Raw Dog Food: Benefits & Risks

raw dog food -

Raw Dog Food: Benefits & Risks


Kim Heffernan, CVT

Emergency & Critical Care Technician

Port City Referral Hospital - Proud Supporter of Project Pawsitive

Pet owners are passionate when it comes to the subject of what to feed their dogs.  A balanced diet contributes to a long healthy life.  The majority of people today feed a commercial kibble or canned food, but the popularity of raw diets has increased.  This is primarily due to the recent recalls on commercial dog foods.  By preparing your dog’s food at home, you have more control over the dietary components and where those ingredients are coming from.

Pet owners are also feeding raw foods to provide a more «natural» diet.  By feeding a diet consisting mainly of raw meat and bones, people are able to mimic the diet of a wild canine.  However, domestic dogs do not resemble their wild ancestors. Domestic dogs are now bred in range of sizes, from a tiny Chihuahua to a large Great Dane, each with different builds.  Considering all of these physiological differences, can we be certain that what a wild canine eats is an ideal diet for our pets?

Types of Raw Diets:

There are two types of raw diets: commercial and home prepared.  Commercial raw diets are fresh or frozen and provide a supply of the dog’s dietary requirements.  Home prepared raw diets usually consist of raw meat and bones, with vegetables, fruits, supplements, and grains. Because of the fluctuations in ingredients and nutritional components of these diets, it can be hard to achieve proper dietary requirements on a daily basis.


The raw and home prepared diets can allow you to tailor different components based on your pet’s needs.  For example, it allows you to avoid certain foods that your dog may be allergic to and can be made to meet specific dietary requirements. This diet can benefit overweight dogs due to the lower carbohydrates and higher protein content which can satisfy their hunger. The proteins can also be beneficial for higher energy dogs.   

Processed foods usually have added preservatives.  Food that has been freshly prepared and not processed is typically considered a healthier choice. Commercial raw diets are usually frozen, which means they do not require added preservatives. The bones that are usually part of a home prepared raw diet can be considered beneficial for dental hygiene. Many people that feed a raw diet claim that their dogs have shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth and higher energy.


Raw diets have been found to contain Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. Coli, Clostridium, and Staphylococcus, which are known human and canine pathogens.  These bacteria are shed in their stool and can be transferred to objects in your environment, such as furniture or carpet.  These pathogens typically pose a threat to immuno-compromised people, the elderly or young children.  It is very important to consider people who may be at risk of illness in your household when feeding a raw diet.

There has also been research showing that there are certain protein- specific pathogens that can cause illness or be fatal to your dogs by disturbing the natural flora and introducing bad bacteria. There are several risks involved when feeding bones such as choking, intestinal blockage or perforations, chipped or broken teeth.

Preparing an adequately well balanced diet is very important.  An unbalanced diet can cause nutritional deficiencies that can be very harmful to your dog’s health and can take months or even years to show up.     

There are many different factors to consider when deciding the best diet for your pet. When considering a raw diet, it is important to compare both the pros and cons and how they will impact your pet’s individual needs.