Holly’s qualifications include:
- Certified Pet Food Nutrition Specialist
- Assisting pet parents with holistic health and nutrition for 15+ years in her pet food stores: Tail Blazers Copperfield and Tail Blazers Legacy
In This Episode You’ll Learn:
- What led my husband Ron and I to starting a raw food diet for our first dog
- How the cost of kibble compares to the cost of commercial raw diets
- Whether or not you should worry about bacteria in raw diets
- The many benefits of a raw diet for your dog
- Why excessive carbs found in kibble are so detrimental to your dog’s health
- What the heck a “hassle factor” is and how it will improve your dog’s dental health.
When Ron and I purchased our first dog, our Boxer, Brindel, we knew nothing about feeding dogs. In fact, we decided what to feed her based on what her breeder suggested which was a low quality kibble diet.
Unfortunately, Brindel had digestive issues from day one of us bringing her home. This was problematic for a number of reasons, but one of the big ones was that we lived on the 8th floor of an apartment complex and we couldn’t get her to grass in time to deal with her “emergencies”.
So, we did what I assume a lot of you have done when faced with similar issues – we took her to the vet. The vet proceeded to run us through the gamut of diets they sold with zero improvement in her digestion. We were finally told that Brindel had irritable bowel disease and that there was nothing we could do about it.
In addition to Brindel’s digestive issues, she was, pardon my language, a bitch. Brindel would attack me on walks and I was not only embarrassed, but I was deeply hurt. I loved her so much, but every time I took her on a walk she would grab and bite my arms and sleeves. I honestly felt like she hated me. I cried… a lot.
When Brindel was around 6 months of age, we met another Boxer breeder that was raw feeding her dogs. When we described Brindel’s issues to her, she suggested we try a raw diet.
I’m not gonna lie, when we brought home our first commercial raw diets, Ron and I were paranoid about her getting sick, and truthfully, we followed her around after she ate and disinfected everything she touched. We certainly don’t do that anymore!
BUT… only two days after her first raw meal, her stools were solid. This was the FIRST solid stool she’d had in the entire six months we’d had her.
Additionally, we were taking agility classes with Brindel and her trainer said, “What did you do to that dog? She’s a different dog!” She’d gone from being ambivalent about participating, to having a blast and actually listening to me!
And best of all, Brindel stopped grabbing my arms and sleeves on walks. Instead of being mean and frustrated, she became curious and interested in her surroundings.
We were stunned. AND we were really, really happy.
When we trotted off to the vet again for her yearly check up, the vet told us that Brindel looked amazing and she was really excited when we told her that her stomach issues were a thing of the past.
However, when she found out that the reason for our success was a raw diet, her face fell, the room got quiet, and I’ll remember this forever, she said:
“You’re going to kill your dog.”
Talk about a buzz kill. Ron and I became equally somber, but mostly we were confused.
How could something that had so many positive effects in such a short time, kill our dog?
This was nearly 20 years ago, and incase you’re wondering we did NOT take Brindel off of raw food. We dug deep into research and we found a new vet that supported our decision.
We learned that the vet community at the time was really opposed to raw diets (there’s been some progress today in that regard, but not as much as there should be), and we found out how little education veterinarians actually had on dog nutrition.
This experience with Brindel was our gateway into the pet industry and all of the lies and deception it was feeding to pet parents everywhere.
I really wanted to educate other dog owners that were going through similar issues that there were options out there to help their dogs! The desire to help others is what led me into opening my own pet food store.
Brindel passed away in 2013 at the age of 11 of a genetic disease called Degenerative Myelopathy. Her food did not kill her, in fact, it gave her a quality of life she didn’t have in those first six months of life.
We had two other Boxers that we were able to start off “right” who both passed away at the age of 13.
This was pretty good considering the life expectancy of a Boxer at the time was 8 years of age.
The Real Cost of Raw
Before we get started on the many benefits or raw diets, I’d like to address a few of the biggest objections to the raw diet that we hear in our stores, Tail Blazers Legacy and Copperfield.
