If you haven’t noticed there seems to be a rising trend nowadays with how people feed their dogs. From Facebook groups and pet-related Instagram posts to even TikTok, there seems to be a huge following around this dog diet — and that diet is raw food.
If you haven’t gone down into a deep dive of what this all means you might have a few questions such as: “Have I been feeding my dogs the wrong things?”, “Is raw meat and bones healthy for dogs?”, and “How does a dog get cleaner teeth by eating bones?” All that and more on our informative dive into the world of raw feeding.
What is a Raw Food Diet?
Simply put, a raw food diet or raw feeding is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; it’s all about feeding your dog raw ingredients instead of traditionally cooked meals, kibble, or other types of conventional dog food. Raw dog food can be homemade, store-bought, freeze-dried, or dehydrated.
The diet itself consists of organ meats, muscle meat, whole or ground bone, raw eggs, dog-safe fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy products such as yogurt. All of which sounds pretty dangerous or pretty interesting depending on who you talk to. But why are people doing it? What’s the draw of feeding your dog raw food?
The Perceived Benefits of Raw Feeding
Many people are stating that there are many benefits to feeding your dog raw meals. Dogs will have an easier time digesting raw food. Dogs will gain healthier skin and shinier coats, and they’ll smell nicer and poop less. It will also boost their immune system, increase energy, and keep them more hydrated. And yes, as mentioned before, dogs can get cleaner teeth from eating raw bones.
This is because canines in the wild clean their own teeth by chewing on bones. But there are concerns that chewing on bones can splinter and cause internal injuries, or that dogs can crack their teeth on them, or even swallow large bits that can cause intestinal obstructions. All of which can be avoided by feeding dogs the right kind of bones.
So, at this point, maybe you’ve gone off and read some more on your own. Or maybe you’re thinking that this whole raw dog food thing is pretty great. It might have some benefits that you might want to see in your dog, or maybe you think that this is perhaps a good thing for your dog overall. But is it really? Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the subject.
Is Raw Feeding Healthy or Safe?
Right off the bat there are some risks with feeding your puppy raw food, and it won’t just affect them but it might affect you and those around you as well. These risks include threats to your health due to bacteria in raw meat that could contaminate the whole household. Meaning, you’re also going to have to be very meticulous in the preparation, sanitation, and handling of raw ingredients to avoid cross-contamination.
Raw feeding might lead to an unbalanced diet that may damage the health of dogs if given for an extended period, and the potential for whole bones to choke an animal, break teeth or cause internal punctures or injuries. Meanwhile, this high protein diet might not be suitable for dogs with liver problems, digestive issues, and pancreatitis.
There are also nutritional concerns such as receiving excess Vitamin A by eating too much liver and causing Vitamin A toxicity, nutrient deficiencies, and nutritional imbalance. Finally, the benefits of raw food over traditional food haven’t exactly been proven yet, and there aren’t a lot of studies backing the benefits of raw feeding. Most arguments for it have come from individual experiences.
Furthermore, many veterinarians do not recommend raw feeding as a healthy alternative to traditional or commercial feeding. Many vets even claim that the perceived benefits that dogs gain from eating raw meals can be achieved through traditional meals, commercial dog food, and supplements. A 2006 study of 20 commercially available raw meat diets found that 7.1% contained a type of salmonella. E. coli bacteria was also found in 59.6% of raw meat diets.
However, there are supporters of raw feeding that say that raw food can still be beneficial to dogs. From mixing it with commercial food for a healthy balance and even using supplements in their food to help with vitamin or nutrition deficiencies. While many supporters, from vets to regular dog owners, think that raw feeding is still a good diet many of them agree that a raw food diet isn’t appropriate for all dogs. As for contamination concerns, they claim that it can easily be avoided by being careful and making sure to wash hands, utensils, plates, and stations thoroughly to prevent bacterial contamination.
When it comes to new diet fads and trends, many people jump on the gun because of its perceived benefits without even consulting professionals, and that’s only for human diets. Before even trying these raw food diets make sure you know what you’re getting into. Consult a veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet so that they can tell you what’s the best course of action for what you want to achieve. From kibble to vitamin supplements, your vet will know more about what to feed your dog if you’re looking to make them look healthier, smell better, or give them more energy.
Another takeaway here is the handling of pet food. Whether raw or not, vets do not advise making your pet’s food at home yourself, just to make sure you avoid contamination.
Overall, do we recommend you try to change your pet’s diet to raw feeding? No. The risks, the lack of studies, and even the work you need to put into raw feeding really aren’t worth the trouble. Feed your pet a solid and complete commercial diet that will give them all the nutrients they need provided that you give them the correct amount according to their size and weight.
However, if you do choose a raw diet after consulting your vet, always choose a commercially prepared one. This is because commercial suppliers have to take precautions to make sure all pet food is packaged correctly to match hygiene standards, which is vital when handling raw food. Companies making complete pet foods also have to make sure their food has everything to keep your pets healthy.
Keep in mind that feeding a high-quality raw diet can be expensive compared to commercially produced pet food. When looking for cheaper raw alternatives, you have to be cautious as they might not meet the high hygiene standards needed to be safe to feed to your dogs.
And don’t even think about buying meat or cheaper raw products from the supermarket or butcher that are meant for human consumption. These are meant to be cooked before eating, so are likely to have higher levels of bacteria than recommended for raw feeding.
Finally, if you continue with raw feeding after taking all the necessary precautions and after taking suggestions from vets, it’s really important to be hygienic at home as well. Keep everything you use to prepare or handle raw food clean and separate, to wash your hands before and after handling your pet’s food. You also need to wash everything thoroughly after feeding and always sanitize any surfaces you’ve prepared raw food on. Remember that your pet’s saliva and poop can contain lots more potentially dangerous bacteria if they are fed raw food. Wash your hands after touching your pet.