We all know the age old saying of we are what we eat. One of the main decision us dog parents need to make is around what type of diet we want our pet to eat.
Dry food, wet food, raw food, commercial, locally made, homemade.
The choices can be overwhelming. And one of the hottest issues seems to be around raw diets. We wanted to take a deeper look at conversation and understand a little bit more what the advocate and critics say.
The raw food for dog movement started in Austalia in 1993 by vet Ian Billinghurst promoted “BARF” diet, which stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, which was essentially Bones and Raw Food, and is according to Dr. Billinghurst a more natural diet in line with what dogs would eat in the wild. Critics have pointed out that 1. Dogs live much shorter lives in the wild, so this is not necessarily a strong selling point, and 2. That a lot of the breeds we raise at home are very different to wild dogs.
The FDA and ASPCA have weighed in, backing the critics in saying that there are great health risks in raw food diets. Specially in a 2010 Pet food study the FDA testing 193 commercial raw food and found that 15 were positive for Salmonella and 32 were positive for L. monocytogenes.
However let’s look at the pro’s and con’s to the raw food diet:
- Safety– there have been numerous pet food recalls and by preparing your dog’s meals you know exactly what you are feeding them
- Nutritional benfits– you control exactly what you dog eats (and can tailor food based on allergies or sensitives). Commercial dog food also contains preservatives which you can eliminate from your dog’s diet
- Health benefits– Everything from better dental health, to shiner coats, and higher energy levels. Some even say this is an outlet for chewing tendencies and can lead to overall better behavior.
- Safety concerns– raw food is known to contain a number of pathogens (such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium botulinium, and Staphylococcus aureus). These pathogens usually only pose a serious human risk to the immuno-compromised, the elderly, and young children; however, this is a very important consideration if you are feeding a raw diet and have people in these risk groups living in your home.
- Nutrition and health- Nutrient deficiency is a big concern on homemade raw diets. It’s hard to and time consuming to adequately balance a diet. Furthermore there are health risks from the food itself, eating bones has been known to hurt dogs and is a major concern.
- Commitment– raw diets can be both very expensive and time consuming.
If you do embark on a raw diet here a few helpful do’s and don’t:
DO consult your vet before you start
DO watch your dog as he eats, and throw away leftovers
DO use stainless steel dishes
DO consider pre freezing meat, as this eliminates some (not all) parasites
DO practice appropriate disposal methods when cleaning up pet feces
DON’T feed your dog bones (especially cooked bones!)
DON’T let your pooch lick your face after they eat
DON’T follow a raw diet in a house with toddlers/ elderly
You can find a great primer here (including what to food to include in the diet, when to feed etc.), and meal plans here. Should you choose not to embark on a raw diet and are looking for more general information about canine cuisine (from a kibble feeding owner) we love this in depth guide from Pawcurious
Also check out these great raw diet blog posts: