When I decided to ”go raw”, har har, I didn't do it because I think raw feeding is superior or the only right way to feed a dog. I do think it has some great benefits, but it also has some issues and there are other ways to feed your dog properly than just raw. My main reason to start mixing the meats on my own was so that I'd know exactly what goes into their food. I know what I eat. Why shouldn't I know what my dogs eat, too?
I own dogs that are in very different life stages and need very different things. Mr. Arthritis is an old man, tends to get chubby easily and has a stress belly. Mr. Hyperactivity is an old man with arthritis as well, but he is also still active and energetic. He needs special diet to support his joints. Mrs. Aloofness is a middle age lady with very sophisticated taste, she gets fat easily and she enjoys long naps. Exercising isn't really ”her thing”. Ms. Dominance is young, full of energy, and she exercises a lot. She jumps, climbs, pulls and the terrain she plays on changes from grass to little pebbles to forest full of branches and rocks. I also have an elderly ferret, who could use some more weigh and has bad teeth, and an adult ferret, who loves to play but also loves to sleep. A lot.
There is no way I could ever feed all my pets the same exact food. All my dogs the same kibble, both my ferrets the same kibble. Yes, I have some kibble there and they do eat kibble every now and then, but their main diet has to be specifically meant for them. It has to answer to their needs. Not a single brand of commercial pet food can offer me EVERYTHING I need in the same bag, and it can't do that to anyone else either.
Issues with commercial dog foods
The amount of brands is endless. There are bags after bags after bags on shelves, each promising to answer to your every need. There are foods for active dogs, foods for puppies, foods for elders, foods for dogs with gastric issues. One could think it's easy to find a good fit, when in reality finding a good fit is pretty impossible unless your dog was the exact dog they developed the food for.
First problem of commercial dog foods is that they are developed and engineered to answer to the so called ”example dog's” needs. The problem is, none of our pets happens to be that example dog. They live different lives with different exercise, different environment and different genetics.
”For many years, the public, through TV and magazine ads, colorfur packaging, endorsements from actors and even our own veterinarians was told that dry and canned dog food was high quality and the best food for our dogs. We were told that all of the essential protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals were all right there in the package and all we had to do was pour it into a bowl. It was easy and convenient way to feed our pets and everyone agreed, it was easy to do and our pets readily ate it. Sales of dry and canned foods soared, particularly after World War II with baby boomers staring families and the family pet being a big part of it.” - Victoria Spencer (Afghan Hound – A contemporary view, 2014)
Foods are sold to us with easyness. How easy would it be to answer to every active dog's needs by buying food meant for active dogs? Or have a healthy senior dog by buying senior foods? This image is sold to us with ads, and it is temping to think the promises are true. However, the general idea of every dogs being the exact same is like stating all people should eat the same food. It's completely ridiculous idea since we need different things, everyone knows that. Food producers know this too, but they continue to market their foods as ”fit for all”, because the easy way is a tempting way.
The next big issue with commercial foods is that most of them are manufactured in countries that demand little to no quality control considering the ingredients.
Lately there have been many cases of commercial pet foods causing problems. News pop up frequently stating dog foods have caused poisonings or other health related issues. This is due to the fact the quality of ingredients isn't supervised. According to many sources, for example the documentary Pet Fooled and numerous different sources in the net, including www.truthaboutpetfood.com , state that meats and grain used in dog foods are low quality, often leftovers or even plain garbage, and they are handled with unhygienic manners. Now, the situation may and does vary from country to country, but since most of our pet foods come from USA, we can assume most of them are exactly what is described above.
Why use low quality ingredients? It's cheaper, first of all. Secondly, dogs as scavengers can process foods impressively well and they can live long, even healthy lives no matter the food they consume is not the greatest. This does not mean all dogs will. It has even been speculated that the increasing lecels of canine cancers would have something to do with processed commercial dog foods made from bad ingredients filled with many kinds of unnecessary chemicals bad for health.
Cost is also the reason why dog foods are mostly grain. The amount of carbohydrates in dog foods is astonishing. Meat is expensive, processing meat is expensive, and even if you use low quality meat you pay more the more meat your products contains. Therefore grain is used. Rice, corn, even wheat. None of these are in any way natural food for dogs. Dog can benefit from carbohydrates, but this can not justify majority of the food consisting of grains.
There are good brands available. Usually these brands can tell you exactly where their ingredients come from and they use good ingredients free from chemicals. Their sources are trustworthy, preferably local, and no third party is included.
Know what goes into your pet's food
Another issue with many commercial foods is poor proof of used ingredients. Some brands have very little to no actual information on where all the stuff mentioned in the bag comes from. They say they have lots of meat and this and that and their food contains this much of whatevers, but there is no actual information even about what kind of meat is used, from where they get for example all the mentioned vitamins and minerals, and how much does the product contain grain, and what grain. Sometimes names like ”chicken meal” or ”protein meal” are used. This means the food manufacturers have bought already rendered product that in some cases could even consist of the remains of sick animals, road kills, even deceased pets (www.truthaboutpetfood.com).
If you browse through the list of ingerients you can even find added color. This being paint. Noms.
If the manufacturers themselves can't be sure of the origins and quality of their ingredients, there is no way a customer could ever know for sure. The only way to know what goes into your dog's mouth is to prepare the food from real ingredients yourself.
The quality of the ingredients matter. Buying the cheapest possible leftovers from butchers is sadly very common, but no dog will live a healthy life eating pork legs or chicken necks only. Whether you use raw or cook for your dogs, it's also important to know what your dog needs. No matter dogs can live with many diets, surviving doesn't mean the diet is optimal. You may want to do some research and be critical.
Unfortunately it seems there really is no fast lane to victory. Ignorance is bliss, but knowing your basics when feeding a dog properly is just a must. This doesn't have to mean spending your evenings crying and calculating milligrams. You can always rely on those good, reliable sources of food, ask some help or read some tips. There are many found in books and internet.
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