There is no dearth of debatable topics when it comes to dog nutrition! Feeding raw or cooked meat to our dogs is one such topic. You will find nutritionists completely bent in favour of raw of food, while some swearing by their own home-cooked meals.
If you ask me, nothing is wrong! And not everything is right. We need to find the grey between the black and the white. But that insight requires us to draw perspectives from different laterals.
Feeding raw meats is a concept that was given by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, an Australian Veterinarian, some 20 years ago. He suggests that dogs are naturally carnivores (having evolved from wolves). If left in the wild, they would hunt and eat raw meats. Therefore, dogs must be fed raw meats for food. Not only that, raw meat diet has also shown many dogs to have wonderful health with excellent skin and coat. Many dogs have even recovered of their chronic skin problems when put on a raw diet. Another argument in favour of this concept is that cooking depletes the meats of their enzymes and nutrients. Therefore, feeding raw meats to dogs is preferred under all circumstances.
While feeding raw definitely has its own benefits, I believe it cannot be declared as a better option based merely on the above arguments. Perspective from a different lateral must be taken. While it is argued that dogs have evolved from wolves, we must not focus only on their ancestors, that is, wolves. We must also give due importance to the term ‘evolved’. Evolving means adapting to changes in lifestyle. Dogs have been domesticated and therefore have lived in close proximity of humans for more than 20,000 years. Over this vast time period, they have developed the ability to digest human foods. Many studies show that dogs on raw diet show improved skin conditions and also overall health. However, we need to consider if the comparison was made with an equally fresh and wholesome diet in the first place. Feeding raw is beneficial. There is no denial. However, it is the supremacy that is sometimes assigned to raw diet which is not right.
Raw or cooked, there is no one diet superior to the other. Like us, every dog is different and unique. What should be fed to a particular dog should be decided on the basis of the individual dog. For example, the dietary requirement of a German Shephard is way different than that of chihuahua. While a German Shephard may be a closer relative of wolves, the chihuahua doesn’t seem to be one! What comes into play here is the selective breeding done by mankind where mankind intervened with the genetic make-up of dogs, to achieve the desired characteristics; therefore, further tempering with their wolf like genetics. Evolution remains another aspect altogether that differentiates dogs from their ancestors.
These are some basic arguments that tell us that any diet could work wonders for a dog. However, the prerequisite is that it should be balanced, in terms of proteins, carbohydrates, fats as well as fibre. So, it lies on the pet parents to decide what works for their dog better. If the pet parents are comfortable with the idea of feeding Raw, then an attempt at raw food must be given, especially if your dog suffers from skin rashes or allergy. In such a case, elimination and feeding new diet is the only way to find out which diet will your dog do better on.
While the quest to find the perfect diet for your dog can be a long journey, pet parents must keep in mind that feeding their pet should always be a joy and not a cause of worry or stress. We might not be able to make every single meal perfect for our dogs, but we can attempt to provide optimum nutrition over a few meals. Also, raw or not, might remain a debatable topic. But an ingredient that is undisputable when fixing your dog’s meal is your love! So, bring up a smile while you fix your dog’s meal, raw or not!
*Geet Rao is a Clinical Pet Nutritionist and also the founder of Pet Kitchen, a nutritional dog treats company. She is also a dog food recipe curator and a pet diet consultant, based in Chandigarh.