When your dog is shaking a toy or barking at the mailman, it's especially obvious that your strong, protective furry friend is descended from noble wolves. But what about when it's time for breakfast? Many dogs would probably like to eat just like their ancestors, who certainly never munched on highly processed kibble; however, that doesn't mean it's the best choice for your pet — or for you as their personal chef.

Here's what to know about a raw food diet for dogs and how you can make it a safe, simple and satisfying choice for you and your pooch.

What Is a Raw Food Diet?

There are many ways to define raw dog food diets. In its most basic form, a raw diet is exactly what your pup would find out in the wild. Here are just a few things a pet parent might put into a bowl of raw dog food:

  • Raw eggs.
  • Raw meat.
  • Bones.
  • Organs.
  • Grains.
  • Yogurt.
  • Fruits.
  • Vegetables.
The idea of a raw diet for dogs was first popularized by the book “Give Your Dog a Bone” by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst. Dr. Billinghurst proposed a raw meal plan for domesticated dogs called BARF — “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” or “Bones And Raw Food” — which emphasizes foods that would be found in the wild as well as the inclusion of vitamins and supplements.

Supporters of the BARF diet and other raw dog food diets claim they have many health benefits, including:

  • Stronger, cleaner teeth.
  • Shinier coats.
  • Higher energy levels.
  • Healthier skin.

For most dog owners, these benefits would just be a bonus; the idea of a raw diet is appealing primarily because it mimics nature. After all, raw meat certainly hasn’t been processed like commercial dog food — but is that really a good thing?

Is a Raw Food Diet Healthy for Dogs?

There are plenty of reasons you and your family don't chow down on raw meat — and it's not just because you're humans instead of a wolf pack. The truth is that uncooked or undercooked meat, poultry and eggs can contain all kinds of harmful bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even raw fruits and vegetables can carry certain risks.

What does that mean for the unprocessed, untreated, raw dog food diet? There are several things to consider:

  • Preparing raw meat for your dog can spread bacteria on knives, cutting boards, kitchen counters and more.
  • Dogs who eat raw meat containing bacteria like E. coli can spread this bacteria to human family members.
  • Certain raw meat contaminants can make your dog sick, causing symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Some raw food diets may lack nutrients your dog needs at different stages in life.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has a policy on raw pet food that outlines how you should and shouldn't approach these diets. The main recommendation is to “provide fresh, clean, nutritionally balanced and complete commercially prepared or home-cooked food to cats and dogs.”

The good news is that you can make a raw food diet fit these parameters for health, safety, nutrients and more. All you have to do is roll up your sleeves and start your research.

Planning a Safe Raw Food Diet for Dogs

Don't want to break down a raw chicken or crack uncooked eggs into your dog's bowl? No problem — there are plenty of easy and safe ways to feed your dog a raw food diet.

The key is to find a food that makes one or more of the following promises:

Once you've done some research, reach out to your vet or veterinary nutritionist to discuss a healthy, balanced diet for your dog. You might find that commercial dog food really is the best way to go — or your vet might recommend feeding raw snacks, like zucchini or carrots, to satisfy your desire for natural dog food. If a shiny coat and healthy teeth are your main reasons for considering a raw food diet, your vet could also point you toward dog supplies that will get the job done without the need for raw meat.

No matter what you decide, remember that your dog — regardless of how proud and strong they might be — isn't a wolf anymore. Your furry friend has different needs and, depending on how much human food they snack on, a pickier palate. Plus, wolves often have to scrounge around for any raw meat they can get, while your pet is lucky enough to have someone like you hand-selecting their food.

Get Your Pet Food Essentials

As a responsible pet parent, you know how much work, research and consideration goes into your dog's diet. While raw meat might seem like the perfect fit because of your dog's ancestral connection to this particular cuisine, research shows that it's smart to tread carefully on this diet.

Luckily, your local Pet Supermarket team knows just what every pooch might be craving. We can always help you choose pet food essentials and health supplies to keep your dog looking, feeling and even smelling their best. We can also point you toward options that are easier and safer than serving raw meat and eggs to your furry friend.

Visit your nearest Pet Supermarket for help planning the perfect diet for dogs!