The first one is the cost of the raw diets. This has always been one of the biggest barriers for pet parents considering a switch, but I have some good news for you.
Feeding raw does not have to increase the cost of raising your dog; feeding raw will simply change WHERE you are spending your budget.
In that first six months of Brindel’s life, we spent nearly $10,000 on her vet bills, and very little on her diet and nothing on supplementation. (Imagine what that would cost in today’s dollars!)
After her turn for the better, we increased our budget for a healthy diet, and because she was feeling so much better our vet visits were mostly check-ups once a year and the odd emergency. This was actually SAVING us money, time and stress, and saving Brindel from feeling bad all the time.
We changed our mindset on raising Brindel. We looked at our investment in diet and supplementation as an investment in her “well-care” instead of investing in her “sick-care”.
And there’s more good news! Today with inflation, the price difference between the cost of high-quality dry and raw is shrinking. I’ll explain why I think this might be happening in the “Benefits” section below.
For now, here’s an example of what it would cost to feed a 50lb, normal activity adult dog a chicken based diet in CAD:
Nature’s Logic Distinction Chicken Kibble – 2 cups a day – $2.75/day
Carnivora Raw Chicken Diet – 1.25 LBS a day – $3.50/day
So, for a mere 75 cents per day, you can really elevate the quality of your dog’s diet! Isn’t that empowering?
What About the Bacteria?
We humans are really obsessed with bacteria, aren’t we?
Sadly, our obsession with destroying germs and bacteria with constant disinfecting of everything from surfaces, to hands, to dog food have created a hot mess when it comes to the digestive and immune systems of dogs and humans alike.
There has never been a single, documented case of a human or dog getting sick from a fresh, properly handled and stored raw diet. If there were, you can be assured the case would have been exploited to the nth degree by dry pet food manufacturers far and wide.
There have, however, been cases of ingredient mishandling and messed up formulations in processed foods that have, and continue to, make dogs and cats sick.
In 20 years of raw feeding (and not the sterilized raw diets) I have never had any of my six dogs become ill from their food.
The only food related illness any of my dogs had was when Brindel got acute pancreatitis from eating a shelf-stable, cured knuckle bone. I haven’t fed another one to any of my dogs since.
HOT TIP: When handling raw food for your dog, treat it like you treat your own meat. Be sure to clean bowls in hot soapy water after every meal, and clean your prep surfaces. We use DoTerra’s On Guard, natural disinfectant. I don’t like to tempt the fates, but we’ve been feeding raw in our home without issue for around 20 years with an immune compromised human often prepping meals.
The Benefits of a Raw Diet for Your Dog
Although most raw diet benefits are antidotal, they’re observed over and over again by people like myself who’ve met and worked with thousands and thousands of dogs and cats. And it doesn’t take a genius to notice the obvious and immediate benefits with an example like Brindel’s.
Official studies DO exist, and more would be great, but they are few and far between. I mean, since most diet studies are funded by companies with big budgets and something to gain from the results, it can be nearly impossible for these small, sometimes family owned, raw food brands to pay for studies of their own.
And since you can’t really patent raw diets, there isn’t a lot of pay off for these companies for their expense.
More Species Appropriate
Saying a dog is an omnivore doesn’t make them one. Saying a dog will survive on a high carbohydrate or a plant-based diet, doesn’t mean they’ll thrive on one.
In fact, it’s my opinion that forcing a dog to eat nothing but plant based carbohydrates would be akin to forcing a rabbit to consume only meat.
Dogs are carnivores, and although there is some evidence that some evolution has occurred from it’s distant wolf cousins, it’s not nearly enough to justify feeding them anything but a fresh, meat-based diet.
Incase you’re still not convinced, here’s more proof that domestic dogs are indeed carnivores:
- Dogs lack the ability to move their jaw in a side-to-side motion which is required to grind food.
