Considering Switching to Raw Dog Food? Pros and Cons of a Raw Dog Food Diet

Whether it’s soft poos, itchy skin or just a general desire to look after your dog in the best way that you can possibly can, at some point in time it’s likely that you’ll be considering switching to raw dog food.

With dog related Facebook groups full of owners quick to recommend raw diets, it would be easy to jump straight over. Raw feeders are, of course, great advocates for raw feeding but while I love that owners shout about the products that work for them, every dog is individual and what works for one, doesn’t naturally work for another. And I also believe that every owner is individual too.

It’s for that reason that I think you need to understand a lot more about a dog and their owner before jumping to a recommendation to switch dog foods. But also that it’s important to fully understand both the pros and cons of following a new diet.

So if you’ve found yourself reading this blog, then hurrah! Spending a little time researching the pros and cons of a raw dog food diet before jumping ship will ensure that you are fully informed and make the right choice for both you and your dog.

 

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What is a Raw Dog Food Diet?

Known as ‘BARF’ (Bones and raw food or Biologically appropriate raw feeding), raw feeding is believed to closely mimic historical natural eating habits of animals in the wild.

As the stomach pH in dogs and cats is much lower than that of humans, it is thought that they are able to break down raw meat and bone.

Typically a raw diet would consist of:

  • Bones, either whole or ground
  • Organ meats, for e.g livers and kidneys
  • Muscle meat, often still on the bone
  • Vegetables like broccoli, celery, and spinach
  • Apples and other fruit
  • Dairy such as yoghurt

While many raw feeders choose to mix their own dogs’ diet, normally pre-mixed then frozen into batches, there are a number of suppliers who also offer a ‘complete’ raw meal.

But what are the pros and cons of a raw dog food diet?

 

 

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Pros and Cons of a Raw Dog Food Diet

Raw Dog Food Diet – Pros

 

#1 Clarity on Ingredients

Ever turned over a packet of dog food and read the ingredients?  Words like ‘meat and animal derivatives’ and ‘derivatives of vegetable origin’ are not uncommon in many dog food brands.

But I’m afraid to say the reason it says ‘meat derivatives’ is so that they can change out the meat type without needing to relabel or notify customers.  This is not good news if you have a dog with allergies and why most dog owners find traditional dog food labeling misleading re ingredients.

It feels like you really need a canine nutritional label degree o work out what on earth goes into each dog food!

Read more in our related blog:

It can be argued that times have changed and there are several dry and wet dog foods that you will now be able to 100% understand labels, but in comparison to most dry and wet dog foods, a raw dog food diet will provide that clarity.   You will know exactly what you are feeding your dog.

Raw chicken is well… 100% raw chicken and you can be guaranteed of that quality.

You are in complete control of what you feed your dog and you can customise to suit their diet needs.

 

#2 Back to Nature

One of the most common reasons quoted for switching to a raw dog food diet is based on an argument that their canine ancestors ate a diet rich in raw meat and bones.  By reverting back to nature, this must be more natural and better for our current domesticated breeds.

I’m yet to see any scientific evidence published that proves this theory, however, you can understand why this link may be made. Even more so when given the physical benefits that owners see once switched (see below)

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#3 Physical Benefits

Many raw feeders quote several physical benefits following a switch to a raw dog food diet including:

  • Healthier, glossier coat
  • Reduction in itching/licking/scratching
  • More energy
  • Better appetite and increased interest in eating their food
  • Easier to maintain, put on or lose weight

I’d always encourage owners to read these ‘overnight success’ stories with some caution.  It may be that there are several factors contributing to the changes being seen in a dog.  Firstly it’s important to understand the quality of the dog food that they were on before switching to a raw dog food diet.

Would they have seen these changes (all or some of them), with a change in the protein type, removing grain or even just improving the quality of dog food?

With little scientific evidence and merely reliance on current raw feeders ‘tales’, it’s can be hard to 100% understand what benefits your own dog may gain from a switch.  However, it is also clear that several dogs are thriving on a raw dog food diet – there must be some links to these benefits!

 

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Raw Dog Food Diet – Cons

#1 Cost

If you are a dog owner who’s currently buying a main ‘supermarket’ brand then a switch to raw dog food is highly likely to be a steep jump up in cost.  Though this would also be the case moving to a higher quality dry or wet food diet.

For example, a 14kg dog being fed Wagg adult complete would cost £0.23 per day compared to Bella and Duke, complete raw food, which would cost £1.38 (based on a 12kg box delivery every 34 days).  An increase of £400 over the year.

While switching to a DIY raw dog food diet can reduce the overall cost impact, it may require traveling or delivery charges plus that all-important freezer space (see below).

The reality is that with whatever option of raw dog food you go for, it is expensive.  And while everyone wants to do the best they can for their dog, the balance of cost and benefit will be different for everyone.

