Picture in your minds eye… your dog, bounding about the park or the garden, with more vitality than you’ve seen before.
The grumpy, lethargic canine with the gurgling gut, smelly breath and the strange habit of chewing their paws, replaced with a happy, content, tail-wagging version, complete with a trimmer physique and glossier coat.
That’s the potential raw dog food effect!
Updated 7th November 2023
Many dog owners are now paying far more attention to what they are feeding their dogs. As a natural grain free raw food diet becomes more popular, raw feeding benefits are becoming increasingly evident.
Of course, there are many myths about raw dog food (which we tackle in the linked article), but the health benefits to your dog when feeding a raw food diet are too good to miss. If you’re new to raw, don’t miss “Raw Dog Food For Beginners” raw feeding guide, which covers everything you need to know, and introduces how to make the switch to raw.
Now lets look at those amazing raw benefits in a more detail…
Did you know that more than three in four dogs suffer some degree of dental disease by the time they reach three years old?
As many dog owners know (depending on how relaxed your dog is), brushing your dogs teeth can be an exceptionally tricky exercise and feels sometimes impossible to reach certain parts of their mouth.
However, the process of chewing, biting and tearing raw meats and raw bones, referred to as food with more ‘hassle factor’ by researchers, has been found to keep dental disease at bay.
A diet that consists of fresh, raw and natural foods will provide your dog with the essential fatty acids and amino acids they need to maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat.
A dog’s skin and fur are almost exclusively built from protein, and up to 30% of the protein consumed in the diet is used by the body to maintain skin and coat condition.
This is why the easily digestible protein content of a quality natural raw dog food will transform a dull and lacklustre coat into a glossy, shiny, healthy coat.
Skin can also show noticeable improvements on raw diets, especially in dogs that suffer from skin irritations and itchy skin.
Corn, wheat, and soy are all potential allergens to dogs; a diet consisting of these ingredients (and others) can manifest in a range of health conditions.
Raw food diets, by nature, are usually grain-free and gluten-free. The species-appropriateness of a raw food diet helps maintain a healthy gut environment and, in turn, an effective immune response.
Imbalance within the gut is known to be the root cause of many unwanted symptoms.
Therefore, adding in food that nourishes, and removing food that irritates, is often the first step to resolving many conditions such as ear, nose and eye problems, digestive complaints, itching, paw licking and even mobility issues.
Symptoms can often clear up quickly once a raw dog food diet is adopted and processed, refined, synthetic ingredients are removed.
*Please note conditions caused by food sensitivities or allergies are not limited to those referred to above.
Digestion is the bodily system that ensures the nutrients necessary for the bodys intricate organs, systems and functions to operate effectively are absorbed. Effective digestion, then, is crucial to health and wellbeing.
A raw dog food diet complements the canine digestive system. The PH levels, gut flora and short digestive tract of the canine stomach are designed to break down the proteins and bone in a raw dog food diet.
This is not the case with the carbohydrates and intensively refined ingredients in processed foods. Find out more about the poor quality ingredients found in dry dog food in our guide to what is kibble?
These ingredients are thought to cause fermentation in the gastro-intestines, put a strain on vital organs and even cause inflammation (among other things).
A clean, clear, and effectively functioning digestive system can be achieved with a natural raw dog food diet. You may wish to consider ProDog’s 80 10 10 pure range if you have a dog with allergies.
A natural food diet is great for a dogs general well-being, where dogs don’t have the sugar spikes and dips they often experience from kibble.
Their energy is much more consistent and stable too. Fewer spikes and dips can also aid cognitive function and focus.
The most effective energy sources for dogs are fats and proteins. A natural raw food diet is rich in these vital macronutrients leading to more consistent and stable energy levels.
It makes sense that eating a diet with less junk for the body to process reduces demand on the organs and its systems – meaning more energy for aiding physiological functions, cognitive abilities and focus.
Foods rich in carbs, such as kibble, are thought to create energy fluctuations caused by sugar spikes and dips, much like humans. Interestingly, there is much evidence to suggest that dogs do not require carbohydrates in their diet at all.
Read raw vs kibble article for more on this topic.
As you would expect, when a dog is eating what nature intended, their immune system and internal organ functions can operate more effectively.
As mentioned above, a raw dog food diet is highly supportive of gut health, and as 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, it makes sense that eating fresh and natural food is beneficial to immune function.
Combine this with the abundance of vitamins and minerals vital for growth, repair, and development in wholesome and natural, bio-available ingredients – meaning the body can easily absorb the nutrients from the food – and it makes sense that a raw diet will condition your dog from the inside out!
A dog’s weight is a common reason an owner will switch to a raw or natural dog food diet. And the good news is: it works.
The main ingredients in many processed foods are almost always calorie-loaded carbohydrate fillers, often enhanced with additives to make the dog crave more, with little real nutritional value.
Those carbs trigger insulin release in the body, leading to fat storage, plus the low amounts of quality protein lead to low satiation, leaving the dog feeling hungry within a short time of eating. And so, the vicious cycle continues.
By contrast, studies show meat is the lowest GL (glycemic load) food available for dogs – meaning it does not spike sugar levels and trigger insulin release, i.e. has the opposite effect to carb-laden foods.
A quality raw food diet is a much better way to manage a dogs weight without all of the unnecessary waste. Biologically appropriate raw dog food (BARF) is of such quality that the dog absorbs almost all of its nutrients and goodness rather than passing it out as waste.
