Pros and Cons Of Raw Food Diets For Dogs

by | Jul 24, 2023

Pros and Cons of Raw Food Diet For Dogs

My Transformational Experience Feeding Dogs a Raw Diet: 20 Years of Benefits

As a passionate dog owner and raw feeding devotee for over 20 years, I’m here to share my tremendously positive experiences and results after transitioning my dogs to a biologically appropriate raw diet. This post will chronicle my raw feeding journey, the litany of benefits I’ve witnessed first-hand in my dogs, and the key reasons I believe so strongly in species-appropriate raw nutrition for canines.

Back in the early 2000s when the concept of home-prepared, raw feeding was relatively new, I switched my dogs from commercial kibble to the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet after researching ancestral canine nutrition. While the raw diet for dogs does carry some risks requiring careful handling, I took all necessary precautions. And over two decades of feeding raw, my dogs have thrived beyond my wildest expectations.

While fresh and raw foods require more hands-on prep than scooping kibble, the immense payoff for my dogs’ health and quality of life makes it worthwhile. If you’re on the fence about trying a raw diet for your dog, I hope this post detailing my experiences will help demonstrate the transformative benefits this natural feeding approach can offer.

My First Forays into Raw Feeding

I admit I was skeptical at first. Like many dog owners, I never questioned the “logic” of feeding kibble day in and out. That seemed normal. My vets certainly never brought up alternatives. But once I went down the rabbit hole of research into ancestral canine diets, raw feeding simply made intuitive sense.

Dogs evolved as carnivores, with digestive systems optimized for diets rich in fresh meats, organs, and bones (1). Their systems struggle to properly break down the high volumes of carbohydrates and synthetic additives in many commercial kibbles (2). Feeding species-appropriate raw foods mimics the diets wild dogs and wolves thrive on (3).

Still, I proceeded cautiously, working closely with my vet to transition my Golden Retriever to a commercial frozen raw diet. The benefits I saw in his coat, digestion, energy and overall vitality within just weeks were astounding! After that, I became a true believer and converted my second Golden Retriever to a homemade raw diet years later.

These days, my Goldendoodle Winston enjoys balanced homemade raw meals tailored to his needs. While the initial transition does take some planning, I’m delighted to report that two decades later, I’ve never looked back or doubted the value of fresh, natural raw nutrition for my furry companions.

Benefits I’ve Witnessed from Feeding Raw

Here are just some of the incredible benefits I’ve seen first-hand in my own dogs after switching them to balanced, nutritious raw diets:

Shiny, Healthy Coats

Within a month or two of transitioning to raw, my dogs’ coats became noticeably softer, silkier and shinier. The healthy oils in raw meat, fish and eggs provide nourishment from the inside out (4). Their coats gleam in a way kibble never achieved.

Improved Dental Health

Chewing raw meaty bones helps clean my dogs’ teeth daily. I’ve also noticed less tartar buildup and healthier gums since they started eating raw (5). The natural abrasion of bones seems to benefit their oral health.

Smaller and Less Smelly Stools

On a raw diet, my dogs produce small, firm stools with less odor. The moisture and protein content seems to allow for better digestion and waste elimination (6). No more large, loose, smelly stools like with kibble!

High Energy and Vitality

The natural nutrition in a raw diet gives my dogs incredible energy levels. The difference versus when they ate kibble is remarkable. Senior dogs especially stay lively and active well into old age on their raw diets (7).

Healthy Skin and Allergy Relief

For one dog with chronic allergies, switching proteins completely eliminated her itchy skin and hot spots. A natural raw diet can reduce allergic reactions (8).

Better Digestion

On kibble, my dogs had periodic diarrhea, gas and constipation. On a raw diet, their digestion normalized. The natural enzymes seem easier for their bodies to break down (9).

Healthier Weight

Raw food gave my overweight dog the nutrition he needed to slim down to his ideal weight (10). The protein satisfied him while the calories stayed controlled.

Immune System Boost

My dogs rarely get sick anymore, only needing vet visits for wellness checks. I believe their immune function improved from the micronutrients in raw foods (11).

