We became raw feeders for our dogs a few years ago. It came right after a chain of events that had us noticing from weight and digestion issues in our dogs alongside some new chatter in the dog park about a raw food diet. This collision of our dog's health issues alongside learning about a raw food diet from those in our community got us started, and honestly, we haven't looked back. If you've ever spoken to someone who's a raw feeder, you'll know that they are some of the most outspoken evangelists of any diet for dogs because they witnessed for themselves the internal and external improvement in their dog's health. We did too and now we can't imagine feeding anything else.
If you're new to raw food and curious to learn more, hopefully this will answer some of your questions and help get you started. We'll walk you through what a raw food diet is, what some of the benefits are, why you should think about feeding raw and how you can get started.
So what is a raw food diet for dogs exactly?
Pretty much like the name suggests, a raw food diet is one in which your dog eats only raw, unprocessed foods, feeding them just as they were designed evolutionarily to eat. Yes, it does involve handling raw meat, but your dog's teeth, gut and overall body have evolved for millenia to be able to eat in this way. It's a very clean, natural way of eating that is high in protein and nutrient dense - no processing, no fillers, no preservatives.
A raw food diet is high in protein, moderate in fat and has minimal amounts of carbohydrates mostly from fruits and vegetables. The actual composition of the diet is roughly:
- 80% Muscle meat
- 5% Raw meaty bones
- 10% Organ meat
- 5% Vegetables and fruits
- Supplements (such as fish oils for omega-3s, etc. if your dog needs it)
What do you mean this is how my dog was evolutionarily designed to eat?
Every species has its own biologically appropriate diet for its own needs. A hummingbird needs nectar to survive, while snakes, for example, are carnivores and need pure meat. If you put nectar in front of a snake, it would rather starve to death than eat the nectar because that is not the biologically correct food for a snake.
You've heard it repeated to you a million times by now that dogs are not wolves and therefore you don't have to feed them a primitive diet. That's not scientifically true and is generally spread by big kibble companies to deter people from switching off of kibble.
Genetically, dogs are nearly identical to wolves in the wild and share 99.9% of their DNA. If you were to slice the DNA of a dog and a wolf, they are almost identical. Their genotype is the same. The differences we see between domestic dogs and wolves are all phenotype differences, meaning what's on the outside. The differences are all in appearance and those phenotype differences have allowed us to breed dogs that look a certain way or dogs that fit in a certain purpose. On the inside, dogs and wolves are essentially the same species, but we've altered the appearance of dogs over the last several hundred years.
So how does a biologically appropriate diet relate to dogs? A dog is designed to eat a raw food diet, high in protein with moderate fats and low carbs.
The issue is that dogs are more resilient than other species and are capable of eating a wider variety of food. This allows us to essentially abuse them and feed them foods that are essentially nutrtionally useless - like commercial kibble, which is only starch, carbs, highly processed and has no moisture. In their natural state, a dog's gut, teeth, and entire body are designed to consume a raw food diet from the enzymes in their mouth to the bacteria in their gut, dogs are designed to eat raw.
We can push dogs to eat non-biologically appropriate foods and technically they will survive, but they won't thrive and their overall vitality will decline. In other words, you can feed them kibble, but it will slowly ruin their quality of life because it is not what they were designed to eat. If you're interested in learning more about everything that's wrong with kibble and the pet food industry, you can read more on it here.
Why should I feed my dog a raw food diet?
A balanced and complete raw food diet is the healthiest and most natural way to feed our dogs. A growing body of scientific evidence points to the health benefits of raw food and to the dangers of commercial pet food manufacturing (high temps, low ingredient quality standards, little to no traceability).
Some dogs switch to raw for health reasons –– weight gain, tooth tartar, irregular BMs –– while others switch because they’re picky eaters and get more excited for table scraps than kibble.
We’ve seen first-hand the well-researched benefits of raw, which often include:
- fresher breath
- ideal weight maintenance
- stronger immune system
- smaller and less odorous bathroom breaks
- decreased dehydration
- relief from misdiagnosed allergies
- softer and shinier fur
- less tartar build-up on teeth
- reduced itching and scratching
- stabilized energy levels
If you're looking to weigh the pros and cons, we've highlighted them for you here.
But is a raw diet safe? What about toxins and bacteria?
Yes, it's safe. Dogs have an amazing system that is specifically designed to eat a raw food diet - including breaking down any bacteria without any problems. Not just that, they thrive on it! Dogs have a shorter digestive tract and higher levels of acidity in their digestive system and stomachs, so their body neutralizes any bacteria that might be on the surface of raw meat.
If you're worried about your dog licking you after they eat raw meat, you really shouldn't. A dog's saliva contains lysozyme, an enzyme that destroys bacteria. More importantly though, when your dog is on a raw food diet, they have almost no plaque in their mouth. Without plaque, your dog's mouth is not a hospitable place for bacteria to thrive. A kibble-fed dog's mouth, however, provides the perfect environment for bacteria growth: you have plaque-covered teeth with sugary and starchy foods that provide both food and shelter for bacteria. Bacteria actually thrives in a kibble-fed dog's mouth because it's both a perfect atmosphere and a good food source.
How do I get started on a raw food diet for my dog?
If you're ready to get started on a raw food diet, there are two main ways to go about it.
The first is the DIY route where you can make your own meals for your dog every day. If you're interested in getting started, we made a quick guide on how to DIY raw dog food, along with some of our favorite raw feeding instagram accounts for inspiration.
The second option is to purchase ready-made raw dog food, and that's what got us excited to build this company. Here at Maev we wanted to make raw as easy as possible for you, so you could feed your dog the very best: we have convenient packaging, easy storage and transparent regular shipments. We take the guesswork out to make sure our food is personalized to your dog’s needs, super fresh, and sourced from suppliers we’d trust for our own food. We wanted raw to be easy and affordable, so you and your dog could have a long happy life together.