You've likely seen this super-viral diet in some form or another on your #foryoupage, but do you really know what it entails? Here, we break down the somewhat-controversial feeding practice. As always, we recommend you consult with your vet before making any changes to your pet's diet.
What is the raw food diet?
Raw feeding is serving your dog completely raw ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and meats. There are often caricatures of dogs gnawing on raw t-bone steaks in kitschy cartoons but the thought behind raw feeding turns that into a sort of reality. Think gamier proteins like livers, hearts, and whole duck heads in a pet’s bowl for dinner too, all of which are meant to help your pet’s gut bacteria. People are currently obsessed with making gorgeous plates full of raw food to present to their pets.
How popular is it? And why?
Raw feeding is incredibly popular in Australia because that's where the whole concept was founded. Dr. Ian Billinghurst is credited as one of its founders.
Billinghurst told Delish:
When you buy your new car that was designed by its manufacturer to run with genuine spare parts, the correct fuel, oil and servicing, and you go to your local mechanic who says 'Never use those genuine spare parts, the correct fuel, oil and servicing as they are all dangerous and will destroy your car,' do you believe that? Do you go ahead and watch your car deteriorate before its time using that wise advice? Our pets are no different. They have a genome designed by evolution that demands raw whole foods.
That belief, plus the virality of platforms like TikTok, are why raw feeding is having its moment. Daniel Thomas, who founded Chefs & Dogs with his girlfriend after using holistic methods to treat one of their dogs for an autoimmune disease, has amassed upwards of 1.8 million followers across Instagram and TikTok.
On both platforms, he posts incredibly complex meals for his dogs (he has three: two kelpies and one border collie, all rescues) that look so good you almost want to grab through your screen and take a bite yourself...until you realize what ingredients they’re actually made of. I’m talking lasagna made from raw kangaroo, pumpkin, and beans and an ice cream cone made with bananas, peanut butter, and beef liver. Thomas’ dogs love the birthday cakes (made with salmon and yogurt) and bubble tea (with bone broth and mango).
Do vets recommend it?
The concept of raw feeding is a tricky one. Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinarian with a focus on holistic approaches and the founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition, says traditional veterinarians tend to overwhelmingly disagree with the concept of raw feeding. "The prevailing opinion in the veterinary profession is that raw foods are a terrible idea,” he said.
More traditional veterinarian professionals, like Dr. Jerry Klein who is the Chief Veterinary Officer of the American Kennel Club, disagree with the trend altogether. Klein told Delish that the CDC doesn’t recommend raw feeding and therefore pet owners should take that into consideration before taking the plunge. “It can be problematic if you have small children or people in the home that may be immunocompromised,” he said.
Why is it so controversial?
The main reason raw feeding is so controversial is because of the potential for pets (and, more likely, their owners) to contract food-borne illnesses. Infections like salmonella and listeria, which are often the cause of mass food recalls, are some of those threats. The FDA encourages pet owners to take precautions if they opt for raw food diets like freezing raw meats until they’re ready to be served, disposing of any uneaten leftovers safely, disinfecting any and all surfaces involved in the food preparation, and not letting your dog lick or “kiss” you after they’ve eaten. The latter may be the hardest one to follow through with.
How do I start raw feeding my pet?
For those who actually want to experiment with raw feeding their own pet, Thomas says consulting with a holistic vet is the first step, just as a human would visit a nutritionist. From there, you can begin by trying little tricks, like soaking your dog’s treats to alleviate dehydration and adding scraps from your own dinner to their bowls.
Per Thomas: “If you’re making something for yourself, keep the scraps, soak your dog’s biscuits, add little bits of meat here and there. It doesn’t have to be scary or overnight."
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