Just as many people are trying to eat less processed food to improve their health, some dog owners are turning away from conventional pet food. Instead they’re trying to get back to what they see as a more traditional “butcher’s dog” diet of raw meat, albeit with pre-prepared products that can be served easily and frozen for convenience.
A recent study has raised concerns about the health risks of these raw-meat based diet products as possible sources of some bacterial and parasitic diseases. But just how big a problem is this, and who is really at risk?
First it’s worth pointing out that the evidence for the health advantages of raw meat-based diets is limited. Some research suggests they may enhance an animal’s overall digestion (and so the size of their poos). But robust comparative studies are rare and there are still concerns about whether some of these diets provide enough nutritional value.
Domestic dogs aren’t like wild carnivores. They have been evolving alongside humans for approximately 30,000 years, and their diet has been shaped by our own food and environment. They can easily survive on a mixed diet, often on waste from human settlements, and have even evolved to digest starch.
Traditional dog diets would have included raw meat but also table scraps and other homemade foods. And unlike most human processed foods, manufactured pet food is often tailored to provide a key range of nutrients. After all, the move to commercial pet food coincided with increased research into the nutritional requirements of the dog.