Raw Diet For Dogs: What Is It, Benefits, Pros & Cons, Cost & More

raw diet for dogs

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You’re not alone if you’ve been considering a raw diet for your dog. A growing number of dog owners are feeding their companions a raw diet, and there are good reasons.

In this article, we’ll explore what a raw diet is, its benefits and risks, and recent research on the topic. We’ll also provide tips on switching to a raw diet if you decide to go that route. So, let’s get started!

Table of Contents 📖

What Is A Raw Diet For Dogs?

A raw diet for dogs comprises uncooked meat, raw crushed (or whole) bones, organs (i.e., livers and kidneys), raw eggs, and dog-safe fruits, vegetables, and dairy.

Sled dogs and racing greyhounds were the first dogs to start eating raw diets before it was even popular. The whole concept of raw feeding was introduced in 1993 by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst, and he coined BARF, which stands for Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.

Raw dog food diets mimic a dog’s ancestral diet based upon a dog’s instinctive carnivorous and primal stages.

There is a variation in the BARF format known as the prey model raw (PMR) food. This version of the raw diet for dogs excludes fruits and vegetables.

Types of Raw Diet For Dogs

There are several ways to feed your dog raw food. Let’s understand the differences and which one is a better fit for your furry friend.

Frozen Raw Dog Food

Frozen raw dog food is raw meat, organs, fruits, and vegetables packaged up and stored in a freezer. It’s completely free from artificial and preservatives. Freezing the ingredients at low temperatures extends shelf life, prevents bacteria from multiplying, and kills the parasites. This food requires thawing before feeding and freezer storage to keep it. Once thawed, they can be easily cut into serving sizes.

With refrigerated fresh raw dog food, dog owners typically take advantage of raw dog food delivery services to save time and freezer space.

Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food

Freeze-dried is a convenient option because it doesn’t require freezer storage. You can keep it at room temperature, and it’s shelf-stable for a long time, making it easier for traveling. Raw dog food involves freeze-drying raw ingredients to remove the food’s water content in a sublimation process that turns water from a liquid directly to a gas. It doesn’t use heat, so all the ingredients are raw. You don’t have to add water with some, but most require rehydration before your dog eats it.

Most bacteria are killed when raw meat is freeze-dried, so it’s safer to feed raw meat to your pet.

Homemade Raw Dog Food

Cooking balanced homemade raw dog meals for your dog can be challenging. It involves a lot of measuring, following nutrition guidelines prepping, and observation. There is also a higher risk of contamination due to the raw nature of the ingredients. Nutritional imbalances are common in homemade dog meals, so it’s recommended to consult your vet nutritionist if you plan to feed Fido raw homemade food.

Air Dried / Dehydrated Raw

The process of making dehydrated dog food consists of air-drying the ingredients. Air drying means gently cooking the ingredients at very low temperatures to evaporate the water present in the food while retaining nutrients and enzymes.

Purists of raw foods may not accept air-dried and dehydrated dog food as truly raw because they need to be heated to prepare them. Dehydrated raw dog food is typically more affordable than freeze-dried options and lasts longer. You will need to add water before your dog eats it.

Raw Diet For Dog Benefits

So, what are the benefits of raw dog food?

Veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst and other proponents of raw dog food say the benefits include:

  • Shinner coat
  • Improved skin health
  • More energy
  • Lean, strong muscles
  • Smaller, firmer stools
  • Improved dental health
  • Stronger immune system
  • Lower risk for allergies
  • Improved digestion


Lisa M. Freeman Freeman, a nutrition professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, tells WebMD many of the benefits attributed to a raw food diet for dogs, such as a shinier coat, are the result of the high-fat composition of the typical raw diet.1

Karen Becker, a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian at Mercola Healthy Pets, supports nutritionally balanced raw diets for dogs. She says this feeding method is “biologically appropriate,” referring to how dogs ate in the wild before domestication. She believes the less processed foods are for pets, the healthier they are.2

“For most animals, [raw diets] are more beneficial than processed foods,” says Dr. Doug Knueven, DVM, of the Beaver Animal Clinic in Beaver, PA. Furthermore, a survey study on feeding practices in the United States and Australia indicated that 98.7% (where 16.2% of 98.7% feed bones or raw food to their dogs) deemed their pet healthy.3

In the most extensive study to date on the effects of raw food on dogs, Belgian researchers Dr. Gerard Lippert and Bruno Sapy examined more than 500 dogs over a period spanning five years and concluded that raw feeding dogs could add as much as 32 months (almost three years) – to a dog’s life.