- Dogs have sharp, pointy teeth and lack flat molars that are required to grind grains, plants and other carbohydrates.
- Dogs are scavengers that chomp, tear and swallow their food in large chunks. (Please quit expecting them to “chew their food”)
- Dogs lack the enzyme “salivary amylase” in their saliva which is present in herbivores and omnivores to help break down plant carbohydrates.
- Dogs’ saliva has antibacterial properties that help protect them against bacteria in spoiled, rotten meat. (which means their mouths are likely cleaner than ours!)
- Dogs have a highly acidic stomach during digestion and long digestive tracts which are indicative of carnivores.
- Dogs’ eye position is on the front of the skull for spotting and stalking prey animals.
- Both modern grey wolves and domestic dogs share distant relatives.
In my 15+ years in the pet food industry, I’ve seen with my own eyes dogs and cats, when fed appropriately, recover from chronic anal gland issues, diabetes, liver disease, kidney stones, dental disease, digestive issues, ear infections and more. That’s all the proof I need.
Fresh Food is Not Denatured or Sterilized
When dry diets are created, they are heated over and over which destroys much of their nutritional value. That’s why it’s added back in the form of synthetic (man-made) vitamins and minerals. The body doesn’t know how to utilize synthetic options as well and in some situations synthetic vitamins can accumulate in the body and cause illness or even death.
This happens over and over again when companies don’t test their vitamin packs appropriately only to find out later the vitamin K levels for example are WAY too high. Unfortunately, this often is only discovered after there are multiple reported illnesses and deaths in pets.
Most raw diets are natural (there is a new trend of brands adding synthetic vitamins and minerals to their foods to appease AAFCO and therefor veterinarians) and if there is an overabundance of a nutrient, it’s simply eliminated from the body. No harm done.
Food that has not been processed also takes much less work to digest than a processed diet leaving the body’s energy resources available for tasks other than digestion like fighting infection, viruses, disease or healing a wound.
Increased Energy and Vitality
One of the first things I noticed about Brindel when we switched her to raw is that her eyes became more clear and shiny. It’s really hard to explain, but it was almost like they came to life. I’ve seen this in other dogs that have switched to a raw diet too.
Hundreds of times we’ve heard stories of old dogs acting like puppies again, and dogs becoming more energetic and happy. You know, kinda like after you’ve been sick for awhile and you start feeling better and just start appreciating your wellness. Kinda like that.
Possible Resolution of Hyperactive Behaviour
Building on my last point about increased energy, it’s important to realize we’re talking about an increase in “healthy” energy – NOT hyperactivity!
Pup owners have reported a reduction in hyperactivity in their dogs when switching to a raw diet. Perhaps this could be due to the reduction in carbohydrates and other “sugars” in the diet.
Possibly More Environmentally Friendly Than Processed Food
One very positive benefit in feeding most raw diets is that they’re very often regional. In our stores, we make an effort to carry quality diets as close to home as we can get them!
We have diets produced in our province but most of our diets are produced in Canada which has a side benefit of supporting our economy.
The simplicity of raw diets also means that raw food manufacturers are not shipping in tons of ingredients like synthetic vitamin packs from China.
With the massive increase in transportation costs over the past year, I speculate this is why the gap has become smaller between the cost of feeding quality dry and raw food.
Smaller, Firmer, Less Smelly Stools
I can tell dog guardians all day long about all the benefits of raw, but the favourite and most immediately noticed benefit is smaller, firmer, less smelly stools.
I’m not kidding! Depending on the quality of dry food the dog started on, stools can shrink by more than half the size making them easier to pick up, and they’re less smelly too!
Cat folks in particular notice the reduction in odour in the litter box.
Another bonus is that firmer stools can naturally express anal glands and help prevent anal gland issues in dogs. This may reduce the need for manual expression by a groomer or a vet which your dog may eventually become dependent on.
Smaller stools are also an indication that the body is absorbing MORE of the food and wouldn’t you rather pay for food your dog can use, rather than food that ends up in the backyard?
