Raw Diet for Pets

Posted on May 5 2012 - 12:01am by Susan Bewley

raw diet for pets 2

Over the past few months, I have been researching into different ways to make my pets healthier. As my husband and I have been searching for just the right dog, we have met quite a few breeders and pet owners who have been feeding a raw diet to both their cats and dogs.  Having always fed my cats natural commercial pet food, I was originally taken aback by this idea. Was it really safe to feed our pets raw meat?

What is the Raw Diet for Pets

As you can likely guess from the name, the raw diet focuses on feeding your pet raw meat, as well as uncooked vegetables, fruits, and bones. Feeding raw vegetables and fruits is really nothing new to me, since we always gave these to our pets as treats growing up, especially our dogs.  While we did give our dogs unseasoned meat as treats on holidays, we never fed it to them raw.

The reasoning behind the raw diet is that it is the original natural pet food – it gives dogs what they would find in the wild. Dogs, by nature, are scavengers.  This means that while they will hunt for their food in the wild, they are not above eating whatever they could find that was left by another predator. If you have a dog, you have likely seen this type of activity during meal time, where they are looking at you wide eyed and hoping for a treat, or just waiting for you to turn you back to dig into the trash can. Those who are followers of the raw diet believe that this gives dogs, like their wolf cousins, everything they need to be healthy. While it is a very controversial diet, there are quite a few vets, especially holistic vets, who support owners feeding their pets this type of diet.

Benefits of a Raw Diet

Many dog owners have seen drastic results with the raw diet, finding that their pets’ coats and overall health has greatly improved. Celtic Acres Farm, an American husky breeder, has been feeding all of their dogs this diet for years, finding that it also leads to healthier puppies since it prevents drastic growth spurts, a common problem with puppies on commercial food.

As well, many researchers and veterinarians who support this diet have found that dogs live healthier, longer lives on the raw diet, compared to ordinary pet food. At some point in their lives almost every pet experiences some dental issue or other, such as periodontal disease.  It is believed that over 80% of pets suffer from this disease by the age of two, leading to severe dental problems. Dogs who are on this diet usually have very good dental health, as well as more rarely experiencing otherwise common diseases believed to be linked to commercial foods, such as heart disease, kidney disease, and liver disease. Some of the benefits of having your pets on the raw diet, from what I have read, include:

  • Shinier, Healthier Coats
  • Healthier Skin
  • Cleaner Teeth
  • Better Dental Health
  • High Energy Levels at All Ages
  • Better Breath
  • Smaller Stool with Less Frequent Bowel Movements
  • Better Endurance
  • Better Attention Span
  • Easier to Train

Drawbacks to a Raw Diet

While there are some people who love the raw diet, it is also very controversial. Most mainstream veterinarians, and the FDA, believe that the raw diet should be avoided. Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PHD, in the 2001 issue of the Journal of American Veterinary Association suggests that most owners should avoid the raw diet, saying that it leads to serious nutritional deficiencies after evaluating five mainstream raw diets in a scientific study. She believes that the high fat in this diet is the cause of most of the results pet owners have seen. After reading her reports, it seems she produced very similar results using high quality commercial natural pet foods with a high fat content.

Other researchers have also found that dogs on the raw diet that are not given supplemental vitamins also tend to be lacking in calcium and phosphorus, and are more likely to suffer from anemia.  Through their studies, they concluded that this diet can appear to have amazing results in the short term, but may cause damage to a pet’s health over time, due to an unbalanced diet. Animals on the raw diet also have the potential of choking on bones or suffering from punctured internal organs from chewed and splintered bones.

The FDA has other concerns with the raw diet, mostly relating to potential health issues for owners and pets being exposed to harmful or even deadly bacteria that would normally be killed during the cooking process.  The FDA and American Veterinary Association recommend that owners who are looking for the healthiest alternatives to traditional commercial food should make their own homemade food, or purchase a high quality natural pet food.

