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Let’s explore Commercial Raw Food for Dogs

primal pet food raw food for dogsCommercial raw food for dogs is a new category in the market in Singapore. So I’m pretty happy to find out more about it.

And because Earnest Mutts Online Store very, very, very generously sent Donna a box of goodies recently, I’m happy to mention them in this post here.

Now if you have been reading this blog. You will know that Donna eats a mix of canned and dry food. And sometimes, she eats fresh cooked meat for training treats,  which can amount to quite a fair portion because we train positive.

Pssst… check out my new review on 5 freeze dried raw dog food brands – Primal, K9 Natural, Northwest Naturals, Stewart Pet,and Stella and Chewy’s here.

So what do I know about Raw to write this post?

The answer – I know some things. And I know nothing.

I know nothing. I am not a homemade raw food feeder. So I don’t have the first hand experience.

I know some things. I have done my fair share of reading. I’ve also read the comprehensive how-to guides, links and meddled with the spreadsheets that the raw community has so kindly compiled and made available for people interested in the topic. The information overload can be overwhelming. But personally, I find that if you find the supportive groups who take the time and effort to compile the resources in a readable format, it makes it much more easier for people to start.

I have read enough in the last two years to know there can be misinformation or contradictory information. It is to be expected considering raw feeders on various social platforms – facebook groups, bloggers, forums, etc – are people with varying knowledge of raw feeding, but all are very helpful to impart what they know, whether it is factual, verified or personal opinion. :P

As a result, there is a lot of anecdotal information and authority based on experience in raw feeding. And maybe not so many evidence, citations and factual references available where it comes to raw feeding. This post is interesting since it examines the contradiction in one of the more common advice found online:

The Usual Advice
Scanning the top holistic and raw feeding groups and forums, one will find the same advice and explanation listed time and time again. A search of “switching from kibble to raw” on the Dogs Naturally website brings up the follow information:
“I recommend you feed dry or canned food separately from dehydrated or raw meals because they digest at different rates.” (1)
… Does raw really digest faster than kibble? We posted a thread asking the members of The Raw Feeding Community how long it takes kibble to digest, and received some interesting, although extremely inconsistent, answers. Some claimed kibble took as little as 2 to 3 hours to digest, yet there were a surprising amount of answers that claimed kibble took as much as 16 to 18 hours!
… Many people have successfully fed raw and kibble together for years without issue. In fact, feeding raw and kibble together is very common for sled dog teams (here is a cool video of what an Iditarod sled team is fed during the race). It seems to be only relatively recent advise to avoid this kind of feeding.
– Read this page to learn more about their test on a dog: Digest this: Kibble may actually digest faster than raw

Basically, all this means is with all the noise that’s going on, I don’t have enough compelling reason to take that step into home-made raw.

A three month trial with no side effects cannot be conclusive that raw feeding without the advice of a nutritionist is not proof of the diet doing the dog any harm or good in the long term. I assume this is true simply from the fact that dogs can subsist comfortably on a diet of only one protein and one gluten-free carbohydrate for 3 months for detection of allergies. :P

So generally, raw feeding like other forms of food for dogs, can be balanced and complete. But it is recommended that any home-made diet, like commercial diets, be planned with the help of a nutritionist or be executed with an appropriate recipe.

Donna is doing great on commercial food, so why change something that isn’t broken. And of course, there are only so many hours in a day/week, making home-made food consistently for Donna will just never really be a priority for me.

Which is why, if I ever switch Donna from kibble and canned to and/or raw, I would be switching to commercial raw/dehydrated.

commercial raw food for dogs primal pet foods honest kitchen

Simply because commercial food – kibble, canned, raw, dehydrated – has at least been formulated by nutritionists according to established AAFCO nutrient profiles so that all their essential nutrient needs are met. All that without me having to:

  • look at spreadsheets to verify that Donna’s essential nutrient needs – proteins, fat, vitamins and minerals – are met,
  • source for affordable and trustworthy suppliers of at least four different protein sources. Verify the source of their meat, etc. If that were possible.
  • weigh and portion meat, organs, bones to ensure her essential nutrient needs are met
  • allocate non-existent storage space in the freezer for her raw food. We have a small galley kitchen and there was only one model of refrigerator that we could buy that will fit in that space. HAHAHA! omg…
  • buy supplements to ensure her essential nutrient needs are met, etc, etc.

No.

So if you are like me, just want to rely on the convenience of commercial dog food but want to at least have some form of evaluation of the available brands and products, I think we are on to a good start here. :)

 

Commercial Raw – Freeze dried, Frozen and Dehydrated Food

I’ve compiled selected products from the brands available in Singapore. I’ve picked mostly chicken and lamb formulas where available for a more fair comparison across two proteins.

