Is a Raw Diet Good for Your Dog?
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla
Dr. Joyce Ashamalla is the managing partner at Hinsdale Animal Hospital with Kremer Veterinary Service, as well as a partner at CARE Animal Emergency Hospital. She received her BS in Animal Sciences from the University of Illinois- Champaign Urbana, where she also completed her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2007. She is AO certified, USDA-APHIS accredited, and is a member of the CVMA, ISVMA, AVMA.
One topic that is getting a ton of buzz in the pet world is the raw food diet. Also known as the BARF Diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Foods), this diet mimics what the wolf, our dog's ancestor, ate in the wild. But is raw meat good for dogs? While the connection is tempting between dogs and wolves, it's important to remember that dogs have been domesticated for over 15,000 years at this point and live a very different lifestyle than their ancestors. The BARF Diet for dogs consists of raw meats, grains, vegetables, fruits, and bones. Feeding dogs raw meat as part of a diet familiar to wolves is rising in popularity... but is it a fad or is it here to stay?
The Benefits of a Raw Dog Food Diet
Raw diets that are high in protein may be homemade and are also commercially available, often frozen or freeze-dried. In order to gain most of the benefits from a BARF Diet, most veterinarians recommend commercially available brand options in order to maintain nutritional consistency for your dog. Many pet owners who feed their dogs an all-natural raw diet report an improvement in skin issues, shinier coats, and increased energy. An important caveat is that these findings are not consistent across all breeds and types of dogs. Similar to most diets for humans, the benefits seen from the raw dog food trend are hard to predict and guarantee.
The Risks of a Raw Diet for Dogs
Is raw meat good for dogs? Many have researched and debated this question, and there has been no scientific evidence that a raw meat diet for dogs will improve a canine's health more than a conventional diet. In fact, the FDA, many veterinarians, and the American Veterinary Medical Association all disagree with a raw diet for dogs because of it's risks. To begin, nutrition in a raw diet for dogs is often unbalanced, being high in fat but deficient in many other nutrients, requiring supplements. Feeding a raw diet commonly creates new digestion issues, including increased reporting of diarrhea from dogs just starting the BARF Diet. Also, other injuries like fractured teeth thanks to the bones included in the diet are common side effects from changing over to a raw food diet for dogs. The risk of infection can actually be increased by feeding dogs raw meat and an all raw food diet. Vets and pet owners find the most alarming risk of the BARF Diet is the potential for bacterial contamination to you and your pet. Higher instances of salmonella, e coli and many other harmful pathogens occur in uncooked food as opposed to any cooked dog food options. Regardless of the type of diet a dog is provided, pet parents must be diligent about washing their hands and cleaning dishes and utensils. Keeping the dishes sanitary is important, especially when there are high risks of contamination just from a raw food diet for dogs. Overall, even the best raw dog food is going to have major drawbacks and risks for your pup.
Choosing the Best Diet for Your Dog
Based on the risks, you may be wondering: can dogs eat raw meat? The short answer is, yes. But should they? There are both benefits and risks of a raw meat diet for dogs. Consult your veterinarian before starting a raw diet because it is not appropriate for all dogs. Your veterinarian will carefully consider your dog's breed, age, and current health in order to recommend an appropriate diet. If you choose to go with a raw diet for your dog, be sure to practice safe handling procedures by washing your pet bowls in the dishwasher after every meal. Also, most veterinarians will recommend considering going with a commercial brand to get the best raw dog food and to control the risk of contamination from the uncooked ingredients. Whether you use cooked or raw dog food, the PetComfort Stainless Steel Bowls can withstand the extremely hot water temperatures in the dishwasher, ensuring the bowls are completely sanitized and free of any bacteria. Just like we make sure that our human family members have sanitary dishes and utensils, PetComfort knows it's just as important for our puppies, dogs, and fur babies to eat from clean bowls and dishes too.