The Raw Food Diet for Dogs: Benefits and Controversies

The raw food diet for dogs, once called BARF for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food, is a controversial diet, with veterinarians, dog care professionals, breeders and dog owners as fans and critics. With a large number of commercial dog food recalls in recent years, many owners are looking to alternative diets for their pets, including the BARF option. There are controversies, however.

Ingredients of Raw Food Diet

The raw food diet contains a large amount of protein from raw meats, raw bones, eggs, dairy products, supplements, fruits and vegetables, and eliminates processed and commercial foods which usually have grains as their main ingredients.

Ingredients in the raw food diet include:

  • Whole raw chicken, quail, fish, lamb, rabbit, pork and other animal bones and meat
  • Raw bones or ground bones
  • Organ meat, also known as offal, like liver, kidneys, and hearts
  • Starchy vegetables like carrots, spinach, broccoli and peppers, which are often shredded or ground
  • Fruits like whole apples, oranges and pears
  • Whole raw eggs
  • Yogurt, cottage cheese, shredded cheese

These are only some of the foods found in the raw diet. Several companies offer pre-made foods for a raw diet that include these ingredients, or owners can make the meals ahead of time at home and frozen.

Benefits to Raw Food Diet

  • Offers a natural and nutritionally-balanced diet based on what dog's have eaten for thousands of years
  • Healthier coat and skin
  • Better digestion and stool
  • More energy and a healthier immune system
  • Cleaner teeth and gums and fresher breath
  • Improved behavior and disposition
  • Offers variety and options for your dog
  • Weight control, both in gaining weight or losing excess fat
  • Carbohydrates are often the cause of allergy and digestive problems; carbs make up a small part of the raw food diet as opposed to commercial foods, which feature carbs heavily as ingredients
  • Free of preservatives, sweeteners, additives and fillers found in commercial food
  • Controversies of Diet for Dogs
  • Benefits are not scientifically proven, but only based on owner's testimonials
  • Potential for bacteria, including e. coli and salmonella
  • Bones may cause choking or puncture a dog's gastrointestinal tract
  • Can be costly to buy ingredients depending on the price of local foods
  • Time consuming
  • Meals must be supervised to prevent choking on any bones
  • Must stay consistent with the raw diet and have prepared meals ready

The debates over the raw food diet for dogs remains controversial and has many passionate proponents and opponents. Even if owners choose not to feed their dog along BARF guidelines, it is important to think about what ingredients are in your dog's diet and how healthy and balanced nutrition can improve your dog's life.