Raw vs. Cooked

This is the place to share your best homemade dog food and treat recipes with each other! Remember to use caution if your pet has allergies and to make any diet changes gradually so that your dog's stomach can adjust to the new foods you are introducing.

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Macho Mutt
Barked: Wed Nov 2, '11 12:41pm PST 
I'm just curious about the differences.. pros and cons of one vs. the other.

I recently started Aussie on raw due to allergies and decided to switch the other because of all the amazing changes I noticed in Aus. However, Aussie's fur sister isn't tolerating raw as well (she's always had a sensitive tummy) so I'm curious if she may tolerate cooked meals better. I did tons of research on raw before I switched but I haven't really read much about cooking meals for dogs. So I'm just curious, why did you all choose cooked over raw?

Thanks smile
Addy, CGC

Let's go for a- walk!
Barked: Wed Nov 2, '11 3:50pm PST 
Addy gets home-cooked, Honest Kitchen dehydrated raw, and a raw chicken wing a couple of times a week.

With a well-designed raw diet, you don't have to worry so much about supplements etc. because you're not cooking out of the food some of the more easily destroyed nutrients.

OTOH, cooked food is easier to digest. That's why humans adopted cooking before we were even homo sapiens: Both vegetation and animal parts that are not digestible raw, are digestible cooked. For primitive hunter-gatherers, and wolf proto-dogs when they started following humans around, it meant more food was available because things that otherwise weren't edible, became edible.

You've chosen raw, and most dogs do just fine on raw. Many do better or raw than they've ever done on anything else. They're better-designed for a raw, nearly-all-meat diet than we are. I'd ask the more experienced raw feeders and be sure you've done everything appropriate to get your girl adjusted to raw.

But if you've done that, well, not every dog does well with raw, and she might benefit by having her food cooked. If you decide to do that, you need to think about vitamins, calcium, etc. Consider using a pre-made commercial raw product or a high-quality kibble as part of her diet; it'll provide some insurance against not getting the supplement balance right.

The advantage, or one of the advantages, to either home-cooked or raw is that you get to choose the quality of the meat, and you know exactly what you're feeding. And you know what you're not feeding: all the stuff that's in pet food only to form it into kibble and to keep it shelf-stable for a commercially reasonable period of time.

I'm triple- superior MAD- now!
Barked: Thu Nov 3, '11 6:19am PST 
Sassy ate cooked chicken and rice because she needed a low phosphorus diet due to kidney disease. The stuff was quite low in fiber and her poop was small and firm, much smaller than Wellness kibble poop and nearly as small as Max's although she got twice as many calories.

Her food was not complete unless I added a variety of vitamins and minerals as I needed to limit the ingredients to low phosphorus ones and throw away the water I cooked the meats in. If you chose wisely it is possible balance the diet to AAFCO or NRC levels with no supplements or you can use the same sort of variety you use when feeding raw, mostly red meat, a little fish and liver, etc.

Unless you throw cooking liquid away very few nutrients are lost due to cooking. It is best to cook as little as possible at the lowest heat possible which means simmering on the stove is probably best. I would always supplement taurine in a cooked diet as Max did have seizures when he was 2 years old and his vet heard an ominous heart rhythm once.

Sassy's food cost as much as Max's in spite of rice being cheaper than meat. I had to use chicken and throw away the bone and sometimes the skin so she ended up getting more meat than he did plus the rice plus the mineral and vitamin supplements to balance the diet to her needs.

Max does fabulously on raw. The only real change I saw from kibble to grainy cooked food was he gained a huge amount of unnecessary weight because I had a lousy scale. The cooked food kept the teeth cleaner than kibble which was a surprise.

One odd thing is he cannot digest cooked cartilage, it just churns around for a few days and then comes back out the same way it went in. The cooked liver and veggie cookies have some carrot in there, even though it was cooked til mushy and pureed I can still see it in his poop, he doesn't process veggies at all. I never see bits of bone in his poop. Guess he is a real carnivore!

If I had to put him on cooked food I would want to use 3/4 meat/egg/fish/organ and 1/4 fibrous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, zucchini rather than starches and I would keep the fat content as high as possible. He seems to need lots of fat and protein to maintain good body condition and has been having reactions to grains and even veggies. Here is my model diet.
http://www.b-naturals.com/newsletter/index.php/archive/low-gl ycemic/


Vaccine free- -Disease free- goes pawinpaw
Barked: Thu Nov 3, '11 8:44am PST 
I disagree about cooked food digesting easier. Maybe for homosapiens, but not dogs. Dogs have a short and fast GI tract in contrast to humans. The canines is designed best for raw meat, organs, and bones.

The catch is though that this design isn't best for raw vegetables, fruit and grains because those foods need a long, slow digestive tract. So regardless of raw feeder or homecooker, those foods have to be cooked long and mashed to puree for any of the nutrition to get absorbed in the dog's body. If we have to do that much cooking and mashing, that says to me that a dog can not digest cooked foods easy. Plus you have to consider that alot of the nutrients will be lost through cooking.

