Raw Feeding vs Kibble - Balance Schmalance

13 CommentsThursday, 27 July 2017  |  Kate

Over the past few weeks raw feeding has taken a real pasting. On TV, in the press, everyone has an opinion (including me, natch,) and I’ve learned to let most of it wash over me for the ill informed claptrap that it is. But one word which we keep getting bashed over the head with (with all the subtlety of Bugs Bunny wielding a cartoon hammer and creeping up on an unsuspecting Elmer Fudd) is ‘balance’.

Experts have been lecturing me about how crucial it is to feed a balanced diet to a dog, and I couldn’t agree with them more. Until the same hackneyed answer on how attain this balance - to feed a processed dog food, probably a kibble, forever, with no deviation, until your dog’s (or cat’s) dying day - issues forth and I’m back to throwing stuff at whichever piece of technology is spewing the information out at me.

Well no. I’m just not having it. 

Granted there are some good wet pet foods out there, you could even argue a couple of dried foods (high meat, low carb content, no added rubbish) may even make the grade but to me these are occasional things. Convenience, treats, like a takeaway on a Saturday night. They do not form the lifelong bedrock of my dog’s diet.

To understand why this bilge keeps rearing it’s mangy little head let’s look at how it happens in the first place.

The Expert’s Dilemma

I understand why the experts talk the way they do. No 1: their background is more than likely in the pet food or veterinary industry and their nutritional knowledge has been underpinned by kibble, the dried dog food which has been the mainstay of the commercial pet food market now for decades. No 2: no one wants to go on television in an expert capacity and start talking about anecdotal evidence. It matters not that dogs are throwing off the shackles of poor health and long term medication regimes simply by changing from kibble to raw feeding, if it won’t stand up in court no one’s going to stick their neck out and say it.

The Editor’s Dilemma

While the results of changing from kibble to raw are out there for all to see: better health, weight loss, coming off long term medication, a longer lifespan, it’s very hard for the editor of a programme, newspaper or newsite to put anyone with that opinion up on screen. Because the peer reviewed evidence just isn’t there to back it up. So no matter what you think of the presenter or expert remember that Editorial Policy, or the broadcaster’s legal team is in the background giving the final say so.

The only people you will ever hear speaking about raw feeding, unless you’re really lucky, in a media capacity will be dog owners themselves.

The Well Trodden Path

So the experts and editors rely on peer reviewed evidence, which they then interpret. The problem is that any peer reviewed evidence will result from a funded study, often commissioned by a large pet food company. Studies cost a lot of money, and we should definitely be asking questions about safety, efficacy and nutrition so more power to their elbow. But because they cost small fortune from a business perspective you’re only going to commission a study or piece of research if your cost/benefit analysis stacks up. I.e. ‘If I can test X I’ll hopefully prove Y so it’s worth the £500k outlay for the return in profits (Z) because I can state it in my marketing’ Total business sense. But many food producers simply cannot do this.

So what you’re left with is a pet food made to a specification laid down in guidelines generated from peer reviewed research which everyone can get behind.

But because of the way kibble is made you can’t attain that ‘completeness’ using food alone.
To make a dry dog food you must add a pack of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, trace elements at the end of cooking (because to do so beforehand would destroy them, along with much of the nutrition in the raw ingredients) to be legally allowed to call it a complete food.

Except it isn’t.

Garbage In Garbage Out
More than likely there will be way too much carbohydrate present in that bag of kibble you dole out every day, probably in three or four ingredients. So even if the first ingredient says ‘Lamb 26%’ what comes after ‘maize, oats, pea starch’ for example can easily account for over 50% of the recipe.

So you end up with a dog suffering from a yeasty gut, plagued with smelly ears, itchy skin and general misery because this food was manufactured under a set of guidelines laid down with the intention of making sure every dog gets the nutrition they need based on the assumption that this is the only food you will ever feed your dog.

I am exhausted with it all. This is not balance. And this message of ‘feed your dog a processed dog food’ might as well finish with ‘or else!’ Or else your dog will suffer, he won’t be getting the right nutrition because, frankly you can’t be trusted to work it out for yourself.

