Raw Dog Food
It may surprise you given this website reviews commercial products that I’m a huge advocated for raw dog food. If you’ve read my thoughts on dogs as facultative carnivores it seems only natural to me the diet for a dog should be whole prey inclusive of raw meaty bones.
For many raw dog food is not an option, be it inconvenience, lack of time, concerns about doing it right, or for many the concerns from veterinarian advice that raw food is dangerous or unhealthy for our furry pets.
The purpose of this page is to offer my thoughts and guidance into the wide world of raw dog food, from homemade raw to commercial raw barf or patties, to understanding some of the concerns behind the topic.
Hopefully this information will offer you a good starting point, and I’ll reference some great resources along the way.
- Essential reading
- Why aren’t raw dog food diets recommended?
- What are the risks of feeding your dog raw?
- Should I feed my dog a raw diet?
- Raw dog food – delivered
- Raw dog food – in pet stores and pet shops
- Raw dog food – in pet stores and pet shops
- Raw dog food – in the supermarkets
- Air-dried & freeze-dried raw dog food
- Useful videos on raw dog food diets
- Raw dog food availability by city
- Raw feeding resources
If there’s one book you buy on feeding a raw dog food diet then make it Work Wonders by Dr Tom Lonsdale.
The reason this book is essential is because it’s the only no-nonsense book on raw feeding. It tells it like it is, it’s easy to read, and it will give you a fundamental insight into understanding the nutritional requirements of dogs and cats.
Dr Tom Lonsdale BVetMed MRCVS is an Australian vet based in Sydney. Having graduated in 1972 Tom has witnessed first hand the harm caused by numerous brands of pet food, and has proactively fought the Australian pet food industry for decades.
No matter what you’re feeding your dog at this time, whether kibble or raw, you will gain valuable insights from Work Wonders.
Tom’s other book Raw Meaty Bones is a more in-depth exposé of the Australian pet food industry, and another worthwhile puchase.
Both books are available on Amazon Australia:
Tom’s website Raw Meaty Bones can be found here.
Why aren’t raw dog food diets recommended?
Dog’s are fundamentally carnivores. You’ll often hear them referred to as omnivores, a convenient term for pet food manufacturers to formulate their products mostly from carbohydrates with minimum animal constituents.
Despite raw meat and whole-prey being a natural diet for the ancestors of our domestic pets, you will find many veterinary organisations advise against feeding such a diet. You will find this advise echoed in publications such as the Australian Vet Practice Magazine, in turn forming the opinion of many (but not all) vets.
It must be noted some underlying concerns, or the risks listed below, are genuine, and for anyone feeding a raw dog food diet these must be considered.
That said, many concerns surrounding raw feeding can be traced back to dubious hypotheses drawn from inconclusive research, often with links to funding from pet food manufacturers. It can never be underestimated the influence corporate pet food manufacturers have over research into canine and feline diets. After all, Mars, Nestle, and Colgate-Palmolive are three of the biggest conglomerates in the world, with pet food being one of their most lucrative sectors.
I’ll skirt over one recent example which made world media:
Raw chicken (chicken necks) linked to rare paralysis condition APN in dogs
Note I used italics for the words “linked to”. We often see terminology such as this, not only in the pet space, but media articles worldwide. It’s worth tuning in to such terminology as they’re used to convince us something is a fact when it very likely is not. In reality anything can be linked to anything, but from a journalist perspective you never want the truth to get in the way of a good story.
In recent years a study from the University of Sydney made a tenuous link between a bacteria campylobacter in dogs and a very rare almost unheard of condition APN which can cause paralysis in dogs. Around 50% of the APN dogs in the study tested positive for campylobacter, found in raw chicken, which was publicised and viralised across the world.
A previous study by University of Adelaide found approximately 50% of healthy dogs in an Australian dog population carried campylobacter, not only transmissible from raw meat, but shared water bowls, or the simple act of sniffing another dog’s butt in the park.
In short, the APN study failed to prove anything, but still serves as “scientific fact” for many veterinary professionals worldwide to advise against feeding raw meat, with the only safe option a commercial dry kibble made of corn, wheat, or all manner of other starch ingredients.
What are the risks of feeding your dog raw?
There are risks of feeding a raw diet to your dog, but there are risks with any diet. In my experience there are clear risks feeding many of the cheap brands of pet food we have in droves in Australian pet stores and supermarkets.
There are also risks of feeding expensive diets listed as “premium” or “scientific” formulated largely from grains or starches not overly suitable for a dog, and definitely not suitable for a cat.
In my opinion, if vets were to query diet when addressing a sick animal, or better log it in a database, they would see many correlations between commercial pet foods and illness.
With any diet you should be aware of the risks, and here are a few you should keep in mind if feeding your dog raw food:
Dogs (and cats) have complex nutritional requirements. In the wild a predator will naturally devour all parts of a prey animal and may consume the gut content (rumen) to meet their nutritional needs. This is nature, and nature knows best.