Primal Pet Foods and K9 Natural are particularly popular here. Their products include freeze-dried raw food. Moisture is remove from the food while it is frozen. No heat is applied, so it is raw without the thaw. More on how freeze drying works.

primal pet food raw food for dogs

Stella and Chewy’s is also a well-regarded brand but not available locally is now available locally.

I’ve included dehydrated food. Technically speaking dehydrated food is not raw since dehydration involves blowing warm or hot air over the food to wick away the moisture. This means the food gets cooked. More on dehydrating food.

comparing commercial raw food for dogs

How do I read this table?

1/ Particular Dry and Canned food products can be comparable to Commercial Raw products on a Dry Matter basis
Well I guess if you lean towards Prey Model in raw feeding, it may be a logical inference that you may favour those brands that are high in Protein and Fat on a Dry Matter basis versus Carbohydrates and others, i.e. Stella and Chewy’s. HAHA!

The interesting thing is that, on a dry matter basis, Wellness Canned food is comparable to Stella and Chewy’s. So perhaps it seems, when it comes to evaluating commercial foods, that buying Raw, does not necessarily mean that you are definitely getting higher reported protein content that other types of commercial food cannot provide.

The canned food brands reviewed in my Dog Canned Food post do provide high levels of protein within the 30%-50% range on a dry matter basis.  And they can be comparable to the Raw food brands in the table above.

Certain dry food brands such as Orijen, Wellness and Canidae are also comparable to the Primal and K9 Natural brands, since they provide protein levels 30% to over 40% also. You can see the analysis of more dry food brands and products here.

Note that the above does not take into account overall digestibility or quality of dry/wet food versus freeze dried food. ;) We’re are just comparing nutrient levels on dry matter basis. How digestible a food is, is dependent on the level of fibre in the food, the quality of the ingredients, the production process and also the individual dog’s ability to process the food.  

 

2/ An overly high protein level is not necessarily beneficial for dog or cost efficient for human

The interesting thing about Protein is, I remember reading in Dog Food Logic a generic statement that dogs can comfortably manage protein levels up to 50%. You may know some dogs that actually cannot stomach overly high protein levels. I can call to mind at least one dog (facebook/instagram friend :P) who had such a problem.

In fact, the author, nutritionist Linda P. Case recommends for “hard-working dogs with higher dietary protein requirements” to choose a performance food that “contains between 28% and 32% protein and 18% and 22% fat, as reported on the label.”

Which interestingly enough, corresponds close to the food that is working for the 2 Brown Dawgs, who are hunting dogs. They are eating the Purina Pro Plan food that is in the table above.

If I were to heed the nutritionist, than most of the raw food in the table, in fact may not be very necessary for Donna. She is not a working dog. Hahaha :P

But the book also notes that a higher level of protein is beneficial to senior dogs. And since Donna is pushing that age in the next few years, I don’t think i will lower the existing levels of protein that she is doing well on. Neither will I be actively selecting foods with high protein levels that she has not been exposed to.

 

3/ Select Fat levels in line with the activity level of your dog
The other interesting nugget from that book for me is about Fat. Raw feeders talk about bones, meat and organs, but fat is an essential nutrient too.

Fat levels should be 16% or higher on the label for working dogs. When protein levels in a food is higher, typically the case for food that is designed for working dogs, it is recommended that the dog food companies raise the fat levels in the food correspondingly. This is because dogs burn fat more efficiently for their energy needs. Together with carbohydrates, they spare the protein for building and repairing cells, and other body functions like supporting the immune system.

For a house pet like Donna, a regular maintenance level of around 12% is common in commercial food brands. That is why I tend to avoid foods that show an abnormally low level of fat. In the table above, The Honest Kitchen Zeal food does raise questions for me.

Since fat also gives the dog more energy, providing “2.5 times more calories to the body than either a gram of protein or carbohydrate”, I also tend to avoid food that have fat level that is close to or in fact, higher than the protein level. e.g. K9 Natural freeze dried lamb. That will just mean I will have to exercise Donna more to burn it off and maintain her ideal weight. *oops*

So if you have an overweight couch potato, remember that 16% fat is recommended for active working dogs, so your couch potato probably needs food with fat levels less than 16% :P

 

4/ Given the limited brands and products for raw/dehydrated in the market, it would seem prudent to rotate between the different brands available.
Within the Commercial Raw food category, it does appear that the type of food may indicate the level of protein present. Freeze dried and Frozen Raw food as a group do seem to present higher protein levels than Dehydrated Food.

Given that I do subscribe to rotating brands and meat sources to gain the benefits of the different nutrient profiles of different brand formulas, I will have to say I don’t have a preference over the brand whether its Primal or K9 Natural. They each probably have their own stronger and weaker products if you were to analyse their guaranteed analysis, ingredients and product lines in terms of the variety of animal protein sources.

Just that cost-wise, they may not be as cost efficient as dry food, especially since they may be providing nutrient levels in excess of what Donna as a regular house pet needs. However, it is entirely possible to feed raw freeze dried products now and then as food treats, rather than the main meals.