The Missing Ingredients

And another thing! That daily bowl of kibbley ‘goodness’ is sorely lacking in the other essentials of life: There is no joy, no enjoyment and no love in there.  No texture or taste sensations, no anticipation or satisfaction. Just a joyless, loveless, predictable, barren wasteland of brown, shapeless biscuits. It’s enough to make a dog slink off into a corner for a good cry.

Feeding Raw Is Balanced

Anyhow, if you want to feed a complete raw food you can, you don’t have to go DIY, no one’s demanding you knit your own yoghurt or anything.  It’s a cinch to swap over and retain that ‘balance’ everyone’s blathering on about like it’s as elusive as the ark of the covenant in Indiana Jones.

If you want to go raw buy it already made. Because the likes of Natural Instinct and Natures Menu are obliged to follow the same guidelines as any other pet food manufacturer; the food must be complete and balanced. Only raw food producers don’t have to add nutrition in after cooking because there isn’t any cooking to destroy it in the first place. All the vitamins, minerals, trace elements and amino acids found naturally in chicken, venison, tripe, blueberries and seaweed are all present and correct, in a far more stable and available form for your dog or cat.

Their body understands what’s coming down the chute and can utilise it far better. Not only that but the carbohydrate content is minimal by comparison so your pet is getting what he or she needs.

When it comes to cat food, in processed food taurine has to be added by law because cats can’t produce it themselves in the way we or our dogs can, they must retrieve it from meat. The EU standard is 0.9g per 100g of dry matter. Natural Instinct’s standard is 1.25g, over 30% higher so they don’t have to add any of that either (except in Country Banquet Fish), it’s there, naturally occurring, quietly going about it’s business.

So yes, the experts are correct, balance does matter but overprocessed dog food is not the answer. Variety is the key. Feed different meats, fish, veg and fruit. Chuck in some bone, go crazy and add sweet potato (you know you want to) and watch the pounds fall off your overweight dog, their eyes brighten and their skin cease to itch. Think of it as like giving up smoking. For every vet bill you save on put some money in the pot. Every time their medication gets reduced a little more chuck in another fiver. In six months time book yourself a cheeky weekend away with the money you’ve saved. The dog won’t mind, he’ll be too busy admiring his sleek new profile to notice you’ve absconded.

Because you’re all worth it.

Lorraine Fish
Sunday, 6 August 2017  |  11:32

I feed my dog raw food - have done for at least 3 of her 4 years. But she is plagued with itchy skin. I don't see any sore patches but she scratches a LOT! From what I understand it could be an allergic reaction to something. It certainly isn't her food, so what could it be? And what can I do for her? Thanks!

Monday, 14 August 2017  |  9:34

Hi Lorraine

She could be missing a good fish oil from her diet. Try Yumega Itchy Dog, you can get it here, add to food every day. It's very good for summer allergies and relieving the symptoms of hayfever.

Also, raw doesn't agree with everyone but the only way to find out is to take her off it and see if that helps. Otherwise try an elimination diet of raw to see if it's a protein, grain or veg that's the problem.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017  |  15:08

It could definitely be her food. Common dog allergies with food include chicken, beef and pork. This is because these are the proteins that dogs are usually commonly feed day in and day out. The thing to remember is that she could also be allergic to the veg or grains in her diet, dust mites, grass/pollen or anything really.

There are any number of things she could be reacting to and it might not be just one of them. It could be a low grade allergy of a few different things.

If you want to try with her food first you need to stick with a very basic diet with the exact same ingredients for at least 6 weeks. 6 weeks is roughly how long it takes for whatever is making her react to get out of her system.

I would also recommend that whatever protein you use should be a protein that she doesn't normally get such as goat, kangaroo, venison or something like that. If she is still itching by the end of the weeks you know then that it wasn't the protein. This is a very long process though.