All that said, homecooking can absolutely be a healthy diet too. With homecooking I found that a lot more variety and knowledge about the nutrients was required. I liked cooking a big batch and freezing, but I didn't like the work it took to balance correctly all the nutrients. Raw diet is easy for me because it's just a simple guideline (80/10/10) and feed a lot of parts. It comes down to what you feel best doing since almost all dogs are going to be doing better on homecooked or raw either one. The tummy troubles can take a couple months to resolve. Personally I would try things like probiotics or limited protein diet for sister before I threw in the raw towel.

I had switched from kibble to homecooking before raw. I chose homecooking because I really do enjoy cooking and didn't feel it was "less" than raw because I grow my own organic vegetables and fed the meat only lightly cooked.

Edited by author Thu Nov 3, '11 8:51am PST


Barked: Thu Nov 3, '11 9:46am PST 
I agree with Adam about cooked food but you don't have to cook the vegetables you just have to finely chop or grate them. Here is a website that explains why raw is better than cooked.


Edited by author Thu Nov 3, '11 9:47am PST


Pocket Wolf
Barked: Fri Nov 4, '11 2:11am PST 
scientifically speaking, raw is far easier to digest than cooked.

Humans have a longer GI tract, which makes it easier for bacteria like e.coli, salmonella and staph to breed, and these sorts of bacteria cannot breed quickly in a short GI tract like dogs and cats have. think about it. Dogs can't cook their own food. Dogs are natural scavengers and hunters of small animals. They are descended from Arabian wolves, so in the wild their natural prey is goat sized and smaller as well as whatever carrion, fruits, and root veggies they can scrounge. They are pretty firmly in the southern branch of grey wolves, although spitzes are an exception, being a blend of northern wolf and southern.

What this means, and it makes sense, is that they are pretty good at handling cooked food because they would be suited to eating sun-baked carrion. They would encounter stuff that was just a dose of salt short of jerky on a regular basis. Conservation of energy would dictate that carrion is easier to come across and eat than chasing down live prey.

Then humans come along, and they have been eating cooked meat for a while. Cooked meat is easier for humans to eat because our digestive systems are hybrid. One current theory is that we were all originally fruit and nut eaters, and then at a critical point in hominid history, there was a severe global drought that almost wiped out our species and we learned to survive by eating fish and shellfish exclusively. After that, and used to protein in the diet, we became hunters and became almost exclusively predatory for a while, before the advent of farming and settlement at which point we became more balanced in our diet between plants and animals. What this leaves on our structure is a body that is suited to eating fruits, nuts, and tender leaves and shoots, but a society that values and understands the need for meat as a quick and useful source of energy.

Proteins are naturally elastic. think about a muscle. it has to expand and contract while maintaining its basic structure. Cooking animal protein stiffens that elasticity so that it can no longer do that. It changes the structure of the protein to a form that is not bioavailable. What our body does with cooked meat is it has to sort through all of the cooked and denatured protein in the cooked food to find that small amount that is still intact before it moves its way out of the intestine.

In other words, cooking slows down our body's ability to readily access usable protein. This is important to humans because our intestines are meant to handle tender leaves, tender shoots, fruits, seeds, and maybe insects. By slowing down the bioavailability of protein, cooking meat simulates the bioavailability of protein in fruit, seeds, and tender vegetables.

Plants present a different problem. the same protein that is in animals is also in plants. the problem is that the protein is essentially trapped by cellulose, complex carbs, and a polymer of fructose called insoluble fiber. Herbivores have long guts and/or bacterial flora that can break down this stuff. Omnivorous humans and carnivorous dogs do not have this. Omnivorous humans have salivary amylaze, an enzyme that can break down starch. Dogs have amylase too, but farther down in the digestive process. Humans have boxy teeth to facilitate the grinding of tough substances, dogs have teeth designed to shear muscle and break bone. Humans and dogs both benefit from cooked vegetables because for humans and dogs it breaks down the tough fibers that we can't digest, for dogs, they need the vegetable and fruit matter to be almost pulped before they can benefit from the proteins and the vitamins that are in them. Unfortunately, that very process of freeing the proteins for bioavailability through cooking the vegetables destroys the very nutrients we are trying to free. Humans don't need to have their vegetables quite that cooked. Our gut like a happy medium, broken down just enough so that they are tender. For dogs, it's probably better to just pass unless it's a special treat. certain veggies like carrots taste sweet and all mammals except cats are programmed to crave salt, fat, and sweet. Only Cats as a taxonomic family can't taste sweetness, so they are a slight exception. Dogs can taste sweetness, so they are no exception.

