Woof Advisory: Raw Food Diet

Raw-fed dogs have gone viral on TikTok but not all the press is pawsitive. In this article, we explore the controversy so you can make the right decisions.

Woof Advisory: Raw Food Diet
If the Chef was a dog, what would he make for himself?

There are now over 56,000 posts (and counting) on TikTok tagged #rawfeddog. The viral videos tied to this hashtag typically depict owners prepping extravagant daily cuisine for their pups. The eye-catching arrangements feature a slew of deluxe toppings to muscle meat: whole chicken and duck heads, cow ears, and raw eggs, finished off with liquids like goat milk and hemp seed oil, bone broths, and various supplements. For reference, one example of this pet food trend from @remithecanecorso, boasting nearly 1 million likes, can be viewed below:


Let’s feed my raw fed dog #rawdogfood #rawfeddog #rawdietfordogs #dogfoodprep #dogmukbang #mukbang #asmr #dogasmr #caninenutrition #whatifeedmydog


The video's comments are quite varied. Some dog lovers are dubious or curious; others are confused or disgusted. There is, however, a recurrent flag raised by viewers about the costliness of such elaborate daily feedings: "That'll be $67.30 per meal."

Arguably, these videos can be quite jarring at first and draw on a sort of shock-value factor. They also seem to inevitably put the average dog owner in a somewhat uncomfortable position as regards pet nutrition. For most, such intricate meals with specialty items are unsustainable and out of budget (understandably so).

With that in mind, it is important to, first and foremost, avoid hierarchizing pet diets in a way that elevates some owners while implicitly shaming others. Feeding your dog kibble does not, by any means, make you any less of a pet parent!

By and large, this growing strand of dogfluencing, if you will, circles around a central area of concern for dog owners: remaining informed about how to ensure optimal health and wellness for our canine companions. Therefore, raw pet food diets necessitate a thorough assessment of nutritional safety and efficacy outside of just the eye-catching and engagement-driving canine meal prep seen online.

What Is The Raw Pet Food Diet?

The Raw Pet Food Diet is also known as the BARF diet. This rather unappetizing acronym stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods. The BARF Model lists the following guidelines for adult dog nutrition:

  • 70% muscle meat
  • 10% raw edible bone
  • 7% vegetables
  • 5% liver
  • 5% other secreting organs (ex. kidney)
  • 2% seeds or nuts
  • 1% fruit

The diet was founded in the early 90s by Dr. Ian Billinghurst - a nutritionist and veterinarian who championed an evolutionary diet for canines in contrast to today's commercialized grain-based pet foods. Proponents of Billinghurst and the BARF model claim that raw feeding leads to better coat, immunity, dental health, and energy levels.

However, contemporary research doesn't wholly back the wide-ranging cure-all declarations tied to the BARF diet for dogs. One 2019 study writes: "Aside from some plausible claims for better digestibility and stool quality, the various health claims made for raw feeding remain a mixture of anecdote and opinion, not backed by highly relevant data."

Veterinarians Weigh In

Though Dr. Billinghurst frames raw feeding as "absurdly simple," input from other veterinarians puts this question of proper nutrition in a more nuanced light.

For instance, Stefanie Handl notably remarks that formulating a daily BARF diet meal "that covers all nutrient requirements based on single components and without the use of mineral and vitamin supplements is possible but complex, and should only be done with professional nutritional advice."

In other words, raw feeding should be regarded more as a case-by-case nutrition solution not a panacea for pet health. Each dog is different and owners should not be compelled to make drastic changes to their pet's eating habits without consulting their vet first on the details.

Dr. Brennen McKenzie also contests the idea that raw diets are inherently beneficial because they are 'natural,' stating that, in line with the "appeal to nature fallacy," this outlook misconceives that "anything found in nature is inherently healthier than anything produced by humans."

Along these lines, the potential benefits of raw feeding must be comprehensively weighed against the critical health and safety concerns vets pose surrounding raw feeding:

  1. Nutritional Imbalance: As previously noted, preparing a nutritionally complete and balanced raw diet can be challenging and time-consuming. Without proper knowledge and planning, dogs can end up suffering from deficiencies or excesses of certain nutrients.
  2. Bacterial Contamination: Raw meat can carry harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. Raw-fed dogs can become sick or become "symptom-free carriers," wherein the harmful bacteria could spread throughout a household. The same can be caused by improper handling and preparation of raw meat by owners.
  3. Bone Hazards: Incorporating bones into meals, raw or cooked, runs "the risk of oesophageal or gastrointestinal obstructions." Consulting with a veterinary nutritionist about including calcium in your dog's diet can highlight viable alternatives to feeding bones.
  4. Cost and Sustainability: Raw diets can be significantly more expensive and plain impractical for owners to maintain. The elaborate 'themed' BARF diet dinners posted by dogfluencers are not a realistic depiction of what most individuals can sustainably feed their canine companions.

Making Informed Decisions

Altogether, the key to making informed decisions on raw pet food diets begins with not dismissing any of the BARF diet critiques outright by sweeping them under the 'natural' blanket excuse. Likewise, not all commercialized dog food has ideal ingredients and awareness of harmful additives is important to keep in mind when shopping for kibble.

In addition to weighing the pros and cons in earnest, deciding to transition your dog from one diet plan to another must be done slowly and tactfully. We Feed Raw notes a 'detox' period as a normal part of the transition, done over a 10-day range.

Knowing that a change in diet, even when implemented gradually, can have significant bodily effects, it's vital to monitor your dog's health and behavior after switching to the BARF diet. Any signs of digestive issues, changes in stool quality, or other health problems should be addressed immediately. After all, a significant part of making informed decisions involves effectively observing and tweaking your dog's meal plan to continually guide them toward a state of well-being and stability.

Finally, even though the raw pet food diet trend is a significant and growing movement among pet owners, fueled by social media influencers and the promise of miraculous health benefits for pets, it is not without its controversies and challenges.

Given that the raw pet food diet "is frequently propagated in a very emotional manner," presented as a universal cure "for diseases, problems, and behavioral abnormalities," it's crucial to reevaluate it with a balanced perspective. On the whole, dog lovers must remain open-minded and informed on the topic of pet nutrition, consulting with veterinary professionals about the unique needs of their four-legged family members at each stage of their lives.

For more on dog health and eating habits, keep reading along here!