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#2 Complexity and Time

If you thought dry dog food was complex then raw feeding, particularly DIY, won’t make dog food choices any easier:

  • Homemade versus frozen versus freeze dried?
  • Which brand?
  • BARF versus Prey Model?
  • What % of bone does your dog need (clue – like the rest of their diet, it’s different or all)?
  • Will you rotate days between meat and bone?
  • Do you need to add egg, turmeric, coconut oil or any of the several additions recommend? And how often?

and on and on and on….

Even just the research can take a considerable amount of time, then you need to factor in the food preparation.  Several owners, I know batch prepare and freeze so that they have prepared meals ready for daily use.

When it comes to our dogs, we may be willing to put in this extra effort for the additional benefits, however with complexity comes risk.

It should be noted that their is no formal canine nutritional qualification and thus you need to be 100% clear on who and where you are taking advice from, particularly when following a DIY raw dog food diet. The risk of nutritional imbalance should always be considered – biochemistry is hard.

If manufactured dog foods can get it wrong, when they have legal obligations to meet, then it is possible that you could do more damage to your dog than good if you get it wrong too.

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#3 Freezer Space

Personally, I have customers who buy raw dog food from us every 2-3 days due to lack of freezer space, while others bulk buy and have separate chest freezers just for raw dog food.

Depending on the method of raw dog feeding and brand that you wish to buy from buying less frequently may be your only option so you will need to make space in a freezer for their food.  And don’t forget that you’ll also need fridge space for defrosting too!  Yep even when your Christmas food shop and turkey arrives, you’ll need that space for raw dog food ;0)

Work out how much you’ll be buying a time and whether you have the right amount of space or somewhere you can fit in a separate freezer.

 

#4 Holidays and Travel

Katherine who raw feeds all three of her Collies also loves to travel. She recognises that this is one of the downsides to feeding raw.

Going away can be more difficult and right now, I’m looking into suitable alternatives for camping where raw is not an option. In holiday cottages etc, there is usually a small freezer but for larger/multi dog families it may not be enough space for more than a couple of days food.

While I’ve stayed in places such as the Brecon Retreat who will arrange a pre-order of raw food I couldn’t agree with Katherine more. When it comes to holidays then it can be difficult to arrange deliveries or ensure you have mixed enough DIY raw food prepared in advance.  You can find yourself worrying about how to keep it frozen while traveling to your accommodation.

If you’re leaving your dog with a dog boarder or friends and family, you may not feel that you can ask them to spend time preparing raw meals or find that they don’t have the freezer space for your longer break.

So if you are someone who travels regularly then this may be a key consideration for you whether you travel with your dog or leave them with friends, relatives or a dog boarder.  Even if just an occasional holiday, you will need may need to consider suitable alternatives for while traveling like Katherine.

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#5 Availability and Delivery

While raw food has become increasingly popular in the UK, if you choose a certain brand, then you may be restricted to buying direct or limited to a few local stockists.

Do check their turnaround times on delivery and consider whether you can be at home for the delivery too.  While most arrive in insulated boxes and can survive in transit for 24 hours, during hot weather, you will want to be personally able to accept your delivery to freeze straight away.

If like me, your someone who also forgets to ‘order’ your dog food until the last minute, then you may wish to check whether there are local stockists who can provide you with the same food or an alternative.

 

So, Is a Raw Dog Food Diet Right For You and Your Dog?

While the benefits seem to be common across owners who follow a raw dog food diet, there is a clear lack of scientific evidence to support and you can’t be sure that a change in the quality of dry or wet food may not have had similar results.

Super organised, with space for a seperate freezer time to get fully up to date on nutritional research and able to increase the budget that you have for dog food? Then yes, a raw dog food diet may be right for you and your dog.

Otherwise, the quality of dry and dog wet food has drastically improved over the years and it is possible to find suitable alternatives to the problem you are trying to solve in your dogs’ diet.  Ask yourself what issue you are trying to solve, then evaluate the options available to you.

If you would like to do some further reading, on raw dog food diets then I’d suggest checking out the below useful raw dog food diet resources below.

Read more in our related blogs:

 

Useful Raw Dog Food Diet Resources:

 

Over To You:

Have you considered switching to a raw dog food diet? Was there anything else that you considered when making the decision?

Have we missed an important pro or con to switching?

We’d love to hear from you so jump into the comments and we’ll come back to you asap!

 

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2 Responses

  1. Yvonne
    | Reply

    Great overview of raw feeding, we raw feed M&S and we have seen a lot of benefits, the coats are better quality, no tear staining and S calmed down a lot. Cost wise we work it out at 25p per day per dog on average, but they are wee dogs so for us there was not much difference in cost.

    M has bounds more energy, great for his agility. Due to the size and what we would potentially save we go for pre packaged raw and it works for us. There are some people and dogs out there who it doesn’t work for but given that there are so many choices and options that it is easy to get a good quality diet for your pets.

    Anyone who is considering it should research it and not just rely on views on certain social media sites.

  2. Vicky Gunn
    | Reply

    Such a good point about tear stains Yvonne and great to hear that it’s had so many benefits. There def are lots of dogs who thrive on raw – Millie at the moment is half cold pressed and half raw (pre-packaged), so I think it’s a real option for lots of people.

    See you all soon! Vicky x

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