When we feed an animal a raw diet we must ensure all basis are covered, in the correct balance.
Excess bones or liver in the diet can cause calcium build up or Vitamin A toxicosis respectively. Failing to provide any required nutrients over an extended period of time can prove harmful to your dog’s health.
As such, if feeding homemade raw you need to have a clear understanding of what’s required. Thankfully there are many resources which will help you, but also many which won’t.
I’ll refer once again to the book Work Wonders mentioned earlier – this is an excellent starting point.
From speaking with numerous vets over the years it is clear precautions must be taken with what bones are fed in respect to the breed and temperament of your dog.
A rule of thumb you often hear is “no weight bearing bones”, but knuckle bones commonly need to be extracted from dogs via a costly and potential fatal surgical procedure.
Another issue often overlooked is combining one of the many raw patty diets with bones. This can potentially lead to an excess of calcium, or imbalance of calcium to phosphorous (disputed).
Bones can break teeth, especially if your dog’s teeth are already compromised from a previous diet.
Sharp bones may cause internal perforations.
Bones should not be overlooked as part of a raw dog food diet, as not only are they nutritious (particularly raw meaty bones with marrow), but serve to retain dental health and ward off oral/periodontal disease.
Ensure you feed bones appropriate to your dog breed and eating habits, and monitor them if necessary.
Bacteria & parasites
Dogs (and cats) are more tolerant of bacteria and parasites from raw meats, but it must still be considered as a potential risk.
Regular monitoring of your dog’s health or regular worming is a separate topic but may be worth considering.
Although salmonella and listeria monocytogenes are of some risk, dogs and cats are less susceptible than humans and severe illness is rare. Often symptoms amount to minor gastrointestinal issues, vomiting, or diarrhoea, but there is also a risk of transmission to other dogs or their owners.
Precautions may be taken, such as buying human grade meat, proper storage, and feeding within the use by date. Many meat and animal products are bacteria free.
Transmission of bacteria & parasites to humans
Most of us are well aware of the risks of handling raw meats, but this must also be considered when preparing a raw dog food diet for your dog.
Many raw feeders use human grade ingredients due to the vast difference in quality between human grade and pet grade meats, so extra care and consideration must be taken when using pet grade or knackery meats.
Take simple precautions as you would with any raw meat.
Pet grade meats / knackery meats
Pet grade meats can be dubious quality, often with sulphite preservatives which can lead to toxicity.
A recent scandal in Australia involved the sale of toxic horse meat as beef, leading to sickness and death of many Australian dogs.
Many raw dog food companies have sprung up in all Australian cities which sell such meat, and they won’t disclose it openly. Make sure you know where your meat is sourced.
All Australian cities have raw food groups on Facebook, with members willing to recommend local butchers or reputable pet meat suppliers. There are no stupid questions.
Should I feed my dog a raw diet?
Skip back to the first paragraph on this page where I said “I’m a huge advocated for raw dog food”.
For many years I have fed my pets raw meats, fish, bones, and eggs, but also commercial raw pet foods, dried foods, wet foods, and kibble. I feed a wide variety, and that’s just the start of it.
For many years I remained worried. Was I doing the right thing? Was I putting my pets at risk?
If I’m honest I’m still worried about feeding anything to my pets, but that’s also a side effect of having such an involvement and understanding of the Australian pet food industry and it’s flaws.
Thankfully as a pet owner you have choices.
If you find yourself thinking you should be feeding a raw diet to your dog but have any concerns, then start with one of the many human grade raw patties or dried raw foods (I’ll make some recommendations shortly).
Once you feel more at ease, get on Facebook and join a raw feeding group, or scour the Internet for raw dog food recipes and ideas.
Over time your confidence will grow, and hopefully your dog will reap the benefits.
Over the years I have spoken to the owners of seemingly countless pets who have suffered all manner of ailments on one of the many brands of dog food we have in Australia, who have come back to me only weeks later with a heartwarming success story of how their pet has so quickly returned to full health.
I spent time with Dr Tom Lonsdale at Bligh Park Veterinary Hospital, and you wouldn’t believe the success stories from their clients who have seen incredible turnarounds in the health of their pets once transitioned away from what Tom understandably calls “junk food”.
Ask yourself the question – “Should I feed my dog a raw diet?”
Raw dog food – delivered
Recent years has shown such an increase in healthy raw dog food diets, many of which are human grade and possibly a better diet than you would eat yourself.
Some of these raw foods can even be delivered right to your door. How convenient is that?
Australian human grade pet food company Lyka offer raw dog food delivered to your door, covering most Australian urban areas – they’re an excellent choice and the feedback I’ve had regarding their dog food has been really good.
Only this morning I was speaking to the owner of a Border Collie who had reams of issues (and vets bills) on a previous brand of food (an expensive one at that), but since switching to Lyka has bounced back to excellent health within weeks.