Rachel Ireland
Tuesday, 8 August 2017  |  16:17

I read the book The Dog Diet after having a crisis of what to feed my food allergen ridden dog who was refusing to eat her veterinary prescribed elimination diet. I want to start feeding her a homemade diet as I have no room for a raw diet unless I get a premade bag (also she is super fussy and I have no doubt she would probably turn her nose up). The one thing that bothers me is trying to work out the amount to give her per day.

Monday, 14 August 2017  |  9:38

Hi Rachel

In the book you'll see the figure of feeding 2-3% of bodyweight per day.

So a 10kg dog needs 200-300g of food per day. I feed my 10kg dog 200g and that keeps her weight stable, your dog may need 3%.

The only way to tell is to start. Pick a % and feed that then monitor her weight. If it goes up feed less, down feed more. If you're looking to lose weight then you don't want to lose more than 5% of bodyweight per month. Nothing drastic!

I have a little set of Salter scales I use for cooking. I make batches of food then portion up and freeze.


Susie Donaldson
Wednesday, 8 November 2017  |  9:59

I started my dog on nature’s menu because I felt he got no pleasure from his food, his poos were sloppy, and he has been glhaving to have his anal glands unblocked (which he hates). He absolutely adores his new food, I defrost half in morning and half late afternoon and he sits staring at the bowl by the aga! Before, I would put down his dry dog food and he would ignore it until the middle of the night when pure hunger set in. However, since feeding him the new diet 8 days ago, he has begun scratching all the time. I gave him flea treatment to rule that out but he is still scratching. His poos are delightful but what should I do?

Wednesday, 8 November 2017  |  10:59

Hi Susie

Well done on the move, great news that he's happy on it. I would give Natures Menu a call on 0800 0183770 or email them customerservice@naturesmenu.co.uk and they will be able to help. They have a great vet and nutritionist who can help.

Susie Donaldson
Wednesday, 8 November 2017  |  11:09

Great thanks will give them a try. Is it you Kate by the way?! Susie

Thursday, 9 November 2017  |  10:28

Yes! Got your Facebook message.

Rachel Ireland
Sunday, 3 December 2017  |  19:34

Hi, my dog is being extremely fussy with her food. I slowly moved her from her kibble to wet food (nature's diet) after she became increasingly resistant to eating her kibble, even though I was rotating the flavours. She is doing the exact same thing now with her wet food. I moved her over to another brand just in case she just didn't like the brand I was giving her (always a high quality one).

Every meal is a battle now. I have added everything I can think of to tempt her into eating a full meal - carrots, ham, turkey, Brussel sprouts, cottage cheese, yoghurt. I have heated her food up and changed it from a bowl to a plate, tried different materials of bowls. I've stopped giving her treats, she only gets a chew in the morning. She gets a very small amount of food (50g) at meal times because other wise it's just wasted. She is otherwise happy and healthy. This has been going on for at least five months and the vet has checked her over and she hasn't lost weight. The only health complaint is her itchy skin due to allergies. I can't think of anything else to get her to eat on a regular basis.

Monday, 4 December 2017  |  9:26

Hi Rachel

I went through something similar with my dog. Then I realised I was making a rod for my own back and luckily found out what worked for her and we now stick to that, no matter what.

She gets fresh chicken mixed with good wet food, then I add Keepers Mix, Seaweed and Parsley and Billy No Mates to it.

It took me a while but that's what we've settled on and she's happy.

I'd get something you know she'll eat and stick to it, as long as you're getting a balance in there. If you're getting wet food in there too you will be.

Dogs aren't manipulators but they do like a routine so try that.


Naomi Pound
Monday, 4 December 2017  |  21:10

Hi Kate

I’d love to know what your top three dog food brands were. How do you rate Lily’s kitchen?


Tuesday, 5 December 2017  |  9:27

Hi Naomi

It depends what format you mean: Wet, dry, cold pressed or raw. I don't like dry food generally. For wet: Natures Menu, Feelwells, Forthglade, Nature Diet - all made in the UK, high quality ingredients, good proportion of ingredients and clearly labelled. But there are many others out there. I also like Meatlove even though it's made in Germany. I think Lily's is way too expensive.

For raw: Natural Instinct or Natures Menu.