Report Highlights. One of the key benefits of raw dog food is more consistent nutrition compared to most processed commercial products.

  • A protein-rich diet low in fiber and carbohydrates is ideal for most dogs.(1)(2)
  • Raw diets may help dogs stay lean and muscular.(3)(4)
  • Studies show dogs on raw diets produce less waste.(3)
  • Raw diets are standard for racing greyhounds and sled dogs.(3)
  • Careful handling of raw foods puts dogs at a negligible risk of exposure to pathogens.(5)

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Raw Dog Food Benefits

Quality raw foods are also known as Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) diets.(3) Raw foods are more consistent in nutrient types and densities, giving pet owners more control over nutritional balance.

  • A raw diet full of whole, unprocessed foods is dense with nutrients.
  • Dogs get greater hydration from raw diets than they do from most conventional pet foods.
  • Dogs on raw diets are less likely to overeat.
  • Raw dog food also improves digestion by breaking down nutrients more efficiently so dogs get the full dietary benefit.
  • Because raw foods are more digestible and contain more usable nutrients, dogs on raw diets produce less waste.
  • Conventional dog foods contain a lot of fillers that provide little to no nutrition.
Nutritional Benefits of Raw Dog Food
More Water All living things need water. Raw diets provide more water than conventional food diets, improving a dog’s health and digestion. More water also helps dogs feel “full” and prevents overeating.
Better Protein The types of protein dog food contains is just as important as the amount of protein. The fresh animal proteins in raw foods are more nutritious than the processed plant proteins more commonly found in commercial pet food.
Healthy Fats Moderate amounts of high-quality fats contain essential acids and omegas. They also improve flavor and make a dog’s eating experience more enjoyable. In processed foods, greater amounts of low-quality fats are added to compensate for inferior, less palatable ingredients.
Vitamins & Minerals A healthy diet includes plenty of essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Some vitamins are listed on nutrition labels under their chemical names, such as thiamin (Vitamin B1) and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).
Low in Carbohydrates Carbohydrates provide dogs with energy to burn. Unused carbohydrates, however, are stored in the body as fat. It’s best for dogs to get carbohydrates that also contain protein and vitamins. Sweet potatoes are a great addition to a raw diet.

A Balanced Raw Diet

Dogs enjoy the advantages of raw foods only if proportions are properly balanced. Understanding a dog’s individual nutritional needs is essential when creating a balanced raw diet from the recommended types of raw food. Note that some of these foods should only be consumed one or two times per week.(6)

  • Muscle Meat
    • For most dogs, a diet that is 50% raw muscle meat is ideal.(7)
    • Muscle meat is lean, supplying a moderate amount of good fats.
    • It’s high in protein and contains essential amino acids.
    • Muscle meat is packed with minerals, such as iron.
    • It’s a good source of water soluble B vitamins, which aid digestion and help convert food into energy.
    • A regular serving of muscle meat improves heart health and circulation.
  • Bone
    • Bones are full of the essential minerals calcium and phosphorus.(8)
    • Bones are also high in protein and contain a moderate amount of healthy fat.
    • A raw meaty bone with lean muscle meat is a healthful snack.
    • Chewing on a raw bone is also good for a dog’s teeth and gums.
    • Dogs should be limited to 15 minutes of chew time with a raw bone.>
    • Dogs should never chew on bone chunks small enough for them to swallow.
    • Dogs should never be given cooked bones, which can splinter and puncture a dog’s digestive tract, causing internal bleeding..
    • Dogs may also eat ground bone or bone meal in moderation.
    • Many dog owners make their dog’s bone meal at home; note that insufficient grinding may leave harmful bone shards.
    • The only time a dog may ever have cooked bones is if they have been ground into meal.
  • Organs
    • Most dogs should eat a diet that’s 25% raw, unprocessed organ meat.(4)
    • Organ meat contains high concentrations of nutrients dogs need.
    • When feeding a dog organ meat, it’s especially important to understand the nutritional value of each organ, as well as the dog’s particular dietary needs.
    • Liver is tasty and nutrient-dense, with more of Vitamins A, B, C, D, and K than any other organ.
    • The spleen is rich in iron and potassium.
    • Kidneys are packed with Vitamin A and folate.
    • Brains are full of calcium and good fats.
    • As long as it comes from a healthy animal, any organ can be added to a dog’s meal.
  • Fruits & Vegetables
    • Some fruits and vegetables are toxic to dogs; grapes, for example, contain a toxin that may be linked to kidney failure.(9)
    • Apples are full of vitamins that are good for dogs, but they are also full of fiber, too much of which is bad for a dog’s digestion.
    • Vegetables provide dogs with the vitamins and minerals they need to be in peak health.
    • Some dogs are healthy eating a vegetarian diet that provides them with all their nutritional needs.
    • Dogs may enjoy broccoli, lettuce, carrots, celery, and spinach.
    • Dogs should never eat onions or any other plant in the lily family.
    • Dogs should also avoid asparagus, avocados, cherries, grapes, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
  • Other Raw Foods
    • Raw eggs are good for most dogs and an easy first step in transitioning an animal from a conventional diet to a raw diet.
    • Certain seeds and nuts may be healthy in modest proportions.
    • Dogs should not eat wheat or flour, but most dogs can benefit from balanced portions of protein-rich whole grains.
Fruits & Vegetables To Add to a Raw Dog Food Diet
Fruit Vegetables
Apples, Bananas, Blueberries, Cantaloupe, Cranberries, Cucumbers, Mangoes, Oranges, Peaches, Pears, Pineapple, Raspberries, Strawberries, and Watermelon. Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Celery, Green Beans, Peas, Spinach, and Sweet Potatoes.

