Although “going raw” seems like a new idea, it is far from radical. A fresh diet high in raw meat, fat and organ is the most biologically-appropriate way to feed your dog or cat. Like Canis lupus, which hunts live prey and feeds on raw meat, your beloved hound has a physiology that demands a carnivorous diet similar to that of its recent ancestor. For thousands of years, wild canines achieved optimal health through a holistic menu of unprocessed and whole foods. Mimicking these historical diets, with slight modifications to fit the demands of today’s domesticated pets, is possible through the raw style of feeding.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Nutrition & Benefits
- What are the benefits of raw dog food/bones?
- Why should I avoid feeding my dog kibble or canned food?
- How often should I "rotate" or change up my dog's food?
- What is green tripe?
- What’s the big deal with single-ingredient snacks?
Safety & Handling
- Can my dog safely consume raw meat?
- What about the threat of Salmonella and other pathogenic strains of bacteria?
- Will I get sick feeding raw food to my dog?
- Aren’t bones supposed to be dangerous for dogs?
Nutrition & Benefits
What are the benefits of feeding a raw meat-based diet?
The digestibility of a raw dog food is substantially greater than that of processed alternatives, resulting in far better nutrient absorption. The best raw diets are simple yet nutritionally dense, an assortment of only necessary ingredients. By eliminating preservatives, additives and fillers, we can dramatically reduce the risk of our dog having an inflammatory or allergic response to their foods. In order to provide a balance of vitamins, minerals and fiber to our complete diets, we include (in order of volume) organic squash, organic carrots (both of which are slightly baked for more digestibility), organic apples, organic eggshells, and a smattering alfalfa. By weight, our recipes are 71% meat and fat, 8% organ (liver, kidney, and spleen), and 21% produce. Over time, dogs fed a raw diet regularly exhibit improved digestive health, better skin and coat health, better oral health, cleaner teeth, and increased stamina and endurance.
Why should I avoid feeding my dog kibble or canned food?
The manufacturing process of kibble is nutritionally destructive. In an effort to make a cheap and stable food, manufacturers boil rendered animal products for days at a time, after which the “soup” is baked, pulverized or powdered. Regardless of the quality of the original ingredients, the active temperatures reached during this process denatures substantial amounts of proteins, digestive enzymes, and certain vitamins. Canned dog foods are equally processed and, in order to achieve indefinite stability, are even more likely to contain large amounts of active preservatives.
Now, for a word on kibble ingredients. Firstly, it’s essential to understand common protein sources. Kibbles often use meat meal, bone meal, and by-product meal as primary proteins. The truth is that “meals” are rendered from dead animals and have almost no quality standards. They are often contaminated and contain inexcusable ingredients. Although consumers tend to cringe at the word, “by-products” are merely the parts of a healthy slaughtered animal not considered “meat.” They may include, but are not limited to, organs and fatty tissue. Nevertheless, the aforementioned processing of “meat” or “meat by-products” reduces much of their original value.
Nearly every major dog food includes some variety of grain, including corn, soy, rice, wheat and even sawdust and mill waste. Despite being advertised as nutritionally significant, grains added to dog food are used indisputably as bulk fillers, low-cost ingredients with no added value. While cited as important sources of energy, these simple carbohydrates are not the natural energy producers for canines. Those roles should be filled by quality proteins and fats. In addition: Grains, and even certain vegetables, are digestively strenuous. Digestion takes up the most energy in any living being and the dog’s short and simple digestive tract is not designed to breakdown high-starch carbohydrates.
Furthermore, grains can be toxic. A number of pollutants can compromise cheap grain and its storage, including insects, mites, and mold. Spores from latter can be especially harmful, as they are known to produce poisonous mycotoxins. Grains often cause dogs allergic and inflammatory reactions. While almost any food could be a potential allergen, glutenous grains were not a part of the canine’s evolutionary diet, thereby heightening your hound’s chance of sensitivity. A number of grain contaminants also have allergenic potential.
Yet more than anything, we ask that dog owners consider the processing that goes into kibble and canned dog foods. These products arose for the sake of human convenience and cost, evolving to unequivocally meet our needs rather than those of our dogs.
How often should I "rotate" or change up my dog's food?
Would you want to eat the same food every day for months or years on end? Of course not - and neither does your dog. However, mixing up what your dog eats has more than just the obvious benefit of keeping the hound's food stoke high. While there are a ton of ways to really enhance your dog's diet (the first and foremost being a switch to fresh raw foods), rotating proteins is one of the most basic.
Let's start with the facts: not all meat is created equal. That is, every protein type has differing levels of minerals, vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids and enzymes. Rotating through meat sources (whether it's lamb, beef, rabbit, etc.) is going to improve the overall balance of micronutrients in your dog's food. Gut health is also worth mentioning here, as alternating foods will change up the bacterial makeup of your dog's digestive system for the better. Variety for the nutritional win!
