Haciko Debate: Raw food diet

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:

Alfie’s Blog- How to Switch to a Raw Diet

Big Honey Dog- Honey’s Raw Diet

Raw Dog Ranch

Dog Food Guru

Dancing Dog Bog- Summary of Pet Food 2.0


Modern Dog Magazine

QNA Guides

Organic Authority

Dog Channel

11 thoughts on “Haciko Debate: Raw food diet

  1. I’ve been feeding a raw diet for years and the only point here I don’t agree with is the “don’t feed your dog bones” part. Yes, cooked bones are an absolute No-No, but raw bones are an integral part of a raw diet and provide the important nutrient calcium. While I prefer to feed the bones ground up into the meat, I know plenty of raw feeders who feed entire chicken backs, bones completely intact. I think it depends on the dog and if they are gulpers or not, but the bones are great for cleaning teeth (think raw chicken and turkey necks) as well.


  2. Good overview. We’ve tried small amounts of raw meat, but have to admit that a full-on diet (that is, beyond treat amounts, as meals) is something we probably wouldn’t do. I eat grain-free kibble as my mainstay and that seems to be be really good. *wags* – Gilligan from WagsAhoy.com


  3. We are not on a raw diet and have no plans to switch to one. We are fed high quality kibble which works best for us and our lifestyle. Raw is a great thing but has to be the right fit. Your list is a good place for people to start if they are considering switching.


  4. Thanks for joining the blog hop.

    We are raw feeders at our house and my dogs have lost a tremendous amount of weight. My vet says we added a couple of years to their lives by helping get that weight off.

    Their diet consists mostly of a ground mix (I don’t feel confident in mixing it myself) with organ meat, muscle, bone all ground in together. They also get chicken necks, which we cut up into chunks, the necks are great for helping keep their teeth cleaned, but you do have to watch your dogs with any bones. But some raw bone is okay for your dog.


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