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What Is Raw Dog Food? Is It Safe?

labrador retriever dogs eating raw foods

Raw dog food is a trend that emerged with the idea of feeding dogs a diet that resembles a wolf’s diet. This type of diet can be homemade, but a significant amount of store-bought raw dog food is now available in pet stores and online.

Despite health benefit claims made for raw dog food, many veterinarians and researchers are hesitant about promoting raw food diets and even discourage dog owners from feeding their pets this kind of diet.

Responsible dog owners will do their research to find a diet that best suits their dog’s unique dietary and nutritional needs. So, here’s a breakdown of what raw dog food is and what research has revealed about it so far.

The exact amount of calories an individual animal needs to maintain a healthy weight is variable and influenced by many factors including genetics, age, breed, and activity level. This tool is meant to be used only as a guideline for healthy individuals and does not substitute veterinary advice 


What’s Inside Raw Dog Food?

Raw dog food typically consists of raw meat, fruits ,and vegetables. Some recipes also contain raw animal organs, bones, and egg products.

The principle behind raw diets is that the most nutritious diet for dogs is one that closely resembles a dog diet before it became domesticated thousands of years ago. While this may sound logical, it’s also important to remember that a dog’s diet has changed over time as it became domesticated. So, it’s very possible that dogs can’t digest the same foods as they might have been able to tens of thousands of years ago.

Siberian husky dog puppy eating a meat
Image By: Tati argent, Shutterstock

Is Raw Dog Food Safe or Unsafe?

It’s difficult to definitively say that raw dog food is safe or unsafe because more research must be done to come to a conclusive statement. So, it’s important to take statements from both sides with a grain of salt.

Supporters of raw dog food have stated that dogs can experience the following health benefits:

  • Healthier skin and coat
  • Improved dental health
  • Better digestion
  • Higher energy levels

Despite the potential health benefits, raw dog food also comes with risks that just may not be worth the rewards.


First, there’s always the risk of contamination with raw dog food. Since these types of diets contain raw ingredients, they have a much shorter shelf-life and a higher chance of cultivating bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses, such as Salmonella.

A study conducted by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine gathered 196 samples of raw dog food and found that 47 of these samples were contaminated with bacteria. In contrast, all 120 samples of dry dog food didn’t contain any bacteria.

Nutrient Deficiencies

While homemade raw diets can help dog owners have more control over what their dog eats, it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies. Such deficiencies include insufficient levels of calcium and phosphorus. A low-quality raw food diet can also contain forms of calcium and phosphorus that are difficult to digest. This is particularly dangerous for puppies, as they need the right calcium and phosphorus levels for healthy development and growth.

Feeding your dog raw bones can also be unsafe. It can lead to tooth damage, cuts in the mouth, or choking.

bernese mountain dog eating turkey bone
Image Credit: Eve Photography, Shutterstock

Risks to Humans

Lastly, raw dog food can be risky for humans. Since harmful bacteria can transfer to surfaces, it’s important to immediately clean and wash all surfaces and utensils that were touched by the raw food.

It’s also important to clean the face and area around your dog’s mouth after your dog finishes eating, especially if your dog has long hair. This is because the bacteria can transfer to you if you pet or kiss your dog’s face.



Raw dog food has its pros and cons, but as of now, there are many more risks than benefits. If you’re still curious about exploring a raw food diet, make sure to consult with your veterinarian. A veterinarian will be able to assess your dog’s health and help you determine if a raw diet is right for it.

Featured Image Credit: manushot, Shutterstock

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