Implementing a Raw Diet

Some dogs have sensitive digestive systems or allergies to certain foods. Animal nutritionists recommend introducing new foods to a dog gradually in order to help the dog transition to the new diet. Introducing one food at a time and then noting any subsequent illness helps determine which foods to avoid.(10)

  • To begin transitioning a dog to a raw diet, many veterinarians recommend giving a dog meaty bones as treats.
  • If a dog has never had a raw bone, it should be supervised when chewing; an inexperienced chewer may chip a tooth.
  • Replacing a small amount of the dog’s regular food with some raw food items aids further dietary transition.
  • Raw meat may provide the most nutritional benefits to a dog, so it’s often prioritized in the process of replacing conventional pet foods from an animal’s diet.
  • Animal nutritionists recommend lean white meats and organs, such as turkey or chicken liver, to start out with.
  • Dehydrating raw organ meat turns it into a jerky-like treat without all the additives of similar commercial treats.

The Facts About Salmonella

Dog owners considering a raw diet worry about bacteria and pathogens, such as salmonella. Still, most veterinarians say the worry greatly outweighs the actual risk. Dogs are highly unlikely to become sick from eating raw food. Salmonella is prevalent – the average kitchen is full of it – and it poses no threat to most dogs. Bear in mind, however, that dogs can transmit bacteria to humans and other animals.(5)

  • Smith Ridge Veterinary Center in New York sells 2,500 to 4,000 pounds of raw food each month with no incidents of illness.
  • Up to 36% of healthy dogs have salmonella in their digestive tracts.
  • S typhimurium and S anatum are the most common salmonella serotypes found in dogs.
  • 7.7% of 196 samples of commercial raw pet food products contained salmonella.(11)
  • Conventional dog foods have a similar risk of pathogens.
  • Pet food recalls due to pathogens are not uncommon; a mass recall of products contaminated with salmonella affected over 100 pet food brands in 2007.
  • Dogs are unlikely to exhibit symptoms of salmonella even in the event of greater exposure.
  • For most pathogens, it takes large concentrations or bacterial buildup to make a dog sick.
  • In severe cases, dogs with salmonelliosis may suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, fever, miscarriage, and death.
  • Long-term exposure to salmonella can cause chronic health conditions; depression is a sign of long-term salmonella exposure in dogs.


  1. Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs: A Science-Based Guide for Pet Owners
  2. National Research Council Nutritional Requirements for Dogs
  3. Raw Dog Food: Dietary Concerns, Benefits, and Risks
  4. Can Dogs Eat Organ Meats? In Fact, They Should. Learn Why
  5. Raw Dog Food and Salmonella Risks
  6. Bone Meal for Dogs: Is It Dangerous?
  7. What is Muscle Meat?
  8. Can Dogs Eat Bones?
  9. Fruits and Vegetables Dogs Can or Can’t Eat
  10. Processed Food to Fresh Food
  11. Archive for Recalls, Market Withdrawals & Safety Alerts