Raw Diet For Dogs: Will It Improve Your Dog’s Health?

To sustain this free service, we receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Our review process.

Bowl of raw meat: raw diet for dogsRaw dog food diets are controversial. While some think this is the way dogs were meant to eat before dogs became pets, others think dry dog food is the correct diet for our four-legged fur balls. Let’s dig into raw food diets for dogs more so you can draw your own conclusion about whether this diet live up to the hype.

Article Overview

What Is A Raw Food Diet For Dogs?

Get 4 Free Pet Insurance Quotes

A raw dog food diet emphasizes uncooked meat (often muscle and organ meat), whole or crushed bones, fruits, vegetables, raw eggs and some dairy.

Raw diets started with racing greyhounds and sled dogs. In 1993, Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst proposed extending the diet to family dogs. He called this the “BARF diet” for dogs, which stands for Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.

Billinghurst suggested dogs would flourish on BARF dog food since this is how they ate prior to being domesticated. He also argued that commercial pet foods were harmful to the health of dogs. However, many vets and the FDA disagree with Billinghurst’s views.

What Are The Claimed Benefits Of Raw Food Diets For Dogs?

Billinghurst and his supporters say the benefits include:

  • Shinier coat
  • Healthier skin
  • Cleaner teeth
  • More energy
  • Smaller stool

Potential Risks Of Raw Diets

While there are potential upsides and some veterinarians may recommend it, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is not on board with BARF. Citing a number of studies, the AVMA discourages feeding raw or undercooked animal proteins because they can contain potentially deadly pathogens that can sicken your pet and possibly be transmitted to humans. Yikes!

Other possible disadvantages include:

  • Bacteria in raw meat poses a threat to the dog’s and human’s health
  • Giving whole bones to dogs presents a risk of choking, broken teeth or internal punctures (learn more about if dogs can eat bones)

Transitioning Your Dog From Dry Food To Raw

Dog eating out of bowl (caption: How To Change Dog Food)It’s important to remember that transitioning your dog to a new diet is a slow process. Below is a rough schedule you can use for this dietary shift.

If you notice your dog isn’t feeling well, you should go back a day in the transition plan and proceed at a slower pace. For example, if your dog struggles with 50% serving, shift back to 40% serving for another day or two before moving forward.

Another thing we’d like to mention is that raw diets are only safe for dogs 12 weeks and older.

  • Day 1: Feed 75% of your current (old) food and mix in 25% of the raw food in each serving to start the adjustment period for clean digestion.
  • Day 2: Adjust to feeding 60% of your old food and mix in 40% of the raw food in each serving.
  • Day 3: Feed 50% of your old food, mixed with 50% of the raw food per serving.
  • Day 4: Feed 40% of your old food, mixed with 60% of the raw food per serving.
  • Day 5: Feed 25% of your old food, mixed with 75% of the raw food per serving.
  • Day 6: Feed 90-100% of the raw food — at this point you should be very close to a clean digestive transition period.

Break the daily serving size into two meals per day: one in the morning and one in the evening.

How To Change Your Dog’s Food Safely Graphic

To share this infographic on your site, simply copy and paste the code below:

Raw Dog Food Recipes

Want to get your dog started on a raw diet? Here is a recipe you can try out. We should note that the nutritional balance varies based on the breed and size of your dog, so talk to your vet about the best option for your pet. Or better yet, get one of the brands we recommend to ensure they get all the nutrients they need.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs ground beef
  • 4 oz chicken livers
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 small apple, cored
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach
  • 2 whole eggs (including shell)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Note: It is critical that you use high-quality grade meat and understand that there are risks associated with consuming uncooked meat. In addition, there are several foods your dog should never eat so plan your recipe accordingly.

Directions

  1. Put carrot, apple and spinach in food processor and process until finely chopped.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except for beef and process until well combined.
  3. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add the beef until well mixed.
  4. Form into patties the size of your palm and place on parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Freeze patties and transfer to a storage container to keep frozen.
  6. The night before you wish to feed, remove the patties from the freezer and place in refrigerator to thaw.

Best Raw Dog Food Brands

1st
BARF World logo
2nd
Instinct Pet Food logo
3rd
Cali Raw logo

Billinghurst’s book, Give Your Dog A Bone, has sparked commercially processed raw dog food diets to help pet parents who are short on time.

Shopping for ingredients, grinding, chopping, measuring and mixing may not be something you have time for. That’s why these already made raw dog food delivery services can be so convenient for busy families.

