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Should I Be Feeding The Dog A Raw Diet? - Risks Versus Benefits
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Should I Be Feeding The Dog A Raw Diet?  -  Risks Versus Benefits

Are raw food diets for dogs good for their health? Can this type of diet help me maintain my dog’s ideal weight? The more I read about raw diets versus commercial dog food the more confused I get.

I have an overweight Labrador on a calorie controlled diet. My vet is very much against feeding raw, so I buy a commercial diet food that he recommends. The diet is working and the dog is slimming down, but he dislikes the food intensely, and the situation is distressing for the both of us. I am always on the lookout for alternatives, hence my current interest in raw diets.

Currently, it appears that nothing in the dog world is causing as much controversy as the pros and cons of feeding a raw diet. The argument being put forward is that dogs are carnivores, and that raw feeding is a more natural diet because it mimics how the animals would feed in the wild. Year on year there are a growing proportion of dog owners deserting commercial dog food and reverting to raw feeding. In opposition are the many vets (including my own) who believe the diet is harmful to both humans and pets.

Herein lays the dilemma. From my perspective, here are some of the main issues with raw feeding:

Problem One - Which type of raw diet do I choose?

There seems to be 3 slightly different versions of raw feeding. So which is best?

1. The BARF raw food diet was developed by an Australian vet named Ian Billinghurst. This diet includes raw meaty bones, some fruits and vegetables, dairy products and grains.

2."Strict" raw feeding refers to a diet completely made up of uncooked meat, soft bones and animal organs such as heart and liver.

3. A version of raw feeding referred to as the "Prey Model" which involves giving the whole carcass of an animal to the dog. Emphasis is put on feeding a variety of animal carcasses such as rabbit, chickens and game birds.

Problem Two - Do I use homemade recipes or buy a commercial raw diet?

My Labrador is a big dog so the practicalities of making up homemade raw meals are considerable. For a start off my freezer is just not big enough!

The alternative is to buy a commercial raw diet which is more convenient, but apparently more expensive.

Problem three - There appears to be some possible risks

• Potentially it could work out more expensive than the commercial feeds

• Experts claim there is a possible threat to owners and dogs from bacteria in raw meat such as parasites and salmonella

• Vets believe it can be difficult to work out if the dog is getting all the right nutrients for a balance diet

• There is the potential for whole bones to choke an animal, break teeth or cause internal problems

• The transition from commercial dry to a raw meat diet can sometimes release harmful toxins

None of the above issues are insurmountable, and let’s face it, if dog owners were totally happy with the commercial dry food on offer, then the interest in raw feeding would simply not exist. Therefore owners must be seeing benefits from this type of diet. Factor into this the number of recalls of even the priciest brands of dry dog food due to toxic contamination, and is it any wonder that raw feeding is growing in popularity.

Below are just some of the advantages for raw feeding being extolled.

The Main Benefits

• There is a reduced risk of obesity because the diet is not loaded with carbohydrates

• More lustrous coat

• Cleaner teeth from crunching all those bones

• Smaller and less smelly stools

• Increased energy levels

• Breath smells better

In conclusion

So do I risk upsetting the dog’s digestion and weight loss schedule by changing his feed, or do I try and make him happier with a raw diet that is argued to be more natural? What I really need is a balanced view. Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming conflict in information, raw feeding is either condemned, or it’s seen as the most wonderful thing you can do for your pet. This is not helping owners make informed or appropriate choices of dog food.

After all the research on this subject, I am now of an opinion that whatever I feed the dog there will be risks attached. The question is, "is that risk acceptable?" I am seriously considering a raw diet, but only if I fail to find the right commercial dry feed. The bottom line is, my dog is achieving weight loss and is healthy on conventional food, and so, do I really need to change his diet? For the time being, I will be keeping my options open.

If, in the future, some scientific evidence comes to light which can prove 100% that raw feeding is better than the commercial feeds, and that the benefits outweigh the risks, then that’s the time for me to change. If you are considering a move to raw feeding there are plenty of websites and discussions forums online. I think this passionate debate has a long way to run before owners like me can make informed choices about what to feed their pets.


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