The Raw Food Diet: Is It Right For Your Dog?

Many dog owners are starting to consider the benefits of feeding their pets on a raw food diet. According to proponents, the raw food diet is the best way to nourish a dog in the way it would eat in the wild. However, the raw food diet remains controversial. In this post, we take a look at the pros and cons, to help you make the best decision about your dog’s nutrition.

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It is indisputable that many commercially available dog foods are of low quality, packed with fillers and unnecessary cereals and additives that are not healthy for our dogs. Of course, this is not the case for all dog food, and higher quality foods are specially designed with optimum canine nutrition in mind.

The raw food diet, on the other hand, emphasises raw meat, bones, fruit and vegetables as the staple diet for dogs. It has been the main diet of racing greyhounds and sled dogs for many years, but the idea of extending this diet to the domestic pet is much more recent.

Supporters of the raw food diet cite healthier skin, cleaner teeth, healthier weight, shinier coat, reduction in allergy symptoms, higher energy levels and smaller stools as a result of the diet. As direct descendants of wolves, they argue, dogs are not designed to consume the 50% carbohydrate content found in most modern dog foods.

The raw food diet has substantially different food group ratios, with much higher protein and fat content, and significantly fewer carbohydrates.

A raw food diet typically consists of:

  • Muscle meat, often still on the bone
  • Ground or whole bones
  • Organ meats
  • Raw eggs
  • Vegetables, such as celery, broccoli and spinach
  • Apples and other fruit
  • Dairy products, such as yoghurt

One owner who is a convert to the raw food diet is Barbara Benjamin-Creel, who insists that the diet has had a positive effect on the health of her dogs after two years on raw food. Her 11 year old dog, she says, is more energetic, and the other, who suffered from digestive complaints, tolerates raw food much better. Benjamin-Creel makes the food for her dogs herself, giving them probiotic-rich bio-live yoghurt in the mornings, and mixes ground pork, turkey or beef with some rice for the evening meal. However, she admits that it isn’t exactly cheap.

It is suggested that all adult dogs thrive better on the diet that they would have consumed before becoming domesticated. However, the US health authority, the FDA, disagrees, as do many mainstream vets, who believe that this sort of diet is not suitable for dogs at this stage of evolution.

Bacterial contamination is a very real concern, with dangerous bacteria such as E Coli and Salmonella being a potential risk with raw meats. This risk is more of a concern for humans than dogs, though, due to a dog’s shorter, more acidic digestive system. There are, of course, ways to minimise the potential for human infection from contaminated meats, but the bacteria live on in the faeces of the dog, which creates more opportunities for human exposure and infection.

Vets are not so keen on the raw food diet, saying that the shinier coat and other supposed benefits are the result of the high fat content of the diet, and raise concerns about the risk of dogs getting an unbalanced diet from eating raw food diets alone. Too much fat and not enough protein can cause mild anaemia, they say. Puppies, and dogs with any medical conditions, are not suitable candidates for the diet. With puppies in particular, there is an important balance necessary between calcium and phosphorous consumption, and if the nutrient ratios aren’t just right, this can lead to bone deformities and growth problems.

For owners seeking to avoid commercial dog foods, a cooked, homemade diet that follows guidelines set out by professional animal nutritionists is considered preferable. Nonetheless, raw food diet fans are unmoved by these warnings, and maintain that raw is best for their dogs.

Ultimately, the choice of what to feed your dog is down to you. However, you should always make sure that you fully research any diet you are considering for your pet. Ask your vet, and read extensively on the subject before committing your dog’s health to any diet at all.

If you feed your dog a raw food diet, we would love to hear from you. Let us know how you’re getting on! Also, if you have tried the diet and stopped for any reason, we’d love to hear your story!