Raw dog food diets are controversial. Should you feed your dog a raw food diet or kibble? This article aims to help you to understand the pros and cons of a raw dog food diet in order to help you make an informed decision on what’s best.
The raw dog diet is one of the most heated controversies in pet nutrition. With the concept of introducing the ancestral natural diet, raw dog food came into existence. The pet owner and the veterinarian are bombarded with a plethora of information and opinions regarding raw foods.
Like two sides of a coin, there are a group of people who stick to the raw dog food along with a group of opposing people.
What’s Raw Dog Food?
The concept of feeding raw food is now very much in trend as people think it’s healthy to feed their dogs the natural food without any preservatives.
The original raw diet is commonly known as the BARF diet, which stands for Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
A raw dog food diet emphasizes uncooked meat (often muscle and organ meat), raw meaty bones, fruits, vegetables, raw eggs, and some dairy.
The raw diet is high in protein, moderate in fat, and has minimal amounts of carbohydrates.
Is a Raw Food Good for Dogs?
The idea behind feeding dogs with all raw food is that the belief that manufactured dog food might contain some preservatives or components that are not suitable for dogs.
One of the main reasons pet parents consider feeding raw is based on how dogs evolved. Although your dog’s body isn’t similar to an ancestor wolf, its body works as a wolf. So, since dogs descended from wolves, should they eat like wolves?
Wolves aren’t equipped to digest grains. They shouldn’t live off a diet of dry kibble. But dogs are not wolves.
Dogs split off from wolves and became domesticated and selectively bred for thousands of years. Think about your dog as having a carnivorous heritage with omnivore evolution.
Raw Dog Food Pros
Dog owners who support a raw diet claim that it promotes shinier coats and healthier skin, improved energy levels, fewer digestive problems, and smaller poops.
Dr. Peter Dobias, who has 30 years of veterinary experience and has advocated for raw pet diets since 1995, says there’s no contest between processed dog kibble in a bag and a raw diet that mirrors what dogs’ ancestors ate.
From my experience, if people feed a raw diet, they will increase their dog’s lifespan by 25 percent. Generally, raw-fed dogs are so much healthier. The changes are profound.Dr. Dobias
Raw meat is highly bio-available and contains live bacteria/enzymes that support digestion and help to absorb almost all the immune-boosting nutrients. With raw, dogs create less waste because most of the food they eat is being fully utilized.
Including bones in a raw diet for dogs can provide the nutritional benefit of added calcium and phosphorous, if the bones can be chewed and ingested.
In addition, raw, meaty bones are well-known as being nature’s tooth brush for dogs. They help maintain dental health by preventing tartar buildup.
Last but not least, raw food diets helping to maintain a healthy weight, largely due to having fewer carbs than a lot of commercial pet food and no filler to bulk it out.
Raw Dog Food Cons
Many mainstream veterinarians as well as the FDA agree the risks of raw diets are well documented with several studies published in veterinary journals.
There are two main concerns when feeding raw food diets. The first is food safety.
A study conducted by the FDA from 2010 to 2012 found that raw pet food is more likely than other types of pet food to carry bacteria, including Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes that cause food borne illnesses.
These bacteria can be transmitted to the humans in the house via direct contact from your pet. Think about your dog licking your face or chewing that favorite toy that you toss for them to retrieve.
So, if raw food isn’t adequately treated to eliminate contaminants, you could be feeding your dog potentially harmful pathogens that could cause illness in your pets and/or your family.
Bacterial infections can be harmful and even fatal for the elderly, young children, and the immunocompromised, who are more susceptible to infections.
The second concern is regarding that raw food diets are often not considered to be nutritionally balanced with all the necessary nutrients they require for a healthy lifestyle. If left unmonitored, nutritional imbalances can cause health complications in dogs over time.
Therefore, if as an owner, you have assessed all the risks and still choose to feed a raw or home cooked diet, you should ensure that it has a nutrition base that is balanced for your pet.
In addition it is important to note that feeding raw bones come with potential risks like choking, intestinal blockage and chipped or broken teeth.
It is also worth bearing in mind that raw feeding tends to be high in protein, which isn’t suitable for dogs with kidney or liver problems.
Last but not least, feeding your dog raw food is expensive. If you’ve got an excellent network of farmers and butchers, it is possible to make raw comparable to kibble in price – but even then, it is nowhere near as convenient.
In conclusion, raw diets may provide some benefits, but the cost (financial, time, and contagion risk) is very high.
Which Raw Food Is Best for Dogs?
In the United States, vets and owners can easily source complete and balanced ready-prepared frozen raw food meals. You can also choose to create a homemade raw food diet for your dog.
That said, typically, raw diets follow this formula:
The golden rule is to follow the 70:10:10:5:5 ratio. This ratio means a dogs bowl will be filled with 70% muscle meat, 10% bone, 10% vegetables, 5% other secreting organ and 5% liver.
A majority of the meat is red meat. Liver is a main staple, but other secreting organs to add include kidney, spleen, brain, and pancreas.
Vegetables such as broccoli, celery, squash, pumpkin, spinach, leafy greens, carrots, and fruit such as apples, cranberries, and blueberries.
Note that some fruits and vegetables like grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs, and should be avoided as part of any diet – including a raw food diet.
As we already mentioned, the risk with both homemade and commercial raw dog food diets is that often, these diets are not well-balanced for a dog’s nutrient requirements.
Homemade raw diets are a lot of work until you get a system down. It’s hard to create a fast and balanced diet of bones, meat, vegetables, organs, fruits, eggs, and supplements or herbs.
Dogs are now classified as omnivores – animals who can thrive on both meat and vegetable ingredients.
If you are thinking of changing your dog’s daily diet, a great first step is to always consult with your veterinarian to ensure your dog gets the very best personalized care. Depending on your dog, certain supplements may be essential for your canine’s health, so talk to your vet!
We highly recommend to get the full picture for keeping your pet and your family safe while handling raw food at the AVMA website.
Moreover, not all pets will enjoy raw feeding and you may find that yours is one of them, even if you know other pets who have thrived on it.