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Raw Food Diet for Dogs: Pros and Cons

Jun 6, 2017 | Canine DNA Testing, Pets & Vets

The statistics say it all: Americans are crazy about dogs. In fact, according to the ASPCA, there are an estimated 78 million dogs from coast to coast, and 44% of U.S. households have a pooch. That’s some serious puppy love, and all those tail-waggers need to be fed. The pet-food industry is huge and their kibble has been rattled over the last few years thanks to the latest trend in pet care: a raw food diet for dogs.

The Raw Facts about a Raw Food Diet for Dogs

This type of diet is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: uncooked natural foods. A common acronym is—ironically—BARF, which can stand for Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. It basically consists of some or all of the following:

  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Raw and Meaty Bones
  • Organ Meat
  • Muscle Meat

Some high-end grocery stores now have entire coolers and freezers dedicated to the protein side of this diet, making it easier for dog owners to prepare their pets’ meals, but doing so 100% still requires a considerable time commitment. A true aficionado might spend as much time putting together their dog’s dinner as they do their human family’s! If your days are typically hectic, this might be a factor to consider.

Statistics for a Raw Food Diet for Dogs

This new trend is certainly popular, so if you’re considering it, you’re in good company. According to pet food industry experts, the majority of sales for commercially-prepared raw food options are to owners who want to add a little bit of raw goodness on top of kibble. The next biggest seller is “full meal” raw food products. One thing’s for sure: raw food diets are big business in America with sales of raw and raw alternative dog food more than doubling in just four years: from $117 million to $393 million in 2016.

The Pros and Cons

So a lot of people are embracing a raw food diet for dogs, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing, right? The pro-raw reasoning is that modern dogs’ ancestors all lived on bones, raw meat, and while vegetation, so it’s a natural fit for today too. Not necessarily! Right now, reports of health benefits or detriments are mainly anecdotal, and large-scale statistics are still probably several years away, but experts definitely have opinions. Here are some quick pros and cons, according to the experts at Modern Dog Magazine.

Pros

  • Safety: You know exactly what ingredients your dog’s eating, so there’s no need to worry about commercial-food recalls
  • Meet your Dog’s Unique Dietary Needs: If your dog is allergic to or has averse physical reactions as a result of eating certain ingredients in commercial foods, a raw food diet may be the solution
  • All-Natural: If you are concerned about preservatives in commercial food, then a raw diet might be an attractive alternative

Cons

  • Possible Contaminants: Raw diets can put dogs at risk for Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli, and more
  • Safety Risks: Dogs can choke, chip their teeth, or suffer intestinal blockage or organ perforations from chewing on and eating bones. Additionally, dogs have a hard time digesting raw vegetables, so veggies should be blanched and ground, which requires more work
  • Convenience: No doubt about it—a raw food diet for dogs can be expensive and it’s definitely more time-consuming. Feeding is more difficult or complicated whether you’re traveling with your dog or if you’ve left him behind with a sitter.

The Tip of the Tail

When in doubt, it’s always wise to ask a veterinarian you trust. Your dog may have certain health conditions that make a drastic change in diet prohibitive. Be sure to also do extensive research on the internet before talking with your vet, so you can make a truly informed decision about what goes in your beloved dog’s supper dish—it’s such an important choice!

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