Heard about the raw food diet for dogs? Though you may be used to feeding your pooch wet food, meaty treats or crunchy dog kibble - hopefully packed with all the nutrients they need for a well-rounded diet - raw dog food is definitely gaining in popularity. Raw food enthusiasts insist that domestic dogs are wild animals at heart, therefore should be chowing down on meaty bones and raw cuts of meat over cooked chicken and dog biscuits. Weighing up the benefits of these contrasting diets can be a minefield, as you’ll only want to do what’s best for your pooch.
To save you the stress, we’ve explored the differences between raw food for dogs and commercial wet and dry dog food, so that you as a dog owner can make whatever decision you deem best for your pooch's mealtimes.
The Raw Food Diets For Dogs
The raw food diet is an alternative to commercial food or cooked food for dogs, based on the premise that dogs used to hunt and live in the wild, therefore it appeals to their ‘true nature’. It’s sometimes rather appetisingly called the BARF diet, which stands for both ‘Bones and Raw Food’ or ‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Food’.
There are a number of ways to feed your dog a raw food diet - you can prepare the various foods yourself, or some specialist dog food brands offer raw food in more accessible formats (such as freeze-dried) to allow for easier access plus safer storage and consumption.
What is raw dog food?
Raw dog food is based on what dogs may have eaten in the wild, before they were domesticated. Usually it consists of raw muscle meat, organs, bones, raw eggs, dog-safe fruit and vegetables, and yoghurt. It can be home prepared or bought from a store freeze-dried or dehydrated, to save dog owners the trouble of sourcing and adequately preparing all of these raw foods themselves.
Is raw food good for dogs?
Dog owners who swear by raw dog food claim it provides a number of powerful health benefits to their pooches. These include -
- Shinier coat and healthy skin
- Improved dental health
- Boosted energy
- Better digestion and smaller poops
There are limited studies on this, none of which have been wholly proven. A study in 2018 did reveal a lot of bacterial diversity in the gut microbiome of dogs who ate raw food (1), though there was also a boost in the harmful bacteria E.coli. There are plenty of raw dog food fans with very happy and healthy dogs, but not everyone is an advocate for the raw dog food diet, as just like it does with humans, eating food in its raw state can come with considerable risks.
Disadvantages of raw food for dogs
Many veterinary experts have discouraged dog owners from feeding raw food to their dogs (2), as it could be considered riskier when it comes to contamination and safety.
Bacterial infection Raw meat and eggs are more susceptible to carrying germs and bacteria such as salmonella or E.coli that could make your dog unwell.
Riskier to humans Handling so much raw meat, organs and bones at home is also more of a danger to the humans living in your household. Infected dog poops are also a risk to whoever picks up after your dog.
Not as reliable, nutritionally High-quality commercial dog food is created specifically to provide your dog with all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need for a healthy diet, while a raw food diet involves more guesswork and manual labour.
Sharp or shattered bones We know a dog chewing on a raw bone is a very familiar image to us - however if they’re not used to it, your domesticated pooch could cut themselves while munching on sharp or shattered bone parts, or could swallow pieces that cause internal injury.
Raw vs wet dog food
So if you were considering a raw food diet for your dog - how does it hold up against high-quality commercial wet dog food? Here are some of the pros and cons of wet and dry dog food when compared against each other.
Pros & Cons of Raw Food for Dogs:
Pros of raw food for dogs
- Interesting to eat
- Diverse in texture and flavour
- Completely natural ingredients
- Lots of physical benefits (advocates claim shiny coat and good skin, boosted energy and better digestion)
- Free of grain-based carbohydrates, which are often difficult for dogs to digest
Cons of raw food for dogs
- Difficult to source and portion
- Harder to make nutritionally balanced
- More likely to carry harmful bacteria
- More likely to spoil than commercial food
- Can easily contaminate other food/people
- Bones can cause injury
- Store-bought raw food is very expensive
Pros & Cons of Wet Dog Food:
Pros of wet food for dogs
- Pleasant texture and flavour with strong smell
- Unlikely to spread harmful bacteria
- Easy to store (doesn't need freezing/separating)
- Safer on dog’s teeth
- High-quality wet food is designed to provide a well-balanced, nutritious diet for dogs
- Cheaper than branded raw food for dogs
Grain-free wet dog food has the same low-carb benefits of raw food
Cons of wet food for dogs
- Smell could be seen as unpleasant
- Messier than dry food, though perhaps not as messy as raw food
- Not as diverse in texture or taste as raw food diet
Raw vs dry dog food
Now here are the pros and cons of dry dog food against raw food for dogs…
Pros & Cons of Dry Dog Food
Pros of dry dog food
- High quality dry dog food is nutritionally dense and well balanced
- Easy to portion and store
- Dogs like the taste and respond well to the routine sameness
- Extremely safe to consume and store
- Very economic; cheaper than raw food
Grain-free dry dog food has the same low-carb benefits of raw food
Cons of dry dog food
- Not as exciting texture or flavour as raw food
- To some, it may appear more ‘processed’ than raw food (though high-quality dry food, such as Pooch & Mutt’s dry dog food range, goes through a gentle cooking and compressing process with no added preservatives)
What’s best: raw vs wet vs dry food for dog
To make it easier for you to make a decision for you and your dog, let's roundup with a quick summary of what we’ve found.
Advocates for a raw food diet for dogs hail its health benefits; saying it boosts skin and coat condition, improves digestive issues, makes healthier poops and increases energy.
Though it can be beneficial, it’s harder to balance the nutrients of raw food to ensure your dog is getting all the vitamins and minerals they need.
If you pick a great, high-quality brand, wet and dry dog food is guaranteed to be nutritionally balanced to keep your dog healthy and produces many of the same benefits as raw food.
Store-bought raw dog food is available but at the moment it’s very expensive.
Wet and dry dog food is cheaper and easier to source and store.
There is evidence to suggest that a raw food diet for dogs carries more risk, due to the harmful bacteria that can be carried in raw meat and eggs, and the cross-contamination that could occur with human food.
Wet and dry dog food is a lot safer in terms of risk of infection, and there is a very low chance of cross contamination with your family’s food.
Raw food for dogs contains a variety of exciting ingredients, textures and flavours.
Wet and dry food (particularly dry food) is less exciting on the palate in terms of taste and texture. However, dogs find it very tasty and respond well to sameness and routine.
Your choice for your dog’s diet is a very personal one, and should be based on you and your dog’s habits and lifestyle. Whatever you choose, rest assured that Pooch & Mutt’s complete range of wet dog food and dry food for dogs contains a well-balanced variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to keep them as healthy as can be - it’s grain free, and it tastes great, too.
‘The fecal microbiome and metabolome differs between dogs fed Bones and Raw Food (BARF) diets and dogs fed commercial diets’, 2018 - Journals, Plos One.
- ‘Feeding your pet a raw diet’ - PDSA.
- ‘Raw food diets in companion animals: a critical review’, 2011 - National Library of Medicine.