Disclosure: Personally, I do not purchase K9 Natural because I, the human, have a contact allergy towards the food. It makes my hands itch when I handle the food, literally.

 

5/ Reap the benefits of feeding fresh meat without worry about imbalances in the diet
And while The Honest Kitchen products appear to provide lower levels of protein compared to the other freeze dried raw brands, it’s protein and fat levels appear closer to the levels recommended for regular maintenance. The food has been formulated to allow you to include fresh meat (raw or cooked) to the food without disturbing the balance of the food.  I really like that because, despite what I say about time and priorities, I like providing fresh boiled meat for Donna on a regular basis. So anything that makes it less effort for me is totally appreciated. So the Honest Kitchen option definitely works great for me. The company is also very reputable in terms of making sure information on the food is freely accessible, and that the food is human-grade and safe for dog.

the honest kitchen food at earnest mutts online store

 

6/ Refining Donna’s rotation of food to include products with better quality ingredients
Based on the results in the table, I have to say feeding Donna a mix of dry and canned food does not appear to be a bad approach so far in meeting her nutrient needs. My next step will be to evaluate based on the ingredients list to finalise the food – dry, canned, raw, dehydrated – that I would like to rotate in the next six months.

Despite the price difference, raw and dehydrated food does have its selling points. Particular products comprise organic ingredients, human-grade, free of antibiotics and/or hormones, etc. So there’s no harm looking to incorporate it now and then. Even though Donna does have access to fresh human-grade boiled meat, I have to admit that meat off the supermarket shelf or from the wet market often do not freely disclose details regarding antibiotics and hormones. :P

I also have not really looked at commercial food from the aspect of how energy or nutrient dense they are. Some food actually require you to feed the dog less quantity compared to others, that is not covered here. Because I like to use food as food treats for training purposes, being able to feed Donna less because a particularly food is energy or nutrient dense may or may not suit my purpose. At least that is where my mind is at the moment. I think I will have to form my own conclusions as I explore this aspect

All in all the study of dog food can be rather time consuming, but blogging about it makes sure that I do spend the time thinking about the topic. And that of course means that I continue to learn about it in greater depth.

 

Concluding our exploration of Commercial Raw Food

So there you have it, my very superficial thoughts on a pretty short table of dog food brands and products. It’s a starting point really, since I’m just exploring raw food at this stage. The points above indicate my thoughts based on information from the book Dog Food Logicas the baseline and starting point. As I said before, I just like to have some form of benchmarks or baseline from an authority to start from, so that how I evaluate the food can be logical within certain fixed parameters that is science backed and easily understood.

Before this, I really did not have any method of evaluation short of looking for food with higher protein levels at an affordable cost and agreeable ingredients list. :P

You may argue with the logic here, especially if you are really passionate about the dog eating based on the prey model or BARF. All I can say is, keep an open mind because all of us are still learning. And we do what we are comfortable with doing. One year or two years from now, maybe you and I will both be singing a different tune altogether based on further learning. Who knows? :P

See also All other posts on Dog Food by weliveinaflat ;)

 

The Honest Kitchen Giveaway by Earnest Mutts

So like I said, Earnest Mutts Online Store surprised me with a really nice box of quality products for Donna, including the Kong Satellite and Tenni Duo toys, this hefty box of The Honest Kitchen Thrive food …

the honest kitchen thrive food for dogs
I’m not smiling but my tail is happy :P

And a couple of The Honest Kitchen dehydrated treats. And I really appreciate that Donna gets to enjoy this great brand that is human grade.

the honest kitchen treats for dogs beams and wishes

And because Earnest Mutts is so generous to us, I would like to extend the same generosity to our readers! So since Donna received two boxes of treats from Earnest Mutts, I am happy to give out one of the boxes to a reader who would like to get it.

All you have to do is sign up for our totally ad-hoc and random newsletter and indicate your choice of the prize! Closing date: 19 June, 2015. Winner will be announced latest by 10 July (unless I fall sick or something. :P)

Update: This contest has ended.

Much thanks to Lucky the Yorkie’s human’s hand for helping with the draw :P

Last but not least, I will be consolidating all the dry, wet, dehydrated and raw dog food product data into one spreadsheet for easy reference and comparison. If you would like to see how the food you are feeding your dog compare to the others, leave a comment below about the brand and product name that you would like me to include in the spreadsheet.

 


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4 Comments

  1. Jo

    I just love how honest, open-minded and objective your posts are :) not to mention an enjoyable read! As you say, there is SO much information and personal opinion out there on nutrition for dogs, and it can be difficult to sort through it all. I look forward to seeing more results of your research and thoughts on this topic :)

  2. Great post once again, JX! Love how informative and balanced your posts always are. Especially loving the recent posts regarding food/allergies, very relatable, objective info for dog owners out there :) Looking forward to more!!

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