Petzyo also offer raw barf patties delivered to your door. At the time of writing they’re a new product to the Petzyo range, but they’re another Australian company who I’ve received a lot of good feedback about.
Raw dog food – in pet stores and pet shops
Most pet stores and pet shops these days have a freezer section and supply a range of decent raw BARF brands. Two reputable brands are Big Dog BARF and Proudi, also available at My Pet Warehouse and Petbarn.
These are good options if delivery isn’t your thing.
Raw dog food – in pet stores and pet shops
Specialist raw food stores have sprung up in most Australian cities, and as specialists should stock excellent raw food options and have reams of advice. As small businesses they’re well worth supporting and many pet owners establish a great relationship with these businesses.
Just note some can be dubious, so it’s always worth a little due diligence. Raw feeding groups for your local area on social media are well worth joining for recommendations, and many will point you in the right direction!
Raw dog food – in the supermarkets
A word of warning here. You’ll find raw dog food in Woolworths and Coles, but these are rarely human grade meats. A rule of thumb is this – if the packaging does not state human grade then it will almost certainly be pet grade.
Take a look at the ingredients. You may find preservatives listed as a telltale sign of a cheap raw dog food, or you may find non-meat ingredients have been utilised to bulk up the food, which is more about profit margins than the health of your dog.
Air-dried & freeze-dried raw dog food
For those with concerns over delivery of frozen patties, or those with limited freezer space, there’s another great option – air-dried or freeze-dried raw.
These products are essentially raw meat, whole-prey diets with the moisture removed. This serves to extend shelf-life dramatically yet leaves the nutritional aspect of the food intact. This differs greatly from kibble which is cooked at high temperatures (some ingredients twice over), but the caveat is dried products come at a higher cost.
To skirt over the difference between air-dried and freeze-dried – air-drying uses a low heat over a period of time to remove most moisture, whereas freeze-drying uses a very clever method of freezing a food and removing the ice by sublimation (in simple terms, it’s an excellent way of removing moisture). Out of the two, freeze-drying is the best way to preserve raw dog food for optimal nutrition.
We have some great dried raw options in Australia:
- Frontier Pets (freeze-dried, Australian company)
- ZIWI Peak (air-dried, New Zealand company)
- K9 Natural (freeze-dried, New Zealand company)
- Balanced Life (air-dried, Australian company)
- Woof & Meow (freeze-dried, New Zealand company)
- Freeze Dry Australia (freeze-dried, Australian company)
Useful videos on raw dog food diets
Dr. Karen Becker has been a household name in canine and feline nutrition for a long time now. Here are a couple of videos of hers on raw dog food diets.
Raw Dog Food Diet – Part 1:
Raw Dog Food Diet – Part 2:
Raw Dog Food Diet – Part 3:
Dr. Karen Becker can be followed on YouTube: MercolaHealthyPets
Raw dog food availability by city
This section is a work in progress. If you are aware of a reputable pet meat supplier in your area, using ethical human grade meats, then please make a recommendation in the comment section below.
Support your local butcher or specialist raw food store
For many years our local butchers have been at the mercy of big supermarket chains like Coles and Woolworths. Thankfully in recent years they’ve become an excellent resource for raw meats and meaty bones for our dogs, with many stocking a range of organ meats or all manner of whole-prey options.
There’s also a handful of specialist raw feeding stores who will stock a wide range of options for your pet. As specialists they’ll likely offer excellent advice as well. Another benefit of specialist raw food stores is they’ll sell you meat and meaty bones appropriate to your dog, whereas a butcher will likely sell whatever leftovers they have or weight bearing bones which are generally not recommended.
Establishing a good reputation with your local butcher or specialist raw food store is a good idea.
Those in a rural area will likely have easier access to raw dog food from local farms and outlets as well.
Raw dog food Melbourne
Raw dog food delivered in Melbourne:
Raw dog food outlets Melbourne:
Raw dog food Sydney
Raw dog food delivered in Sydney:
Raw dog food outlets Sydney:
- Bligh Park Pet Health Center, Bligh Park
Raw dog food Brisbane
Raw dog food delivered in Brisbane:
Raw dog food outlets Melbourne:
Raw dog food Perth
Raw dog food delivered in Perth:
Raw dog food outlets Perth:
- Pet Meat Suppliers, Osborne Park
Raw dog food Adelaide
Raw dog food delivered in Adelaide:
Raw dog food outlets Melbourne:
Raw feeding resources
- The Australian Raw Feeding Community
- Australian Raw Fed Cats
- Australia – Raw Feeding Community Sydney
- Raw fed dogs of Melbourne
- Perth Raw Fed Pets
- Raw Feeding Adelaide
Raw dog food is a vast topic which can only be summarised on one page. If you have any recommendations on useful information to be added to this page, please contact us via the Facebook page or the comment section below.