Raw vs cooked diets?

I admit to having a bias towards cooked home made diets over raw food for canines. I have this opinion for several reasons.

 

Many raw food advocates state the following reasons for feeding raw diets:

- Dogs should be fed like their wolf ancestors.

- Cooking destroys nutrients

- Raw food has enzymes which leads to better digestibility and availability of          nutrients.

 

I am not aware of any studies that have found there are benefits to feeding raw over gently cooked food. There are many claims that we should feed dogs based on what their ancestors wolves ate. But dogs are not wolves. Dogs have different DNA. (1). Wolves evolved into dogs when dogs started scavenging around our camps 14,700 - 36,000 years ago.(2). The wolves that were able to survive and reproduce eating from our scrap heaps (which would have included raw and cooked food) went on to evolve into dogs. I can see no proof that feeding the dog the same as a wolf provides optimum nutrition. They are different species. 

 

Another argument put forward against cooked diets is that cooking destroys nutrients. This is certainly the case in dry food, commercial diets. Dry foods are composed of ingredients that have sometimes already been processed. Then these ingredients are cooked at very high temperatures to ensure they have a long shelf life. Vitamins and minerals are added after this process to guarantee that the food complies with nutrient guidelines. This is not the case with foods cooked gently as in most home kitchens. There are nutrient differences between gently cooked food and raw food but they are minor in comparison. Some nutrients increase with cooking, some decrease with gentle cooking. I have an example below which shows the nutrient differences between cooked and raw beef. In fact cooked beef has higher nutrient values in every vitamin and mineral except calcium and vitamin B5. (source: USDA Nutrient Database)

 

Mineral composition of raw and cooked beef

 

Beef, ground, 95% lean meat / 5% fat, raw                 Beef, ground, 95% lean meat / 5% fat, patty, cooked,                                                                                                                                   pan-broiled

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                       

 

 

Vitamin composition of raw and cooked Beef

 

Beef, ground, 95% lean meat / 5% fat, raw                      Beef, ground, 95% lean meat / 5% fat, patty, cooked,                                                                                                                             pan-broiled

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                               

 

I think the tables above illustrate the point perfectly that there are minor nutrient differences between cooked and raw diets.

 

The last assumption I would like to dispute is that the enzymes in raw foods help to assist in digestion and this leads to increased availability of nutrients. These enzymes present naturally in raw food can certainly breakdown the food but this process can take days to weeks. Food is processed through the digestive tract in canines in 12 - 24 hours. The effect of the natural enzymes is miniscule compared to the digestion facilitated by the body's natural processes. 

 

As a vet, I seen many dogs doing well on raw foods. However, this is not the case for many of my patients. There is a proportion of these guys who cannot tolerate raw food. This will present as digestive upsets. A gradual transition to a balanced, home cooked diet sorts the issues out every time in my experience. 

 

A concern for a lot of vets is that there is potential for bacterial contamination in raw foods. They believe this contamination can result in severe gastrointestinal issues however in my experience this risk is small but occasionally can have large consequences. Bacterial contamination can result in haemorrhagic diarrhoea and occasionally death. Why take the risk when you can get the same benefits from home cooked diets?

 

There are very small nutritional differences between gently cooked diets and raw diets. There are small risks associated with raw food and occasionally dire consequences. In my mind balanced, home cooked diets win every time.

 

References

 

(1) The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet. Erik Axelsson, Abhirami Ratnakumar, Maja-Louise Arendt, Khurram Maqbool, Matthew T. Webster, Michele Perloski, Olof Liberg, Jon M. Arnemo, Åke Hedhammar & Kerstin Lindblad-Toh Nature volume 495, pages 360–364 (21 March 2013)

 

(2)  Germonpre, M. (2009). "Fossil dogs and wolves from Palaeolithic sites in Belgium, the Ukraine and Russia: Osteometry, ancient DNA and stable isotopes". Journal of Archaeological Science. 36 (2): 473–490.)

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