The Pros and Cons of a Raw Food Diet for Dogs

4 min read
Jun 06, 2022

Quick Takeaways

  • A raw food diet for dogs typically contains ingredients such as organ or muscle meat, bones, raw eggs, and vegetables.
  • Advocates of the raw food diet believe it helps improve your dog’s health, with benefits like weight management, cleaner teeth, and a shiner coat.
  • Opponents argue that without proper guidance, the raw food diet can be detrimental to your dog’s well-being and have other drawbacks.
  • It’s a good idea to consult with your vet to learn if a raw food diet is suitable for your pet.

Pet parents have always been willing to go the extra mile for their furry family. For some dog owners, that means swapping processed foods for meals composed of raw, whole ingredients. A raw diet can be a great choice for some dogs, but it’s not right for every pet, so talk to your vet to make an informed decision

What Is a Raw Food Diet for Dogs?

Before we dive into the pros and cons, let’s cover what exactly a raw diet is.

Raw food diets for dogs are nothing new. Originally, they were reserved for sled dogs and racing greyhounds. The idea to bring the raw food diet home was first proposed in 1993 by veterinarian Ian Billinghurst. Termed the BARF diet, or “Bones and Raw Food” diet, Billinghurst argued that dogs would benefit from a diet based on the eating habits of their evolutionary ancestors. He suggested that raw, meaty bones and vegetables were the natural foodstuffs of canines, while grain-based commercial foods were insufficient and actively harmful.

The raw food diet has its supporters and its detractors. Advocates say it has the potential to greatly improve your dog’s health, but critics argue that without proper guidance, a raw food diet could easily become harmful.

What’s in a diet?

Since the raw food diet first came onto the scene, several other versions have been developed. The specifics may vary, but raw food diet recipes typically contain the same components:

●      Organ meats (liver, kidneys)

●      Muscle meats, sometimes left on the bone

●      Bones, whole or ground

●      Vegetables (broccoli , spinach, celery)

●      Uncooked eggs

●      Apples, berries , and other fruit

●      Dairy products

There are plenty of recipes online that combine some or all of these ingredients. As with any “human” food, however, you should always talk to your vet before adding them to your dog’s diet.

Raw food diet for cats

The raw food diet has also become popular among cats and their owners. Like dogs, the wild ancestors of cats survived on raw, whole ingredients (with a greater focus on meat, since cats are meat-eaters by necessity. Swapping processed food for a raw diet has many of the same potential health benefits for cats as it does for dogs. It also carries many of the same risks. Both must be balanced for your pet’s specific nutritional needs, so talk to your vet before adding raw foods to your feline’s feasts.

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Is a Raw Food Diet Good for Dogs?

A diet of whole, raw ingredients could bring many potential health benefits. Some of the most common ones observed by proponents of the raw food diet include:

Weight management

If your dog tends to gain weight easily, a raw diet can help keep its weight in check. It’s also easy to tweak your dog’s diet and control exactly what your pet is eating for weight loss or weight gain — whichever is needed and recommended by your veterinarian.

Health benefits

A raw diet can help your dog have more energy, healthier skin, and cleaner teeth. Meat on the bone can reduce bad breath and improve dental hygiene in dogs . The high protein content of a raw diet can also help your dog’s muscles get stronger.

Shinier coat

Your dog’s coat can become shiny and healthy by following a raw diet. The higher-fat content of most raw food diets promotes healthy skin as well as fur. So through following a raw diet that’s heavy in fatty meat, you may see improvements in the quality of your dog’s coat.

Drawbacks of a Raw Food Diet for Dogs

Replacing processed food with whole ingredients sounds like a healthy choice, but the raw food diet comes with some risks as well as benefits.

Risk of bones

With a raw diet, there’s the potential that your dog might be injured by bone fragments in the meat. Bones can pose a choking hazard, break your dog’s teeth, or cause an internal puncture. Cooked bones are especially susceptible to splintering and should only be fed to your dog under supervision.


Some raw meat contains bacteria and parasites that might lead to infections in your dog. This is especially dangerous for dogs who have cancer or other serious health issues, as they’re more vulnerable to being affected by this bacteria.

Even if your dog seems healthy, bacteria might bring an underlying health issue to the surface by making it worse. And these types of bacteria aren’t safe for humans either.

Unbalanced Diet

Feeding your dog a raw food diet means taking their nutrition into your own hands. While this can be one of the main appeals of the diet, it can also lead to severe health issues if not properly balanced. The specific vitamins and minerals crucial to dog nutrition may not be present in raw ingredients, which means a raw food diet could leave your dog deficient. On the other hand, too much protein, fat, or other nutrients could lead to issues like anemia, low bone density, and liver failure.

Time and money

Preparing a 100% raw diet at home for your dog can take up a lot of time. It’s also more expensive than buying kibble at the store. Dry dog food can cost around $1 per day, while a one-day supply of raw chicken can cost anywhere from $2.50 to $5. If your family is trying to operate under a budget, or doesn’t have much time to cook, a raw diet might not be the best choice.

Is a Raw Food Diet Right for Your Dog?

A raw food diet has the potential to improve your dog’s health, but it’s not going to be a good fit for every pooch. In the end, whether a raw food diet is right for your dog is a question for you and your vet to discuss and answer together.

It all comes down to what’s best for your pet’s health. But investing in a MetLife1 dog insurance policy is one way to make sure your best friend will always be taken care of. Get a free quote today to see how simple taking care of your dog can be.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions. 

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