You may have spoken to other dog owners out on a walk or during dog training courses about the new trend for raw food for dogs and wondering if it is right for your dog. The food that your dog eats is so important to their overall health and energy levels – it’s an important decision. A quick search on the internet reveals that it is a contentious issue: some dog owners and experts swear by the raw diet, where others have serious reservations.

If you are considering a raw diet for your pet, we’re here to answer some of your questions.

What is a raw food diet?

A raw food diet is usually provided by subscription to a supplier who will send regular supplies of natural, real ingredients including vegetables and meat (including offal) and dairy. Vets do not endorse home-made raw food diets as it is difficult to include all the necessary nutrients for a balanced diet.

Sometimes raw food diets are referred to as a BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet.

Where did this diet originate?

The raw food diet was popularised by Australian Vet Ian Billingshurst in the 1990s following research on racing greyhounds and sled dogs who thrived on raw ingredients.

What are the alternatives?

If you are not giving your dog a raw food diet, your dog will likely be eating dried food (called kibble in the US) or tinned food. Any pet food sold in the UK is subject to legislation from the Food And Standards Agency (FSA) which ensures that the food is balanced and suitable for your pet.

Raw food – the benefits

Advocates of raw food diets claim that the diet can give your dog a shinier coat, healthier skin, better dental health, better energy levels and better digestion. A raw food diet is also said to improve a dog’s immune system, which means they rarely get ill. Of course, a dogs health can also be vastly improved by regular exercise or a dog training class.

Raw food – the drawbacks

Raw food subscriptions are more expensive. The cost is based on the size of the dog, so can vary from around £1 to £4 per day. Also, the uncooked diet is not suitable for young puppies, or dogs with poor health. Hygiene is very important when preparing and handling a raw diet, especially for those that have children or the elderly in their home. The American Kennel Club (AKC) discourage dog owners from feeding dogs raw or unprocessed meat, eggs and milk. Raw meat and dairy can carry pathogens like E. coli, listeria and salmonella. These pathogens can make pets and people sick or even cause death.

What about food for dogs on training courses?

If your dog is lucky enough to attend daycare or dog training classes, these dogs will not normally be fed during the working day or session. If your dog has special dietary requirements, these can usually be accommodated, but please let us know in advance. The dogs may be offered treats during the day.

The PDSA charity have a good, balanced article on the raw food diet. If you’d like any further information, you could also speak with one of our dog training experts.