When it comes to feeding your Border Collie you probably want what’s best for your four-legged friend. You may have even heard about the concept of feeding raw food for pets down at the dog park as popularity has grown substantially over the last decade. Is raw food good for Border Collies, and what are the pros and cons?
The amount of information available on the subject can be overwhelming. When we first heard about raw food we wondered if it would be ideal for our Border Collie. After all, if there was something even better that we could provide for our dog wasn’t this something we should look into?
After doing a little research, we were more than a little bewildered by the variety of forums and discussion on this hot topic. There are passionate groups on both sides of the fence, but what is important to remember is that every dog is different. And only you and your dog will know what works best for them.
Read on to find out more about our journey into the world of feeding raw food.
A very brief history of raw food for dogs
Up until the ‘90s most conscientious pet owners provided their dogs ‘complete’ dog foods be it wet or dry that for the most part were manufactured by a few big name companies.
There were also ‘veterinary brands’ which some took to assume were professionally approved and therefore better. They had things like ‘science’ in their names and were always lined up on the shelves when you went on a trip to the vet. Surely they were the best we could offer our pets.
However, many of these commercial options can also be highly processed. A movement began with the introduction of the concept of the BARF diet (we know, sounds bad, but stick with us). BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or alternatively Bones and Raw Food.
This raw food movement gained momentum as a more natural and holistic approach to feeding our domestic dogs. By providing them with food that mimicked what they would have eaten in the wild like their ancestors, owners and breeders began to note that many conditions seemed to dissipate, and that vitality seemed renewed.
Read more about the history of dog food here, it’s actually quite interesting!
What does a raw food diet actually look like?
When considering making the switch, we wanted to dig deep to really know if feeding raw food was good for our Border Collie. So what does a raw food diet look like?
For starters, it’s a diet high in protein, with moderate fat, and minimal grains or carbohydrates. This means a raw diet includes:
- Muscle meat
- Raw meaty bones
- Organ meat
- Fruits and vegetables
There are two ways to proceed with a raw food diet for your Border Collie, and that includes buying Commercially Prepared Frozen, or Home Prepared.
A commercially made frozen option is how many people choose to embark on this type of feeding because it takes the guesswork out of ensuring a balanced and complete diet.
Then there are the home prepared diets which is probably best for enthusiastic dog owners (who don’t mind getting their hands a little dirty!) and doing their homework on recipes. There are many resources online that can help if you choose this option.
What’s more, this type of diet does allow for customising for certain health conditions and allergens, as well as the all-important quality control.
The choices are endless, but as we will see in a moment there are pros and cons to taking on this type of raw food feeding regime. Is raw food good for feeding your Border Collie?
Claimed benefits of raw food for Border Collies
No doubt about it, anecdotal evidence suggests that there are a number of health benefits to feeding raw food to Border Collies.
High on the list of claimed benefits are things such as shinier coats, more compact stools, improved hydration (vs.dry kibble), healthier gut flora, and reduced stress on those kidneys. There is also an argument that feeding a raw food diet is beneficial for dog teeth and general oral health.
We would also propose an oft-missed benefit that many may not have considered. Yes, the choice to feed raw whether homemade or frozen is more costly. But advocates for this diet suggest that choosing cheaper off the shelf dry and wet commercial food is a false economy.
Choosing raw food for your Border Collie could mean less health problems long term so trips to the vet and medical bills could potentially be minimised. If your dog is consuming a balanced preservative-free food full of proteins and vegetables unaltered by heat processing they get the full potential out of these elements. They get all the good enzymes and nutrients available which may not always be the case for meat that has been heat processed.
Ingredient control and customisation
If your Border Collie already has an existing condition or allergy, you can be in total control of what goes into your pet. At least at home…maybe less so at the dog park or on a day out at the beach! This customisation is perfect if you’re worried about your Border Collie’s weight, or want to fine-tune their diet.
If you home prepare you can add in whatever supplementation is best suited to your dogs needs. You can supplement them as your knowledge of the ‘extras’ to add to home recipes grows. And you can use a variety of healthy fruit and veg pulp to the meal to keep flavour interesting and varied.
We strongly recommend talking to your vet before making any dietary changes for your dog. Dogs with existing medical conditions may not be able to switch to a raw diet. Always seek advice from a pet professional.
Disadvantages of raw food for Border Collies
Preparation time and Storage
This may sound a bit silly, but you absolutely need to consider how much time you are able to devote to a raw food diet for your Border Collie yourself! And if you aren’t there, will your petsitter or kennel be prepared to step up?
This was a much bigger eye-opener than we expected when we looked into feeding raw food for our Border Collie.
