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Is RAW really the way to go?

Posted by Sarah Fernando on
Is RAW really the way to go?


Raw meat pet food diets are increasingly popular with pet owners. In the wild, cats and dogs are able to self-select and consume prey based on their needs. Since domestic animals are unable to make food choices, responsible pet owners are tasked with reading labels and ensuring their pet food meets the nutritional requirements of their pet. So, is raw food really the way to go?

Although raw diets provide ample protein and energy, it may be missing important vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and trace nutrients that your pet needs to be healthy and active.  A study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal found that 3 out of 5 raw food diets examined had nutritional deficiencies in calcium and phosphorous, while 2 out of 5 were deficient in the trace minerals potassium, magnesium and zinc [1].  

A German study found that some dogs fed an exclusive bone and raw food diet showed clinical signs of nutritional imbalance. Upon investigation, they found either over supplementation or nutritional deficiencies in calcium, copper, zinc, iodine, Vitamins A & D, and the calcium: phosphorous ratio [2]. Some clinical signs of nutritional imbalance in dogs are the development of skin lesions on the foot pads, extremities, joints and groin, and coat changes where dogs develop dry, harsh hair coat with fading coat colour [3]. Another article, written by the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, outlines that apart from risks of bacterial and viral contamination, health problems in animals can develop because of deficient or excessive intake of certain nutrients in raw diets [4]. Gastroenteritis, inflammation of the gut, is one such problem. Finally, an online search will find you dozens of articles citing the need for supplementation of vitamins and nutrients when feeding an exclusively raw diet.

The takeaway is that if you choose to feed raw, please supplement with other foods that contain vitamins and minerals, or with a vitamin preparation. The best diet for pets is, as we suspect, a balance of natural ingredients cooked at low temperature to increase bioavailability of nutrients.  Variety is nature’s way of providing a wide array of nutrients that our bodies need. The concept is no different for our pets who depend on us for food selection. Providing nutritious and wholesome cooked pet food made from natural ingredients is always better than either extreme of all raw or highly processed commercial pet foods.   



[1] D.P. Schlesinger, D.J. Joffe, Raw food diets in companion animals: A critical review, The Canadian Veterinary Journal 52(1) (2011) 50-4.

[2] P. Kolle, M. Schmidt, [Raw-meat-based diets (RMBD) as a feeding principle for dogs], Tierarztliche Praxis. Ausgabe K, Kleintiere/Heimtiere 43(6) (2015) 409-19; quiz 420.

[3] M. Linda P. Case, Leighann Daristotle, DVM, PhD, Michael G. Hayek, PhD and Melody Foess Raasch, DVM, Canine and Feline Nutrition, 3rd Edition ed.2011.

[4] C.S.o.V.M. Tufts University, Raw Meat Diets 2012.



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