Heard about the raw food diet for dogs? Though you may be used to feeding your pooch wet food, meaty treats or crunchy dog kibble – hopefully packed with all the nutrients they need for a well-rounded diet – raw dog food is definitely gaining in popularity. Raw food enthusiasts insist that domestic dogs are wild animals at heart, therefore should be chowing down on meaty bones and raw cuts of meat over cooked chicken and dog biscuits. Weighing up the benefits of these contrasting diets can be a minefield, as you’ll only want to do what’s best for your pooch.
To save you the stress, we’ve explored the differences between raw food for dogs and commercial wet and dry dog food, so that you as a dog owner can make whatever decision you deem best for your pooch’s mealtimes.
The Raw Food Diets For Dogs
The raw food diet is an alternative to commercial food or cooked food for dogs, based on the premise that dogs used to hunt and live in the wild, therefore it appeals to their ‘true nature’. It’s sometimes rather appetisingly called the BARF diet, which stands for both ‘Bones and Raw Food’ or ‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Food’.
There are a number of ways to feed your dog a raw food diet – you can prepare the various foods yourself, or some specialist dog food brands offer raw food in more accessible formats (such as freeze-dried) to allow for easier access plus safer storage and consumption.
What is raw dog food?
Raw dog food is based on what dogs may have eaten in the wild, before they were domesticated. Usually it consists of raw muscle meat, organs, bones, raw eggs, dog-safe fruit and vegetables, and yoghurt. It can be home prepared or bought from a store freeze-dried or dehydrated, to save dog owners the trouble of sourcing and adequately preparing all of these raw foods themselves.
Is raw food good for dogs?
Dog owners who swear by raw dog food claim it provides a number of powerful health benefits to their pooches. These include –
- Shinier coat and healthy skin
- Improved dental health
- Boosted energy
- Better digestion and smaller poops
There are limited studies on this, none of which have been wholly proven. A study in 2018 did reveal a lot of bacterial diversity in the gut microbiome of dogs who ate raw food (1), though there was also a boost in the harmful bacteria E.coli. There are plenty of raw dog food fans with very happy and healthy dogs, but not everyone is an advocate for the raw dog food diet, as just like it does with humans, eating food in its raw state can come with considerable risks.
Disadvantages of raw food for dogs
Many veterinary experts have discouraged dog owners from feeding raw food to their dogs (2), as it could be considered riskier when it comes to contamination and safety.
- Bacterial infection Raw meat and eggs are more susceptible to carrying germs and bacteria such as salmonella or E.coli that could make your dog unwell.
- Riskier to humans Handling so much raw meat, organs and bones at home is also more of a danger to the humans living in your household. Infected dog poops are also a risk to whoever picks up after your dog.
- Not as reliable, nutritionally High-quality commercial dog food is created specifically to provide your dog with all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need for a healthy diet, while a raw food diet involves more guesswork and manual labour.
- Sharp or shattered bones We know a dog chewing on a raw bone is a very familiar image to us – however if they’re not used to it, your domesticated pooch could cut themselves while munching on sharp or shattered bone parts, or could swallow pieces that cause internal injury.
Raw vs wet dog food
So if you were considering a raw food diet for your dog – how does it hold up against high-quality commercial wet dog food? Here are some of the pros and cons of wet and dry dog food when compared against each other.
Pros & Cons of Raw Food for Dogs:
Pros of raw food for dogs
- Interesting to eat
- Diverse in texture and flavour
- Completely natural ingredients
- Lots of physical benefits (advocates claim shiny coat and good skin, boosted energy and better digestion)
- Free of grain-based carbohydrates, which are often difficult for dogs to digest
Cons of raw food for dogs
- Difficult to source and portion
- Harder to make nutritionally balanced
- More likely to carry harmful bacteria
- More likely to spoil than commercial food
- Can easily contaminate other food/people
- Bones can cause injury
- Store-bought raw food is very expensive