Is Raw Dog Food Actually Healthier?

The dog jack russell terrier lies with a huge bowl of raw minced meat food for dog concept_edited

There are a variety of options to choose from when considering dog food. A large portion of people feed their pups processed kibble or wet food; although, numerous pawrents have become interested in the raw food diet. A raw diet is not practical at all times, but incorporating a raw food diet into your dog’s current diet could provide several benefits when done properly. 

Disclaimer: Be sure to consult with your veterinarian prior to making any changes to your dog’s diet.

Dog with fruit
Commercial Dog Food

Quality commercial dog food consists of essential nutrients and is verified by veterinarians after going through extensive testing. Dogs are not carnivores to the extent that cats are, and while a dog’s diet consists primarily of meat, a domestic dog also consumes grains, fruit, and vegetables which are crucial sources of vitamins, fiber, and minerals.

 The American Kennel Club notes that “while most commercial dog food brands are specially formulated with at least the minimal requirements for dogs, it is important to remember that not every dog has the same nutritional needs.” Pawrents should also be aware that dogs have different nutritional needs at different stages of their lives.

The raw dog food diet has become increasingly popular amongst dog owners. Dog owners may choose a raw food diet because they feel it more closely resembles what dogs ate before they became domesticated.

Other reasons may include that raw food is fresher in taste, supplies essential nutrients in their natural state, or delivers live enzymes that can be lacking in processed dog food.

Originally, racing greyhounds and sled dogs were fed raw diets. In 1993, an Australian veterinarian named Ian Billinghurst suggested feeding the raw diet to family dogs. He coined the term “BARF diet” which is an acronym for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. A BARF diet consists of eliminating all processed foods in exchange for raw meat and bones, vegetables, and fruit. A strict BARF diet includes 70% muscle meat, 10% raw edible bones, 5% liver, 5% other secreting organs, and 10% vegetables and fruit which is divided up approximately 6% vegetables, 2% fruit, and 2% seeds and nuts. 

The following are a few potential benefits and risks of a raw food diet:

Potential benefits:

  • Shinier coat
  • Healthier skin
  • Cleaner teeth
  • More energy
  • Smaller stool

Potential risks:

  • Threats to human and dog health from bacteria in raw meat
  • An unbalanced diet that may damage the health of dogs if given for an extended period
  • Potential for whole bones to choke an animal, break teeth or cause an internal puncture

A Controversial Diet

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) does not agree with the BARF diet. The AVMA “discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans.” Many are supportive of the diet despite the warnings giving by the AVMA, U.S. Food & Drug Administration, and Center for Disease Control.

Incorporating raw food into your dog’s existing diet may provide some benefits. A raw bone contains a significant source of minerals, essential fatty acids, proteins, and enzymes. Bones also provide calcium and phosphorus, as well as chondroitinwhich can help with joint health. However, cooked, smoked, and dehydrated bones are dangerous and should never be given to your dog. Unlike raw bones, these types of bones are dry and brittle, causing them to splinter. It is crucial that you keep an eye on your dog while he or she enjoys a bone of any kind. Freeze dried raw treats or home-made treats are a good option over store bought brands which may contain a higher calorie content.

At the end of the day, your dog does not have to exclusively eat a raw food diet; however, incorporating raw food into his or her current diet may provide some benefits and enhance their joy in their life.  

To learn more about raw food diets sniff out this resource.

Have you considered a raw food diet for you pup?

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