Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Like its counterpart for humans, the Paleo Dog Diet is a natural diet that is appropriate to the species and contains the fewest possible processed, synthetic, and chemical ingredients. The basic Paleo Dog Diet is grain- and gluten-free, and includes fresh meat and bones (including poultry, organ meat, seafood, and eggs); fresh, non-starchy vegetables and fruits; omega-3 marine oil; probiotics and digestive enzymes; and vitamins, minerals, and supplements.
Why Feed Your Dog a Paleo Diet?
Raw food is what wild canines have eaten for millions of years. It’s only in the past 60 years or so that commercial dog food became the sole diet for many dogs. As a vet, I’ve heard and seen hundreds of stories about pets’ skin diseases, allergies, autoimmune diseases, seizures, dental problems, cancer, and other conditions-from annoying to deadly-being resolved by a switch to a raw-meat-based diet.
Many veterinarians are absolutely against raw and homemade diets of any kind because they have seen animals that have become sick from improperly made homemade diets. But the most serious problems arise from feeding only raw meat or meaty bones as a substitute for commercial dog food. Dogs do need a diet based on raw meat, but must also receive supplements that provide all necessary nutrients, including calcium and other minerals, vitamins, healthy fats, enzymes, amino acids, and other trace nutrients.
Here are just a few benefits from a paleo diet done right:
- Better oral health. The textures in the Paleo Dog Diet will reduce plaque deposits. Raw meaty bones, ground into food or sized appropriately for your dog, work like a toothbrush, scrubbing, scraping, and even flossing the teeth.
- Better digestion. Meat and bones take more work to chew up than kibble does. This causes your dog to eat slowly and secrete more gastric juices so the food can be digested properly.
- Poop patrol becomes less unpleasant. Another bonus: no more flatulence!
- Shinier, healthier skin and coat. Say goodbye to doggie odor and dandruff, and hello to a healthy, glossy coat and normal skin. Dandruff stops, and hot spots start healing.
- Resolution of allergy symptoms. Raw meat is far more digestible than the processed proteins in commercial foods, and its normal proteins are better tolerated by dogs’ immune systems.
- Better performance. Working dogs, show dogs, and other high-performance dogs feel better because they are well nourished, and their bodies aren’t burdened by the additives in commercial pet food.
- Less inflammation. Pasture-raised and grass-fed meat, poultry, and eggs are leaner and contain healthier fats than corn-fed, factory-farmed products. They don’t contain traces of added growth hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs. There are fewer calories in grass-fed meat because it is lower in fat. It also contains two to four times more vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain-fed animals, as well as a beneficial omega-6 fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is anti-inflammatory.
- Anti-aging. The omega-3s in pasture-fed meat and eggs have anti-aging potential. Omega-3s may prevent the shortening of telomeres, the “caps” on the ends of chromosomes. The shortening of telomeres over time is thought to be involved in degeneration and aging.
- Low food bills. While there are some unavoidable startup costs when you first convert your dog to a paleo diet, analyses have found that ongoing costs are comparable to feeding your dog premium dog food.
- More love. The loving connection and bond between you and your dog will likely strengthen as your dog observes the daily ritual of food preparation. This loving act on your part becomes a very real ingredient in the diet as your dog anticipates what you have prepared. You both benefit from this exchange on an emotional and spiritual level.
If you’re just starting your dog on raw food, it’s best to make a gradual switch, even if your dog loves the new food (and especially if your dog doesn’t!). An abrupt change in diet can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and general unwellness. These foods are so different that it will take your dog’s system some time to acclimate. Start with no more than 25 percent new food, then 50 percent new and 50 percent old, then 75 percent new and 25 percent old. Detailed everyday Paleo Dog Diet guidelines and recipes are included in my book Paleo Dog.