You’ve probably heard of the Paleo diet for humans. It advocates a return to an evolutionarily appropriate meal plan. Dogs and cats have their own version of the Paleo diet, called the raw food diet. It was first popularized by an Australian veterinarian, Ian Billinghurst, in the early 1990s. If you’re curious about the raw food diet for your dog or cat, talk to your veterinarian before making the transition.
Overview of the Raw Food Diet for Pets
There are different versions of the raw food diet, but the most recognizable one is Dr. Billinghurst’s BARF diet. It stands for biologically appropriate raw food, or, alternatively, bones and raw food. The BARF diet eliminates all grains from pets’ diets. There are slight differences, depending on whether the BARF diet is intended for dogs or cats, but the basic food groups in it are:
- Muscle meat
- Organ meats
- Raw eggs
- Small amounts of vegetables
- Small amounts of fruits
- Minimal dairy
Potential Benefits of Raw Food
Many pet parents turn to the raw food diet after their beloved canines or felines were diagnosed with medical issues. Some of them say they’ve noticed a positive change in their pets’ health, and that pets without medical conditions also seem to thrive on this dietary approach. Some of the benefits that proponents attribute to BARF include:
- Reduced risk of tooth decay and gum disease
- Shinier coat and healthier skin
- Smaller, less odoriferous stools
- High energy
Potential Risks of Raw Food
However, most veterinarians and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remain skeptical about the raw food diet. They point out that raw meat contains bacteria and may contain parasites. It could pose a risk to animals and their human companions. There’s also a potential risk of nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. Another risk is the possibility that the whole bones could cause choking, broken teeth, or intestinal perforation. The bottom line? Talk to a vet to find out how to safely transition your pet’s diet if you’re concerned that the current food isn’t adequate.
Here at Horizon Animal Hospital, we bring together evidence-based medicine and a compassionate, individualized approach. Call (480) 800-4559 if you’d like to schedule an appointment. One of our veterinarians in Scottsdale will be happy to discuss your pet’s nutritional needs with you.