Is your puppy experiencing a daily dose of S.A.D? B.A.R.F and S.A.D aren’t references to digestive disorders or emotional concerns. Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (B.A.R.F) and Species Appropriate Diets (S.A.D) are just two of the growing number pet food movements designed to improve the health of domestic animals. Considering a good nutritional program is the best chance your dog has to ensure a long, healthy life determining the optimal diet plan is no simple task.
The Pet Food Manufacturers Association reports 300 companies manufacture more than 7 million tons of pet food annually in the US. That number represents 3,000 different retail products including foods that are
- Semi moist
- Snacks (biscuits, kibble, treats)
Seven million tons sounds like a lot of food but in 2011 the $8 billion industry produced food products for more than 52 million dogs and 63 million cats!
Commercial pet foods have been the convenient source of animal nutrition since the mass production era of the 1930s. Pet foods today are produced under strict US Department of Agriculture standards. Manufacturers must conform to the rules and regulations established by the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission. There should be some consumer confidence in such oversights, yet millions of dollars are spent annually treating nutrition related pet health conditions such as
- Skin allergies
- Teeth and gum disease
- Digestive issues
- Degenerative problems
- Ear infections
- Chronic inflammatory conditions
The State of Pet Health Report commissioned and published by Banfield Pet Hospitals noted a 32% increase in diabetes mellitus in dogs during a four year study period from 2006 to 2010. The study found that 1 in 4 dogs were obese and obesity is the primary risk factor for diabetes. It may be argued that many domestic pets today do not get adequate exercise but it is also evident that processed foods high in carbohydrates and fat contribute to excess weight gain and obesity.
RAW DIET TRENDS AND NUTRITIONAL IMPLICATIONS
The answer to the health issues associated with processed pet food is the natural aspects of a raw diet. Many people are reluctant to try raw diets for their pets. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t recommend raw diets and many veterinarians advise against them. Pet kennels, day care facilities and even animal hospitals refuse to allow raw meals on their premise. Raw diets can be expensive, time consuming and if not handled very carefully dangerous to humans because of the bacteria transmitted through raw meat. Are they worth the trouble?
The average rate of growth of raw diets is estimated at 20%. Commercially prepared raw pet food represents about 1 percent of the total pet food market. The number of testimonials from owners experiencing healthier dogs with shiny coats, cleaner teeth, more energy and the bonus of smaller, compact, less frequent excrement is certainly driving the popularity of raw diets. The balance of more expensive raw food against reduced vet bills and potentially healthier animals is considered well worth the trade by many pet owners.
HOW TO START A RAW DIET
A few short years ago the only way to offer pets a “natural” raw diet was the do-it-yourself model of preparing the food at home. The purchase of raw meat, the preparation and the sanitation required to create a balanced diet was daunting to many pet owners-not to mention the requirement of actually handling bloody hunks of muscles, bones and organs. It is definitely not for the squeamish.
Demand has driven supply and today it is not unusual to find special freezers offering prepackaged, raw pet foods for sale in mainstream food markets. No more messy preparations. Simply remove the daily feeding recommendation for your dog from the freezer, defrost and watch as your pup happily gobbles up the food. Feeding raw is every bit as easy as dispensing dry kibble or canned food!
EVERYTHING IN BALANCE
It is safe to say that feeding your dog a nutritionally balanced raw diet involves more than tossing him an uncooked chicken. Any improperly balanced diet can cause long term health problems for animals. For example meals too heavy with muscle meat can compromise the intake of calcium. Without adequate calcium bone disorders may develop. Determining the right density of nutrients can be challenging. For these reasons opting for commercially produced raw foods (manufactured under the USDA controls) may be the better option.
As with any initiative for every argument in favor of switching to a raw diet there will be a point against the change. If your dog suffers from obesity, skin allergies, a poor coat, chewing and scratching transitioning to raw may be a good consideration. Older pets, immune-compromised animals and dogs with inflammatory bowel disease should not be fed raw foods.
Talk to your vet about any plan to change diet. Research available food sources including raw meal recipes, the availability of ingredients, the time for preparation and adequate storage then compare against purchasing prepackaged, commercially prepared raw food. Begin the transition to a raw food diet slowly. Add a little raw to the current meal plan each day until the dog is eating the raw food entirely.
Make sure you watch for signs of intolerance such as vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, low-energy and weight loss. Some people find success immediate when feeding a raw diet. It may take some tweaking to achieve the right balance of raw and premium kibble for your pet. The best nutritional plan is well worth the effort.