While giving your pets a quality raw diet might be one of the best things you can do for their health, it’s definitely not as straightforward as pouring kibble into a bowl. So if you’ve felt like you’re not getting raw quite right, then know that you’re not alone!
We’ve been in the business of healthy raw meals for pets for a while now, and we’ve seen plenty of struggles along the way. After all, we started from scratch, so to speak, so we’ve been learning, growing, and experimenting along the way.
This week we want to go over the top 5 mistakes raw feeders make—both those new to raw and those who have been feeding raw for a while!
1. Being Too Concerned About Balancing Meals VS A Balanced Diet
We’ve always said that a healthy diet is a marathon, not a sprint. Not every meal needs to be perfectly balanced down to the milligram, but it is important to try and achieve a balance over time.
Wholefoods are objectively better for us and our pets, but they’re not a perfect science; two vegetables might have some nutrients in common but in different amounts, but they’ll bring their own beneficial qualities to the table (if you’ll pardon the pun).
So start with the basics and work towards feeding to “fill in the gaps.” Try experimenting with different vegetables, probiotics, meal toppers, and proteins, and you’ll find that balance becomes easier and easier with every meal!
2. Not Rotating Proteins
Even if you feel like you’ve reached a place of a healthy balance with your pet’s diet, it’s nearly impossible to deliver all the nutrients your pet needs without rotating through different proteins.
For an optimized diet, adult dogs need 2 types of poultry, 3 types of red meats, and 2 types of fish, all containing varying amounts and types of organs and bone. Adult cats need the same, but minus the fish—despite what you might have learned from various media, fish isn’t actually an ideal menu item for cats! Too much fish in a cat’s diet can lead to thiamine deficiencies alongside other issues, so stick with poultry and white and red meats for your feline friends and save those fishy treats for special occasions.
Like aiming for a balanced diet over time, rotating through proteins can be an overarching goal throughout the week—you don’t need to pack a whole smorgasbord of proteins into every meal. That being said, feeding your dog blended proteins can make achieving a healthy balance through rotation so much easier!
3. Neglecting the Importance of Raw Bones
If your dog or cat won’t tolerate you brushing their teeth, don’t stress over it. Giving pets a raw bone 1–2 times a week is arguably one of the easiest and best ways to support your pet’s dental health while still providing them with invaluable enrichment!
It’s hard to overstate the importance and benefits of raw bones for your pet. Everything from cleaner, healthier teeth, better-smelling breath, and a hearty dose of calcium and other minerals can all be found in a raw meaty bone. In addition, raw bones work out your pet’s brain—it forces them to focus and problem-solve to get every last tasty morsel off that bone!
4. Not Supporting the Gut with Probiotics
Many raw feeders have heard that “health starts in the gut” and assume that refers to feeding a biologically appropriate raw diet. And while that’s true, it’s not the whole story.
Your pet’s gut is full of bacteria, some healthy and some not-so-healthy. Because the gut is responsible for 70%–80% of immune system function, one of the best things you can do for your pet’s long-term health is to support those healthy bacteria as best as possible with probiotics!
A steady regimen of probiotics can save your pet from chronic inflammation and all the other conditions that can stem from it, such as inflammatory bowel disease. Cancers, allergies, liver disease, kidney disease and many more have all seen corresponding drops in frequencies with pets who have been given probiotics with their meals. And just like we advise rotating proteins, rotating probiotics is also ideal!
5. Treating AAFCO As the Be-All-End-All of Pet Nutrition
Raw food comes with a few more precautions than highly-processed dry or canned foods, so it’s tempting to want an overseeing, official regulatory body, if only for peace of mind.
Unfortunately, there’s often a misconception with AAFCO about what it means to set standards for an industry and actually regulate that industry. AAFCO sets the standards and guidelines for product labels and nutritional analysis, but they don’t regulate the industry or monitor any individual company.
Furthermore, while no one will argue that AAFCO has its place and usefulness in the industry, how it measures nutrients in food deserves a bit of skepticism. In some cases, high-quality ingredients are used to establish a nutrient profile but undergo such intense processing that much of that nutrient base is lost and often added back in with synthetic supplements, which are metabolized differently than their natural counterparts. So, just because the label says it has everything your dog or cat needs doesn’t mean that those nutrients are provided in the same way that lightly processed or raw foods can.
In the end, AAFCO is the bare bones of nutrition needed to keep animals alive, but not to thrive and achieve their optimal health. It’s a great baseline but not the ideal, be-all-end-all guide for feeding raw.
One Last Thing…
While any amount of raw in your pet’s diet can result in positive changes in their health, we know it’s not as simple as some other diets at first—but that’s why we’re all here, to learn and grow together! Feeding raw may have a few more steps to keep in mind, but we think the benefits far outweigh the work that goes into it, wouldn’t you agree?