So back to the evolution story; humans come along and meet up with wolves, already knowing how to cook these proteins. funny how cooked proteins are similar to sun-baked carrion. It is good for the wolf, and it feeds him well. Sun-baked carrion would have been a staple of the arabian wolf diet. To such a wolf, the raw protein works better, but it takes a lot of energy to chase raw food down in the heat of the desert. Fortunately by co-opting humans, they can can get fresh food on demand. Suddenly both raw food and sun-baked/cooked food costs the same energy to acquire.

So, following conservation of energy, the highest value(in terms of protein, fat, salt, sugar, other nutrients) food it can digest for the smallest amount of energy is the preferable diet for the animal. In the case of dogs, their diet being split between high-value, high energy live prey and medium value low energy sun-baked carrion, on it's own the carrion is a more efficient option. When humans can hunt for them and drag back fresh carcasses, the raw meat will always be preferred, and both will be preferred to vegetables, no matter how well cooked.

Long story short, cooking makes food simulate the tender shoots and fruits that humans are built to eat, cooking food simulates the sun-baked carrion that arabian wolves eat as a staple, but not as a preferred source. Dogs, as descendants of those wolves can gladly eat cooked protein their whole lives, but raw is preferable, while humans can eat cooked meat all of their lives, but tender veggies, fruits and nuts are actually preferable as far as our guts are concerned.

I am the Sock- Bandit!!!
Barked: Fri Nov 4, '11 6:19am PST 
"In other words, cooking slows down our body's ability to readily access usable protein."

I've read exactly the opposite. Proponents of a macrobiotic, raw for humans diet will say this, but I'm not convinced the evidence is there. We're not Paleos anymore, haven't been for a good long while.

Why would humans have bothered cooking food in the first place if all that protein was so readily available in raw form? I don't think it was merely because it tasted better...

Very few nutrients are lost in the cooking process for humans and dogs, unless you boil it to death. That risk I've seen overstated a lot, especially in regard to the human digestive system. Those that are can be easily supplemented at this point. Particularly for animals that have special dietary needs or sensitive digestive systems, cooking can be a boost for their systems because digestion has a head start. Just for example, you should be very wary of feeding a human or a dog with a compromised immune system much in the way of raw food. That's not because raw food is so much easier to digest, the system has to be healthy enough to defend against the possibility of parasites, bacteria and other pathogens.

Yes, they can be present in cooked food, too, if it's not handled correctly; but cooking does inhibit the majority of that stuff.

Vaccine free- -Disease free- goes pawinpaw
Barked: Fri Nov 4, '11 8:27am PST 
Lucille and I've heard the opposite of "very few nutrients lost through cooking"!

Funny all the different opinions out there right? I've heard as much nutrients lost from vegetables just sitting on the shelf, and that's why buying frozen vegetables actually may be healthier.

Then some say freezing destroys nutrients! (but I don't agree with those who say that, possibly maybe vitamin E only) Nutrients are very easily denatured and destroyed through time or cooking, from the moment a vegetable is picked it can lose up to half it's nutrient value. (it's the enzymes in vegetables, the air, and cooking that does this) (maybe this link helps explain
http://chge.med.harvard.edu/programs/food/nutrition.html )

"Why would humans have bothered cooking food in the first place if all that protein was so readily available in raw form? I don't think it was merely because it tasted better"

This is my guess out of thinned air. Did human start cooking meat because of the religion? Almost all religion states, at the least, no eating the blood of mammals I believe? I think that was mainly because human got disease from raw meat.

I have also read the opposite about feeding dogs with compromised immune systems, that they will do better on raw even cancer dogs. The only issue there is not the normal bacteria on raw meat, but the strains that aren't normal, which can be on any food like fruit or cereal.

Beau, I'm not sure about noncooking vegetables, everything I read has said dogs need them cooked, but for that I didn't read any reliable source (unless Barf experts count?) just a word of mouth.

Edited by author Fri Nov 4, '11 8:38am PST


I'm triple- superior MAD- now!
Barked: Fri Nov 4, '11 9:43am PST 
I know Max doesn't do well with grains and am coming to the conclusion that veggies don't suit him well either, even cooked and pureed. Other dogs do better with veggies and grains whether cooked to a mush and pureed or raw pureed or just cooked well. Have to know your dog!

Dogs have a plastic DNA compared to a lot of species and individuals vary a great deal inside and out. It all comes down to observing your own animals and making small adjustments to the diet. What happens when this or that is eaten? Sometimes it will take a day to notice, sometimes months. I noticed Max's fur was better in a couple weeks but Sassy's anal sac health improvement wasn't noticed for several months.

Barked: Fri Nov 4, '11 10:46am PST 
Adam I give Beauregard raw vegetables and he doesn't have any problem with them. According to Beauregard's vet dog's teeth are not shaped for masticating vegetables and vegetables need to be gently processed so they can digest them. This is done by lightly steaming them or grating them or blending them into a mush. smile
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