Diet & nutrition

So what's the deal with raw dog food diets?

Date created: 17 11 2017

Some people swear that “keeping it raw” is the way to go on the doggy diet front. So are they right? Let’s check out the facts and think about what’s really important...

There’s one thing we can all agree on: every pooch deserves the best possible diet to meet their needs. Feeding your dog the right amount of the right stuff is one of the best things you can do for a long, healthy and happy life. And it’s the reason why good food is definitely something worth getting passionate about. So how do you get it right?

This is where things can get a bit confusing. Do a Google search of “What should I feed my dog” and scroll through the articles, message boards and news stories you’ll find hundreds of conflicting suggestions, warnings and advice on the right thing to do.

Over the last few years, raw food diets have become a hot topic. In the United States, raw pet food sales grew from $117 million to $393 million between 2012 and 2016 - and are now becoming popular on this side of the Pond, too.

The raw diet approach goes something like this: ditch the dry food, the cans and all that other processed stuff. Instead focus on raw, natural ingredients. In this way, you’re going back to basics with a diet much more in tune with what your dog’s wild ancestors would have eaten. Raw food diets are billed as “keeping it real” and “food as it should be”. After all, you don’t live on coco pops and tinned food - so why should your dog?

But before you jump right in, be aware that the approach isn’t without its critics…

Raw diets: what are we talking about?
On the one hand, there are commercial raw diets. Often resembling large uncooked burger patties, these products tend to wear their “100% natural” credentials on their sleeve. Lots of meat combined with just the right amount of veg - and no extra sugar, salt or preservatives. You can even source suppliers who stick to human consumption-grade meat.

Alongside this, there’s the DIY approach to raw food diets. It’s where pet owners source the raw meat, offal and bones themselves - and combine them with all the fruits, vegetables and grains necessary for a balanced diet.


Why are raw diets popular?
There’s a lot to be said for getting back to nature. It’s common sense, right?

In evolutionary terms, it really isn’t that long ago that your buddy’s ancestors were self-sufficient on the feeding front. Raw meat and bones: these were the cornerstones of a dog’s diet. These are what dogs are “designed” to eat - so it makes sense to recreate this at mealtimes. Reaching for the tin opener might be easy, but it’s a long way from what’s natural.

There’s also the reassurance of knowing exactly what’s in that dog bowl. We’ve all done it: picked up a packet of supermarket food, read the ingredient list and felt confused about what it all means. If it looks too processed for comfort, many of us will put it back on the shelf. So if we’re careful with what goes into the trolley for the rest of the family, we’re probably going to take the same approach for feeding our four-legged family members.

Reasons to be cautious
There are some issues that all dog owners should be aware of before opting for a raw diet…

The first is that all raw meat - whether it’s meant for humans or dogs - must be handled with care. Salmonella, Campylobacter, E-coli, Staphylococcus aureus: these pathogens are harmful both to dogs and humans. If present, these bacteria can be shed in dog stools and deposited on surfaces as the dog moves through the house. Bear in mind that these conditions can be especially serious for children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.

And while it’s right to focus on nutritious, good-quality ingredients, that’s not to say that you should try to recreate the exact diet of your buddy's ancestors!

Look at it this way: life for a wild dog was (and is) tough. On the whole, our dogs are living happier and healthier lives - and they are living a lot longer than their wild counterparts. Things like vaccines, the right medical treatment and parasite control undoubtedly play a part in this. But so too does diet. We understand what these guys need to keep them healthy long-term - and things like high-quality dry food formulas are designed to deliver precisely this.

Exploring your options
The British Veterinary Association stays pretty much neutral on the Raw v Cooked debate.

Instead, they focus on what really matters: urging us to remember that all pets need a nutritionally balanced diet. A raw diet might fit the bill; but equally, a good prepared dog food should provide everything your buddy needs.

And alongside this debate, the BVA is also keen to remind us of the elephant in the room; or at least, the chubby pup in the surgery waiting room. As they put it; “by far and away, the biggest concern amongst veterinary surgeons is over feeding leading to obesity”.

So whether it’s raw or cooked, just make sure it’s right for their needs - and your buddy isn’t getting too much of a good thing!