Today we’re talking about the pros and cons of a raw diet. We’re doing this a little differently than we normally do. Just like in the rest of the dog-loving world, at DogVills we all have different thoughts on the best diet for our dogs. We aim to give you the most balanced information possible at all times, but sometimes we can get a bit passionate about our thoughts on a particular diet. The raw diet is one that ignites passion! So rather than just throw the pros and cons at you, we invite you to join us in a respectful debate on the pros and cons of a raw diet for dogs! I’ll share what I feel are the pros based on my research and as a dog parent considering the diet, and Ben will share the cons from a veterinary standpoint.
Pros and Cons of a Raw Diet for Dogs
Raw Diet Pros: It Can Work IF Done Right
First, let me state that my dogs are not currently on this diet. I am still researching because I want to know I’m doing it right before I make a switch. It’s a research-intensive diet that requires balance and great care, but when done right, it can have benefits.
Many dog parents have their pooches on a raw diet, also called the Ancestral Diet, because it more closely mimics what their diet would be in the wild. I’ve known plenty of dogs who’ve done beautifully on a raw diet. However, it is incredibly important to understand that feeding your dog this type of diet isn’t a matter of heading to the butcher and picking up a raw chicken to toss at its feet! Dogs in the wild don’t just eat the parts that come pre-packaged for us; they eat the whole animal. You’ll need to include veggies, fruits and other foods in their diet. You may also need to include supplements.
So, if done correctly, what are the potential pros of a raw food diet? As with any diet, results may vary depending on dogs, but the most commonly reported pros include:
Beneficial for Dogs with Allergies and Special Nutritional Needs
With a raw food diet, you typically control the ingredients. While you still MUST make sure you’re giving your dog a balanced diet, you decide what goes into their dish. If you know your dog is allergic to chicken, you can opt for different protein sources. For dogs with severe allergies, this type of diet can be a major pro for pet parents. Control over ingredients can also help you tailor the diet to your dogs unique nutritional needs. I do think it’s important to work with a vet (whether it’s a holistic vet or one who is on board with raw diets) to determine the right ingredients to include in the diet.
Closer to their natural diet
As mentioned above, the main reason dog parents go with this type of diet is because it is closer to their natural diet in the wild. Honestly, I’m personally against the whole Paleo diet thing for humans. I also feel like domestic dogs have probably evolved differently than dogs in the wild, so getting all the way back to nature may not be ideal. I’m not a geneticist, though, so I may be wrong there. That said, dogs do have higher protein and fat needs, and those needs may be better met by a raw diet.
One of the most often cited pros of a raw diet is better digestibility. I read dozens of articles before writing my section of this post, and many dog parents said that they immediately noticed a difference in stool quality after starting this type of diet. For example, in this article on the NY Times website, actress Sharon Misik said her two huskies were like brand new dogs on the diet. Fun fact: Arctic sled dogs are fed the BARF diet, which sounds gross but stands for Bones and Raw Food.
The bottom line on the pros of a raw diet for dogs (before I turn it over to Ben for the cons), the diet, can be beneficial, but you do need to do the research. I’m not talking check out one site and start your dog on a side of beef, I mean cross-check facts and information and compile a solid database of information. Also, if you don’t feel like you can pull off a DIY raw diet flawlessly, I recommend looking to one of the many companies that now specialize in this type of diet for dogs. This includes Nature’s Variety, FreshPet, Stella and Chewy’s, Orijen and many more. Over to Ben!
Raw Diet is Bad News
by Ben Butler
A raw diet is an exceedingly bad idea for dogs. In fact, it’s downright dangerous for several reasons. I won’t be surprised if some negative comments get posted on this one. Raw diet supporters are die-hard, but it’s still a terrible idea. While most people know the raw diet from websites or word of mouth, I know the raw diet from a veterinary standpoint. Feeding a dog a raw diet is a bad, bad news and here’s why.
A raw diet includes raw meat. And raw meat is not a good idea no matter how you look at it. Dogs are not inherently immune to the bacteria in raw meat that makes us sick as well. In fact, they are just as susceptible as we are to the dangers of raw meat. It is a terribly dangerous thing to give to your dogs.
A raw diet is one that people make themselves. That opens your dog up to a big problem outside of the dangers of eating raw meat – nutritional imbalance. Dog food companies have been at this a long time. If you get a high-quality dog food – emphasis on high quality – your dog will have the exact balance of protein, fat, carbs, and vitamins and minerals it needs for its body to function properly. Going it alone – not matter how much research you do – will never yield the same results as a high-quality food. Again, emphasis on high-quality.
In addition to bacteria dangers and inadequate nutrition, the raw diet can also pose a risk to your dogs GI health. Dogs require adequate amounts of fiber to help everything move along. They also require a diet that’s proven to be compatible with a dog’s GI tract. While many dogs may be just fine on a raw diet, there are some that could develop GI symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea – generally the latter.
With all the companies out there making so many different varieties of high-quality dog food, there’s never a need to try a raw diet. A raw diet is extremely dangerous, and it can spell disaster for your dog, no matter how well-intentioned you are. Between the dangers of salmonella and other bacteria from raw meat to the nutritional inconsistencies to possible GI issues, it makes more sense to keep your dog on a high-quality dog food rather than a raw diet.