As you can see, I’ve witnessed a true transformation in my dogs’ health and quality of life after transitioning them to balanced raw diets. While anecdotal, I can personally attest to the powerful benefits of this natural feeding approach. Of course, you must feed raw judiciously under your vet’s guidance, but the payoff can be tremendous.

My Journey into Raw Feeding

I introduced raw feeding to my pack slowly and methodically over the years:

1990s: Fed conventional commercial kibble to my first Golden Retriever Dallas without questioning it. He had digestive issues we treated symptomatically.

Early 2000s: Learned about BARF diets, worked with my vet to transition Dallas to commercial frozen raw foods. His health radically improved within months.

2010s: Fed my next Golden Abby home-prepared balanced raw meals with vet supervision. Her coat gleamed, allergies disappeared, amazing vitality into old age.

Today: My Goldendoodle Winston enjoys tailored homemade raw meals, bones, supplements blended for his needs. He’s thriving on natural nutrition.

While each dog tolerates raw foods differently, I’ve now successfully transitioned multiple generations of dogs to species-appropriate raw diets with outstanding results across decades. For me, the proof is in the pudding. I’ve seen how raw feeding benefits dogs first-hand when done responsibly.

Of course, as with any diet, there are also risks and cons to weigh. Let’s address some common concerns about raw feeding that new owners should consider.

Potential Risks of Raw Diets for Dogs

While I feel strongly that the benefits outweigh the risks based on personal experience, raw feeding does come with the following precautions:

Pathogen exposure: Raw meat could transmit bacteria like salmonella or E. coli if not handled properly (12). Proper food prep and kitchen hygiene is crucial. I wash all surfaces thoroughly after handling raw ingredients.

Nutritional imbalances: Homemade recipes must be formulated to meet all canine dietary requirements. This takes research (13). I worked with a canine nutritionist to design balanced raw meal plans.

Veterinary caution: Some mainstream vets advise against raw diets due to safety concerns (14). Always talk to your vet before switching your dog’s meals. I transitioned gradually with guidance.

Choking hazards: Bones must be appropriately sized for the dog. I supervise mealtimes and avoid dense weight-bearing bones (15).

High cost: Quality raw ingredients are pricey. Homemade diets take more time. I budget appropriately and prepare bulk meals. The value is worth it to me.

With smart precautions, these risks can be largely mitigated in my experience. The key is sourcing quality ingredients, handling raw foods safely, working with your vet, and formulating balanced recipes or feeding complete commercial raw products. For over 20 years, my meticulous approach to raw feeding has led to tremendous results for multiple dogs.

Tips for Transitioning Your Dog to a Raw Diet

If you want to explore moving your dog to a raw diet, here are my tips:

  • Research thoroughly to understand the pros, cons, and best practices.
  • Find high-quality suppliers of meats, produce and supplements.
  • Speak to your vet about introducing raw foods gradually (16).
  • Start with small amounts of raw meat with kibble, slowly increase.
  • Balance homemade recipes by consulting a canine nutritionist.
  • Handle raw safely – wash hands/surfaces thoroughly, refrigerate promptly (17).
  • Make dietary adjustments slowly and monitor your dog’s health.
  • Be patient – it can take months for dogs to adapt to a new diet (18).
  • Expect stools to firm up and improve as digestion regulates (19).
  • Keep an eye on weight and adjust portions or add healthy fats as needed.
  • Feed a variety of proteins, vegetables, oils – diversity is healthy!

Most importantly, work closely with your trusted veterinarian to make any major dietary transition for your dog. While raw feeding has worked incredibly for my pack, every dog has unique nutritional needs. Patience, vigilance and expert guidance will set your dog up for success if you decide to explore this feeding approach.

My Go-To Raw Feeding Brand: We Feed Raw

If preparing homemade raw meals seems daunting, commercial frozen raw formulas offer a more convenient approach while still providing fresh, gently processed whole food nutrition.

Over the years, I’ve used excellent premade complete raw products that simplified raw feeding while still yielding great results. 

My favorite is We Feed Raw.

We Feed Raw offers nutritionally balanced blends of raw meat, bones, organs, and vegetables sourced from local organic farms. Their frozen formulas come in easy 1lb chubs.

