Pet Nutrition: Raw/Fresh Dog and Cat Food Vs Commercial Dry Food

Raw food provides a diet that most closely mimics that a dog or cat may consume in the wild. It has minimal ingredients unlike commercial dry food, which is often comprised of proteins, grain and fruits and vegetables that sound good to us as humans but may not be natural for our pets.

Also, the intense heat used to process commercial pet food destroys or reduces nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Pet food manufacturers must supplement the food after heat processing to replace those nutrients.

In addition, veterinary surgeon and raw feeding proponent Tom Lonsdale states that food from dry or canned commercial food sticks to teeth and enables bacteria to proliferate, causing “sore gums, bad breath and bacterial poisons that affect the rest of the body”.

However, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) “discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans.”

Conversely, all raw/fresh food suppliers must meet federal requirements for food safety standards and some subject their foods to a process called High Pressure Processing (HPP) which eliminates harmful bacteria from raw foods, prior to packaging.

Ease of feeding your pet: raw/fresh pet food vs. dry pet food

The ease of feeding your pet commercial dry dog or cat food is well known. You open the bag or container, place it in the dish and voila, dinner! However, feeding raw/fresh foods from a supplier can be almost as simple.

Megan Trester, Sales Associate for a natural pet food store specializing in raw foods explains, “A 50-pound dog will need 16 ounces of raw food each day, or two 8-ounce patties. For example, they can store an 8-pound bag of raw frozen patties in the freezer and each evening take out two to thaw in the refrigerator for the next day’s meals.”

Raw diets are great for cats as well, since this is what they have evolved to eat. Unfortunately, it can be hard to get a cat to accept a raw food diet. Even though their primordial diet consists of small rodents, birds, lizards, and insects, it’s the hunt and kill that tells their brain to eat it. A plate of raw food doesn’t provide that stimulation.

In addition, cat’s prey is about 100-102 degrees F. When fed raw food, it is often at room temperature. Cats are picky in order to survive. Food that is not freshly killed may have spoiled and will therefore make the cat sick.

Cost: Raw/fresh pet food vs. dry pet food

Finally, there is the cost of feeding your dog or cat a raw/fresh food diet. Dr. Tony Buffington, a professor of veterinary clinical sciences at the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center said, on a per-calorie basis he estimates raw foods can cost “about 10 times as much as what you can get at a supermarket.”

In addition, Sharon Misik, an actress in California, during an interview regarding feeding her two huskies a raw products diet, said she “easily spends about $250 a month on raw products.” By comparison, two large dogs fed commercial dry food can cost as little as $20 per month (Walmart) or closer to $45 per month for higher grade food available from specialty pet stores.

In conclusion, while raw foods may provide a balanced meal nutritionally for your dog or cat and be almost as easy to feed as commercial dry foods, you must evaluate for yourself if the cost is worth the difference in nutrition and feeding ease. It may come down to what food your pet enjoys and whether they have special digestive issues that may be corrected by a raw food diet.