Modern Medicine, Old-Fashioned Care

Aug 17, 2023 | Nutrition

Is a Raw Diet Right for Your Pet?

A raw diet is, by far, the closest a pet owner can get to the call-of-the-wild, foundational nutrition our dogs and cats should be consuming. Successful implementation has proven to benefit everything from microbial balance to behavior and beyond.

Admittedly, a raw diet sounds weird. Meat, organs, whole or ground bone – it’s all a far cry from the bagged kibble you can pull from the grocery store shelf. But Dr. David MacDonald, DVM, CVA, CVSMT, with Doylestown Veterinary Hospital, reassures his patients and leads by example.

“I always let pet owners know, ‘This is what I feed my dogs, and they’re healthy dogs, and they are a good representation of a lot of my clientele that are raw-fed dogs. And those are healthy dogs, too.’”

The Undeniable ROI of a Raw Diet

Clinical illness, in most animals, has its basis in inflammation. Proper food is essential to balance bacterial groups in our pets’ stomachs, and ward off the damaging effects of this inflammation. For this reason, top veterinarians typically recommend a diet that is minimally processed, high in protein, and low in carbohydrates. And a raw diet – when accompanied by veterinary guidance – delivers this nutritional trifecta in spades.

Consider the following:

  • Most raw diets are 80 percent protein, or more. Whether beef, chicken, turkey, pork, venison, or duck – they deliver the foundational foodstuffs that animals have been eating since the dawn of time.
  • Raw diets excel in the low-carb department, as well, all but eliminating the usual suspects surrounding inflammation in an animal’s body.
  • Because a raw diet is not processed in any way, its nutritional profile remains unaltered. The healthy ingredients you start with are the healthy ingredients your pet consumes, offering the optimal amount of nutrition right at the source.

Is a Raw Diet Right for Your Pet?

While raw diets are considered the ideal by most veterinarians, they may not be the right fit for all animals.

“It can be hard to introduce the concept for an older patient,” Dr. MacDonald says. “Sometimes it’s a bit challenging for senior animals to make such a big transition at that time in their life since they’ve been fed differently for years. It’s possible, but I think after the changes they go through as older animals, their bodies just can’t handle it.”

Senior dogs must have a healthy body to be able to use a raw diet in a healthy way, Dr. MacDonald explains. Medical issues associated with age may be prohibitive.

“They may reach a certain time in their life where they just can’t do it,” he says. “And that’s OK, too.”

By and large, however, a raw diet can be navigated by most pets and their owners – with a little bit of effort.

“We can kind of work that middle ground to say, ‘What are the food choices that I have available?’” Dr. MacDonald says. Sometimes, adapting to a raw diet starts with a sequence of small changes.

“We’ll start with a dry kibble and then we’ll simply try to transition through the spectrum of other choices,” Dr. MacDonald explains. “We’ll add a little bit of canned food – or maybe some fresh, prepared vegetables or some fresh cooked meat – and we’ll mix that in with their traditional food. Once their bodies start to resonate with this real food, then you can kind of take that last step of getting to a raw diet.”

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when transitioning to a raw diet? It’s not an overnight thing.

“You can’t rush it. Your pets have to adapt to it. It’s not something that you can do over a weekend. It may take the better part of several months. They need some time.”

Food for Thought

It may seem overwhelming or intimidating to make big changes to your animal’s healthcare, Dr. MacDonald admits. But it can be done – and professionals like those at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital are always on hand to offer support.

“Pet owners need reassurances. We’re here to tell them, ‘You’re not doing something risky. You’re not doing something outside of the box. This is the right thing to do – so let’s do it together.”