Our Opinion

So far, I am unsure what to really think about the raw diet. Many of the studies that are against the raw diet are sponsored or promoted heavily by major pet food brands, or their parent company (such as Nestle).  I think a large part of what makes the raw diet so successful is making sure you get your meat from a quality butcher, and only feed your animal foods acceptable for human consumption. For those who have the time to properly handle raw meats, and do the extra research to see where their meat is coming from, I would seriously consider giving it a shot.  Personally, I would only feel comfortable trying the raw diet if I could source everything from a local, organic farm, or a butcher who sells their products and has strict handling practices to prevent contamination of the meat.  While this may drastically increase the cost of the food, family farms do tend to have better quality control than well-known groceries, which consider their meat only intended for eating after cooking.

Until there is a bit more research proving the effectiveness of the raw diet for pets, I will likely stay with feeding my animal natural pet food or homemade pet food. While I have entertained the idea more than once, I am unsure exactly how I feel about it – I would hate to get my pets sick or worse with an illness that could have easily been avoided by simple cooking.  That said, I would be very interested to hear if you have tried the raw diet with your animals and seen other results. I would love to read some more opinions and experiences with this popular natural pet food diet, so please, tell your story in our comments below.

Budget Earth & its writers did not recieve compensation or products from said company for this post and it’s completley the opinion of the writer.



Susan Bewley is a professional writer who has been writing content online & in print format for over 10 years. As well, she is an alumni of the University of Louisville with a Masters Degree in Special Education. When not working as an online business consultant or ghost writing, she can be found writing on Budget Earth, on her own novel, or working with various entities in the pet industry.

23 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Kimberly, The Fur Mom May 11, 2012 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Fantastic post! I know that there are people who are passionate about the raw food diet and since I don't know a lot I never argue with them about it; as long as they're giving their dogs the supplements they need, then I'm certain that they're fine. But I have heard all of those wonderful benefits. I think if someone works with their vet so that they understand everything they need to give their dogs, they'll have great success. I didn't trust myself to stay vigilant on a raw food diet and gave our dogs something that I thought was just as good, which I promote on my blog. Thanks for this thorough post! Kimberly

    • Susan Bewley May 12, 2012 at 12:16 am - Reply

      So glad you liked it! I am unsure if I could do the raw diet for any of our animals, but I know quite a few people were recommending it for our cat, as well as our future pup when we get her. I personally think people should consult their vet before doing any drastic changes. I am likely going to do a natural food or homemade with supplements since it seems like the best option. The stuff I’ve been reading that they put in commercial dog and cat foods have made me sick!

      BTW, I absolutely love your blog!

  2. Lee M. May 13, 2012 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    I do not even feed my softshell turtle raw shrimp or tilapia because his previous owner said he got a TAPEWORM from a raw diet. So I would be afraid of harmful organisms.  Domesticity may have bred out a resistance?

  3. meloney May 20, 2012 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    I'm liking the idea of raw diet for my dogs, it seems the benefits out weigh the drawbacks, it would be easy enough to give vitamin supplements to make up for the loss of nutrients from the raw diet. Awesome post susan.

    • Susan Bewley May 21, 2012 at 8:19 am - Reply

      As long as you use the supplements, you should be fine. I know the breeder I linked to talks about the different supplements she uses for her huskies and how it has helped her entire business.

  4. Opal @ Celebrate Life June 5, 2012 at 6:00 am - Reply

    Raw food is what we feed our pets, the most noticeable improvement was within the ferrets that I had. I'd gotten them from a shelter. It took a few weeks to transition them to raw meat. I'd grind up the meat in my Vita-mix, and mix some of it with their dried kibble. Challenging at first, but it was worth it.¯

    Shiner coats, whiter teeth, no more tarter buildup, and they seemed to have more energy than before.

  5. Melinda Dunne August 30, 2012 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Thanks for all the information! 

  6. MamaBreak September 3, 2012 at 11:50 am - Reply

    I would be too nervous to have my dogs on a raw diet. You need to worry about food poisoning, choking on bones, etc. We already spent over $5,000 on our dog after he had a raw hide bone, so we are very careful with their diets!

