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Raw food diets for dogs: the pros and cons

Raw food diets are the biggest trend sweeping the world of dog nutrition at the moment. And it’s no surprise, with dog owners actively seeking ways to make their dogs’ lives better.

However, it’s fair to say raw feeding is a polarising topic, with strong opinions on both sides of the debate. That’s why we’ve delved into the science to help you make the decision that is best for your dog.

What is a raw food diet for dogs?

Raw food diets for dogs usually mean that they’re fed on a diet of predominantly raw animal proteins, occasionally with some raw veggies and supplements added to it. 

It’s also commonly known as a BARF diet, which stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.

This way of feeding is intended to mimic the diets of the dog’s canine ancestors pre-domestication.

The pros of a raw food diet for dogs

Dental health. Raw food diets are associated with good dental health because they include meaty bones which provide calcium, and massage their gums and teeth when they chew on them.

Smaller poos. Raw fed pets often have smaller and firmer poos than those on other diets. It could be because raw food generally contains fewer bulking agents and non-absorbable components.

Palatability. Some dogs simply prefer the taste of a raw food diet.

High digestibility. Raw diets are often high in fat, meaning that they’re easy to digest. However, it’s important to ensure these diets are balanced, as too much fat can cause pancreatitis.

Allergies. A 2020 study found that feeding a non-processed meat-based diet early in life might prevent canine atopic dermatitis, a common symptom of allergies. However, no causality could be established. Even so, raw feeding can be an option for owners of dogs who have developed an allergy to common ingredients in traditional diets.

The cons of a raw food diet for dogs

Bacteria and pathogens. Cooking food usually means that the bacteria and pathogens usually found in it are killed. However, since raw foods do not go through this process, there is an increased risk of exposure to pathogens like E. coli and salmonella. Multiple studies have identified these types of pathogens in both home-prepared and commercially produced raw dog food. 

These pathogens are particularly concerning if you have children, the elderly, or immunocompromised people in the home.

Nutritional deficiencies. Most commercial cooked dog food is complete, meaning it provides your dog with everything that they need without the need for any additives. If you feed a home-prepared raw diet, you need to ensure your dog is getting the right balance of vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients to maintain good health.

Tooth fractures. If you feed raw bones as part of your dog’s diet, there is a risk of teeth fractures, particularly if your dog is a fervent chewer.

Intestinal obstruction. Again, if feeding bones, there remains a risk of intestinal obstruction if your dog swallows chunks of bone. 

If you decide to feed a raw diet, there are a few steps you should take to ensure that you reduce any risks.

  • Consult your vet – before even starting to feed raw, discuss it with your vet. They’ll help you understand if it’s right for your dog, and how to ensure your dog gets the right balance.
  • Exercise impeccable hygiene – to reduce the risk of contamination, impeccable hygiene is a must. You need to keep raw and cooked foods completely separate, and thoroughly clean all surfaces, meal bowls, and equipment between each use. You’ll also want to train your dog not to lick you, as it could transfer pathogens.
  • Buy commercially prepared raw diets – commercially prepared raw diets will have gone through processes to remove some of the pathogens, and they’ll often also be nutritionally complete. Don’t forget, if your dog is a PitPat Life member, you can claim a 30% discount on Natures Menu.
  • Supervise feeding of bones – make sure your dog is supervised when you’re feeding them any bones, to reduce the risk of teeth fracture or the risk of them swallowing large lumps.

If you decide against raw, there are plenty of high-quality options out there that will keep your dog in fantastic shape, just like PitPat Food. Our food contains top-quality and natural ingredients from human-grade animals. It’s formulated by expert nutritionists and contains no wheat, soy, dairy, sugar, or any artificial colouring, flavourings, and preservatives. Plus, with the PitPat app, we’ll tell you exactly how much food is needed based on your individual dog.

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