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BARF Diets: A Raw Deal

If you Google the best food to feed your pet, then you are likely to come across suggestions to feed your pet a raw food diet, often called a BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet.

While those success stories might seem convincing, it is important to remember that feeding raw food to your pet is not without risk, and there are safer options to manage problems like allergies and digestive issues.

Risk Versus Reward

The major concern with feeding a BARF diet is the increased risk of illness in people. Dogs that eat raw meat are known to pass dangerous bacteria such as salmonella in their poop. Although dogs usually tolerate salmonella, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea in people.

Bacterial infections are even more worrisome if your dog is around people with weak immune systems, such as pregnant women, children, the elderly, or people on immune suppressing medicines such as chemotherapy.

Dogs Aren’t Wolves

The claim that your dog should eat raw food because this is more “natural” is misleading for a few reasons.

For one, dogs are not wolves. Your dog can digest cooked food without problems, even grains. You may read claims about how cooking food destroys necessary enzymes for digestion, but your dog produces these enzymes just fine without help from the diet.

Raw meat from the store is nothing like fresh meat from prey, mostly because of the increased issues with bacteria in refrigerated or frozen meat.

Eating prey isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway. Wild animals suffer from issues with intestinal parasites and have shorter lifespans than pet dogs.

Many dogs have lived long and healthy lives on commercial dog food.

Animals Need Balanced Nutrition

A recent study found that 70% of raw food diets did not provide an appropriate balance of nutrients.

The problem isn’t always a lack of nutrients. When it comes to vitamins and minerals, more isn’t always better. For instance, if you feed your giant breed puppy a diet with too much calcium, bones may develop abnormally, leading to deformities.

Allergies and Digestive Problems Have Other Solutions

If your dog has a food allergy or digestive problem, then a prescription diet should be considered before a raw food diet.

The cause of your pet’s issues may be a type of meat protein, which is why certain prescription diets use unique or specially designed proteins to handle this problem.

Diets such as Royal Canin PR (potato and rabbit) or Hill’s z/d (hydrolyzed protein) are excellent, balanced options, available to cats and dogs.

If You Want Homemade, Get Professional Help

If you would like to prepare your own diet, then consider a cooked version. Be sure to use a recipe designed by a veterinarian so your pet’s nutritional needs are met, especially if he or she has an underlying health condition.

Check out to get help from a board certified veterinary nutritionist.

Talk to Your Vet

For more information about tackling allergies and digestive problems, or help choosing a diet for your pet, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Animal Care Clinic is proud to provide the best quality veterinary care at four convenient locations in Henderson and Boulder City, Nevada.

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