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Home » The Benefits and Risks of the Raw Food Diet

The Benefits and Risks of the Raw Food Diet

In this Springtime Dog Health Spotlight, we examine each of the four major dog feeding styles: dry, wet, raw, and homemade. We’ll go over the basics for each style, the pros/cons, best practices, and things to avoid.

What is the raw dog food trend?

Raw feeding is a dog feeding style that attempts to imitate the whole-prey diet of a wolf or wild dog, with an uncooked preparation of raw muscle meat, organs, bone, and a blend of fruits, vegetables, and other essential nutrients. Raw feeders embrace the simple notion that if you replicate the diet that nature intended, you get a healthier dog.

Raw Dog Food Summary

Pros:

• Better quality and amount of meat protein
• Easily Digestible (minimal waste)
• No preservatives, grains, or fillers
• Avoids the nutrient loss of cooking
• Improved overall health
• Improved skin and coat
• Improved breath and teeth

Cons:

• Risk of food-borne pathogens for dogs and humans
• Must be consumed within 30 minutes to avoid spoilage (not good for “grazers”)
• Expensive compared to other feeding methods
• Prolonged use of high-liver raw diets can lead to vitamin A toxicity
• Whole bones can cause serious intestinal issues and injuries
• High fat-to-protein ratio can cause anemia
• Incorrect calcium-to-potassium ratio can cause health issues, especially in puppies

The modern history of raw feeding for dogs

For decades, raw meat diets have been used to improve the performance of canine athletes, such as greyhounds and sled dogs. Then, in the early 1990s, raw feeding began to catch on as the biologically appropriate diet for all dogs, with dedicated owners working to perfect their own homemade raw recipes. Today, consumers can find a number of commercial raw dog food products in refrigerated, frozen, and freeze-dried varieties at their local pet supplies store.

The benefits of the raw diet

The raw dog food trend is a response to mass-produced dog food and its common shortcomings, including high carbohydrate content, lack of quality meat protein, potentially unhealthy additives, and cooking under extreme temperature and pressure. Raw feeding seeks to correct this with an uncooked preparation that recreates the diet that dogs have evolved to consume, with a high percentage of quality muscle meat – without grains or fillers. The food is never cooked, which protects the integrity of its nutritional content.

Raw food diets are associated with various health benefits, including shinier coats, cleaner teeth, better breath, and overall improved nutrition. Because raw dog food is usually prepared at home or sold as a frozen product, there are typically no preservatives or dangerous additives. Additionally, raw food users have not experienced the same level of food recalls that have become all too common to can/kibble products.

The risk

The handling and consumption of raw meat, even for frozen products, comes with a risk of food-borne pathogens for the dog and the owner. The food must be consumed by the dog within 30 minutes to avoid spoilage, and the feeding area must be cleaned and disinfected. Ground bone is generally considered safe, but some raw dog food approaches recommend whole uncooked bones, which add the risk of choking, broken teeth, and intestinal blockages and punctures. Raw food recipes must include the proper types and amounts of organ meat, raw fruits/vegetables and the correct calcium/phosphorous balance, or there is the risk of health issues.

Live factors

The term “complete and balanced” on the dog food packaging means that the nutritional profile should meet the U.S. government’s minimum standards for a dog’s nutritional needs. Even when it meets the proper ratios, raw dog foods often lack vital nutrients dogs need for joint and immune health, but these nutrients can and should be supplemented.

To learn more about another feeding style, click one of the links below…

Intro to Dog Food

Dry Dog Food

Wet Dog Food

Homemade Dog Food


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No matter which feeding style you prefer, you can replicate the diet nature intended with these all-natural supplements for dogs:

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