Little to no Gas
People often joke about foul gas coming from their dogs, especially bully breeds, but dogs shouldn’t have excessive gas.
We are way too used to doggy odour, bad breath, excessive gas and weight issues in our dogs to realize that these are very real signs that something is wrong.
My dogs seldom have gas unless I’ve been overfeeding them with too many chews or treats.
Improved Skin and Coat Condition With Less Body Odour
Another huge improvement we see a few weeks after a dog has switched to raw is a massive improvement in skin and coat condition as well as less body odour.
Dogs’ coats become thicker and shinier and their skin less dry and flakey. Since high quality, bio-available (easy to absorb) protein is necessary for a healthy skin and coat, this could indeed be the reason why we see such an improvement.
Fresher Breath, Healthier Gums and Cleaner Teeth
Would you believe a staggering 8/10 dogs will experience dental disease as an adult? “Coincidentally”, approximately 8/10 dogs are fed kibble diets (except in our stores of course which is more like a 40/60 split in favour of raw food).
So, what was that thing they said again about kibble cleaning teeth? Me thinks not!
My favourite analogy to bring up when pup parents mention an expert recommend they feed kibble to clean teeth is, “Would that same person forgo brushing and instead depend on crackers or croutons to clean their teeth?” The answer is no, they wouldn’t.
In Dr. Conor Brady’s book, “Feeding Dogs” he says that dogs need a “hassle factor” to their food in order to effectively maintain a healthy mouth. What this means is they actually NEED to rip and tear meat and tendon, and chew bones to keep their gums and teeth strong and healthy.
Kibble and even commercial raw diets that are ground for the dogs do not have a “hassle factor” and that means that we need to provide raw meaty bones like turkey necks or recreational bones like marrow bones to get the necessary friction on their teeth and gums to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth, and to callous and improve circulation in the gum tissue.
As mentioned previously, dogs lack the enzyme amylase in their saliva and when they consume carbohydrate laden diets, it can result in excess plaque, which then converts to tartar, and then leads to buildup and gum disease.
When teeth become mobil and need to be removed, the gum disease has progressed to include bone loss of the jaw which is irreversible.
If you are not comfortable providing raw bones to your pup, it’s recommended that you brush their teeth a minimum of 3 times a week to make a difference in their mouth health.
If you ARE comfortable, I suggest providing a raw bone 1-2 times per week. Depending on how meaty they are, you may need to forgo a meal that day.
Below is a photo of my 10.5 year old dog, Grizz. I had him booked in for surgery and while he was under they cleaned his teeth for the first time. There was a misunderstanding and I didn’t actually request a scaling. Because of my experience as a Dental Assistant, I know a bad mouth when I see one, and Grizz did not require a cleaning.
The funniest thing was that they took a before and after photo for me to see the difference in his mouth. I’ve included that photo below for your viewing pleasure…
Can you spot the difference? Neither could I… I still really love having this photo though!
Healthier Weight and Better Physique
The excessive carbs in kibble diets make dogs fat. We know this about humans who are actually SUPPOSED to eat some carbs, so why is it so hard to believe they’re making our dogs fat?
Providing a healthy source of protein via a raw diet helps to build lean muscle mass and dogs become more muscular, lean and fit! It’s a beautiful thing!
The role of water as a nutrient in the body is often underestimated. Water is responsible for so many important processes in the body including removing toxins, moving nutrients, cooling the body, lubricating joints, chemical reactions, and much, much more.
Dry diets are very dehydrating on a dog’s body. Typically, they contain around 10% moisture which is likely cancelled out completely due to the additional work it takes the body to process kibble diets.
Raw meat contains approximately 75% water and dogs rely on getting the majority of their hydration from the water in their diet. When their diet lacks moisture, they become very dehydrated and it’s only THEN the dog or cat chooses to drink.
So, it’s safe to say that kibble fed dogs and cats are walking around dehydrated a large majority of the time which is detrimental to their health.
