Raw dog food has been something of a fad diet in the dog world for a few years now. I use the word ‘fad’, because it’s supporters are truly fanatical about it; but also, because, like every other fad diet we were intrigued by but knew better than to follow, it has a few major pitfalls that leave us wondering why others have been so quick to buy in.
In its favor, raw dog food is leagues ahead of kibble, processed wet foods, or unbalanced home-made recipes. Made with a mixture of raw meat, bones, organ meats, and perhaps some fruits or vegetables, it’s certainly real food — something we believe all dogs deserve. Supporter or not, here are a few facts you probably don’t know about raw dog food.
1. Raw diets include things a wild dog would eat.
Ok, this one you probably know, but just in case you don’t…Those who support raw diets believe that a domesticated dog should eat like a wild dog, ripping into hunks of meat and bone for each meal. Nice as the idea is of our dogs eating more naturally, it’s important to remember that our dogs are not wild. And that wild dogs may eat this because it is what’s available to them. Our pampered pooches, however, may have the opportunity to eat something better.
Whole bones pose the risk of choking your pet, breaking teeth, or causing internal punctures when digested. The presence of ground bone leads to high phosphorus levels, and the nutrients they offer can be added to the diet in other ways that don’t overwhelm the diet with phosphorus (this is especially risky for senior dogs).
Wild dogs may survive on raw, meaty bones, but it’s also the cause of their demise. In fact, the two leading causes of death in wild canines are intestinal/esophageal obstruction (from bones) and malnutrition.
2. The FDA recommends against feeding raw.
Many fear the risk of bacteria in raw dog food diets, yet for a while the debate rested on some uncertain facts. Finally, in July 2012, the FDA wrapped up a conclusive study that found a high risk of salmonella and listeria bacterias in raw dog food diets. Since, they have advised against feeding a raw diet, to prevent the spread of such bacterias amongst dogs and humans.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has also cautioned against raw, after conducting studies that the bacteria posed threats to dogs and cats fed the diet. “Feeding a raw protein diet no longer concerns only each individual pet, but has become a larger community health issue; for this reason, AAHA can no longer support or advocate the feeding of raw protein diets to pets.”
Other bodies such as the The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV) have both endorsed this statement.
3. We all love puppy kisses, but you can’t let a raw-eating dog lick you.
When we interviewed a former raw feeder earlier this month, he told us about how much he hated having to warn people when they entered his home. If his dog had just eaten, Alan, the owner, would have to make sure that he had not only disinfected the serving area, but would also have to warn people to stay away from his dog.
Because the bacteria present in raw meat can be passed from dogs to humans, you shouldn’t let a raw-eating dog lick you. Some argue that this is primarily a risk for young, elderly, or sick people, but the FDA says it can make any of us sick. After a dog has eaten a raw meal, you shouldn’t let it lick you, and you shouldn’t touch anywhere near it’s mouth. It’s also advised to be aware of paws or dangling fur that may have touched either the food, or the surface the food was on. Owners who have children, feed in a hurry, or simply aren’t willing to take all steps to control a raw feeding routine shouldn’t be experimenting with raw.
“Some people are really into a raw-food diet for pets, but it’s a huge public health hazard. Think about it: You have raw meat, you’re touching it, your dog touches it, and then your dog goes and licks the baby. I’ve had two patients die and two patients get really sick from it.” —Amber Andersen, DVM, a vet at Point Vicente Animal Hospital in Rancho Palos Verdes, California
4. Some vets refuse to treat raw-fed pets.
Like the vet above, many have a resistance to treating raw-fed pets due to the risk and liability. Some vets will bluntly refuse to treat a dog fed raw, which is 1.) not reassuring about the safety of the diet, and 2.) simply inconvenient as we do need a veterinarian in our dogs’ lives.
Raw feeders bring up the point that perhaps not all veterinarians are qualified to give nutritional advice– and we agree. Only veterinarians with an additional degree of Veterinary Nutrition should be making recommendations regarding our dog’s diet. Ask a veterinarian for a dog food recommendation, and they’ll likely send you to a kibble for sale in their office (and the fact that kibble is perhaps the unhealthiest selection is something we can all agree on). Many veterinary nutritionists work with both raw and fresh diets, agreeing that high nutritional value (and a lack of low-quality, processed ingredients) can be found in both. But…
5. The health benefits of a raw diet and fresh diet are the same.
By ditching processed or unbalanced foods and switching to a raw or fresh dog food diet, you should notice your dog has a shinier coat, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, small stools, and higher energy levels. This comes from a lack of artificial ingredients and fillers, and a concentration of real foods that your dog can pull the most nutrients from.
However, as far as we know, no evidence suggests that one diet has more health benefits than the other. Users report the same benefits with each diet, and studies have not been able to detect a difference in positive results between the two.
So, the question becomes, if the visible health benefits are available in both, would you rather choose a diet with equal health benefits, but greater convenience and safety for you and your family? We say yes, which is why we feed fresh.
Enjoy all the pros of raw dog food, and none of the cons. See how much easier, safer, and convenient a fresh dog food diet can be.