While raw food diets have been common with racing Greyhounds and sled dogs for many years, in recent years the popularity of these types of diets has grown in mainstream dog circles. This popularity was spearheaded by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst in 1991. His BARF diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) centered around the idea that adult dogs would do better on a diet that was geared towards what they would have eaten before domestication. As the popularity of this type of diet has grown there have been different variations introduced, but for most the concept remains the same. This has become an exceptionally controversial topic with supporters of the diet enthusiastically promoting the benefits of it, while many veterinarians and other agencies are opposed, believing that any potential benefits do not outweigh the risks. Rather than trying to provide a recommendation of what you should feed your dog we are just going to lay out what a raw food diet is and the stated positives and negatives. As always you are encouraged to do more research on your own to determine if this would be a fit for you and your dog.
What is it?
A raw food diet is exactly that, a dog food that consists of uncooked meat. However, there is a bit more to it than that. A raw dog food diet typically consists of muscle meat (often still on the bone), bones (whole or ground), organ meats (ex. liver & kidney), raw eggs, vegetables (ex. broccoli, spinach), apples or other fruit, and some dairy such as yogurt. There are variations of this, but this is a general snapshot of what would be included in a raw food diet.
Supporters of a raw food diet state that they see the following benefits to their dogs: shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, higher energy levels, and smaller stools. Others note that they see decreased health issues and increased quality of life for senior dogs as they age. As with humans, avoiding processed foods can have positive health benefits.
Those who opposed a raw food diet state that the following risks are increased with the diet: threats to human and dog health from bacteria in raw meat, may be deficiencies that create an unbalanced diet which may damage the health of dogs if given for extended period of time, potential for whole bones to choke an animal, break teeth, or cause an internal puncture. Raw dog food diet is not effective for dogs with health issues such as liver or kidney problems and cancer, as well as with puppies who have greater nutritional requirements for proper development. Cost is a significant barrier as estimates show it can be around 3-4 times more expensive than a commercial dry dog food.
End of the day
At the end of the day a raw dog food diet has shown benefits that could be good for your dog, but keep in mind that it is expensive and not perfect. Do your research to make sure that if you are considering a raw dog food diet that your dog is getting all of what it needs or if supplements are necessary, also that you are handling raw meat in a safe manner to prevent health issues. Overall there is no “best” dog food to feed your pup, as long as you determine what your dogs nutritional needs are then make sure you are meeting those needs you should be well on your way to a happy and health dog whether you choose a dry dog food or a raw food diet.