You’ll find when you switch your dog to raw their water intake is limited to times of stress, illness, hot weather or increased physical activity. Otherwise, they drink much less water than their kibble counterparts.
Stronger Digestion and Immune System
Over that past decade or so it’s become common knowledge that upwards of 70% of your dog’s immune system actually resides in their gastrointestinal tract. What this means is that when the digestive system is healthy and effective, so is the immune system.
Your dog’s digestive system works overtime to digest carbs which are the slowest digesting macro nutrients. Because carbs digest so slowly, they give the wrong bacteria time to metabolize sugars and produce gasses in amounts that are unnatural for dogs.
Carbs also fuel bacteria in the digestive tract that should not be getting fuelled causing an imbalance of bad vs good bacteria. This can create inflammation that can lead to leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome can cause a whole host of other problems like allergy-like symptoms which may lead to actual allergies.
Raw diets are not as taxing on the body to digest. They are free from fillers and additives and are moisture rich which improves all bodily functions and keeps the organs healthy.
When everything in the body is working effectively and in harmony, the immune system is healthy and ready when it needs to jump to your dog’s defence.
Fewer Allergy-like Symptoms Like Itching and Scratching
We’ve discussed that raw diets improve skin and coat condition and when the skin and coat are healthy your dog won’t be constantly scratching at irritated, inflamed or dry skin.
As mentioned earlier, Leaky Gut Syndrome is very common in kibble fed dogs due to kibble’s high carb content and its likelihood to cause inflammation in the gut.
Leaky Gut occurs when the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged and permeable. Undigested food particles, toxins and bacteria can leak through cuts or holes in the digestive lining and flow into the blood stream.
When these particles enter the bloodstream, where they’re not supposed to exist, the body attacks them which creates allergy-like symptoms. If this is allowed to persist for any length of time, the body may actually develop an allergy to specific proteins.
High carb diets can also lead to yeast overgrowth and yeast on the skin is very inflammatory and itchy.
When you eliminate all the unnecessary carbs and sugars from the diet by feeding a raw diet, you can help prevent these problems from occurring or worsening.
HOT TIP: It’s important to note that if your dog is already suffering from these symptoms due to damage already done via diet or medication, changing the diet alone may not fix the problem. You may have to repair the damage with supplements. See the links below to Adored Beast’s Leaky Gut Protocol.
These are just some of the many benefits of feeding a raw diet to your dog!
Remember, kibble and other convenience foods were created for the benefit of humans, not for the benefit of our dogs.
While there are NO diets that are best for ALL dogs, raw diets seems to improve the health of most dogs that try it. If you can’t do a raw diet for whatever reason, please consider looking at freeze dried diets that have the convenience of kibble diets, but they’ve not been denatured in the same way.
If you add water to freeze dried foods, they are much closer to a raw diet than any other shelf stable option!
You can check out The Everything Pup Podcast Episode 8, “Navigating Commercial Dog Diets” to learn more about freeze dried foods!
HOT TIP: When choosing to feed a raw diet, it’s important that you learn how to feed the diet correctly. Meat from the grocery store on its own is not a balanced diet. Raw diets contain muscle meat, organs, bone and sometimes veggies in proper proportions. I’ll speak more about this in a future blog post.
Resources from this Episode:
- BLOG: Navigating Commercial Dog Diets
- PODCAST: Navigating Commercial Dog Diets
- BOOK: Feeding Dogs by Dr. Conor Brady (Affiliate Link)
- BLOG: FDA Alerts Pet Owners and Veterinarians About Potentially Toxic Levels of Vitamin D in 33 Varieties of Hill’s Canned Dog Food in Expanded Recall
- Adored Beast’s Leaky Gut Protocol (Affiliate Link) (CANADA)
- Adored Beast’s Leaky Gut Protocol (Affiliate Link) (USA)
- Everything Pup Podcast Community on Facebook
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