Here’s an article I recommend reading before buying in to raw food diets for your dog:
Raw Meat and Bone Diets for Dogs: It’s Enough to Make You BARF
Some of the most rewarding interactions we have with our pets involve food. Most dogs respond with gratifying enthusiasm to being fed, and this activity is an important part of the human-animal bond. Providing food is also part of the parent/child dynamic that in many ways characterizes our relationships with our pets. Giving food is an expression of affection and a symbol of our duty of care to our pets.
Because of these emotional resonances, pet owners are often very concerned about giving their pets the “right” food to maintain health and, if possible, to prevent or treat disease. This has allowed the development of a large, and profitable commercial pet food industry that aggressively markets diets with health-related claims.
…One of the most popular unscientific notions sold to pet owners these days is that of feeding diets based on raw meat, typified by the BARF diet. According to the a leading proponent of this idea, Dr. Ian Billinghurst, BARF stands for Bones and Raw Foods or Biologically Appropriate Foods (though I confess other interpretations have occurred to me). Raw diets are frequently recommended by veterinarians and other who practice homeopathy, “holistic” veterinary medicine, and other forms of CAM. This is not surprising since, as you will see, the arguments and types of reasoning used to promote the BARF concept are also commonly used to defend other forms of alternative veterinary medicine. Let’s take a look at the arguments some BARF proponents make for this diet.
The article then examines some of the arguments for raw food diets: that dogs are wolves, evolved to eat raw meat, can’t digest grains, that dog food is made of euthanized dogs, etc.. It then goes on to correct some pure misinformation and look at evidence-based facts about our canine companions and their digestion and health:
Now let’s have a look at the problems with this raw dog food marketing propaganda. To begin with, the concept of “evolutionary nutrition” ignores the simple fact that taxonomy and phylogeny are not destiny, nor do they reliably predict the specific details of a species’ biology, including its nutritional needs. Sure, dogs are in the order Carnivora, but so are giant pandas, which are almost exclusively herbivorous. Functionally, dogs are omnivores or facultative carnivores, not obligate carnivores, and they are well-suited to an omnivorous diet regardless of their taxonomic classification or ancestry.
It also looks at the very serious safety issues with BARF diets:
…The risks of raw meat based diets, however, are well-documented. Homemade diets and commercial BARF diets are often demonstrable unbalanced and have severe nutritional deficiencies or excesses.16-18 Dogs have been shown to acquire and shed parasitic organisms and potentially lethal infectious diseases associated with raw meat, including pathogenic strains of E. coli and Salmonella.25-27 Many other pathogens have been identified in raw diets or raw meat ingredients, and these represent a risk not only to the dogs fed these diets but to their owners, particularly children and people with compromised immune systems.29-30 The bones often included in such diets can cause fractured teeth and gastrointestinal diseases, including obstructed or perforated intestines, and the FDA recently warned pet owners against feeding bones to their canine companions.
Food for thought I thought I’d pass along to anyone facing the onslaught of marketing directed at animal owners. The proponents of the raw food diet are especially fanatical, so it’s worth thinking twice and getting medical opinions.
I do worry about the quality and safety of dry dog food, and make a point of buying Gilly good food from companies which guarantee high-quality ingredients and which have nearly universal approval from both vets and other pet owners.
My personal picks (and no, I’m not getting kickbacks from any of them for saying so): Canidae, Wellness, Artemis, or Eagle Pack brands – these are the ones I trust and Gilly likes. There are lots of good foods out there, though, many of which we haven’t tried.
Based on what I know at this point, I prefer the high quality dry food (with supplemental variety) to a wet food diet because it’s better for his teeth – a serious consideration these days because while animals used to die from other causes well before dental issues took them, they live so much longer now that the ones on Atkins-style diets are coming up with heart problems from gum disease, etc.. (More on this here.)
You can check recall lists at the FDA here, and there are tons of ‘rating’ sites out there to sift through if you like: there’s places like the Dog Food Analysis forum, the widely-shared Rate Your Dog Food guide (not sure about the science behind this one, but it’s interesting), etc.
I also supplement Gilly’s dry food with (cooked) meat, vegetables, grains and fruit that I’m eating, because he likes and thrives on it. Oddly enough, the thing he chews more thoroughly than any other food, and with the most gleeful crunching and self-evident pleasure, is steamed green beans. Watching him eat a string bean is one of life’s great pleasures, in fact. Broccoli is also a hit, as are apples, figs, dates, rice, and many other foods I eat.
His all time favorite tastes of people food? Mac-n-cheese and blueberry pie, hands down. If they are side by side with a piece of steak, he’ll eat the pie first, then the mac-n-cheese, then the meat. Go figure.
Just as some people are fanatical about feeding only raw meat and bones, others will tell you your dog’s gonna DROP DEAD!!!! from a single piece of human food!!!!!!11111!!!!
There are human foods dogs can’t safely process, it’s true, and it’s essential to know something about common poisons.
With balanced nutrition day to day, a wide variety of treats in moderation, and with lots of exercise, Gilly’s digestion is fabulous and his figure dashing, his fur shiny and his spirits perky.
It’s working for us.
Your picks for a healthy dog diet?