What is it?
Raw food diets come in many variations, but common to them all is a diet of mostly raw meat and/or meaty bones supplemented by organ meat, eggs, grains, vegetables, and fruits.
For dog owners, this means either a) buying and preparing combinations of high-quality, raw ingredients or b) buying commercially produced frozen raw food.
Better health. Raw food diets are reported to have a positive effect on skin conditions, allergies, coat condition, as well as a number of digestive, dental, ocular, and reproductive problems.
Raw food is a controversial issue with smart, highly educated people on either side. Advocates contend that raw food is the most biologically appropriate diet for dogs and that, when prepared and served safely, its nutritional value is optimal. Opponents say dogs are functional omnivores, separated from their raw-eating ancestors by thousands of years of evolution, and that raw meat can carry parasitic and bacterial infections, and bones can cause gastrointestinal obstruction and perforation.
What to know
Even advocates agree that raw diets aren’t right for all dogs. Dogs who are immune-compromised or on immune-suppressant medication, have had pancreatitis, are weakened by chronic illness, or suffer from inflammatory bowel disease should not be fed a raw food diet. Also avoid raw food if the household includes an immune-compromised person or a toddler.
Do-it-yourself raw food:
Complete and balanced. The number one concern when preparing a raw food diet is to ensure all your dog’s nutritional needs are met. That means learning the basics of canine food composition and including a variety of foods in the diet over time.
Safety. Raw meat for dog consumption is no more dangerous than meat for human consumption is before it’s cooked. Similar safety guidelines apply: Freeze food until you need it. Wash your hands and dishes, utensils, countertops, etc. with hot water and soap after contact with raw meat. Discard any leftovers from your dog’s bowl and immediately wash the bowl.
Buying frozen raw food:
Scrutinize labels. As with all commercially produced dog food, picking the highest-quality ingredients is key. Look for whole animal protein from a named source (beef, pork, turkey, etc.) and whole produce and grains, and avoid animal by-products, preservatives, and artificial coloring.
Shop around. It can be a challenge to find quality food that suits your dog, your budget, and is locally available. For some, the only option is having products shipped to them.
Safety. Observe the same safety precautions as with any raw meat products (see above).