Updated, less messy!! *WAITING TO BE RE-STICKIED TO TAKE PLACE OF OLD STICKY*
Raw Feeding: The alternative pet food.
What is raw/BARF feeding?
Raw feeding is a great alternative for dogs and cats when done correctly. BARF (Bones and Raw Food) is feeding the animal the food it would normally eat in the wild. Dogs do not eat what you see in the ingredient list on your pet food bag naturally. And cats are strict carnivores, requiring fat and protein, not carbohydrates to gain energy, yet their kibble is filled with carbs.
Raw feeding is the natural alternative to feeding kibble and canned commercial pet foods.
Many, many people have switched to feeding raw diets after learning the truth about pet food ingredients, with astounding results. Unfortunately, some vets do not agree with this, but bear in mind that many of those vets are also being paid to endorse the pet foods you see in their windows and clinics. Nutrition classes are also poorly developed for veterinarians, often being taught by representatives from big name pet food companies. If you have a vet that has 'seen the light', stick with them.
What are the PROS and CONS of feeding this diet?
Elimination of 'doggy odour' caused by many commercial pet foods.
For many, it is much more cost effective to make and even store your own raw food over buying processed kibble.
Natural diets are much, much better on the digestive tract, moreso than foods that are meant to help GI issues.
Vet visits are infrequent, due to increased overall health quality.
Teeth are cleaner and need less brushing and no more worries on bad breath, the risk of periodontal disease is drastically decreased.
Stool is smaller, firmer, and there is less of it overall. An animal on a better diet will not become dehydrated, and will not produce as much stool, either.
Assists in developing muscles from the work it takes to go through a serving of raw meat and bones.
Increases energy and decreases problems with allergies.
Better results with dealing with dogs who suffer from arthritis.
Weight loss in overweight dogs.
Coat quality increases dramatically.
For some, raw can cost a bit more, especially just getting started. Some costs, such as meat grinders, are one-time only if you get a good quality grinder.
You must clean up well. While salmonella and the like will not harm your dogs or cats (their bodies are able to break it down and not be affected by it) you can still contract it. Cases from dogs dying from these bacteria are linked only to commercial pet foods with outbreaks, which have more than what would be found in your own feeding. These bacteria are all over your house as it is, so don't be alarmed by this.
Storing can take up room. A small freezer can only store so much in advance.
Some dogs are harder to switch than others. After being fed taste-enhanced kibble, they may not want to switch, or may switch slower (in the event they do not want to switch, there are still high-quality kibble alternatives).
Dogs need to be watched closely at first so as not to choke; kibble barely needs any chewing and many dogs inhale their food. Eating too fast is a choking hazard regardless of whether it's meat, bones, or kibble.
In cats, you MUST supplement the food with taurine, a substance already added in commercial diets that they need in order to live. Without taurine, your cat will die.
Some extra tips:
If there is a complete refusal after a reasonable period of time, then look into the high-grade, holistic kibbles if you still want to change the diet and see health improvements. The danger is in the low-grade commercial foods (Purina, Alpo, Ol' Roy, Science Diet nomatterwhatyourvetsays).
Grinders are not necessary, but some people prefer them to make food to store. If you choose to grind, you must add whole bones and some whole meat to the food to help build muscle and keep teeth clean and healthy. Professional teeth cleanings are very dangerous for many cats, as they must often be put under. These, in cats, can be avoided. Bones and non-ground food helps this.
It pays to buy good quality meat, not the floor scrapings from your local butcher, but don't go for top shelf if you don't have to. Don't break the bank on meat. Look for sales, especially just starting out. There is no need in most cases to spend more than necessary on this diet. Many people save money, and you can too.
Always clean up after feeding. Even with commercial foods, especially wet canned food, you should be cleaning the bowl and area after your dog or cat has eaten. Leaving the food there can cause bacteria to grow other than what is already in the food and could harm you if it gets into your body. Feeding on towels in crates or other confined areas, rather than in bowls, when feeding whole, raw diets will help make this much easier.
You CAN feed both raw and kibble, but there is little point in it other than if the cost is breaking your bank. It dulls down the diet itself, even moreso if you are feeding low-grade foods. But it is only acting as a filler.
Do not use corn or other grains to try and fill up your dog, even on raw. Again, this is not adding anything. Dogs cannot digest corn, for example, but you will find it in almost every commercial pet food because it is cheap and effective at keeping the bag, and the dog, full.
Dogs and cats do not need fruits or vegetables in a raw diet. However for dogs, eggs, shells and all (they love to crack them and they are good for them) and bones provide a lot of nutrition. Other than regular meat, organ meat such as liver, hearts, etc, are great for your dog and cats. Cats are strict carnivores. Keep that in mind when feeding, and do your own research if necessary.
Pregnant dogs/cats, and growing puppies/kittens benefit greatly from raw feeding. Owners have reported much smoother pregnancies in their bitches. As well as much better growing in puppies, as commercial pet foods do not properly cater to growing pups.
DO NOT cook the meat or bones. It is a myth that all chicken bones are bad for dogs. They are actually really good for them, as long as they are not cooked. Cooking causes bones to splinter, and takes away the nutrients dogs and cats gain from the meat. There is no reason to cook food for your animals.
Do not feed too much fish to your pets. Certain types of fish are higher in mercury than others, and your pet will react to that faster than you will. Feed fish sparingly, and choose low-mercury types.
Chicken wings are great, for small dogs. A large breed dog, unless it is a small puppy, should not be scarfing down chicken wings regularly, if at all. Make sure the parts you are feeding to your dog with bone in them are appropriate for their size or larger.
YOUR PET WILL NOT GO CRAZY FROM EATING RAW MEAT! This is an old, old myth. With absolutely no basis for fact at all. Blood and meat do not turn your pets aggressive.
There are a few very good vendors, for those who do not have the time to prepare food. It is a bit costly to buy prepared raw foods, but the time you save is nice. Primal is a good brand, and will ship to you. Their food is well-packed and human-grade.
Note: you may very well find small, conflicting points within these. Some raw feeders feed a little differently from others, but with the same success. It is up to you to find what works best for your pets. The key differences in some raw feeders are whether or not to add supplements and whether or not to feed fruits and veggies.
http://www.dogfoodchat.com/forum/ Talk to others who feed raw or other high-grade foods!