Feeding a Raw Diet Plus Grain-Free Dog Food

Today we continue our series of reader questions for Dr. Tiffany Bierer:

What does Dr. Bierer think about raw diet plus feeding a grain-free dog food?

Dr. Bierer: The first thing to remember is to choose a diet that best suits your pet’s nutritional needs while also meeting your lifestyle and preferences.  Dogs are individuals and there isn’t one diet that is perfect for all dogs so make sure to find the right diet for you and your dog.  Grains are a highly digestible, great source of essential nutrients such as protein, essential fatty acids and fiber for dogs which is why they are utilized in so many dog foods.  And providing all the essential nutrition your dog needs is the most important thing a diet does!

If your preference is to feed a raw diet, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  One is to make sure that it is 100% complete and balanced for your dog.  Without special care, these types of diets can result in nutritional deficiencies, especially with regards to vitamins and minerals so care need to be taken when putting together a raw diet.

Raw bones can also be a problem.  Mars Petcare and the WALTHAM Center for Pet Nutrition have done extensive work on the biting capacity of different types and shapes of dogs.  In addition to splintering, bones are extremely hard and many times exceed the biting force of a dog’s jaw causing teeth to fracture so I do not recommend raw bones.

Lastly, microbial contamination of raw meat products can be a big issue in homes.  For example, while dogs are less susceptible to Salmonella poisoning, they are not immune to it and, more importantly, even if your dog does not become sick, they can pass Salmonella on to other members in the household like children and the elderly. If you do choose to feed a raw diet, visit http://www.fda.gov for more information on handling of raw foods in your household.

Dr. Tiffany Bierer is the health and nutrition sciences manager for Mars Petcare US, makers of PEDIGREE® Food for Dogs, CESAR® Brand, WHISKAS® Food for Cats, THE GOODLIFE RECIPE® Brand, TEMPTATIONS® Treats for Cats and CRAVE® Treats for Cats.

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About Paris Permenter & John Bigley

Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the award-winning authors of over 30 pet and travel books as well as the founders and publishers of CatTipper and DogTipper.

  • Jill

    Hi!  This is Jill from Nature’s Variety, maker of Instinct, the leader in raw frozen diets for dogs (and cats!).  What a great piece from Dr. Bierer.  She brought up some great points.  I wanted to share a progressive new food safety protocol that Nature’s Variety has implemented called High Pressure Processing that is used on all Instinct Raw Frozen Diets. High Pressure Processing is a unique process that kills pathogenic bacteria through high-pressure, water-based technology. High Pressure Processing is a USDA-approved, 100% natural process, and is allowed for use on organic and natural products.  In fact, there are several raw food manufacturers that have implemented this step.  The origin of the High Pressure Processing concept is as natural as the process itself.  Over a century ago, scientists began investigating the fact that harmful bacteria found at sea level were actually not able to survive at deep sea levels (under high water pressures).  Within the last decade or so, advancements in technology have allowed for the duplication of this interesting phenomenon for use on natural and organic foods to kill harmful bacteria while preserving taste, enzymes, and overall nutritional integrity.

    Essentially, this technology “puts the squeeze” on food pathogens without cooking out vital nutrients or changing the fresh characteristics of food. During High Pressure Processing, pressure is uniformly applied around and throughout the food product. High Pressure Processing can be conducted at refrigerated temperatures, which means the temperature starts low and stays low – High Pressure Processing does not cause the heat degradation that happens during cooking. Because of this, High Pressure Processing is known for being especially beneficial for heat-sensitive products, like meats, fruits, and vegetables. To learn more about High Pressure Processing and how Nature’s Variety uses it as part of our overall food safety and quality protocols, please visit the Safety & Quality section of our FAQ page. 
    at http://www.naturesvariety.com

    Thanks!  Jill

    • Hi Jill! How interesting…I hadn’t heard about that technology! Thanks so much for sharing!! Paris

  • Laurie3333

    I just did a couple of posts on my blog about trying to get my dog on a raw diet…didn’t work out well. Now on grain-free. This was an interesting and timely article for me and my dog Charlie! I’d love to hear how others switched their adult dog to raw successfully or any ideas!

    Laurie, mom to Charlie the Cocker Spaniel

    • Hi Laurie, I’m going to pop over and read your posts about Charlie’s experiences with raw…thanks! Paris