Read our comparison of the best raw dog food delivery options and check out our rankings on the right. These food products are freeze-dried or frozen to maintain their nutrients and consist of meat, grains, vitamins and vegetables. 

Freeze-dried options can be convenient for traveling, but frozen is typically less processed than freeze-dried. So keep that in mind when you’re purchasing raw food for your dog.

Some pet parents choose to serve these raw food packages on top of some kibble to help the dog adjust to a raw diet.

Video: How To Determine Serving Size

Wondering how much to feed your pup on a raw diet? Learn more in this video:

Bottom Line: Every Pup Is Unique

Just because your furry friend gobbles up a raw meat diet, that doesn’t mean it’s right for all dogs. Some animals might never be able to switch due to food sensitivities or other health issues. We strongly emphasize discussing your dog’s specific needs with your vet before making any dietary changes and being patient in the process. Remember that any diet change can cause some stomach issues.

If your dog does get sick or needs medical attention, see a vet right away and consider getting pet insurance now so if a need arises, your medical costs would be partially covered for any exams and medications of issues that exclude preexisting conditions. Learn more about the benefits and if pet insurance may be a good fit for you. You might also check out these other homemade dog food recipes that contain cooked food as an alternative to raw.

Why are you considering a raw diet? Have you tried it with your pup?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. She has been writing about dogs since 2014, covering subjects such as dog insurance, training, health, accessories, and more. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

Kimberly's natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing, and personally testing canine products and services. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs. Kimberly grew up in a family that loved Labrador Retrievers and remembers running and playing in the yard with them as a child.

In 2017, she and her husband adopted their Coonhound mix, Sally, from a local shelter. Kimberly’s research was put to good use since Sally faced some aggression issues with other dogs and needed some training to be an inside dog. She worked daily with Sally and sought help from professionals to help Sally become the happy pup she is today. One of Kimberly’s favorite pastimes is spoiling Sally with new toys, comfy beds, and yummy treats (she even makes homemade goodies for her). She tries to purchase the safest products for Sally and knows that each canine has their own specific likes and dislikes. Kimberly is passionate about dogs and knows the bond between humans and canines is like no other.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

Subscribe
Notify of
128 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John
July 31, 2020 12:46 pm

I found this article while searching for information on raw diets and was wondering if anyone could provide any info on how to avoid unhealthy bacteria in raw meat. Is branded raw dog food like the ones mentioned in this article safer in this regard than buying your own raw meat? Has anyone had experience with E. Coli or salmonella in their meat and are there any steps you can take to mitigate the chances of getting meat with these sorts of bacteria?

Liz
June 9, 2020 11:47 pm

My husband found a young dog (about a 1-year-old golden retriever) on the street. I have never had a dog before so I went to a store and bought him dry food. My dog had some tummy issues, or as I thought. He’d throw up, he’d have black spots on this tummy, his eyes would get swollen. I took him to the vet and he recommended fresh human grade food. My dog’s health has improved very quickly. Now we have 3 dogs and they all eat raw meat. We buy turkey legs. We skin them (too many toxins and fat). We grind them with the bone in. Every single day, I cook fresh veggies in the steamer. They get rougly 1 cup of raw meat and 1 cup of veggies per meal, twice a day. Now as they get older, I cook bone broth and each get about a cup a day. They’re older dogs now. 10, 10, and 9 with minor health issues. It’s worth the effort! I’m never buying kibbles again!

John
July 27, 2020 5:15 pm
Reply to  Liz

Hi Liz, I’ve been thinking about switching to a raw diet for my lab but I have some concerns about bacteria in raw meat, especially in the US. How do you ensure that the turkey that you get doesn’t have something like salmonella?

David Artigue
June 7, 2020 2:29 pm

Hello I’ve been breeding and training dogs for 45 years… for the past five years I switch to a raw diet. Yes, it’s a little more expensive and time-consuming but the improvement in my dog’s health is very noticeable starting at 3 months old. Our daily standard is to feed turkey necks, organ meat, apples, spinach, brown rice, but the most important is non-cooked bones the calcium in the bones is the one single ingredient that will make your dog bigger, stronger, better-looking fur, faster, smarter and most importantly live longer. Dogs, unlike humans, can consume large amounts of minerals and vitamins in one feeding. Humans expel the excess while dogs use every drop. Just be smart and don’t prepare your dog’s food in the bathroom or garage. Sanitize the prepared table. If there’s one thing that this pandemic has taught us, wash your hands and prepare the same way you would as if you were eating it…

Melissa
June 7, 2020 9:56 am

I have fed raw to my dogs for over 7 years now. I have found the benefits are phenomenal. You do have to exercise caution and keep everything sanitized but you do with kibble as well. I noticed that my dogs are healthier, more energetic and have great coats. My oldest is a schnauzer who is 19. I just lost a Chow at 15 and another schnauzer at 18. So does a whole food diet improve my dog’s life? I’d say yes!

