Raw food diet for dogs has become popular in the past years. But this method is also highly controversial. It is believed that since raw food is what dogs of the ancient days used to it, it will have a better effect on our pets. Racing greyhounds and sled dogs have long been eating raw food. However, applying this diet to a family pet has only been done recently, as was proposed in 1993 by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst.
Billinghurst called this type of dog diet as the BARF diet, an acronym that stands for Bones and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. He suggested that adult dogs would thrive on an evolutionary diet based on what canines ate before they became domesticated: raw, meaty bones and vegetable scraps. He adds that grain-based commercial pet foods were harmful to a dog’s health.
Is this true? Elizabeth Lee of PetMD.com shows us what the experts say.
Many mainstream veterinarians and the FDA itself disagree with Billinghurst. The risks of raw diets have been documented in several studies published in veterinary journals.
Raw food diet has potential benefits that supporters tout. These include shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, higher energy levels, and smaller stools. However, it also poses risks such as the threat to human and dog health from bacteria in raw meat, an unbalanced diet that may damage the health of dogs if given for an extended period, and potential for whole bones to choke an animal, break teeth, or cause an internal puncture.
Raw dog food diet typically consists of muscle meat (often still on the bone), bones (either whole or ground), organ meats such as livers and kidneys, raw eggs, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and celery, apples or other fruit, and some dairy such as yogurt.
Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, headed evaluation of raw dog food diets in 2001. She argues that many of the benefits attributed to a raw food diet for dogs, such as shiner coats, are instead the result of the high-fat composition of the typical raw diet. She notes that high-fat commercial foods that would produce the same effect are available.