Raw Food Diets for Dogs – Key Information
Many humans have adopted a raw food diet in recent years, but there is now a growing trend for pet owners to embrace a raw or semi-raw food diet for their dogs and cats instead. There was a lot of talk on the benefits of raw food diets at this year’s Crufts, with many championship exhibitors expressing its benefits.
What is a Raw Food Diet and what are the Benefits?
This diet consists of food that is either completely raw, or very lightly cooked. This typically includes raw meat, uncooked bones, minced fruits and vegetables. This is usually initially introduced to the dog as a treat or a topper to their main meal.
Commercial pet food is often highly processed, and supposedly many vitamins, minerals and enzymes are destroyed when food is cooked. A raw food diet counters this. It is also considered by many to be closer to a dog’s natural, evolutionary diet.
Ready-prepared raw dog food is starting to become widely available, typically in frozen, freeze-dried, fresh or dehydrated form. These foods should comply with the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) standard. You could also prepare the food yourself at home.
Reported benefits of a raw food diet include:
- Improved skin and coat condition.
- Fresher breath.
- Increased vitality.
- Heighten immune system.
- Better digestive health.
- Cleaner teeth.
- Natural hydration.
Potential Drawbacks and Other Considerations
While there are various potential benefits to the raw food diet, there are also some drawbacks to this feeding method. Firstly, many dogs simply refuse to eat raw food, especially if they have a sensitive or fussy palette. Providing your dog with a raw food diet can also be time consuming and expensive. It is very important if you prepare the food yourself that you grind up any bones thoroughly, and your dog may need to take supplements to assist their new diet.
In addition to these practical issues, the benefits of a raw food diet are not definitive. For example, the claim that raw food diets are closer to a natural canine diet is contestable: dogs are perhaps too far removed from their canid ancestors to benefit from eating raw foods. Also, “natural” food is not always better for animal health, indeed, many wild canids suffer from malnutrition.
It is also important not to presume that dogs cannot get food poisoning. Whilst most dogs have a natural immunity to things such as salmonella and E.coli, red meats can still include some bacteria that are unsafe for pets. It is also very important that you keep your food preparation surfaces clean and hygienic when preparing raw dog food for the sake of your own health.
If you would like to introduce your dog(s) to a raw food diet, it is vital that you do further in-depth research on the process, and consult your vet before proceeding. If your dog has a compromised immune system, or is very young or very old, a raw food diet may not be suitable.