If your dog’s a heavy shedder, and you’ve been looking at different ways to manage it, you may have come across the idea of switching your dog’s food to the raw diet.
But does this actually work?
Raw canine diets will not eliminate shedding entirely, but if your dog is allergic to processed ingredients in their food, then allergy-related shedding may lessen with a raw diet since it’s natural and organic.
If you want to learn more about the raw diet and whether it’s the right choice for your canine companion, keep reading. In this article, I’ll discuss the components of the raw diet, how it can help with shedding, and how much raw food dogs can eat.
What Is a Raw Diet and Why Does It Reduce Shedding?
Although the word “raw” can have scary connotations, that’s not the case here. A raw diet is free of processed ingredients. As such, it’s usually organic.
The raw diet has become very popular for people, so it’s not surprising that dog owners have decided to put their four-legged friends on their own version of this diet.
Dogs on the raw diet will ingest a combination of foods such as yogurt (or another dairy source), canine-safe veggies and fruits, raw eggs, ground or whole bone, muscle meat, and organ meat.
You can buy raw dog food at the grocery store or the pet store. You can also make it yourself at home if you’re so inclined. The food will be fresher, as some store-bought raw food is often dehydrated or freeze-dried to preserve its shelf life.
Raw dog food is not necessarily a mishmash of ingredients. Commercial raw food is compacted into bite-sized kibble that your dog eats the same way they do their processed kibble.
So why does the raw diet reduce shedding in dogs?
Three words: no processed ingredients.
Mid-quality and low-quality dog food are full of filler and preservatives. If you see ingredients like corn gluten meal or ground yellow corn after the main ingredient like salmon or chicken, then the dog food has filler.
You can’t necessarily rely on the food label to determine whether the dog food is filler and preservative-free. According to PetMD, certain labeling terms are unregulated, including “natural and “all natural.”
The only way to know what’s in a bag of dog food is to read the ingredients.
Filler is empty calories, but more so, all those corn-based ingredients can lead to allergy symptoms in canines. If your pup has a food allergy, some symptoms that can occur are itchiness and dry skin.
Dry skin alone can cause shedding. When you add incessant scratching on top of it, your dog is only exacerbating their rate of shedding.
Determining which processed ingredient is the main allergy culprit requires an elimination diet as approved by your vet. One by one, you’d remove ingredients to learn which one(s) your dog can tolerate. Avoiding allergy-triggering food(s) is the best treatment for food allergies in canines.
On the raw diet, your four-legged friend will stop eating filler and processed ingredients, which could make allergy-related shedding a thing of the past.
How Much Raw Food Is Safe for Dogs?
Although you’re eliminating allergens from your dog’s diet when you switch them to raw foods, too much of a good thing can quickly become a bad thing.
That’s why, according to some experts, the amount of raw food you should feed your dog daily should only be around two to three percent of their body weight.
To calculate this, you can multiply their weight by a certain value.
If your dog is incredibly active and needs to gain weight, then the number is .03. If your dog is moderately active and you want to maintain its weight, multiply by .025. For inactive dogs who could stand to lose a few pounds, the number to multiply by is .02.
For example, let’s say you have a Shetland Sheepdog, which is an incredibly heavy shedder. And let’s assume its moderately active.
The Shetland Sheepdog typically weighs up to 27 pounds for both adult males and females, so you’d multiply their weight by .025 and then feed them that quantity of raw food per day.
Of course, this is just a general guide. You should always check with a qualified veterinarian before making any changes at all to your dog’s diet.
Keep in mind, too, that your dog doesn’t need to eat the full quantity of raw dog food in one meal. Dividing the food among two or even three meals is generally considered best.
And if the quantity of raw dog food seems like too much to you even if you measure it out correctly, it’s perfectly fine to give your dog less.
The American Kennel Club shares guidance from the American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA, which “opposes the unregulated feeding of raw foods and discourages ‘the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens, because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs, as well as humans.”
So if you decided to make raw pet food at home, then the onus to remove those pathogens is on you. Should you buy raw dog food, research the manufacturer’s sanitation processes.
If you want to learn more about the risks associated with raw food diets for pets, it might be worth checking out this article about raw food on the FDA website.
Alternative Diets and Natural Supplements for Less Shedding
If you’d rather not feed your dog raw ingredients, that’s not the only dietary option that can reduce shedding.
One thing you can do is start being more selective about the quality of your dog’s food. When you buy higher-quality meals, the rate of nutrient absorption is faster.
Your dog might also be able to process and digest these ingredients easily, something that cannot always be said of the raw diet.
This keeps your dog healthy, which will, in turn, maintain the health of their skin and coat. You might notice that your dog begins shedding less.
Higher-quality food is generally going to cost more than the cheap stuff, but knowing that your dog isn’t eating filler or processed ingredients is priceless.
See our guide to the best dog foods for shedding to learn more.
You can also introduce supplements into your dog’s diet. One of the best supplements by far is fish oil, which contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The latter fatty acid is good for your dog’s health, but it’s omega-3s especially that can help control shedding.
And it does this by keeping your dog’s coat and skin healthy. Omega-3s can also reduce inflammation and encourage healthy development in canines.
You might also consider virgin coconut oil, especially if your dog has dry skin. The medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs in coconut oil can promote healthy digestion and soothe inflamed skin.
If you’re thinking of starting your dog on a different diet such as the raw diet or new dog food, or if you want to begin incorporating supplements, I’d recommend seeing your vet first.
Modifying your dog’s diet is not all that can reduce their shedding, there are some other effective ways to reduce shedding, some of which are very simple and inexpensive to implement.
For example, regularly grooming your dog can loosen up dead hair before it comes off your dog and floats throughout the house.
If your dog sheds only moderately, then brushing them a few times a week should be enough to control the fuzz. Yet if your pup is a very heavy shedder, you should brush them daily or every other day.
The raw diet for dogs is full of organic fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy. Since these ingredients are unprocessed and filler-free, raw foods shouldn’t cause allergy-related dry skin and itchiness in your dog. Which, in turn, can help reduce their rate of shedding.
No dog food or supplement can completely stop shedding, but through a combination of a healthy, balanced diet and consistent grooming, you should notice marked improvements in how much your dog sheds.
In conclusion, it’s worth restating that you should always visit your veterinarian before your dog starts a supplement regimen or eats a new diet such as the raw diet.
Your vet can tell you how much raw food is appropriate for your dog according to its size so you can naturally and safely reduce your dog’s shedding for a long time to come!