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Should I Feed My Dog a Raw Diet?

by Irene Hislop

17 October 2019

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Every few months it seems, a new diet trend seizes the popular imagination and people rush to try them all from the Aktins diet to the Zone Diet. Paleo became modern for a while. And our dogs have not been overlooked either. The big diet trend for dogs has been raw food. Generations ago, most dogs got a bit of raw food now and again. Some people firmly believe an occasional raw egg is the best thing to keep a dog’s coat shiny and soft. Dogs often got raw bones from the butcher to gnaw. But today, people are talking about a complete raw food diet for dogs. An Australian vet started the trend in the early 1990s, inspired by the diet fed to working sled dogs. If you are considering this, it is important to do your homework and understand raw dog food pros and cons.

Dr. Ian Billinghurst published his first book promoting a raw food diet for dogs in 1993 and followed this with a second book in 2001. He describes his feeding programme as the ‘BARF’ diet, which stands for either Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones And Raw Food. The diet is loosely defined as feeding your dog or cat any type of uncooked meat with a small amount of uncooked vegetables. Supplementing the diet with vitamins, minerals and other health boosters is optional. Commercially prepared raw dog food is now also available.

While he bases this diet on what canines and felines would eat in the wild, Dr. Billinghurst is clear that is he not recommending people let their pets live like wild animals. He is an advocate of vaccines and parasite control, as well as regular vet checks.

Raw Dog Food Pros and Cons

Raw dog food diets are controversial among vets. It is not hard to find a vet who will caution you against such a choice because of the many health risks involves. We cook our own food for a reason, after all. Dogs are not immune to food poisoning. The American Veterinary Medicine Association, the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and the American Animal Hospital Association have all prepared statement advising against a raw food diet for dogs. Similar groups in Ireland and Britain have been quiet about this issue so far. So what raw dog food pros and cons should pet parents understand?

Raw Dog Food Pros:

  • It’s a natural diet with no artificial additives, food colouring, etc. Because it’s just raw meat and some vegetables, you can even keep it entirely organic. You know exactly what is in it if you are making it yourself.
  • You can tailor the diet to your individual dog’s needs, assuming you are willing and able to research canine nutrition to find the foods that offer the nutrients your dog requires for her age, size, breed, lifestyle and overall health.
  • Advocates claim it ensures dogs live a longer, healthier life with fewer dental problems and a lower rate of cancers. They say a raw food diet gives your dog a shiny coat, stronger immune system and greater vitality.

Raw Dog Food Cons:

  • Uncooked meat carries a high risk of dangerous bacteria or pathogens such as salmonella, e-coli and listeria. This is the prime concern of the organisations opposed to a raw food diet for dogs. The risk is not confined to the dogs. Dogs can easily drop bits of their food, and if it carries salmonella or the like, it puts the humans in the house at risk – particularly children who play on the floor.
  • Without expert supervision, a raw diet can be unbalanced and fail to provide adequate nutrition. This is the flip side of the second pro listed above. If you are going to make your dog’s food yourself, whether or not you cook it, you will need to do some research about canine nutrition – especially if your dog has any type of health issue such as a food intolerance.
  • Those opposed to a raw food diet for dogs point to a lack of structured, peer-reviewed research to back up claims. Proper studies would take years to produce and would have to factor in the rest of the dog’s lifestyle and what commercial food the control group ate. The huge disparity in commercial dog foods available would make this extremely difficult. Low end supermarket brands cannot be compared to quality brands that use healthy, wholesome ingredients.

All the Pros and None of the Cons of Raw Dog Food

Naturally, we all want the raw dog food pros for our beloved pets, but the list of cons is pretty intimidating. Fortunately, we can give our fur babies a wholesome, natural diet perfectly suited to their needs without the disease risk of raw meat. Brands such as Connolly’s Red Mills are dedicated to providing your dog with optimum nutrition that is both safe and convenient.

Your dog’s diet is vitally important. We know that because we have been dedicated to producing healthy dog food for generations. We also know that different dogs have different needs. That’s why we produce no fewer than 25 different dog foods.

connolly's red mills go native high quality dog food made of herring with carrot and cale

The Leader range offers puppy, adult, senior, light and sensitive foods and each one includes special formulations for small, medium and large breed dogs. The Engage line is designed for hard-working dogs, from herding dogs to those who compete in canicross and agility as well as those who join their owner for a good daily run. Our newest food, Go Native, provides grain-free goodness made with wholesome, locally-sourced, fully traceable ingredients.

If you are concerned about the optimum diet for your dog, you do not have to risk feeding raw food. Talk to your vet about the best type of food for your dog’s age, size and lifestyle, and you can find a prepared food that will help her thrive and live her best life.

Irene Hislop

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