Is Raw Dog Food Good Enough? Recognised Benefits and Risks of this diet

There is a lot of controversy on raw dog food diets at the moment. We will try to balance the evidence and explain to you the benefits and risks

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raw dog food
Raw food bowl

Raw dog food diet is taking the canine owner community by a storm. The notion that our dog has come from wolves. And wolves only eat all raw diet. Seems to be the right way forward.

Yet, some Veterinary societies do not agree with this. Saying that the RAW diet will not be enough nutrients to a dog and can give health issues to the dogs family.

There is a lot of tension between a dog owner and veterinarians when an all raw food diet for a dog is brought up.

One of the reasons for the difference in opinions is that there is not much research on the topic.

When I decided to get a puppy, my friend asked if I would consider feeding him a BARF (Bones And Raw Food) diet. I was intrigued and decided to look into it. I wanted to provide the best life and health to my new friend.

What is RAW FOOD DIET or BARF DIET?

Raw dog food can be homemade, store-bought, freeze-dried, or dehydrated. A raw diet usually includes organ meats, muscle meat, whole or ground bone, raw eggs, dog-safe fresh fruits and vegetables, and a dairy product such as yoghurt. (1)

The raw diet is served exactly as it sounds- raw. It is up to each owner to decide how much of each part to serve to a dog. Dog’s age and weight should be taken into account.

The diet contains no added synthetic supplements, additives or preservatives. (2)

Benefits of a raw dog food diet

Advocates of raw food diets claim these benefits:

  • shinier coats
  • healthier skin
  • improved dental health
  • increased energy
  • smaller stools
  • better managed weight
  • decreased heart issues as the dog ages

But it is important to note that the raw food bowl has to be balanced. The cheapest burger meat bought in a supermarket will not be the same as home-prepared mince meat fresh from the butcher’s counter.

In closing, yes above mentioned benefits can be achieved but not all ingredients are made equal.

Risks of a raw food diet

My research led me to look into various governing bodies. Look for clarification on what is thought to be the best diet for a dog.

What surprised me

There is no requirement that pet food products have pre-market approval by the FDA. But FDA ensures that the ingredients used in pet food are safe and have an appropriate function in the pet food. Many ingredients such as meat, poultry, and grains are considered safe and do not require pre-market approval. (3)

Lack of evidence

Many dog owners believe and criticize big brands like Hills science diet and Purina. Believing that manufacturers brainwashing vets into thinking that their product is the healthiest option for a dog.

These big brands have internally funded studies and food trials to back up their claims.

Furthermore, these companies do not have the interest to back up any other food option for a dog.

Companies which produce raw food for dogs still are relatively small and do not have resources to fund research on a raw diet for a dog.

As a professional’s vets understandably want to see research and positive results first.

An article was written by Drs. Freeman and Heinze:

At this time, there are no scientific studies showing any health benefits of RMBD (raw meat based diet). However, numerous studies show that there are health risks for an animal eating a RMBD, ranging from nutritional deficiencies or toxicities, risks from ingestion of bones, and hyperthyroidism. (4)

Nutritional imbalance in raw dog food.

From ancestry prospective raw dog food diet make sense. But there are lots to understand about animals’ nutritional needs.

It is up to an owner to know what their dog needs nutrition-wise if a raw food diet is given to their loved pet. Sometimes we do not even realize what it is that our pet needs.

Commercial foods are a balanced dog food diet with all minerals and vitamins included. The same has to be true for the raw food diet.

Your dog’s unique nutritional requirements will depend on its size, its breed, and its stage in life, among other factors. A better understanding of how dogs use the various nutrients in food and how much of them they need can help you choose a healthier diet for your pet. (5)

The above article helped me to look at my dog’s nutritional needs in a different light and is worth a read.

Risk of bacteria.

There are extra risks to preparing raw meat diet which pet owners need to be aware of.

Recent scientific studies have shown that nearly all RMBD (whether commercial or home-made) are contaminated with bacteria, as with any type of unprocessed raw meat. Salmonella contamination rates for raw meat-based diet have been measured at between 20-48%. Other bacteria identified in RMBD include E Coli 0157, Campylobacter, and Listeria. Infections caused by these diets have been diagnosed in pets and, because pets eating contaminated RMBD shed potentially dangerous bacteria in their faeces, these diets also are risky for humans in the same household and who otherwise come into contact with the animal. (6)

Yet, new studies are starting to emerge from university bodies and pet owners who feed their pets raw food diet.

