Have you heard about the raw dog food diet? Perhaps you have heard it’s the best natural diet for your pet. Maybe you are considering making the switch. But before you decide on giving your pup a raw food diet please read about the risks that come with this diet trend.
Today we’ll dive into the raw dog food diet trend and why it could be risky for your pup’s diet.
A well-balanced diet is critical to a dog’s health and overall well-being. But before we delve into the risks of feeding Fido raw dog food, let’s first look at what makes a complete and balanced diet for your dog. When you see the word “complete'' used on dog food labels, it refers to having all the required nutrients. While “balanced” means the nutrients are in the correct proportions.
A diet for a dog must contain:
For a more detailed look at a dog’s basic dietary needs please check out VCA’s article on feeding guidelines.
What is a raw dog food diet?
A raw dog food diet means that a dog’s diet consists of mostly uncooked food. Raw dog food can either be prepared at home or be store-bought.
It usually consists of
- Raw animal protein such as meat (muscle and organ)
- Bone (whole or ground)
- Raw eggs
- Dairy (such as yogurt)
- Raw Fruits
- Raw veggies
Raw dog food diets have become popular due to the notion that dogs should eat what their ancestors ate. The idea is that a raw food diet is closer to what dogs used to eat in the wild. However, dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years and their bodies have evolved since the last time they were gnawing on freshly hunted meat.
People who feed their pets raw dog food diets also report seeing shinier coats, healthier teeth, and more energy, but there is no hard evidence to back these claims up.
Risks of feeding your dog a raw dog food
One of the biggest risks of feeding your dog raw dog food is the spread of bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli. Bacteria can be spread while preparing raw food and can be harmful to humans and pets alike. This will be especially risky for people and animals with a compromised immune system. Because cooking is the primary mode that kills bacteria, raw food will always have the presence of bacteria. Handling and preparing raw food for a dog is a meticulous endeavor.
Another risk is nutritional deficiencies. As mentioned earlier, dogs need a well-balanced and complete diet. A raw dog food diet consists mostly of protein and is not specially formulated by a veterinarian, so the risk of being malnutritious is high.
Another concern is bones. Bones oftentimes are a part of a raw diet and can be hazardous. Bones can wear down or break teeth, splinter, and potentially cause blockage or breakage in the intestines.
What should you look for in store-bought food?
If you decide to stay with cooked, store-bought food (canned or kibble) it is always good to pay close attention to the ingredients list. But ingredient lists can be tricky to decipher. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires brands to list some information, this varies from state to state and may even be misleading.
For example, the ingredient list will tell you what is in the food, but not where it comes from or the quality of the source. Please read this article by the American Kennel Club on choosing the best dog food for your pup.
You’ll want meat to be the first ingredient on the list. There needs to be a good amount of protein in the ingredient list followed by fruits or vegetables. Dog food should also contain carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. When you can avoid artificial flavor, colors, or sweeteners.
You will also want to look for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) approval on the label. The AAFCO has requirements for pet food being complete and balanced.
Another important component when picking out food for your dog is to take into account several other factors such as your pup’s age, activity level, size, and allergies. For example, an older dog will have different nutritional needs than a puppy. An active service dog will have different needs than a lap dog. Because of this, it's generally recommended that you buy a dog food that is formulated for their stage of life. This helps ensure the dog gets his or her appropriate nutrients. You can always talk to your veterinarian to pick the best food for your dog’s unique nutritional needs.
The verdict when it comes to feeding your dog a raw food diet is that it is best to avoid it because the risks outweigh the potential benefits. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) strongly discourages people from feeding pets a raw food diet. If you are dead set on giving your dog raw dog food, the best decision is to consult your trusty veterinarian. Want to read more? Please visit New Life K9s' blog page for more and sign up for weekly notifications below!
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- Burke, Anna. “Best Dog Food: How To Know What's Right for Your Dog.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 12 Nov. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/best-dog-food-choosing-whats-right-for-your-dog/.
- Flowers, Amy. “Dog Nutrition: Essential Nutrients for Health and Feeding Basics.” WebMD, WebMD, 30 Aug. 2020,
- Kennedy, Madeline, and Sorin McKnight. “Feeding Your Dog a Raw Food Diet Could Be Harmful and Even Life-Threatening, According to Vets.” Insider, Insider, 2 Apr. 2021,
- Llera, Ryan, BSc, DVM, Yuill, Cheryl, DVM, MSc, “Nutrition-General Feeding Guidelines for Dogs” VCA.
- “Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets.” American Veterinary Medical Association, https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/avma-policies/raw-or-undercooked-animal-source-protein-cat-and-dog-diets