However, my older schnauzers are frequently fed a diet that is lightly cooked due to stomach sensitivity. You have to adjust the recipe a bit as you don’t cook bone. But it is a healthier diet all around. I also have only had to take my dogs to the vet for annual checkups, no health issues, and schnauzers are prone to several issues! All in all, a raw or lightly cooked diet has improved my dogs and cats lives and given me more time with them.

Judy OBrien
May 30, 2020 3:43 pm

I have a rescued greyhound, and I feed her Answers raw chicken diet. Her health and energy is excellent. She was originally raised and raced on a raw diet. But when I got her she had at some point been changed over to dry food. I at the advice of my vet, changed her back to raw. I am very happy with it.

Mari
May 25, 2020 9:54 am

I feed my dogs Raw. Don’t ever mix kibble with a Raw diet, when your dog is eating Raw his gut is acidic, which is the environment that his biom needs, kibble is alkaline and disruptive to the dogs natural gut flora. My dogs are thriving.

Wjk
May 24, 2020 11:08 pm

Well, real food vs processed food that’s only been around since the 1950s… I wonder what a dog wants and whats biologically appropriate!!

Sachin Mayi
May 22, 2020 5:40 am

Mixing raw with kibble is the worst thing for a dog’s digestion. The switch should be clean to 100% raw and discontinue kibble completely according to our experts.

Dave
May 14, 2020 12:37 am

Our first dog, Goliath, was on a standard dry food diet. Until that vet appointment when the doc says sure, he’ll give Goliath a cortisone shot for his pain, but its time to say goodbyes because you’re gonna be back in that office 2-3 months hence.

So when we got home I finally took over G’s diet. I was a newbie, so a sophisticated approach I could not handle. I simply started giving G a raw chicken thigh at both of his daily meals. Cooked it for 45-60 seconds on each side to take care of bacteria. Didn’t grind up the thigh in any way. Goliath was aptly named; a black lab/GSD/Golden mix with a massive frame. When he was a pup the doc projected adult size at 110 pounds though he never tipped the scale over 85 and was really best in the mid-70s. So taking in a chicken thigh whole was not a problem. Typically Goliath needed just one well-delivered crunch to swallow the thing whole.

G did so well on BARF that 2-3 months stretched into 7, and in the meantime had a fantastic summer that saw him jumping on beds like a youngster. Of course that can’t last forever. But when we arrived at the vet for G’s last appointment the doc did a big double-take when he looked at his folder. 7 months? He didn’t necessarily approve of BARF in general. He did agree G was a good candidate for eating whole thighs (G had a huge head and very wide mouth) and would not argue with the results.

Kevin
April 27, 2020 4:06 pm

Hi iv had misty my 8 month old lab since he was 3.5 months old and has had diarrhea the hole tim tried lots of different high end foods and prescription diet vet said he had giardia charged me 130 every 2 weeks to run re tests and still malnourished an no energy cracked paw pads and thin coat so I decided to try raw didn’t transition him onto it as he already had diarrhea well within 24 hours no more diarrhea am so happy and I’m shaw he is too looking forward to finally having the happy healthy labrador I thought I’d bough, dont think about switching if your dog has health problems just do it

Bhavesh Shah
April 24, 2020 3:10 am

One of the problems with the raw diet is that you may never know how much of it is enough for one time meal. In addition to this, it isn’t clear if your dog’s nutritional requirement is met. However, as you said, it is always best to get in touch with vets regarding such change.

Tom
June 9, 2020 7:36 pm
Reply to  Bhavesh Shah

You have no idea what you are talking about and probably shouldn’t be voicing your opinion.

Ciera
March 14, 2020 9:32 pm

Can someone give me advice? I have two Bernese mountain dogs both at 100lbs. I want to keep my budget to About $100 a month. Is that possible? Also where can I find GOOD recipes as the packaged brands are too expensive. Thank you!