I fed We Feed Raw‘s beef formula to my Goldendoodle Winston for over a year. The chubs thaw overnight right in the fridge. At around $5 per pound, the cost was higher than kibble but worth it for the quality.

Winston loved the taste and textures of the raw beef, liver, veggies, and supplements. His coat gleamed, stools firmed up, and energy stayed high on this diet. We Feed Raw takes the guesswork out of preparing homemade raw.

I highly recommend We Feed Raw’s complete frozen formulas for beginners looking to try raw feeding without intensive meal planning. 

Their transparency and ingredient quality gives me confidence in feeding this to my own dogs.

Balancing Homemade Raw Dog Food Recipes

To feed a homemade diet, I recommend working with a canine nutritionist to formulate balanced recipes customized to your dog. But here is a simple balanced raw recipe to get you started:

  • 1 lb ground turkey or beef
  • 1/2 lb chicken livers and hearts
  • 2 eggs with shells
  • 1 cup steamed veggies
  • 1 tbsp raw goat milk
  • 1 tsp kelp powder
    • 1 tsp salmon oil
  • 1 probiotic capsule

Blend the livers, hearts, and eggs fully in a food processor. Mix in the ground meat, vegetables, powders, oil, and supplements by hand in a large bowl. Portion into daily servings based on your dog’s needs. Always consult your vet before feeding any homemade diet. Monitor your dog closely and adjust as needed.

While raw feeding takes dedication, the payoff you’ll see in your dog is immense. As a raw feeding devotee, I urge owners to explore balanced, fresh food diets under veterinary supervision. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have on my experiences transitioning multiple dogs to raw over the past 20 years!

Final Thoughts on My Raw Feeding Journey

In a society conditioned to believe commercial kibble is “normal”, many owners never consider alternative diets. I believed the hype, too, at first. But once I researched ancestral canine nutrition and took the plunge into raw feeding under my vet’s guidance, I saw astounding differences in my dogs.

While each dog is unique, I feel ethically obligated to feed mine the natural species-appropriate diet they’ve thrived on for millennia. The convenience of kibble doesn’t outweigh the benefits of fresh, minimally processed foods for me. Dogs evolved to eat raw, whole prey – not endless starchy kibble (20).

Have I encountered skeptics along the way? Sure. But observing my dogs’ health transform cemented my conviction. I can only speak from experience. For my pack, balanced raw diets have provided the nutrition needed to thrive in ways commercial foods never achieved.

If you’re curious about trying raw for your dog, I hope I’ve provided a helpful insider’s perspective. I encourage you to consult trusted sources, speak to your vet, and transition slowly. With patience and prudence, you may just find raw feeding unlocks benefits for your dog you never realized were possible. I sure did!

Raw Diet FAQs

Q: Is raw meat safe for dogs? What about bacteria?

A: Quality raw meat from reputable suppliers is perfectly safe and healthy for dogs when handled properly. Salmonella and E. coli risks can be mitigated through safe handling and cleaning (21). I use extreme caution and have never had issues.

Q: Isn’t a raw diet more expensive than kibble?

A: Yes, raw diets usually cost more than kibble. I budget ~$200-300 monthly for raw feeding a 50 lb dog (22). But for me, the investment is worth it for my dogs’ stellar health and quality of life. I cut costs by buying bulk deals on meat and making homemade recipes.

Q: Should I ask my vet before switching to raw?

A: Always consult your vet before making major diet changes. Many vets still express caution about raw diets, so owner education and communication is key (23). I worked closely with my vet to transition dogs gradually. Not all dogs do well on certain diets.

Q: Is raw better for puppies too?

A: Most vets don’t recommend raw for puppies, as their immune systems are still developing (24). Cooked or lightly cooked diets may be safer options. Always follow your vet’s guidance on what’s appropriate for the puppy’s age and health.

Q: What percent of my dog’s diet should be raw food?

A: There’s no ideal ratio. Many raw advocates feed it exclusively. I suggest starting with 25-50% raw mixed with your dog’s current food, then gradually increasing the raw ratio if all goes well (25). Let your dog’s health and tolerance guide you.

Please let me know if you have any other questions! I’m happy to chat more about your interest in raw feeding. Wishing you and your pup the very best of health!


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