Is It Actually Healthy To Feed Raw Diets To Dogs? – AZ Animals

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Raw food diets for dogs are increasingly popular and at least 15 percent of pet dogs are now fed some sort of raw meat. Yet, there is still no consensus of opinion among experts on whether they are a good idea! So, is it actually healthy to feed raw diets to dogs?

Here we examine the arguments on both sides and list what you should consider before switching your dog to a raw diet.

What Are Raw Diets for Dogs?

The term ‘raw diet’ means different things to different people. At one end of the scale are home-prepared raw meat-based diets with added vitamin and mineral supplements. Then there are commercial frozen, freeze-dried, or dehydrated meats that also require supplementation. Alternatively, you could feed your dog a commercial raw frozen, freeze-dried, dehydrated, or high-pressure pasteurized balanced food that already contains all the nutrients they need. All of these could be described as a ‘raw diet’ so it’s no wonder that dog owners get confused!

Are Raw Foods Healthier for Dogs?

Raw food is highly nutritious but supplements may still be needed.


Raw food diets have several advantages when it comes to your dog’s health. Research has shown that they are biochemically more complex and have more bioactive compounds. They are generally higher in vitamin C and E and some flavonoids. Because they are not heated, they do not contain acrylamides and nitrosamines that are both connected with oxidative stress and cancer. There are some indications that a raw diet improves immune function, maintains healthy weights, higher energy levels, shinier coats, more normal bowel movements, and cleaner teeth but this has not yet been studied thoroughly.

Which Dogs Are Raw Food Diets Best For?

Some vets have had success switching dogs with allergies onto commercial or home-prepared raw food diets. This may be because even limited-ingredient regular commercial dog foods are produced on machines where common allergens (often chicken and beef) are handled. Most raw food diets are also grain-free. If you prepare it yourself, you know exactly what is in it.

There are plenty of anecdotal reports of raw foods helping dogs with anything from epilepsy to cancer but no objective controlled studies have been carried out to date to confirm this. Some dogs may just ‘seem healthier’ on raw diets for reasons that we do not yet understand.

Can Raw Food Diets Be Unhealthy for Dogs?

Yes, they can, especially if they are not done properly! The main concerns are centered on whether the diet is complete and balanced. Not all products meet the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Dog or Cat Food Nutrient Profiles. Some companies struggle to get all the required micro-nutrients by just using natural ingredients. Vitamins and minerals often have to be added.

Owners opting to feed their dogs on home-prepared raw diets need a working knowledge of dog nutrition to get this right! They need to know exactly which vitamins and minerals to add and in what quantities. Getting it wrong can result in nutritional deficiencies and potentially serious health implications.

Are Raw Diets Dangerous for Dogs?

Provided the diet contains all the nutrients that your dog needs, most raw diets are safe for most dogs. However, some dogs cannot handle the larger load of bacteria found in raw food. Dogs with a compromised immune system (due to a disease or medications) or dogs with serious chronic health conditions (such as advanced heart disease or liver dysfunction) should not be fed a raw meat diet that could contain pathogens. A high-pressure pasteurized diet may be suitable but this should always be discussed with your vet first.

Can Raw Food Diets Be Dangerous for Dog Owners?

Loving young asian woman petting and feeding her cute long-coat jack russel terrier puppy, kitchen interior, side view, copy space. Pets feeding, healthy, nutritive food for dogs, puppies

Feeding raw food to your dog is risky for some owners.


Most dog owners are used to feeding their dogs commercially prepared dog foods that have been so highly processed that they are virtually sterile. Whilst hygiene is still important, the chances of you contracting an illness from them is remote. Raw foods are a very different story!

Raw meat commonly contains harmful microorganisms. Freezing, freeze-drying and dehydration reduce the number of bacteria but do not eliminate them. Therefore, you need to be scrupulously careful when handling the food and any surfaces that it has touched. This is even more important if there is anyone in the house who is particularly vulnerable to bacterial disease from raw food. Households that include anyone who is pregnant, planning a pregnancy, is aged under five years old, is elderly, or who has a compromised immune system need to take special care. The importance of hand washing, safe food handling and the safe disposal of dog poop cannot be over-emphasized.

Summing up Is It Actually Healthy to Feed Raw Diets to Dogs?

Raw food diets can be a healthy and highly nutritious choice for many but not all dogs. The many anecdotal reports of improved health have not yet been confirmed by scientific studies as yet. There is no single type of raw diet and many will still require your dog to have a nutritional supplement. They also present a risk to some vulnerable dogs and some vulnerable owners. It is also important to bear in mind that there are financial, time, and knowledge factors that also need to be taken into account. Always talk to your vet before making major changes to your dog’s diet.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Zontica/Shutterstock.com

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