As a responsible and loving pet parent, you always want to do what’s best for your fur-kids — and that means you want to feed them well.
Maybe you’ve already heard about the many health benefits of a raw diet for dogs and cats, and you’re wondering how to make the switch safely. Or, perhaps you’re still not sure of the differences between a typical kibble diet and a diet based on real, raw meat.
We’re here to arm you with all the information you need to make the right diet choices for your fur-family — so that Fido and Whiskers are happy, healthy and feeling well!
Dog Kibble vs Raw Food: Why Switch?
If your pet, your friends’ pets, and your family’s pets all eat ‘normal’ kibble pet food and have seemed perfectly fine so far, you may wonder: is it really worth the effort to switch up your pet’s diet now?
While it’s true that many pets go their whole lives eating nothing but kibble, it’s impossible to say how much their wellbeing would have been improved by a healthy natural diet. The truth is, moving away from commercial kibble is one of the smartest decisions you can make for the health of your best furiend — and can earn you even more years of fuzzy snuggles as a result!
The Trouble With Kibble
There’s one simple reason that the invention of kibble transformed the pet food industry and quickly became the dominant form of pet food on the market for both dogs and cats: because it’s cheap and easy.
Commercial kibble is packed with grains such as corn and wheat to give the food more volume. Even most ‘healthy’ pet food brands still substitute peas or rice in place of corn. All of these carbohydrate-heavy foods are easy to source, cheaper per calorie than protein or fat, and have a starchy consistency that holds kibble together so it can be easily baked.
Once baked, kibble is typically sprayed or smoked to add a meat-based flavoring (the scent gives your pet the illusion of real meat). The resulting product is easy to package and ship. Preservatives give the kibble a long shelf life, food dyes give it an appealing color, and additives fill in the (many) nutritional gaps so that the final food can pass industry standards.
Here’s the bottom line:
Kibble is popular because it’s cheaper for manufacturers, not because it’s healthier for your pet.
Your dog or cat’s body is biologically optimized to digest real meat — not heavily processed cereal. Your pet’s ancestors thrived by consuming their prey’s entire body: muscles, vital organs, bones, cartilaginous tissues, stomach contents, everything. All of these different components together provided a fully balanced meal.
Commercial kibble uses fillers, grains and processed substitutes in an attempt to artificially replicate the correct balance of nutrients, vitamins and amino acids that occur naturally in a carnivore’s wild diet — but it is fundamentally unable to do so. According to Dog Food Advisor, “Today’s kibbles contain as much as four times the carbohydrate content historically found in the canine ancestral diet.”
When it comes to a healthy diet for your pet, it’s not just about which nutrients and calories are in the food, but what form they’re in. A calorie from quality raw meat is much more recognizable and useful to your pet’s body than a calorie from cheap corn by-product, even if both technically contain the same amount of energy.
Since if there’s no need to stuff your pet’s food with cheap fillers or unnecessary ingredients like grains and veggies, why not go straight to the source? Your dog or cat is healthiest on a diet of high-quality raw meat. That’s all your little carnivores really want, and it’s all their bodies naturally need!
Why Raw Rocks
So, what happens when your pet eats real, raw meat that’s as close as possible to their ancestors’ wild diet? Their bodies instinctively respond — and thrive!
Provides Allergy Relief
Food allergies are common among dogs and cats, resulting in itchy, flaky, uncomfortable skin for your pets — and endless frustration for you as a pet parent, trying to pinpoint the source of the problem. A raw diet has the smallest ingredient panel possible, cutting out sneaky allergens. Plus, the omega-3 fatty acids in raw meat promote a healthy, glossy skin and coat.
Eases Digestive Distress
A raw diet is naturally easier for your pet to digest than a carb-heavy diet, as starch requires a lot of work to break down. A raw diet translates to less poop, smaller poop, fewer instances of digestive issues like diarrhea, and fewer fart-fueled “gas attacks!”
Improves Oral Health
The starch in commercial kibble exacerbates tartar buildup, contributing to cavities, gingivitis and bad-smelling breath. Ultimately, dental disease leads to pulling out rotten teeth through expensive surgeries down the road. Cutting out those carbs, on the other hand, leads to white teeth and fresh breath — so you can actually let your pet kiss you without having to power through the stinkiness!
Balances Energy Levels
Carbohydrates and starch are linked to fluctuating energy levels, causing spikes in energy followed by a sudden crash. If your pet seems to switch between zoomies and naptime with no in-between, you may be shocked by the alert yet calm pet you’ll see on a raw diet. The high protein and low carbs will keep your kitty or pup’s blood glucose level steady and consistent throughout the day.
Maintains a Healthy Weight
Another consequence of the carb-fueled ‘crashes’ is a series of hunger spikes throughout the day. When your pet seems to be starving all the time, it’s tempting to overfeed them, which can easily lead to obesity (and all the health problems that come with it). Cutting out excess carbs and curbing hunger through a raw diet helps your pet slim down and reach a healthy weight, while the high level of protein fuels muscle toning and growth.
