Raw Foods

Animal nutritionist Dr. Richard Patton and many others advocate for a balanced raw diet or home cooked foods and to avoid dry kibble due to high soluble carbohydrates.

Home Cooked Food

Best Dog Food List

FDA's Zero-Tolerance Policy?

Raw foods formulated for pets are available from commercial manufactures and sold in pet stores as either frozen or freeze-dried. Foods that are dehydrated with heat can be excellent quality but they would rank below foods not exposed to heat like in freeze-drying. But just as with other types of pet foods some are excellent while others are poorly formulated. For specific information on how to evaluate a commercial raw food here is an excellent article: Guidelines for evaluating commercial “complete and balanced” raw diets.If one does not see specific foods or supplements for iodine, manganese, and vitamin E, the foods likely will not meet the definition of complete and balanced, and may not be healthy. Note that while some manufacturers claim that spirulina is a source of manganese and/or iodine in their foods, it’s not likely to provide enough to meet the recommended amounts.” [13]

Independent Pet Food Study Looks at the Effect of Raw Diets Versus Kibble on Inflammation and Chronic Disease in Dogs

You can always make your own pet food by following directions from a nutritionist or veterinarian. Professionals will often caution pet owners on preparing home prepared foods due to the risk of illness resulting from salmonella. Healthy dogs are resistant to the effects of salmonella infection. In fact salmonella is present in the digestive tracts of many dogs.  Handling raw foods while preparing meals for your pets is really no more risk than handling raw food for humans. Whether preparing food for humans or animals it is recommended to thoroughly wash your hands and clean all surfaces that have come into contact with raw meat or pet foods.

Raw meat diets have been show to have improved apparent protein and energy digestibility, reduced faecal weight and better faecal consistency in dogs. But without the inclusion of supplementation (fermentable substrates) “Raw red meat diets decrease faecal microbial diversity in the dog”. Decreased faecal microbial diversity is to be avoided to maintain a healthy balanced microbiome.

“From our results and from the comparison with existing scientific evidences, it appears that the modification of microbiome can be attained when a considerable variation of dietary regimes is applied. Specifically, the administration of highly digestible feed, combining fresh meat with readily fermentable substrates, promoted a more balanced growth of bacterial communities and a positive change in some of the readouts of healthy gut functions.”

Raw meat based diet influences faecal microbiome and end products of fermentation in healthy dogs

Key bacterial families (Clostridiaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae and Bacteroidaceae) are related to the digestion of protein and energy in dogs.

Many professionals recommend against pet owners preparing their dogs meals due to nutritional imbalances that can occur.  Books like the “Small Animal Clinical Nutrition” recommend feeding a commercially prepared food for consistency and better nutritional balance. But after stating all the challenges of formulating a home prepared food for your dog even this book concedes it is possible to make nutrient balanced food for your dog at home and it provides recipes to make complete and balanced meals for both dogs and cats.  The book lists homemade recipes for healthy dogs and cats, and recipes for those suffering with a urinary, gastrointestinal, heart disease, kidney disease, or just overweight issues.

No one food or diet is great for every dog. Dogs can thrive on a raw or home-cooked diets. The key is that home prepared meals need to have the proper ingredients in the proper ratios to include vitamins and minerals for the food to be nutritionally complete. If you include vegetables in home prepared foods lightly cooking them can increase digestibility, but cooking too long may increase vitamin loss. When adding vitamin and mineral supplements they can be destroyed by heat so they should be kept separate from the food and not added until just before serving.

Homemade Food Mistakes to Avoid With Your Dog  By Dr. Becker

“Many (and I would say most) homemade and prey-model diets and even some commercially available raw diets are nutritionally unbalanced. This can cause dogs to become deficient in antioxidants, or the correct amounts of trace minerals and vitamins, or the right fatty acid balance for appropriate and balanced skeletal growth, and organ and immune health. Just because nutritional deficiencies aren't obvious in your dog doesn't mean they don't exist.  

Although fresh meat is a good source of protein and some minerals, it doesn't represent a balanced diet.  Wild canines eat nearly all the parts of their prey, including small bones, internal organs, blood, brain, glands, hair, skin, teeth, eyes, tongue and other tasty treats. Many of these parts of prey animals provide important nutrients, and in fact, this is how carnivores in the wild nutritionally balance their diets.