Find out how much raw to feed with our raw food calculator.
Further to the point above, a welcome side effect of switching to raw feeding is that poos are often smaller as there is significantly less waste in a natural food diet.
Raw feeders report a noticeable drop in the amount their dog produces (and consequently has to be picked up in the garden!).
Alongside this, stools are firmer, anal gland function is naturally promoted, and there is usually zero flatulence due to an improved digestive system!
Aside from joint issues, older dogs can also experience decreased vitality as they age. This can be due to poor health, lack of energy, pain, or any number of other conditions.
Thankfully, it’s often possible to provide senior dogs with a glimpse of their younger selves through species-appropriate nutrition. While we can’t stop the hands of time, it’s still possible to allow our dogs to age gracefully and continue to enjoy their lives .
The combination of lean animal proteins, healthy fats, bone, and plant-based antioxidants in raw dog food can serve senior dogs well as they age, providing them with balanced nutrition to promote gut health, joint health, improved energy levels, and increased vitality.
As dogs age, it’s common for them to experience joint and mobility issues. This often stems from widespread inflammation, which can be a result of improper nutrition; namely a diet rich in unnecessary carbohydrates.
Thankfully, a raw, whole food diet rich in species-appropriate nutrients can aid in resolving these issues, and even prevent them from occurring in the first place.
The high content of calcium, chondroitin, and glucosamine found in bones and cartilage helps to alleviate the inflammation in dogs’ joints and allows them to resume more active lifestyles .
Combined with the essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and various other nutrients found in raw meat and healthy plant fibre, this is the perfect diet for maintaining mobility and joint health.
A healthy dog that is fed the correct amounts of essential nutrients and is given appropriate exercise will be naturally lean, muscular, and have no issues maintaining their weight, with one exception being breeds that are naturally wrinkly (this is due to excess skin, not fat).
Carbohydrates, fillers, sugars and preservatives act to bulk dogs up beyond what is normal for them, which can lead to numerous health issues. Conversely, compromised gut health affects absorption of nutrients, causing dogs to have trouble keeping weight on.
Muscle meats, healthy fats, bone, and offal (organ meats) provide dogs with the combination of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids they need to maintain a healthy weight and appropriate muscle tone . These are all provided through a raw, species-appropriate diet.
Dogs’ diets can affect more than their physical health. Think about it: foods rich in carbohydrates, fillers, and other unnecessary ingredients often create brain fog, anxiety, and other undesirable symptoms for humans, which naturally affects our behaviour. The same can be said for our dogs .
Lean animal protein serves as a tissue builder, provides essential amino acids and other nutrients, and encourages balanced digestive health. It also gives them the energy they need to perform activities and exercise, which are essential for dogs’ physical and mental wellbeing.
Also, healthy fats and fatty acids such as Omega-3s are essential for brain health, which is another important aspect to consider regarding dog behaviour.
The gut/brain connection is just as relevant in canine health as it is for humans. Raw, meat based, species-appropriate meals serve to keep this connection balanced and healthy, allowing these two vital organs to contribute to balanced behaviour in dogs.
One of the major benefits of raw dog food is that raw contains everything your dog needs to stay happy and healthy for as long as possible.
Responsible raw feeding incorporates four key components, meat, bone, offal and vegetables all combined to a ratio that suits your dog. To achieve optimal nutritional value, the ingredients are combined using minimal processing.
Meat (including heart) contains essential proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. All quality meats are building blocks and fuel for all body cells metabolism, functions, and systems.
Proteins are the most essential of all the macronutrients. As Dogs are primarily carnivorous animals, this means that their bodies better extract nutrition from animal-based sources.
If your dog is going to benefit from a raw dog food diet, that diet should primarily centre on meat. Find out more in our article why dogs need meat.
Feeding bone to dogs is vital. Bone is a critical source of crucial nutrients, gut fibre, glucosamine and minerals like calcium and phosphorus, zinc, boron, copper and dozens of others.
Bones provide fatty acids from their rich marrow. They also afford an incredibly nourishing nutrient combination for skin and bone health, joint mobility and digestion (leading to firmer stools and healthier gut).
Wild canines prize offal before anything else in their kill. Also called variety meats, pluck, viscera or organ meats, organs are the bodys work machines.
Offal options can include liver, kidney and pancreas and are a natural multivitamin for dogs, extra rich in macronutrients (fats, carbs and proteins) and micronutrients such as vitamins D, B, K, C and A and minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, selenium and magnesium.
Found naturally in the wild, a dogs evolutionary diet always included plants.
Plants were eaten deliberately throughout evolution for belly-fill when food was short or passively as gut contents slopped over organs and muscle tissue after the kill. A hungry wolf never says no to any food!
Packed full of phytonutrients (including essential plant minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and thousands of compounds we have yet to discover), plants provide our pets essential building blocks that may be unavailable from prey-animal tissue sources.
Dogs have evolved to eat the way their ancestors did in the wild, raw and natural. From their teeth to their gut and digestive system, it is abundantly clear that dogs are carnivores. The optimum diet for them is the one nature intended.
Dogs are best suited to fresh, high-protein, prey-based diets. Vitamins and minerals from animal-based diets offer superior bio-availability, meaning a dog’s system is better able to absorb the nutrients from these sources.
This is called species-appropriate nutrition, which a natural, raw diet delivers. A quality raw food diet contains all the healthy fats, biologically appropriate proteins and valuable nutrients your canine companion needs to thrive.