In one study by University in Helsinki they looked at a link for bacteria in households where a pet was fed raw food:

An extensive international survey conducted at the University of Helsinki indicates that pet owners do not consider raw food to considerably increase infection risk in their household. In the survey, targeted at pet owners, raw food was reliably determined to be a contaminant only in three households. (7)

To advise on raw food diet to a pet owner a vet will have a liability to make sure all risks are explained. Sometimes this leads to risk outweighing the benefits to a practitioner.

Things to consider when changing to a raw food diet.

If you decide to go ahead with the Raw Meat Based Diet, I strongly suggest you follow certain steps, and never do it alone. Consult with your veterinarian if any doubt about the process. Also, consider the following suggestions.

Do your research before making the switch.

Consult your dog’s vet and qualified nutritionist.

Especially if your dog has any current health issues. Your vet might or might not have reservations about the raw food diet. In any case, find the middle ground as both parties wish the best for a pet.

The dog will drink less.

Commercial kibble is dehydrated, hence the reason that fresh water should be available at all times.

Raw food has much more water, so your pet’s water intake will decrease.

Remember

Freshwater should be available at all times, especially after eating, walking and playing.

Cleaning and sanitising.

Home prepared raw diet will involve knives, chopping boards, storage containers, preparation surfaces.

All the items above will need wash and sanitation to minimize bacterial growth. Make sure to stock up on items like washing soap, sanitiser and pet safe sanitiser for areas your dog might lick.

Familiarise yourself with products available in local stores.

  • Butcher shops

Great place where to find liver, heart and kidneys

  • Fishmongers

Make sure that it is good quality shop

  • Farmers markets

Find local meat and maybe a freebie from of cuts

  • Asian markets

You’ll find a lot of different cuts, including pork belly. They also carry speciality products like oxtail, intestine, tripe, pigskin, duck wing, frog legs. (8)

  • Supermarkets

Check the frozen section for special deals

Do not rush your dog in the transition period.

Be patient. Offer your dog a small amount of raw meat with his regular kibble. Remember that raw meat has a completely different taste and feel than regular kibble.

Going slow will also help their digestive system to learn to process something new.

Make sure the meals are balanced.

Raw food diet has to mimic the whole prey diet as closely as possible.

A plate has to consist of:

  • Meaty bone
  • Muscle meat- such as liver, kidneys and heart
  • Meat- chicken, venison, beef, turkey- variety is welcome
  • (Make sure that your dog is not allergic to any of the meats you are offering by trialling small cuts)
  • Fresh whole foods; Vitamin D and E, Manganese, Iodine, Omega- 3S, Zinc.

Check your dog’s stool.

During the transition it can be loose, this is normal. The food is different and the dog’s digestive system will have to adjust. Do not confuse this with diarrhoea. Loose stool has a form. Diarrhea is liquidy.

If your pet has diarrhoea for more than 48 hours- see your vet for advice.

But remember that all below can also cause diarrhoea and problems of the digestive system:

  • Protein intolerance
  • Too much raw food, too quickly
  • Too much fat content

What to do next?

Raw food diet for a dog is a hot and controversial topic at the moment. Most local vets and animal protection agencies will not advise feeding your pet a raw diet without solid research backing its benefits. Although some people believe in the benefits of this kind of diets being more “natural”, linked to the disbelief in commercial foods.

It can be a tough decision to make. Be aware of assessing the risks before switching, and keep your vet on the loop. Your veterinary is always advocating, as you are, for your dog´s best interest and health.

Check on foods that your dog can eat and are safe to give him. On the same note, Why don´t you have a look at foods you shouldn’t feed your dog?

Dace Lace

Dace Lace

My name is Dace Lace. I am one of the people who give the same voting rights to their pets as if they are another human being. After all, they have their own passport :)

ALL the content we will publish on this site has been written or overseen by a qualified vet or vet tech.

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