Perhaps you have heard about human food trends like the recent fascination with raw food (uncooked food), but did you know that dogs can also be fed a raw food diet? Many swear by it; arguing that it is a more natural diet for the canine, and it is claimed to have numerous health benefits for both big and small dogs.
What exactly is raw dog food, though? And is it as healthy and good as it is made out to be?
We have broken it down for you to make it easy to understand and form an opinion, but as with most things dog-related – it is up to you to decide what is right for your dog.
Remember to always consult your veterinarian before switching to a raw diet, to make sure your pup gets all essential nutrients.
Raw Dog Food – What Is It?
The answer lies in the name because raw dog food is exactly that – dog food made with fresh and raw ingredients. The concept was first known as BARF, which is still a common term today, and it stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, or Bones and Raw Food, and it was first proposed in 1993, by a veterinarian named Ian Billinghurst.
The purpose of BARF was to provide dogs with a diet as close to what dogs would eat in the wild as possible; arguing that traditional kibble and wet foods were not natural diets for dogs.
Dog breeds like the Siberian Husky, especially those used for mushing and dog sledding among other competitive sports, have been fed raw food since long before it became popular, so while BARF and other raw food diets are quite new – it was not unheard of before to feed dogs a raw diet.
Since then, many other raw dog food varieties have emerged, such as the Prey variety, which uses less fruit and vegetables than BARF. Raw dog food will usually contain a mix of meat, bones, muscle meat, liver, kidney, fruit, vegetables, and raw eggs, and some choose to add yogurt or other dairy products.
Raw dog food is a substitute for kibble or commercial wet food, and some believe that it is a more natural diet for a dog, due to it resembling what they would eat before being domesticated.
Many of the products in raw food are what goes into high-quality kibble today but feeding raw gives you more control over the quantities used as well as the quality of each product if you opt for making it yourself.
Store Bought vs. Home Made
You can make your own raw dog food (if following recipes carefully, to make sure your dog gets all his- or her nutrients), or buy it in pet stores, and the selection available varies depending on where you live. This is a very personal choice, and something each dog owner who considers a raw food diet needs to decide for themselves.
Making it yourself gives you increased control regarding what goes in the food, which can be great if your pup has food allergies or sensitivities, or if you just prefer to know exactly what goes into the food your fur-friend eats. Store bought food from knowledgeable brands, on the other hand, already has a good balance of nutrients, so that you don’t have to worry about whether you are feeding a balanced mix. Store bought raw dog food comes frozen and is stored in the freezer.
Benefits of a Raw Diet
The way raw food gives you complete control of your dog’s diet is probably the biggest benefit, and it is ideal for anyone who prefers to restrict certain ingredients from their dog’s meals. Perhaps you have a pup that is allergic to a common dog food ingredient, or that does not like the taste of something that goes into most kibble or wet foods? If so, it is the perfect solution to make your own food for your dog, since you get to decide what goes in it, and what stays out.
This requires knowledge, however, and you will have to do plenty of research to fully understand what nutrients your dog needs to thrive, or you could end up with a dog with a severe lack of essential nutrition; something that could cause major health concerns. A veterinarian can help advice you or seek help from dog nutritional experts.
One of the biggest reasons why dog owners choose to feed raw is because they believe it will be hugely beneficial for their dog’s health. Many commercial kibble brands are full of unhealthy fillers and artificial colors; some which have been proven to be cancerous and/or in other ways harmful, and by feeding raw you can make sure that your dog only eats what is natural and fresh.
Keep in mind, though, that many quality kibbles may contain more or less the same ingredients as used in raw food, and that the decision is ultimately yours to take in terms of what to feed.
Disadvantages of Feeding Raw
Just like there are many advantages of a raw doggy diet, there are also several disadvantages. To make an educated decision, it is important that you know the pros and the cons before starting to experiment with your dog’s diet.
First of all, it is expensive to feed raw food to a dog. It requires quality ingredients and meat products, and the costs can quickly build up in comparison to cheap kibble; especially if you have more than one dog.
Raw food also requires space in the fridge, which makes it a little more difficult to store than conventional dog food products, and it is not as convenient as kibble when it comes to traveling and going out with your pup.
While kibble can be stored almost anywhere, used as treats and brought along for outings – raw food does need to be stored in the freezer for freshness, or you could put your dog at risk if the ingredients go bad or get spoiled.
Contamination is another potential issue, such as ingredients contaminated with salmonella, listeria, e-Coli and more. This can happen with kibble as well, though, and is not specific for a raw diet, but the risk is slightly higher since you are dealing with raw food items.
Last, but not least; making raw food for your dog is time-consuming, and even buying it in a store requires more time than feeding kibble or canned food would. This is due to every meal needing to be heated up before you can serve it to your pupster, so make sure you have the extra time before deciding to switch to a raw dog diet.
A Raw Diet – Right for All Dogs?
There is no dog diet that is right for all dogs, and you need to make sure you listen to your dog and pay attention to any changes in their stool, their overall attitude or in their energy levels, and base your decisions on that.
As mentioned above, Siberian Huskies used for mushing have been fed raw diets for a very long time, long before anyone ever voiced “BARF” or any other raw food variety, and they seem to thrive on a diet similar to what wild dogs would eat. Don’t fancy the Raw life? We have reviewed our favorite foods for Husky dogs here.
Other large and strong breeds; such as the German Shepherd, Doberman, Great Dane and Labrador Retriever, are also believed to benefit from natural raw food, as it helps provide them with energy to last a whole day, without the sugar-highs and ups and downs that cheap kibble and canned food may cause.
Working dogs need slow carbs and food that will benefit both their brains and their bodies, and for them – properly prepared raw food or freeze-dried raw food could be the answer.
If you are interested in switching your dog over to a raw diet, you should start by consulting your veterinarian. Once your dog has been cleared for a diet change, then you want to take yourself the time to learn about different products and ingredients; what needs to go in the food and where you can be a bit more flexible.
Making raw dog food can be both fun and interesting, but you need to know what you are doing before getting started. Don’t experiment with your dog’s health, be responsible and educate yourself on the dos and don’ts of making (or purchasing) raw dog food.