Feeding your pet a raw food diet

by Robert Gooch March 18 2019

If you prefer to eat natural, unprocessed foods, why shouldn’t your cat or dog enjoy the same? That’s the thinking behind the current trend for ‘BARF’ (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diets for pets. Want to know more about raw feeding? We take a closer look.

cat eating a raw food diet“Is your dog as fit as a butcher’s dog? Or are you feeding it processed dried pet food made from more cereals than meat (which has been ground and heated to very high temperatures, reducing its nutritional content)? Until the Second World War, many pets enjoyed a balanced diet that included raw meat and bones, offal, eggs, fish and vegetables. Canned foods entered the scene in the early 20th century but it wasn’t until the Second World War, when rationing was in place, that dry foods became the norm. Today, this convenient option is often marketed as a ‘complete food’, ‘scientifically formulated’ and ‘the best choice’ for our pets. However, growing numbers of experts and pet owners are questioning whether a dry processed product is in fact best for our pets, or whether a raw, natural diet is more beneficial. There’s no doubt about which a pet prefers. Just give a cat or dog a raw meaty bone and a bowl of kibble to see which is devoured most enthusiastically!

The raw debate

Proponents of raw feeding are passionate about the benefits for their pets. However, the increasingly popular practice is not without controversary. With so much information on the subject produced by the major pet food manufacturers, it can be difficult for pet owners to find clear, balanced and impartial information on the subject. 

Concerns have been raised about bacterial diseases in frozen raw meat pet foods but as dogs are usually resistant to most of these bacteria, pets are actually very unlikely to become ill from eating raw meat. Nonetheless, if this concerns you, opting for unprocessed raw meat from a butcher reduces this risk, according to Jacqueline Boyd, Lecturer in Animal Science at Nottingham Trent University. Dr Boyd examined safety concerns for pets and humans for The Conversation, the independent academic news site. To minimise any risks to pets or members of the family, Dr Boyd advises following the same guidance for storing and preparing food for human consumption, as detailed on the NHS website. In addition, she advises owners to “Wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling your dogs’ food and after poo picking. Store human and pet bowls and utensils separately and, if possible, keep your dog out of human food preparation areas.”

It is also recommended to freeze raw meat for three days at -20°C to kill parasites. 

Vet Liesbet Lester is a keen advocate of raw feeding and says many fellow vets share his views. In an opinion piece for a blog for Petplan, the pet insurance company, he said: “79 vets from around the world who took part in a snapshot survey on raw feeding all commented favourably on its safety and benefits.”

The natural choice

Dogs and cats have evolved to eat meat and bone. The structure of their jaws, their teeth and their digestive system have not changed since the days of hunting and scavenging for their food. 

Owners who feed their pets raw diets report improved joint and bone health, stronger immune systems, shinier coats, healthier teeth and gums, fresher breath, and reduced body odour. For pets with allergies or intolerances to ingredients in commercial pet foods, the improvements may be even more significant. Furthermore, if a pet is overweight, a raw diet can help them to shift the excess weight, as vet Liesbet Lester told Petplan. “My Chihuahua, Tosca, was seven years old when we got him, and overweight,” he said. “A raw food diet removes a lot of unnecessary carbohydrates, so it can be a great way of helping a dog to lose weight or maintain their condition. Tosca is now a thriving, healthy 11-year-old – we haven’t had one problem in all that time.”

Our raw products for pets

For guidance on preparing raw food for dogs, this guide from American site Dog Food Insider is a good starting point. Another American site, the Feline Nutrition Foundation, provides useful BARF guidance for cat owners.

Whether you choose to only feed your pet a BARF diet or wish to supplement commercially prepared foods with something more natural, dogs and cats alike benefit from regular raw, meaty bones and trimmings.

If you’re ready to give it a go, our pet shop range includes venison bones and trimmings, lamb bones, pig’s trotters and ears, and Sutton Hoo chicken carcasses, marrow bones and trim. Of course, pets will also love any other meat, bones or trim you offer them!  

Customer feedback on feeding their pets wild meat

Here’s what two of our customers have written to us:

“Hi, received my 1st order 2day, all looks great + fresh👌🏾 although I'm tempted 2 try, it's all 4 my spoilt raw fed kitten, who doesn't like chicken 😹 my shango ate his 1st pigeon + loved it, thank u. Looks like it's going 2 b regular orders from us👌🏾”

“For at least 10 years I have had the pleasure of regularly ordering wild rabbits from The Wild Meat Company. One of my Siamese cats needed food with no chemical additives. I started feeding him on cooked rabbit but had difficulty in finding sufficient supplies locally. Once I discovered Wild Meat via an internet search, my problems were solved! From my experience I found that feeding cats on rabbit had a wonderful effect on behavioural problems and all thanks to the team at Wild Meat who over the years have never let me down.” 

If you’d like to share any feedback or pictures of your pets enjoying their raw food, we’d love to hear from you. Tag us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or email mail@wildmeat.co.uk.