The Benefits of Raw Pet Food

A raw pet food diet can have a number of health benefits for your pet. Raw food diets emulate the diets that dogs and cats ate in the wild, before they became domesticated house pets. Here's what you should know about the benefits of a raw food diet for your pet.

Raw Food Diets Explained

Raw food diets are designed to emulate the diets that wild animals eat. Wild animals often don't suffer from the age-related health problems that can plague our pets. Some experts believe that this may be due, at least in part, to their natural raw food diets. 

For cats, which are carnivores with high protein requirements, a raw food diet consists of raw meat and bones. For dogs, which are natural scavengers with lower protein requirements, raw meat, bones, fruits and vegetables can be fed.

Benefits of Raw Food Diets for Pets

Raw food diets have long been the standard for some types of working animals, such as Arctic sled dogs. Australian vet Ian Billinghurst was the first to advocate a raw food diet for pets. He proposed the Bones and Raw Food, or BARF, diet in 1993. 

One of the most immediate benefits of the raw food diet for pets is the improvement in digestion. Grain-based commercial diets often don't meet your pet's nutritional needs, and because dogs and cats eat mostly meat, these grain-based diets can be hard to digest. Dogs and cats fed on cooked, grain-based diets often have foul-smelling stools, chronic or occasional intestinal gas, and even diarrhea.

Pets fed raw food diets are also said to have shinier, healthier coats and skin, cleaner teeth and more energy. Experts think that a raw food diet can lower your dog or cat's risk of intestinal and other parasites. Raw food diets have been known to relieve symptoms of food allergies in many animals. Some believe that raw food diets even make pets feel better psychologically.

Possible Risks of Raw Food Diets for Pets

One of the biggest risks of feeding your dog or cat a raw food diet is that it won't be nutritionally balanced. Over time, your pet can suffer from serious health problems as a result of malnutrition. If you are going to make your pet's raw food at home, consult a veterinary nutritionist to plan a diet that meets all of your pet's nutritional needs. Commercially prepared raw pet food, on the other hand, is nutritionally sound.

If you are going to feed your pet raw bones, be advised that raw bones can splinter and break, harming your pet. While bones of any type can break, poultry bones are the most likely to. Avoid feeding your pet any poultry bones, and minimize his intake of other bones to reduce his risk of injury.

Raw food diets also carry a risk of bacterial contamination. To avoid this, always buy human-grade meats for your dog or cat. Store them properly and only feed them when fresh.