All-Meat Dog Foods – Guide, Benefits, Risks & Cost

all-meat dog foods

With plenty of new and unique dog diets on the market, many owners are asking the same question – shouldn’t dogs just eat meat? In fact, a growing number of owners are now feeding their pets all-meat dog food to simulate a more natural diet. However, some are misinformed on the importance of a complete and balanced diet.

Proponents of the all-meat diet only feed raw or cooked meat to their dogs. Not only is this approach unnatural, but it also leaves our pets vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies. All-meat dog diets can in fact be highly dangerous for our omnivorous pets.

Should You Buy an All-Meat Dog Food?

There are owners who believe that meat is the only food a dog should eat. However, all-meat dog foods are not recommended by nutritionists. Using true all-meat foods, it is difficult to provide a menu that fulfills all of a dog’s nutritional requirements, meaning that an all-meat diet comes with a risk of nutritional imbalances. While all-meat dog diets vary widely in ingredients and nutritional composition, they all lack dietary fiber and carbohydrates without supplementation. Furthermore, all-meat dog foods that are boneless fall short in calcium. To add to this, diets that are free of liver can be deficient in vitamins A and D.

All-meat dog food not only puts our pets at risk of these deficiencies but is not all that natural. Domestic dogs are omnivorous, meaning that they eat both plants and meat. If you are looking to simulate a dog’s natural diet, all-meat is not the way to go!

Risks of an All-Meat Dog Diet

While it may sound like the most natural option for a canine, feeding your dog meat alone is not enough to meet their nutritional requirements. All-meat dog food fails to provide a healthy calcium to phosphorus ratio, fails to provide essential nutrients, and can aggravate food allergies and intolerances.

all-meat dog diet risks
Make sure to give your dog a diet that meets its nutritional requirement.

Disturbs Calcium-Phosphoros Ratio

Boneless meat is high in phosphorus but low in calcium. Phosphorus is necessary for muscle contraction, the production of ATP, and synthesizing protein for growth and repair of cells. Calcium is essential for a dog’s neuromuscular, immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular function. When a dog’s kidney function declines, they are unable to get rid of excess phosphate. This phosphate builds up significantly and binds to calcium. Over time, this lowers blood calcium levels. When calcium levels are depleted, the parathyroid glands in the neck withdraw calcium from the bones which makes them easier to break. Because of this, it’s very important to balance the amount of phosphorus and calcium in the dog’s diet.

The ratio of calcium to phosphorus should sit at around 1:1, with slightly more calcium than phosphorus. Some studies cite that a ratio of between 1.2:1 and 1.3:1 is also appropriate. Calcium and phosphorus metabolism is mediated by vitamin D in the small intestine. Here, a complex feedback loop balances intestinal absorption, renal excretion, and bone resorption of both of these minerals.

Falls Short in Providing Macronutrients

While feeding meat alone to a dog might sound natural, a meat-only feeding regime can fall short on providing some essential nutrients. If an all-meat diet is implemented, your dog could miss out on carbohydrates and dietary fiber!

Carbohydrates provide the body with energy. They are a vital component of a nutritious diet. A deficiency in carbohydrates leads to slow metabolism, fatigue, and excessive breakdown of proteins. Unfortunately, all types of meat are close to zero carbs, so a meat-only diet won’t provide enough carbohydrates for your dog. Organ meats are the only exception to this rule. Liver, for example, contains around 5% carbohydrates. In addition, all meats are very low in dietary fibers. Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate. It can’t be digested by the body and is essential to keep the digestive system healthy. All-meat diets cannot provide enough dietary fiber for a dog.

Allergies

An all-meat diet isn’t a realistic option for many dogs. Dogs can be allergic to any protein ingredients used in commercial dog, most commonly chicken, beef, and lamb. Some dogs can be allergic to other ingredients like wheat. Food allergies and intolerances can begin at any age. Some breeds are more likely to develop allergies and intolerances: West Highland White Terriers, Irish Setters, and Cocker Spaniels to name a few.

How Much Meat is Safe for Dogs?

Fortunately, no dog has ever been diagnosed with consuming “too much” protein. The misconception that protein is bad for older dogs comes from rodent research in the 1940s. The main problem with high protein commercial diets actually is that they can be dense in calories. This can lead to rapid weight gain.

As well as this, some owners prioritize protein over all other nutrients when creating a diet for their dog. This leads to the dog consuming lots of protein, but no other substantial nutrients, leading to nutritional deficiencies. Protein is very important for dogs but is not the only vital nutrient! Carbohydrates and fiber are just as important but often overlooked.

misconception about protein for dogs
Protein is an important nutrient.

How to Add Meat to Your Dog's Diet?

It’s been established that an all-meat diet isn’t recommended for your dog. So what other options do we have for adding meat to our pets’ food? Meat food toppers, premium dog food, freeze-dried food, and some home-made recipes can be great ways to please your pooch’s palate.

Use Toppers

Our dogs can be very picky eaters. If you’re tired of searching for a brand to find even one that your dog likes the taste of, meaty dog food toppers can enhance the flavor of your pet’s food. Not only are food toppers great for enhancing flavor, but they also add supplements to their diet too. Meat-flavored toppers come in powder, spray, pour-over, and solid forms. You can also buy freeze-dried toppings to enhance your dog’s kibble.