There are only two options for assuring nutritional adequacy in homemade diets: feeding a more expensive, whole food recipe that contains a significant number of diversified ingredients necessary to meet nutrient requirements, or using supplements. Most homemade diets lack the correct calcium and phosphorus balance as well as essential fatty acid balance.” [12]

When Raw is not Appropriate to Feed

"Although raw diets represent the most nutritionally bio-available and natural diet for dogs, there are times when dogs should not be fed raw animal proteins. Dogs with bowel problems such as gastroenteritis, which might include bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, constipation or all of the above, should not be fed a raw diet during flare-ups. When the bowel is not moving at its normal rate, there is increased risk for bacteria present in raw meat to incubate and multiply in the bowel pockets and then to enter the bile duct and damage the liver."  [2]

Can my dog eat this diet while on chemo or radiation?

“Yes, they can. As a matter of fact, a ketogenic diet can improve the outcome of these treatments as well as mitigate the harsh side effects often associated with standard of care therapies. Please see ourScientific Articlessection to read journals associated with these findings.“

9 Commonsense Tips for Feeding Raw

Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

  1. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) after handling raw pet food, and after touching surfaces or objects that have come in contact with the raw food.

  2. Thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that come in contact with raw pet food. First wash with hot soapy water and then follow with a disinfectant. You can also run items through the dishwasher after each use to clean and disinfect them.

  3. Freeze raw meat and poultry products until you are ready to use them, and thaw them in your refrigerator or microwave, not on your countertop or in your sink.

  4. Carefully handle raw and frozen meat and poultry products. Don't rinse raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood. Bacteria in the raw juices can splash and spread to other food and surfaces.

  5. Keep raw food separate from other food.

  6. Immediately cover and refrigerate what your pet doesn't eat or throw the leftovers out safely.

  7. If you're using raw ingredients to make your own cooked pet food, be sure to cook all food to a proper internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella, L. monocytogenes and other harmful foodborne bacteria.

  8. Don't kiss your pet around the mouth, and don't let your pet lick your face. This is especially important after your pet has just finished eating raw food.

  9. Thoroughly wash your hands after touching or being licked by your pet. If your pet gives you a "kiss," be sure to also wash your face.

Bottom line, follow the same safe handling precautions regardless of what you feed your pet, and be assured that responsible raw food companies perform due diligence to control potential pathogenic bacteria in a variety of nontoxic ways, including using phage technology, fermentation and lot testing to ensure each batch of product is safe for consumption.


Written by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Independent Pet Food Study Looks at the Effect of Raw Diets Versus Kibble on Inflammation and Chronic Disease in Dogs

Two years ago I visited a veterinary school in Helsinki, Finland to learn more about the amazing work of Dr. Anna Hielm-Björkman, who has studied pet food and raw meat diets in pets for almost 20 years. Her research during my visit involved evaluating the levels of homocysteine, a marker of inflammation and chronic disease in the body, relating to diet. She studied four groups of dogs for six months (a quick video summary of this study can be found here).

The first group consisted of previously raw fed dogs who were switched to dry food for the second half of the study (the last three months). The second group consisted of dry-fed dogs who were switched to raw food for three months. The third and fourth groups continued eating their regular food (either dry or raw for the full six-month study).

As I would expect, the dogs fed raw food who continued to eat raw food had the lowest homocysteine levels, at 0.17mM (a good thing). The dogs who ate dry food and continued eating dry food had the highest levels of homocysteine, 10 times more than the raw fed group (1.57mM).

Also as expected, the dogs raised on raw food and switched to kibble had a fivefold increase in levels of the disease marker in the body at the completion of the study (0.77mM). The important takeaway here is the fact that the dogs raised on dry food and changed to raw food for three months had a dramatic decrease in the disease marker (0.3mM).

Eating a biologically appropriate diet isn't just trendy, it's healthier. This type of groundbreaking research will hopefully be pivotal in changing the way pets are fed and how pet food is produced, if the industry is genuinely focused on improving the health of companion animals through the products they manufacture.

Additional Independent Studies Underway

Mercola Healthy Pets has partnered with CANWI (Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute) to fund the first comparative study of dry, canned and raw foods and the amount of toxic byproducts found in these foods after processing. In addition, Italian researchers Misa Sandri, Ph.D. and professor Bruno Stefanon at the University of Udine recently completed a study documenting the profound benefits of a fresh food diet compared to processed dog food on the gut microbiome.1

These results mirror what New Zealand researchers also demonstrated in a 2017 study, which is that raw food diets are healthier (in one way or another) than biologically inappropriate diets.2 In addition, the nonprofit group, KetoPet Sanctuary, is using biologically appropriate diets as a powerful adjunctive tool in fighting some of the most aggressive types of canine cancers, with stunning results.

This prompts the question, if raw food diets are powerful enough to address cancer (one of the most diagnosed and devastating diseases plaguing domesticated dogs today), why isn't the pet food industry spending more money researching them? One possible explanation: The kibble industry is generating around 20 billion dollars a year.

Eye-Opening Study Confirms the Healthiest Pet Food