Laurie
July 12, 2020 9:57 am
Reply to  Ciera

Join a co-op or buy whole animals. Get the biggest freezers you can afford. Your savings will happen with bulk buying. In order to get to your budget or close, you will have to make connections with butchers, processors, farmers, hunters, etc. Around hunting seasons you can get free meat easily or very cheap from say a deer processor. I could get version for a buck a pound. Good luck. You will have to work hard to get it. If you are spending less than a 100 bucks on dog food kibble for two 100 lb dogs you might be getting the low-quality stuff.

Sam
May 17, 2020 8:30 am
Reply to  Ciera

That’s in my opinion not at all possible a 70 pound dog needs about 2 lbs of food using most raw calculations. This info is contained on lots of raw food sites. $100 in raw is not very much even if you bought it from the processor..I’ve got one 75 pound doodle and he eats about $200 worth of raw beef per month and that doesnt include the add ons. Chicken is cheaper but you may have to contend with allergies. I try to mix it up a little and it helps but noone every said raw was cheaper just better. Maybe not impossible but certainly hard number to reach. I’ve been feeding raw about 10 years now and wouldnt have it any other way.

scarlett
January 7, 2020 2:30 pm

well of course the avma is not on board with raw diets, its hurting their pockets. I have had dogs on raw for around 9 years now and not been to vet but maybe a few times with issues like bee stings. Trying to add in doctor harveys veggie blend, but it makes my one gal gassy. So I will feed occasionally. I feed a great variety which include rabbit, lamb, beef, turkey, goat, and some chicken and all their parts. Dogs are shiny and full of life at 11 and 10.

Ciera
March 14, 2020 9:27 pm
Reply to  scarlett

Do you make the food yourself? If so what’s your recipe?

Rick Sikora
April 12, 2020 1:26 pm
Reply to  Ciera

My 82 pound Basset Hound Henry gets fed once a day. He eats a pound and a half grass fed beef 80 %, mixed with 2 tbspns chia seeds, tbsp coconut oil, a raw egg yolk, 2 tspns sea kelp and a tspn of a mushroom powder mix.

MaryK
December 27, 2019 7:08 am

I had a rescue pup with kidney and liver problems from dehydration and starvation. I tried commercial brand food recommended by the vet. She did not like it and getting her the nutrition she needed was challenging. Her test results were disheartening and the vet gave her two years, at best, to live. I could not let this little girl die on me so I started trying other options. I came across a company called Dr. Harvey’s and decided to try a raw diet using their base meals. I’m happy to say her test results showed improvement in both kidney and liver function. I found her in June of 2017 and today, 12/27/2019, she is healthy and full of energy. The raw diet saved my little girl and now both of my dogs eat a raw diet.

Derek McDoogle
December 16, 2019 4:42 pm

I did not know that a raw food diet for dogs can help them have healthier skin and more energy. My sister told me that she just adopted a dog and she wants to make sure she feeds him well. I will recommend her to take him to a vet so that she can get better advice.

Sue
December 16, 2019 7:30 am

Greetings from Australia…Australia just did a senate enquiry into dog food and other pet specific products after 150plus dogs died from eating dog food. 150 domestic dogs had already died over a 12month period and several people complained and said it was the food. However the enquirie only happened when 12 police dogs died that had all been fed the same food. The enqurie found that it was infact the food. The enqurie is still ongoing into dog food and other commercial pet products. Despite the fact that several contaminants are found in pet food that are known carcinogens there is no law that restricts pet product manufacturers from putting these things in their products. The finding thus far are public information …google it. Or before you give your dog anything that is deemed safe google the name of the product and then ad made my dog sick and you will see 10s of thousands of people whose dogs became diabetic had seizures or died. This is from everything from flea treatments and shampoos to food. Even just look at the list of ingredients in these things and look up what they are. Yes some dogs live to 13 or 15 having dog food. Some people smoke all their lives and live well into their 80s…but noone would argue that smoking is ok. Then look up the oldest living dogs…a long list of dogs in their 20s…the oldest being 29…what did they all have in common?…human grade raw food. No commercial flea and tick treatments. The pet product industry is a multi billion dollar industry that has next to no rules. Take it from someone thats been in sales and marketing for 30 years…do your homework and you will go natural.

Sandy
January 21, 2020 7:08 pm
Reply to  Sue

One of the oldest dogs , 27, was a vegan all his life, just saying.