At the same time, toppers are not always the healthiest option. For example, just because a topper is freeze-dried it doesn’t mean it’s good quality. If you’re a pet parent and you like the sound of freeze-dried toppers for your dog, be sure to do your homework. Stick with high-quality pet food brands. You must also make sure that the food is nutritionally balanced.

Buy Premium Dog Food

In the pet food industry, cheaper and lower-end foods tend to compromise on meat quality. Some dog foods contain generic animal proteins, described on the label as “meat meal” or “animal digest.” Meat meal is the end-product of the rendering process. Especially when used to produce rendered meals, meat meal can be derived from virtually any animal. While meat meal contains enough protein, its quality is inferior to other meat products.

High-quality dog food should use real meat or a named meat meal as its main source of protein. Some high-end foods incorporate multiple types of meat into their recipe, sometimes using meat meal as well as real meat to give a protein boost. The highest quality foods will use organic and sustainable ingredients and use as little filler as possible.

Invest in Freeze-Dried Dog Food

Freeze-dried food is a smart choice for owners who are always on the go! They’re also a great option for pet parents who don’t want to feed their pet fresh raw food. Freeze-dried dog foods are extremely shelf-stable and are often made with organic ingredients.

Best of all, most freeze-dried dog foods are made with lots of meat; some contain as much as 95% meat and ground bones. Many of them are even made with organic ingredients! In addition, because freeze-dried foods are very low in moisture, they can be stored much longer than kibble without going rancid. A freeze-dried diet typically contains up to 5% moisture, whereas commercial kibble contains around 10%. To serve up your pup’s tasty meal, all you need to do is rehydrate the food!

Beware of freeze-dried diets that avoid labeling their meat source. You’ll want to know exactly what animal products are in your pet’s food. Quality, reputable food manufacturers should be confident in describing what meat is in the diet. The description is especially important if your pet has allergies and intolerances – some dogs are allergic to specific meats.

Try Some Homemade Recipes

Many veterinarians feel that homemade diets may result in nutritional imbalances. Ideally, a homemade diet should be created under the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist. This helps to ensure that your pet is receiving enough essential nutrients from their diet.

With that being said, homemade dog food can benefit your canine companion in some circumstances – especially if your pet struggles with allergies and intolerances. Your dog needs protein (meat, seafood, or eggs), fat (meat or oil), carbohydrates (grains or vegetables), calcium (dairy or eggshells), and essential fatty acids.

the best all-meat dog food
You can top your dog’s dog food with meat!

All-Meat Dog Foods – FAQs

Got any more questions or concerns about all-meat dog food? Feel free to consult our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details!

Which Dog Food has the Most Meat?

Freeze-dried dog food contains as much as 95% muscle meat. Most high-quality dog foods are high in meat content. When choosing a quality brand, it helps to check that the meat comes from a named source. Avoid foods with vague animal byproducts as the quality of the meat can be reduced.

To serve your pooch’s meal, all you need to do is add water to the food. This puts moisture back into the food and makes it more appealing to eat. This type of food tends to come in smaller bags, so while you can use it on its own, most owners prefer to use freeze-dried meaty food as a kibble topping. It’s great for adding extra meat and nutrition to your dog’s diet, but also works wonders in convincing picky dogs to eat their food.

Is There Real Meat in Dog Food?

Dog food contains either meat by-products or muscle tissue. The most common meat product used in dog foods is meat meal. As an ingredient, “meat meal” is a widely encompassing term. The AAFCO defines meat meal as, “The rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents.” This leaves residual meat, offal, connective tissues, and bones. While meat meal is high in protein, its actual meat content is comparatively low.

In contrast, “real” meat is primarily the striate muscle tissue of an animal. It can also include fat, gristle, and other tissues found in the tongue, diaphragm, the heart, and esophagus. If a pet food label only describes the meat as meat, it can only be from cattle, pigs, sheep, or goats. Any other meats must be appropriately identified (for example, “venison”).

What is the Best All-Meat Dog Food?

We don’t recommend all-meat dog foods. What we do recommend is including meat with your pet’s commercial diet, or finding a commercial dog food made with high-quality meat. As well as this, meaty food toppers are a popular method of enticing picky pups to eat their kibble. Freeze-dried dog food can also be used as a topper. If the freeze-dried food is made as a complete and balanced meal, it can be fed alone too!

A common misconception is that a raw diet consists solely of meat. This is not the case – a raw diet should consist of raw meaty bones as well as vegetables, eggs, organ meats, and dairy. Raw meaty bones are important as they provide the necessary calcium along with other nutrients that create firm stool.

Is an All-Meat Diet Healthy for Dogs?

A meat-only diet is not considered healthy for dogs. This is because meat alone cannot provide enough carbohydrates or dietary fiber for a dog to stay happy and healthy. In addition, an all-meat diet without the inclusion of bones leaves dogs vulnerable to calcium deficiency.

It is not an option to miss out on these vital nutrients in your dog’s food. For one, a carbohydrate deficiency leads to ketosis, fatigue, decreased energy levels, and decreased fiber intake. Without dietary fiber, dogs quickly struggle with constipation, diarrhea, and weight gain. In addition, a calcium deficiency leads to difficulty sleeping, anxiety, muscle twitches, and even osteoporosis.

While all-meat dog foods might sound natural, they actually fail to provide enough nutrition and don’t reflect an omnivorous diet. They also don’t reflect a carnivorous diet – a lack of meaty bones leads to calcium deficiency. For these reasons, we do not recommend an all-meat diet for dogs.

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