For most, the most sensible option to dip your toes into the world of feeding raw is to try commercially frozen brands. The number of brands have proliferated in recent years thanks to the many who have decided to try feeding raw, so there should be something to suit your budget to get started.
Considerations for frozen include:
- Freezer space (do you have enough to spare for your dog’s food supply or will you have to order frequently in smaller batches?)
- Refrigerator space (again, you need a dedicated space in the fridge to defrost a suitable amount for the day’s feeds)
- The implication the two factors listed above have on a multiple dog household!
For the folks who plan on home preparation, you will need to devote time to buying enough supplies to prepare in batches that work for your schedule and that are nutritionally complete. If you’re starting out we would recommend using recipes that have been evaluated online as balanced recipes.
You can then freeze batches, but the same considerations apply as for commercially frozen option – space for storage.
Avoiding bacterial contamination
Having a constant supply of raw meat around the kitchen and your fridge means hygiene has to be top notch. The frequent washing of dog food bowls and their surrounding eating areas is paramount and they must be kept clean and sanitised.
The reality is that the risk of bacteria-borne illness is greater for the people in a raw feeding household.
Salmonella and E.Coli are the most common contaminants that could disrupt your own delicate human digestive tract, and to a lesser degree your dog. If you have anyone high risk (both human or canine) in the household such as the very elderly, very young or a compromised immunity this should be carefully considered.
The cost of feeding raw is indeed higher, but as pointed out earlier, you could be spending less in the long run with vet bills and medication if your dog adapts to and thrives on a raw food diet.
With so many raw food pet food brands on the market nowadays, there is something out there for just about any budget. So if you do your homework and are determined to make the switch you should be able to find something suitable.
So, is raw food good for your Border Collie? We’ve weighed up some of the most commonly discussed pros and cons for you to decide. If you have decided that you want to give it a try, how do you go about transitioning to a raw food diet both practically and safely?
Potential nutritional imbalances
Just as one of the pros of raw food is the fact that you can have complete customisation of your border collies diet, so too can this present an issue.
If you opt to create your own raw food recipes, then you may also find that you’re accidentally overfeeding, or underfeeding, for a particular food group. This could, over time, cause nutritional imbalances to emerge. For example, it may be that you end up providing your pooch with too much protein and not enough in the way of veg-based vitamins. That’s why we would recommend buying complete meals from a company – they’ve done the hard work for you!
Pros and Cons of Raw Food Comparison Chart
How to transition to a raw food diet
There are two ways to make the move to feeding your Border Collie a raw food diet.
The Rapid Switch is usually very acceptable for young healthy dogs and mature puppies. There are calculators online for how much to feed, but it’s generally 2-3% of your dog’s healthy weight.
By rapid, we do mean overnight! If you fed your dog kibble or canned the day before, you simply switch straight over to raw the next day.
The alternative is the Gradual Switch, which is introducing one feed of raw, and the next feed their usual food. This can take a transition period from 3 days to even a few weeks before you go completely raw.
An important mention at this point to note is that you should keep their usual food and raw food meals separate. It’s a no-no to mix them together as they are digested at quite different rates. That’s a one way ticket to tummy trouble we can recommend avoiding!
Something to consider with both methods is using only one protein source for a week at a time so you can see what your Border Collie finds most palatable and accepts easily. It can also help identify allergies which is an added bonus.
Another great idea is to keep a diary of what you’ve fed, how much, as well as the results out in the yard when they eliminate. It can be really helpful when it comes to deciphering any transition dietary blips or gastro issues. If stools become loose reduce the percentage of raw until they firm up and then continue the process.
By sticking to one main source of protein for a week before switching to the next one for at least four weeks you will gently introduce a variety of sources that can be worked in more frequent rotation in future.
Now that we have covered the main points to consider when it comes to feeding raw, is raw food a good choice for your Border Collie? Is it something you’re thinking of trying?
The pros and cons are clear, and the camps on both sides of the fence will argue that the benefits outweigh the risks (or vice versa). But ultimately this is entirely up to you.
If you have the time and patience to choose raw food for your Border Collie, we think it’s an option that can offer excellent health prospects. If you invest the time and make a concerted effort to deliver the nutritional requirements whether buying a commercially prepared frozen or doing it all by yourself, keep an eye out for the pitfalls we’ve shared with you.
It’s an entirely personal choice, with the best of intentions at heart for our pets. If you weren’t a passionate Border Collie owner, we doubt you would be investigating if raw food was good for your Border Collie in the first place!
We hope our experience looking into the world of raw feeding has helped you ponder these points and made your decision a little easier. So, is raw food good for Border Collies? Well, that’s for you to decide!
Precautionary Note: As always, we would recommend you check with your vet before making any dietary changes, especially for very young, elderly or dogs with pre-existing medical conditions.