It is hard to pick a place to start when it comes to the benefits of raw, however, as many animals live their lives through their noses and mouths, we shall start there.
Ever notice when you open that bag of kibble, it has that smell? It’s not discernible, or necessarily describable, but we associate it with kibble. It’s strange how we are accepting of this product when we generally judge a lot of our food based on smell. We want everything to have a pleasant smell; crackers, sweets, etc, but we expect our companion animals, who can smell so much more information from food and life, to be tolerant of these brown pebbles in their bowl. I know, you’re saying “But my pet loves their kibble! They run over and gobble it right up!” and yes some pets do love their kibble, but at the base of any quality kibble is meat, and an animal will not let themselves starve.
While the concept of raw meat smelling appealing to us is strange, it isn’t for our pets; they are designed to find such things enticing. I’m sure everyone, at some point in time, has caught their pet eyeing up that steak on the counter while the pan was heating, some may have been audacious enough to walk right up and help themselves. Consuming meat in such a state would, for many of us, mean an unfortunate bout of food poisoning, but our pets were built for this. This is where their bodies thrive and can maximize the absorption of nutrients from their food. Both dogs and cats have short and acidic digestive tracts, ready to handle any potentially harmful bacteria from their diets, as opposed to our digestive tracts, which are quite long and allow for harmful bacteria to take hold and multiply.
The main difference between the meat (protein) found in your pet’s kibble, and the meat in a raw diet, is heat. The protein sources found in kibble have been cooked at high temperatures (upwards of 356°F/180°C), at least twice in the process before your pet consumes the final product. This process of heating and cooking degrades, and destroys, a lot of the natural nutrients found in the meat, and other ingredients. Whereas, in a raw diet, there is no heat applied in the production process, which allows the protein and other ingredients to maintain their natural nutritional integrity.
Another important factor in the creation of kibble is the addition of carbohydrates. Without those added starches, the kibble would not be able to maintain its shape. It is very much the same in baking when the butter (fat) has been blended with the eggs(protein) before adding in the flour. Without the addition of those carbohydrates (flour), that mixture would not be able to maintain any formed shape. And much the same way eating large amounts of baking is not healthy for us in the long run, consuming kibble is not healthy for our pets in the long run either. Humans have the benefit of producing salivary amylase in our mouths, an important enzyme to break down carbohydrates, to start dismantling these starches before they enter our digestive system. Whereas our dogs and cats do not produce this enzyme, and therefore struggle to break down and absorb carbohydrates.
Digesting kibble is very demanding on the bodies of our pets without the proper enzymes. It takes a lot of moisture, and energy, from their system to hydrate and separate that food into particles their bodies can use. This continual strain on the system, over time, can lead to issues such as diabetes in both cats and dogs, urinary concerns in cats, and early depletion of the body’s natural stores of nutrients.
When our pets are fed a raw, and biologically appropriate diet, their digestive systems do not struggle to break down the food for nutrients. Their gut system contains the appropriate bacteria to distill and utilize the nutrients found in their diet. Moreover, feeding a variety of proteins can help increase, diversify, and strengthen the beneficial bacteria found in their gut system, as well as increase the acidity of the digestive tract. In addition to the beneficial bacteria, the high moisture content allows our pets to maintain a healthy level of hydration, which is important for those who are not naturally big drinkers.
Being presented with an unaltered (by heat) diet allows the body to recognize those protein structures as they were intended, and respond accordingly. Many times when our pet presents an allergy, or intolerance, to a protein while on a kibble diet, they do not show the same reaction when fed the raw equivalent. Simply because their bodies understand the raw, uncooked protein structures in their natural state, over the cooked proteins in kibble.
That being said, more and more pets today appear to be allergic to everything. This is, in my opinion, largely associated with pedigrees being fed sub-par foods and over-breeding; our pets are not being set up for genetic success. While we cannot undo what has been bred into them, we can only work with it. Beyond the flavour, raw food helps pets thrive the way nature intended.