If you have been thinking about switching to a raw food diet for your dog, you have probably pondered about “Raw Vs cooked dog food” and understandably, it is confusing – What’s the right decision? Many dog owners have made the switch to raw food, while others prefer to stick with cooked food.
Here we compare raw feeding and cooked dog food to see how they measure up.
What is Raw Dog Food?
Raw dog food is a way of feeding your dog which doesn’t involve any cooking or heating of their food. It’s not just a pile of meat – although it will have a high meat content – as it includes a wide range of canine nutrients which are provided by raw ingredients.
The premise of a raw food diet is that it’s closer to the natural diet of a dog. Dogs aren’t a carnivore in the truest sense of the word as they’re capable of digesting some plant-based foods, and this is where their evolution has veered away from their wolf origins. However, they are still best suited to a meat based diet, and are usually classed as “scavenging carnivores”. This means that they can eat a wide range of food types but don’t fit the criteria for either a true omnivore or herbivore.
A complete raw food diet includes all the nutrients that your dog needs to be healthy and well. Different types of raw food diets might provide this in different ways. Prey food diet is made from whole prey animals, including their feather and fur, and your dog will get veggie and plant nutrition from their stomach contents. Other raw food dog diets such as BARF specifically include a small portion of fruit and vegetables separately.
You can expect a raw food diet to include muscle meat, organ meat, bones and veggies. All of the essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients will be carefully balanced and in many commercial raw diets, this is provided as a mince. The Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association has produced guidelines for the production of raw food which ensures that high standards are adhered to.
Is it OK to Cook Raw Dog Food?
If you’re planning on cooking raw dog food, then it’s better to simply switch to a high-quality cooked dog food instead. Cooking raw dog food defeats the purpose and may mean that your furry friend doesn’t receive all the essential canine nutrition that they need.
Every complete dog food – raw or cooked – is carefully balanced to ensure that the wide nutritional requirements are met. A complete dog food must be capable of providing sufficient quantities of all the nutrition a canine needs for an extended period of time. If you tamper with the recipe, you risk altering this careful balance and you might end up depriving your dog of something vital.
Cooking changes nutrients in food, so cooked dog food takes this into account when balancing the nutritional content. If you cook the raw dog food you buy, over time your dog may become unwell.
Although a raw dog food diet has many positives, it’s not for everyone – and that’s fine. It’s far better to buy a high-quality cooked dog food than persist with a raw food diet that doesn’t suit your or your pooch.
Why You Shouldn’t Cook Raw Dog Food
Aside from the nutritional problems which can arise from cooking raw dog food, there’s an even bigger potential problem: bone.
Bone is an essential part of a raw food diet and provides your dog with essential nutrients that are important for their well-being. However, only certain types of bone are safe for your dog to eat, and only when raw. Cooked bones splinter and can cause serious injury to your dog’s mouth and/or intestines.
A raw food recipe may contain fragments of bone, even if it’s not instantly visible. Eaten raw, bone is soft enough for your dog to crunch but if you cook it, your dog could end up seriously hurt.
There are lots of reasons why you shouldn’t cook raw dog food, but the presence of bone is probably the most important. This one reason alone crops up again and again when debating raw vs cooked dog food, and understandably too.
Raw vs Cooked Dog Food – Why Do Some Dog Owners Prefer to Feed a Cooked Dog Diet
Although raw meat diets have rocketed in popularity in recent years, not everyone is a convert. There are some pet parents who prefer to stick to a cooked meat diet, and this could be for one of many reasons.
There’s a very high meat content in a raw food diet and it requires carefully handling. As raw ingredients aren’t processed at high temperatures to preserve them, they’re typically not produced in such vast quantities. All of this means that a raw food diet isn’t usually the cheapest option, and may be simply above the household budget that’s available for dog food – for some dog owners, when considering raw vs cooked dog food, this reason alone is a clear winner.
Kibble is easy to store and doesn’t need any special requirements. The same applies to wet dog food; just stack on the shelf and dish up as needed. Raw dog food is a bit different, no matter whether you’re using fresh or frozen ingredients. They should be stored away from your family’s food and carefully handled to prevent contamination. Ideally, you should also use a different surface, bowl and utensils to prepare your dog’s raw food.
If you don’t have an abundance of space in your home, these requirements could be difficult to manage. This is one of the reasons why, when considering raw vs cooked dog food, a cooked food diet may be preferable.
Health issues – Raw Vs Cooked Dog Food
Done correctly, there’s nothing dangerous about feeding your dog a raw food diet. However, all raw meat can contain bacteria, so needs to be handled very carefully. If you have someone in the house with a compromised immune system, or is particularly vulnerable (such as the elderly or young babies), a raw food diet for your dog is probably best avoided.
Just like humans, dogs have their preferences about what they like to eat. Some dogs will scoff down everything you put in their bowl while others are a bit more selective. It’s normally possible to convert any dog to a raw food diet but some take quite a lot of convincing. This can take quite a lot of time and effort so if you have a picky pooch, you may just prefer to stick with cooked food instead.
Lifestyle should be considered in the great ‘raw vs cooked dog food’ debate…If you’re regularly travelling around, raw ingredients are much more difficult to manage and there’s a greater risk of contamination. Switching to conventional cooked food, either wet food or kibble, is far more convenient – and safer. If you’re really keen on raw food for your dog, there are options such as freeze-dried dog food, but these won’t be palatable to every pooch.
Can I Feed My Dog a Mixture of Raw and Cooked Dog Food?
The jury’s still out on this one. Some experts – usually from companies that produce kibble or cooked dog food – claim that it’s absolutely fine to feed canines a combination of cooked and raw food. Other experts insist that it can be harmful to your dog if you mix them up making it confusing to understand raw vs cooked dog food.
Raw food diets will contain some bacteria in the meat but dogs are easily able to handle this without becoming ill. The high levels of acidity in their stomach plus the shorter intestinal tract means they can eliminate bacteria before it has the chance to make them unwell.
Some experts believe that kibble slows down the transit of food from the stomach, and may also reduce the acidity. This means that bones aren’t properly softened and digested, and it can also make it easier for bacteria to become harmful.
As there’s limited evidence on both sides to prove which theory is correct, it’s best to avoid feeding raw and cooked food together. They are digested in different ways, and at different speeds, and there’s the chance that you could make your dog unwell.
If you want to include both in your dog’s diet, it’s preferable to feed them more than one meal per day and split the raw and cooked food to serve separately.
Raw Vs Cooked Dog Food?
There’s no right or wrong answer to whether you should feed raw vs cooked dog food. Many dogs thrive on a raw food diet, while others do better with cooked meat.
For pet families with vulnerable members in the household, the risk of harmful bacteria may be too much, and that’s perfectly understandable. No one wants to risk anyone becoming ill when there are good quality alternatives for your dog.
Some dogs experience a real upturn in their health and well-being when they change to eating a raw food diet. With a shinier coat, better energy levels and firmer poo, it can be an excellent option all round. A raw food diet can also be beneficial for some allergies.
On the flip side, some dogs just don’t really like raw food and prefer to eat kibble. Sticking to the food that is familiar to them may often preferable for senior dogs.
So much depends on your dog’s preferences and the needs of your household that there’s no single answer. All that matters is that you choose a high-quality food, whether that’s cooked or raw.