Sam
May 17, 2020 8:39 am
Reply to  Sandy

That’s not a commercial diet and quite possible…except boring

Marnie
November 30, 2019 5:52 pm

The breeder I got my pup from fed Raw. My pup was weened on it. Breeder is Kennel Club certified. Pup is a Havanese. I buy frozen complete meals. Defrost and serve.

Kimberly Goddard
February 27, 2020 7:31 pm
Reply to  Marnie

AKC is just a club. That’s it. It means nothing.

Brenda
December 20, 2019 5:38 pm
Reply to  Marnie

How much raw food do you give a havanese ?

Lisabug
November 29, 2019 7:56 am

Best ever change we made…..but, we are careful as Dalmatians have special needs. Our dogs are pure muscle, energetic, zero health problems and NO allergic reactions to the horrible and expensive “dog food”. Yes, it takes some extra time to prep their meals but that’s ok. I really do not believe they ever would go back to eating “dog food” and NO we don’t give them table scraps. Give our Dal a chicken hind quarter and it is gone in 2 minutes including the bone.

Theresa
May 12, 2020 12:44 pm
Reply to  Lisabug

Yep chicken hindquarters are great! Not expensive and easy to feed. I do remove most of the skin and fat however as too much fat isn’t good. Esp for the pancreas

M Ehtesham Shafiq
November 20, 2019 2:56 am

Amazing you have covered all the stuff for a person, who needs to change his best friend’s meal.
No doubt, the raw diet is nutrient full diet and you have beautifully cleared that how to use it.
Thank you!

Briana
November 19, 2019 9:36 pm

Right under the recipe that calls for raw meat and yogurt there’s a link to foods that your dog shouldn’t have… like dairy and uncooked meat. Interesting.

Nic
November 13, 2019 7:24 pm

What do u do when your dog wont eat organ meats

Randy
May 24, 2020 4:31 am
Reply to  Nic

Grind them or chop them small and mix into muscle meat.

Adeel
December 2, 2019 11:42 am
Reply to  Nic

Look on youtube. I watched a video about some dogs not eating raw organ meat. The video talked about dehydrating the meat and if you don’t know to do that then bake it in the oven at low heat. You will lose some nutrients but it will still be better than kibbles. Option 2: chop the organ in very small pieces and mix with fruits and veggies (sometimes that works too)

Lez
October 21, 2019 12:13 am

Upon the advice from our breeder who pretty much fed our Havanese a raw diet from when she started on solids, it all made so much sense (read common sense) to continue with a raw diet which has worked with no issues. Our breeders advice was to steer clear of pre-packaged processed raw food for pets as they contain all sorts of preservatives. Hence, we only feed our fur-kid the meat we would eat, purchased from the fresh meat section in our supermarkets and some organs like lamb/beef heart, chicken feet, ground beef, whole chicken wings, chicken stomachs (giblets), etc. It is important to add some veggies like capsicum, carrot, etc. and some fruit. She loves lamb bones as well. It also has the added benefit if keeping her teeth clean!

Funny
November 1, 2019 2:17 pm
Reply to  Lez

Lamb and beef heart are not organ meat, they are considered muscle mears. You need #1 liver and another organ like kidney.

Mickey
October 16, 2019 6:40 pm

Well, there is actually a new study out from the Veterinary University of Zurich that proves scientifically how feeding raw meat to dogs is an unsafe practice. All might be well, until a dog gets infected and needs antibiotics that don’t work because the raw meet diet has colonized the dog inside and out with multi resistant strains.

Lez
October 21, 2019 12:19 am
Reply to  Mickey

All I can say is one should always look at who/which enterprise sponsored or paid for these studies…. In my humble, and slightly cynical, opinion the results are usually skewed in their favour.
And as I’ve commented before, feeding your pet essentially the same food from the same source we get ours, poses very little of the dangers they posit in their research. Rule of thumb, if it contains any preservatives, steer clear.

Cassie Henderson
October 9, 2019 7:36 am

Hi, I’ve had great success with feeding our chihuahua ground lean beef ((organic)) we feedd her by hand, and don’t leave it out. Also this diet helped heal and stop our old Boston terrier from awful flatulence!!

Veronica A Saunders
October 2, 2019 5:44 pm

Does anyone give their dog raw food and dry food… Looks like most people on here give all wet food….. I give my dogs can food and biscuits…. Is this okay?

Cindy Morey
November 2, 2019 1:53 am

I give my dog raw in the morning and evening. I also give her a cup of premium dry kibble for lunch.