So you’ve got a new dog and you’re wondering what to feed him. The market is full of commercial diets, and you’ve heard that some people feed their dogs raw meat. What should you do?
Dogs are omnivores which means they require meat, fiber, and other nutrients to stay healthy. Generally, adult dogs need a diet that consists of 22-25% protein and 15-19% fat, although puppies, pregnant dogs, and active dogs will have different nutritional requirements.
If you choose to feed your dog a commercial based diet, it is very important to choose a high quality food. You want to make sure that a good quality protein source such as lamb meal, chicken meal, or turkey meal is the number one ingredient. You want to stay away from foods that list a grain as the number one ingredient or contain lots of byproducts and preservatives.
Many people choose to feed their dogs raw food or the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food) Diet. This diet consists of raw meaty bones, vegetables, offal (the organ part of the protein source), recreational bones, and proteins like cottage cheese and eggs with the shells. Proponents of this diet claim that it keeps their dogs healthier than commercially prepared diets.
The following are some pros and cons of both diets:
Testing: People who advocate raw diets claim that the diet is tried and true and has been tested positively for centuries on wild dogs. They say that since commercial diets have been around since only the 1950’s, there is no long term testing that has been done on this food. Proponents of raw food claim that the increase in allergies, dysplasia, and other health conditions is as a result of dogs being fed commercial dog food.
People who believe in commercial dog food point to the millions of dollars each year companies such as Purina, Iams, Hill’s, and Nutro spend on scientific and field testing of their products. They believe that commercial dog food contains all of the nutrients that a dog needs to grow and be healthy and that since the BARF diet is complicated, expensive, and difficult to prepare, many people do not properly understand it and are not appropriately feeding their dogs.
Grains: Advocates of raw feeding say that dogs cannot properly digest grains and therefore do not feed them. They feel that the commercial market uses grains because they are inexpensive fillers.
Proponents of commercial dog food say that as dogs are omnivores, it is only natural that they require the nutritional benefits of grains. They feel that people who feed raw food are depriving their dogs of this nutrient.
Raw Ingredients vs. Cooked Ingredients: People who feed their dogs raw food diets feel that nature intended for animals to eat their food raw and that cooking damages the chemical makeup of foods and that cooking the food actually damages an animal’s immune system.
Those that feel that commercial food is the way to go, claim that there is no difference between cooking the animal’s food and cooking human food. That all of the nutrients are still active in cooked food providing healthy meals for animals.
Additives: People who believe in feeding their dogs raw food feel that no additives are needed and that their animals are getting all of the nutrients they require. They feel that the commercial food companies use additives to enhance the palatability of their food effectively “addicting” a dog to it.
Commercial food advocates say that additives such as omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are essential to giving the dog the proper balance of nutrients he requires, while raw food is missing some essential vitamins and minerals.
Variety: Those who feed raw food feel that dogs need variety in their diet and that commercial food is very boring for them.
Commercial food advocates say that dogs have very sensitive digestive systems and that variety actually can cause things such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Whether you choose to feed your dog the BARF diet or commercial food, it is important to be educated on what a dog’s nutritional requirements are. You should also consult your veterinarian for his recommendation on diet.

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