Next up: allergies and food intolerances. If your dog has a food allergy (even just a minor one), repeated exposure to that allergen is going to elevate the immune response, and thereby the symptoms, to that allergy over time. Being fed the same dog food day after day, year after year, has the potential to trigger or just exacerbate such an allergy. Food intolerances often result in similar symptoms to allergies but are related to gut health rather than the immune system. By feeding a dynamic mix of enzymes and pre- and probiotics through regular food rotation, the bacterial colonies in your dog's gut are going to be much happier, which will reduce the chances of an uncomfortable food intolerance.
Lastly, rotating proteins is just more fun and interesting for your dog. We're not convinced that slowly "grazing" through the food bowl is normal canine behavior. While there's a difference between refusing to eat and simply lacking the excitement to eat, both over time might result in undernourishment. Providing a variety of foods, raw meaty bones, and treats, while using a balanced diet as the consistent foundation, is a great way to ensure your dog maintains a healthy interest at meal time.
As far as what Idahound recommends, there's no perfect rotation schedule. A dog with a sensitive stomach will be better off switching less often (every few months) than one who is fed a different food every week and has no digestive issues. Your dog's feeding preferences and response to alternating proteins and supplements will help you determine the right approach. Regardless of what you come up with, some degree of rotation is important.
What is green tripe?
Tripe is the ruminant’s stomach. As herbivores, ruminants have a population of bacteria and unique enzymes that allow them to effectively digest plant matter through the four compartments of their highly-specialized stomachs. Feeding tripe to dogs is an incredible way to pass on those probiotics. Yet tripe is often bleached, a process that kills healthy bacteria and denatures those wanted enzymes. “Green tripe,” on the other hand, is perfectly raw and substantially healthier. When selecting tripe varieties, it’s important to know the difference.
What's the big deal with single-ingredient snacks?
Forget the biscuits. Like kibble, dog biscuits were created for consumer convenience. Nothing about a milk bone speaks to the biological needs of a carnivore. They’re also understandably cheap to make. Idahound’s single-ingredient treats are healthier and tastier to your dog. We also source each protein from ranchers exclusively in Idaho, so you can feel good about a sustainable supply chain. If you’re going to treat your dog, “cookies” are a poor option when a healthy and more sensible substitute is available. Grassfed, hormone and antibiotic free, Idahound’s single ingredient crisps, bites and slivers are truly the type of snacks that Dog intended.
Safety and Handling
Can my dog safely consume raw meat?
Your dog’s stomach is extremely acidic, allowing for raw meat and bones to be broken down safely and effectively. In fact, raw meat is precisely what your dog is programmed to eat. The canine’s short digestive track, similar to that of most carnivores, is an indicator of a raw meat diet. Compared to herbivores, which digest vegetable matter over 3-5 days, carnivores can efficiently process raw meat in 8-12 hours.
What about the threat of Salmonella and other pathogenic strains of bacteria?
Besides aiding in rapid breakdown and digestion of raw meat, the highly-acidic gastric environment of your dog’s stomach effectively kills harmful bacteria, including salmonella, clostridia, campylobacter and E Coli. Nevertheless, puppies or adult animals with underdeveloped or weak immune systems are at a heightened the risk and you should consult a holistic veterinarian about the proper time to transition the animal to raw food.
Will I get sick feeding raw food to my dog?
Bacteria is present in all raw meat. In order to minimize contamination risk, one should always wash his or her hands after handling raw products, whether for human or pet consumption. We also recommend washing your dog’s bowl at least a few times each week. When considering the enormous love we have for our dogs, washing his or her dish is a worthy sacrifice.
It should also be noted pathogenic bacterial strains have been found in both dry and raw dog foods. While extreme heat may kill a dangerous strain of E. coli, for example, during the processing of a dry food, environmental contamination of the factory could still affect the kibble. Raw producers, like Idahound, maintain strict sourcing standards, along with a consistent manufacturing “cold chain” to ensure the safety of a raw product. In addition, every month Idahound submits its raw diets to an independent laboratory for microbiological testing.
Aren’t bones supposed to be dangerous for dogs?
For carnivores, raw bones are a primary source of calcium. Other benefits include natural oral hygiene and supplemental nutrition through consumption of bone marrow. Canines, wild and domesticated, have always chewed on bones. Rumors suggesting that bones are dangerous, however, do have merit. Cooked bones, which can splinter dangerously, should always be avoided. Moreover, the most commonly sold bones are the ends of cow femurs. Round and marrow-rich, these clean-looking bones are extremely hard and frequently chip dogs’ teeth. If you like giving your dog this type of bone, do limit their chewing.
Idahound’s raw meaty bones include vertebrae, sternums, and pelvic bones, all of which are pulled from the same batches of sheep that make up our raw diets. We consider all of our bones to be “soft,” in the sense that your dog will may casually consume the entire bone as he or she chews on it. Don’t be alarmed: bones are perfectly digestible and a fantastic source of calcium.
Idahound recommends that you “brush” your dog’s teeth with our raw meaty bones 2-3 times per week. Doing so will quickly clean up that plaque and save your hound from being sedated for an unnatural cleaning. Now go and feed that carnivore!