Lengthens Your Pet’s Life
Ultimately, all the health benefits of a raw meat diet work together to extend the time your beloved fur-baby spends at your side. Even just losing weight through a raw diet can prolong a dog’s life by over two years! As Dog Food Advisor writes, “Look for dog foods rich in meat-based protein and lower in carbs. You could be adding years of better health to your best friend’s life.”
Raw Dog Food for Beginners: How to Start Raw Feeding Your Dog or Cat
You’ve learned about the amazing health benefits that your best furiend will enjoy once they’re eating the rich, raw diet they naturally need. Now you may be wondering how to feed a dog a raw diet, or how to convince your kitty to ditch the kibble.
We’re here for you every step of the way as you embark on this exciting journey with your pet! Here’s our tried-and-true strategy for transitioning from kibble to raw, that has led our proud Vital Essentials pet parents to success!
Start With Toppers
Toppers are an easy way to introduce your dog or cat to the power of a raw diet, without making them suspicious of unfamiliar food.
The shredded consistency of our toppers means they can be easily sprinkled over top of your pet’s normal food, or mixed in. They can even be turned into a gravy-like substance with the addition of water or broth. This gravy will then absorb into your pet’s regular kibble, introducing the savory flavor of raw meat without overpowering the starchy taste your pet is already used to.
Then Mix in Nibblets, Mini Nibs or Dinner Patties
Once your pet is used to the different flavor of the toppers, you can start mixing in the raw food that you ultimately want to use as the main staple of your dog or cat’s diet.
Vital Essentials mini nibs and nibblets have a satisfying crunch and are equivalent to a raw kibble dog food, providing the closest option texture-wise to your pet’s previous food. Dinner patties offer incredible versatility, as they crumble easily into small or large chunks and can be eaten wet or dry.
Both options are created through a slow freeze-drying process that locks in the freshness of real, raw meat. They are available as a variety of proteins, including unique options like rabbit, salmon or duck.
Once your dog or cat’s food bowl contains both their normal kibble and some raw food, many pets will be intrigued by the natural draw of raw meat and will preferentially choose raw over their usual kibble right away!
However, some pets are so addicted to the preservatives and starchiness of commercial kibble that they selectively pick them out of a mixed bowl of kibble-and-nibblets. (Let’s be honest: if you were handed a bowl of potato chips and carrots, you just might eat the chips first, too.)
If this happens to you at first, don’t be discouraged! With patience and persistence, you can get your pet eating a healthier diet that will be much better for them overall. Try mixing a dinner patty pâté that your pet can’t pick out of the bowl, or go back to toppers until Fido gets used to and even begins to crave the meaty flavor of raw.
Transition Slowly to a Raw Diet
Once your kitty or pup will consistently eat a whole bowl of kibble mixed with raw, it’s time to start slowly changing that ratio until you’re up to a 100% raw diet!
We suggest gradually increasing the amount of Vital Essentials raw food and decreasing the proportion of commercial kibble in your pet’s meals over a two-week period. Be aware that this is only a guide; your pet (especially if they’re a picky kitty) may need more than two weeks to transition fully.
If your pet begins turning up their nose at the food bowl, you may be trying to transition too fast. Always make sure your pet is getting enough to eat, and don’t assume, “If they’re hungry enough, they’ll eat anything.” Some pets — particularly cats, let’s face it — will choose to go hungry over eating something they aren’t in the mood for.
On the other hand, many dogs and cats absolutely adore the taste of real, raw meat and would be very happy to eat a whole bowl of mini nibs on Day 1! Even if your dog or cat is ravenous for raw, we still recommend taking 10-14 days to transition them fully, just to give your furry furiend’s digestive system enough time to adjust. The last thing you want is for your pet to enthusiastically eat their meal now, only to have diarrhea or digestive issues later.
A slow, steady transition, carefully watching how much your pet eats to make sure they aren’t over-eating or under-eating — and adjusting accordingly — is the best way to get your dog or cat switched over to a 100% raw diet.
The good news is that once they’re transitioned, you’ll be rewarded for your hard work and patience with a happier, healthier, slimmer, more muscular and energetic pet!
Keep Trying New Combinations
If you’re still having trouble making the switch, or you’re a few months down the road and feel like changing things up, the good news is that the mix-and-match options are endless!
You can also play with different combinations of wet vs. dry. While our mini nibs are designed for a satisfying crunch, remember that our dinner patties can be fed dry as-is or mixed with water to customize the meal to whatever consistency your pet prefers.
Finally, our extremely versatile toppers can be mixed with any other protein. Perhaps rabbit dinner patties with a chicken topper is the killer combo that gets your pup’s mouth watering. Toss a few treats on top for a truly irresistible meal!
Transitioning your dog or cat’s diet from commercial kibble to a balanced raw meat diet is one of the best decisions you can make for your best furiend’s overall health and wellbeing.
For further advice about how to make the switch, or for help with common raw feeding mistakes, never hesitate to contact us at any point in your raw feeding journey. We’re always available on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest to answer your questions, or to share your story of how a healthy raw diet has made a difference in the lives of your kitties and pups!