    • Susan Bewley September 3, 2012 at 11:55 am - Reply

      I tried being impartial with this but I’m personally not a big fan.

  7. Sue Invegas September 10, 2012 at 9:55 am - Reply

    I use to make my dogs food, But I figured I would just buy better food. Thanks for sharing! Great info!

  8. Wanda Bergman April 2, 2013 at 11:31 am - Reply

    Informative article. I've always known raw food is better for dogs but you've given me a lot more information than I've already had. Thanks.

  9. Katherine April 7, 2013 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    I believe that raw diets are great- however there are so many proponents against it that even pet insurance companies won't cover injuries related to raw diets or not even cover the animal at all if it is eating a raw diet. Personally I feed my dog a high quality commercial diet supplemented with a raw bone once or twice a week depending on how much I have taken him out to burn off the extra calories- this way they get the balance needed with the commercial diet with the benefits of improved oral health and less/smaller stools… I get my raw bones from a local organic butcher- make sure the cuts are up and down instead of slanted or cut down the middle of the bone- this leaves sharp sides and the potential for injury to your pet.

    • Susan Bewley April 8, 2013 at 10:52 am - Reply

      I’m not a big fan of bones. Even the best can spinter and cause potential injury. While I tried being impartial, the raw diet makes me very nervous. The same benefits can be achieved by making homemade foods or getting high quality natural foods. You hit the nail on the head with the supplements. I think that is the biggie!

  10. Miranda W April 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    I would love to have the frezer space to put my cats on a raw diet.

  11. Lettie April 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    I'd like to start by saying thank you for this post, great information 🙂 

    I have researched raw diets several times even watched videos on how to prepare such diets though have never done it myself. The fear of choking, lack of nutrients, not having enough money at times for suppliments and so forth. She is too old now to try and change her diet though I do however give her left-overs (shh, don't tell my husband lol) along with her dry food. You can see a picture of her through this link 🙂 http://fishinfoplus.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=145768725

    • Susan Bewley April 21, 2013 at 4:54 pm - Reply

      Isn’t she beautiful! Is she a alaskan malamute? I am not a big fan of the raw diet myself – it seems a bit too risky.

  12. md kennedy May 1, 2013 at 9:13 am - Reply

    I am torn.  In Crete wher emy husband and I spend a lot of time, there are a LOT of feral cats that only eat "wild," essentially raw food – birds, lizards, bugs, some grass.  And the ones that survive are beautiful feline specimens.  However, my housecat (who never goes outside) thrives on plain old cat food; my last cat lived 18 years and was healthy until the last couple of months of his life on the same diet.  It may be that it depends upon how close to the "real" nature the animal is.

    • Susan Bewley May 1, 2013 at 9:18 am - Reply

      Most feral cats don’t live long lives. The ASPCA says that the average life of a feral cat on its own is two years, and with a colony of other cats is lucky to live 10 years. What helps your average housecat is vaccines, better quality of food, and more importantly, food that isn’t diseased.

  13. marissa lee June 4, 2013 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    thank you for all the information..i never feed my dog a raw diet..

    • Susan Bewley June 4, 2013 at 11:14 pm - Reply

      I’m not a big fan of it myself. I think its good to give people both sides of the story :

  14. Angela Ash August 27, 2013 at 10:25 am - Reply

    A raw diet is definitely more expensive & time consuming. I give my dog raw food now & it's not table scraps. I don't do it on a regular basis & am not sure if I ever would. It's definitely a topic that will require more thought & research. My pets like it more & seem to look forward to it but that's not enough to give into those puppy dog eyes. 

    • Susan Bewley August 27, 2013 at 6:04 pm - Reply

      We have to always remember that dogs are naturally scavengers. They will beg for just about ANYTHING. I’m still a bit skeptical on the raw diet myself (as you likely saw from the article). My concern is samonella.

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