Should I Transition My Pet to a Raw Food Diet?


Are you considering whether to transition your dog or cat to a raw food diet? Pet owners, often inspired by their own beliefs about nutrition, might consider moving their pets away from commercial food sources. They may be contemplating whether dogs and cats best eat what they did before they became domesticated. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are a number of threats to consider before subjecting your pet to this radical lifestyle change. Before deciding, do your research as raw food diets can be harmful to a dog or cat’s health without a strategic method.

The Proposed Advantages of Raw Food Diets for Dogs and Cats are not Backed by Science 

Raw food diets for dogs and cats were originally proposed by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst in 1993. He called it the BARF diet, which stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or “Bones and Raw Food.” Billinghurst believed that we should feed dogs and cats this diet because the pets’ bodies had evolved by consuming raw food. The diet plan typically consists of raw meat still on the bone, whole or ground bones, organs, raw eggs, vegetables, fruits, and some dairy, such as yogurt. The following are a list of proposed advantages of raw food diets for dogs and cats, but please bear in mind that these claims anecdotal and are not backed by scientific evidence:

·      Shinier coats

·      Healthier skin

·      Cleaner teeth

·      Higher energy levels

·      Smaller stools


Raw Food Diet for Cats and Dogs Can Contain Dangerous Pathogens 

The American Veterinary Medical Association discourages feeding dogs and cats food that has not been processed to eliminate pathogens. These pathogens not only pose the risk of disease to the pet, but also to the pet owners. The overriding solution, proposed by Lisa M. Freeman as a result of her study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association in 2001 and supported by the FDA and AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association), is to cook the food. Cooking will eliminate pathogens that have shown up in 30-50% of raw diets, such as Salmonella, Clostridium, E. Coli, Listeria, and Staphylococcus.

Two Proven Ways to Provide a Balanced Diet for your Pet

There are two proven ways you can feed your dog or cat a balanced diet:

1.     Stick with a commercial diet that is formulated to provide complete and balanced nutrition

2.     Use a cooked, homemade recipe designed by a board certified veterinary nutritionist 

Many of the benefits often attributed to a raw food diet, such as a shinier coat, are instead a result of the high fat composition of a typical raw diet. High-fat commercial foods are also available, as well as supplements, that would produce the same effect. Frozen raw food diets provide regimens that eliminate pathogens by freezing the food. Some diet programs to consider are Darwin’s Natural Pet Products and Instinct.

Are you feeding a new puppy? Check out our article 5 Things to Think About when Welcoming a Puppy Home for more information on puppies’ specific dietary needs.

Nikolas JamesComment