Dr. Peter Dobias, who has 30 years of veterinary experience and has advocated for raw pet diets since 1995, agrees with the study and says, “From my experience, if people feed a raw diet, they will increase their dog’s lifespan by 25 percent,” “Generally, raw-fed dogs are so much healthier. The changes are profound.”

If you want to learn more about the benefits and impact of raw diets on dogs, Give Your Dog a Bone by Ian Billinghurst is a runaway bestseller worth reading. 

Raw Diet For Dogs Risks

While raw feeding dogs has benefits and some veterinarians may recommend it, there are some concerns you should be aware of.

  • Feeding whole bones to dogs present a risk of choking, broken teeth, intestinal obstruction, or internal punctures. 
  • Raw meat is at higher risk of bacteria and pathogens contamination, threatening dogs’ and humans’ health.
  • You can jeopardize your dog’s health if you do raw or homemade food wrong (nutritionally unbalanced).

Are Commercial Raw Meat-Based Diets Unsafe For Dogs?

Should you worry about commercial raw meat-based diets (RMBD) for dogs or raw dog food companies selling raw dog food?

No, raw dog food companies address all the risks and concerns about raw dog feeding with vet-formulated raw dog food formulas.

Commercially available raw dog food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). They use high-quality ingredients, including USDA-certified meats and fresh vegetables, to avoid contamination. Furthermore, they finely ground the bones to reduce any risk of chowing.

The FDA regulates and has guidance documents for all pet food products, including commercially available raw food for pets. Even the American Kennel Club has recommended a commercial raw dog food formula on their website.

Raw food for dogs is a great option as long as it is made from wholesome, natural ingredients and prepared in safe manufacturing facilities. Always speak with a veterinarian nutritionist first.

Raw diet for dogs may not be suitable for dogs with health issues such as kidney or liver problems – Image: Canine Bible

Dogs That Shouldn’t Eat Raw Dog Food

Dr. Doug Knueven, who specializes in holistic medicine and consults for Nature’s Variety (Instinct, a raw dog food brand), says raw diets are not appropriate for all dogs.

Because raw diets are typically high in protein, they aren’t appropriate for dogs with kidney or liver issues. Too much protein can increase the workload on these organs leading to aggravation of these conditions.

It’s recommended that dogs with pancreatitis or other digestive problems start with a cooked homemade diet to rule out issues before switching to raw.

Dr. Knueven also states that dogs with cancer, those on chemotherapy, or those with other immunosuppressive conditions should not eat raw food.

Raw Dog Food Pros & Cons

Let’s examine the pros and cons of feeding raw meals to canines.

Pros

  • Several health benefits include a shinier coat, fewer allergies, better digestion and more
  • No dangerous additives, preservatives, or chemicals in your dog’s food
  • Promotes stronger bones and joints
  • Several commercially available raw dog food options
  • Research shows dogs live longer on fresh diets
  • Raw dog foods often please picky eaters
  • Better overall health

Cons

  • Higher risk of contagion
  • It’s somehow more expensive unless cooking at home
  • Cooking a complete and balanced raw diet for dogs is hard. You need a vet’s advice.
  • Need freezer space
  • Preparing raw dog food at home is time-consuming
  • Frozen raw dog food spoils when left in the bowl for a long period of time


Cost of Raw Food Diet For Dogs

The average price of traditional kibble is $1.97 per pound, while high-end kibble is $3.466 per pound.4 In contrast, the average price for the most popular, high-end raw commercial foods in the market is $6.4 per pound, with the lower-end raw options costing $3.8 per pound, according to our calculations.

We also analyzed the price for the most popular meats. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, beef, chicken, and turkey have an average price per pound of $3.9, $1.5, and $1.28, respectively.

If you were to switch your dog to a raw homemade diet, your food expenses shouldn’t vary much compared to what you spend on kibble. In fact, it might be cheaper. Conversely, buying commercial raw-meat food over traditional kibble is a tad more expensive, but we think the health benefits and convenience are worth the price.

Where to Buy Raw Dog Food?

Specialty pet stores are a good place to start your search for raw dog food. These stores typically carry a variety of brands and formulas, so you’re sure to find something that your dog will love. However, keep in mind that specialty pet stores can be pricey.

