging chemicals that you wouldn’t dream of giving your dog if you were aware of them which can be transported from the gut to the bowel and then around the rest of the body.
Mass-produced foods with alarming ingredients
These mass-produced foods contain cheap ingredients that have little or no value to your dog. The meats and proteins aren’t human grade and often are the leftovers after all the good meat has been removed from the carcass. Often referred to as “meat meal” this type of food does nothing to clean their teeth and gums leading to dental problems as well as the other side effects of a poor diet. The process for cooking meat meal is to steam it for 40-90
minutes at temperatures of between 115 and 145 degrees at which point it becomes a brown powder. In addition to this some of the other ingredients are just nasty. Propylene Glycol (an ingredient in antifreeze) is actually approved for use in dog foods and treats and is used to keep kibbles soft and moist. While non-toxic, it is a chemical preservative and just one that can be widely found in mass-manufactured processed foods.
Dogs and carbohydrates
Humans may be able to convert carbohydrates into storable energy, but dogs cannot. Eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates means that are unable to extract the relevant nutrients and are essentially consuming “empty” calories which contain little to no real nutritional value. The meat in kibble and other processed and cook foods are often minimised and substituted for cheaper carbohydrate ‘fillers’. A dog will often happily eat such processed foods such as humans will eat junk or fast food. It may be enjoyable to them, but it is far from healthy, or nutritionally valuable. As with humans, excessive carbohydrate consumption can easily lead to dogs becoming overweight and obese, as well as a multitude of further associated health problems.
Feeding grain based foods to a dog
Much of the processed food and kibble that you can buy in the shops or supermarkets contain grain. Dogs cannot digest grain and this is one of the leading causes of food sensitivities which can lead to numerous problems including a bad gut and skin/coat conditions. It is also one of the reasons that your dog can suffer with bad and rather embarrassingly (for you) flatulence. If you constantly find yourself picking up their poo or wondering where the smell came from then you can thank the grain!
Switching to a raw diet
If your dog experiences gut health issues or any other allergies or conditions then it is time to consider how a switch to a raw diet can help. Some people may have questions about how to make the switch, which we will be happy to advise on while others may wonder whether a complete formula, which includes meat and vegetables, is preferable to a pure meat option. At ProDog, our meals are scientifically formulated to give a dog all of the nutrients they need to attain maximum health and physique. Get in touch to find out more and we will be happy to help and save yourself a lot of time, worry and money at the vets