Another option is to purchase raw dog food online. This is our preferred option. There are many reputable retailers that sell raw dog food at a reasonable price. Just be sure to do your research before making a purchase, as not all online retailers are created equal. Thankfully, we’ve researched this for you. Check out our article on the best raw dog food delivery services.

Finally, you may be able to find raw dog food at your local grocery store or butcher shop. While the selection may be limited, you may be able to find a good quality product at a more affordable price.

Best Raw Dog Food Delivery

No matter where you purchase raw dog food, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about whether this type of diet is right for your pet.

Raw Food Diet For Dog With Allergies

Many dogs suffer from allergies. Feeding your dog a raw food diet is one option to provide relief. Raw food diets are often hypoallergenic, as they do not contain fillers or preservatives that can trigger allergies. In addition, the nutrients in raw food are more easily absorbed by the body, which can help to reduce inflammation and support the immune system. A BARF diet mimics your dog’s natural diet, normalizing and strengthening your dog’s digestion and immune systems naturally, which reduces stress on the body while allowing a natural reduction of inflammatory conditions and a lower risk of infection and allergies.

However, some dogs may be allergic to certain raw ingredients. Consider doing an at-home raw dog food allergy test if you’re considering a raw food diet for your allergic dog. Also, please consult your veterinarian first to ensure that it is the best option for your pet.

Raw Diet For Dogs Before And After

Watch and read before and after raw dog diet testimonials from parents who feed their dogs raw food.

Testimonials #1

Testimonials #2

Testimonial #3

Barbara Benjamin-Creel of Marietta started giving raw food to her three dogs after Scooter, a German Shepherd, was diagnosed with cancer. The diet change came too late to help Scooter, she says, but the other dogs are thriving after two years on raw dog food. The 11-year-old dogs seem more energetic, and one with chronic digestive problems tolerates the raw diet better. The change in the coat was pretty immediate, she says. Also, their breath was much better. It’s not cheap, she says, but I think we’ve avoided a lot of old-age issues.”
Barbara Benjamin-Creel of Marietta
Fetch by PetMD

Raw Diet For Dogs Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of our readers most common questions about a raw dog diet.

Is Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food Safe?

Yes. Freeze-dried is the safest alternative for feeding raw dog food to Fido. Freeze-dried raw dog foods go through high-pressure processing (HPP) to decrease quantities of bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. It’s considered safe and provides all the benefits of a BARF diet.

Is Raw Dog Food Better Than Kibble?

Raw dog food offers significant advantages over kibble. These include no preservatives, additives, chemicals, high bioavailability, health benefits like a better coat, and improved digestion. However, some downsides include a higher risk of contamination and a higher price tag. Proponents of raw feeding agree that raw food offers significantly more benefits than kibble that outweigh the cons. 

Is Raw Dog Food Safe?

Raw dog food that’s been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens and is balanced by a veterinary nutritionist or follows AAFCO’s nutritional guidelines is considered safe. Unregulated feeding of raw foods and poorly prepared BARF diets is dangerous.

What Are the Best Veggies For Raw Dog Food?

The best veggies to feed in a raw dog diet include carrots, green beans, broccoli, beets, celery, cucumber, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. 

Where Can I Buy Raw Dog Food Online?

The best five places to buy raw dog food online include BARF World, Darwin’s, Cali Raw, Instinct and Stella & Chewy’s

Should You Feed Raw Diet For Dogs? Conclusion

The debate over whether or not to feed dogs a raw diet has been going on for years. Some people swear by the benefits of feeding their dogs a raw diet, while others are convinced that it is dangerous and harmful to their pet’s health. So, what is the truth? Is a raw diet suitable for your dog?

The answer may depend on who you ask, but there are some pros and cons to consider before making a decision. One of the biggest advantages of feeding a raw diet is that it is thought to be more natural and closer to what dogs would eat in the wild. Proponents of raw diets also claim that these diets can improve digestion, help with weight management, and increase energy levels. However, some risks are associated with feeding a raw diet, including the potential for foodborne illness and the spread of bacteria. Additionally, raw diets can be expensive and time-consuming to prepare.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to feed your dog a raw diet is one that you will need to make based on your research and discussion with your veterinarian. There is no definitive answer as to whether or not a raw diet is the best option for every dog, but understanding the pros and cons is crucial if you switch your dog to raw feeding.

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