by Katherine Khoo February 03, 2023 6 min read

Raw dog food diets are controversial. But the popularity of the diet -- which emphasizes raw meat, bones, fruits, and vegetables -- is rising. What exactly is a “raw diet” and can your pet benefit from it? Let’s take a closer look at this controversial diet as well as its benefits and risks.

Raw Diet for Dogs: Benefits and Risks

What is a raw food dog diet?

A raw food diet is just what it sounds like — you feed your dog only raw products like raw muscle meat, organ meat, whole or ground bones, dog-safe fruits, and vegetables. Raw eggs and dairy products like yogurt are sometimes added to the dog’s raw diet.

Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst was the first proponent of raw diets for domesticated dogs. Racing greyhounds and sled dogs have long eaten raw food diets before these feeding practices were extended to the family pet. Dr. Billinghurst suggested that adult dogs would thrive on an evolutionary diet based on what canines ate before they became domesticated: Raw, meaty bones and vegetable scraps. He called his feeding suggestions the BARF diet, an acronym that stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.

Since Dr. Billinghurst’s suggestion in the 90s, raw food diets for pets have become increasingly popular. Today, commercially prepared raw dog diets are widely available at pet stores. These commercial preparations are frozen or freeze-dried and made with raw meat, bones, organ meats, and vegetables. Herbs, berries, seeds, and even vitamins may be added to further enhance the nutritional value of these commercial raw foods. Some raw feeders have voiced concern that commercial raw diets are not truly ‘natural’ and they do not closely mirror what dogs would eat in the wild. Commercial or homemade, many dog owners who switched their pups to raw food cite these benefits: healthier skin and coat, improved dental health, increased energy, and smaller stools.  

Raw Diet for Dogs: Benefits and Risks

Benefits of feeding raw

Many pet parents choose to feed a raw diet because it’s more natural and less processed than most commercial pet diets currently available. Others simply feed raw because their dogs love it. Regardless of the reason, almost all raw feeders will agree to one or more of these health benefits:

Improved skin and coat

Raw diets contain many ingredients that support skin and coat health, one of the most notable and researched being omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are heat sensitive. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, will start to degrade at 50 °C. With a raw food diet, omega-3 fatty acids are undamaged by heat. Healthy omega fats play a large role in supporting healthy skin and coats in dogs. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids that can be added to our pup’s homemade raw diet include salmon, sardines, and mackerel.

Improved dental health

In some instances, poor dental hygiene has been attributed to a poor diet, especially one that is heavily processed and high in carbohydrates. Raw, meaty bones are well-known as being nature’s dental chews for dogs. The mechanical action of chewing on a meaty bone helps to remove plaque, which then minimises the formation of tartar (calcified plaque). Do ensure that you give only raw bones to your pups and always supervise your dog while they’re chewing a bone. Raw meaty bones can be purchased from your local butcher. For easy feeding, you may want to consider getting frozen pre-portioned meaty bones like this Organic Paws Beef Bones Frozen Raw Dog Food from selected pet shops. Generally, feeding one to two bones a week is a good place to start.

Reduced stool volume and odour

An effect of having a diet made up of highly digestible ingredients for your pet is that more of what goes in is absorbed, and utilised so less comes out the other end. Low-quality dog food often contains a higher amount of carbohydrates and filler ingredients such as soy, potato, corn, and rice. These fillers can bulk out your pup’s stool, leading to a larger amount of stool volume with a heavy odour. As most raw diets contain no fillers, you’ll notice a significant reduction in the dog’s stool volume.  

Raw Diet for Dogs: Benefits and Risks

Homemade raw diet safety

If you want to homemade your raw dog food, make sure to consult a veterinary nutritionist to avoid nutrient deficiencies or access. Long-term nutrient imbalances can be detrimental to your pup’s health. Here are some safety guidelines recommended to help reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

  • Avoid touching your face or mouth while handling raw pet food. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw meat.
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces, utensils, and other objects that came into contact with the raw ingredients. Use soap and water for cleaning.
  • Freeze raw meat until you're ready to use it. Thaw the raw meat in your refrigerator, not in the sink or on the countertop.
  • Carefully handle raw meat or poultry to avoid spreading raw juices to other areas.
  • If your pet doesn't finish his raw food, dispose of the leftovers. Do not leave your pet’s raw food in this bowl.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling your dog’s raw food. It's also a good idea to wear disposable gloves while handling your dog's food and to feed him on disposable plates. Using disposable plates can be helpful if you have young children or family members (including pets) who are immunocompromised and are susceptible to foodborne illnesses.  

Raw Diet for Dogs: Benefits and Risks

There are plenty of high-quality, commercial raw dog diets available, and here are some of our customers’ favourites.

  • The Grateful Pet Raw Dog Food. The Grateful Pet is the only pet superfood company in Asia Pacific. The company focuses on including only high quality, functional Asian and Western health ingredients with benefits backed by scientific research for pets such as New Zealand Green Lipped Mussels, Prebiotic Seaweed, Reishi Mushroom, Dandelion Root & Milk Thistle.
  • PetCubes Raw Dog Food. PetCubes is Singapore's first commercial manufacturer and distributor of fresh pet food. PetCubes produces Gently-cooked & raw dog food with a variety of proteins that encourage rotation feeding. The diet contains no salt, sugar, preservatives, fillers, additives, GMO ingredients, by-products, or grain.
  • Small Batch Freeze Dried Lamb Sliders Dog Food. If you’re looking to feed raw but with the convenience of the kibble - easy to feed, long shelf life and no need for refrigeration – try this Small Batch freeze-dried, raw dog food. Small Batch uses only fresh whole vegetables and herbs that are certified organic, non-GMO, and free of pesticides. All meats used are humanely raised, antibiotic and hormone-free.
  • Nandi Freeze-Dried Karoo Ostrich Entree Dog Food. If your pup is a picky eater and you’re searching for exotic, unique proteins, check out the Nandi Freeze-Dried Dog Food range. Nandi’s Dog Food are nutritionally complete and balance. All their proteins are sustainably and ethically sourced.

For parents with picky eaters, check out our Try & Buy section, and get a wallet-friendly trial pack before purchasing the full size products. We have a good variety of dog food including freeze-dried options across a range of proteins to tease your furkid's tastebud.  

Raw Diet for Dogs: Benefits and Risks

Adding raw to your dog’s kibble

Perhaps you are not ready to switch your pup’s diet from the conventional kibble to a 100% raw diet. But, with the growing interest and body of evidence supporting raw species-appropriate dog diets, you may be wondering how to safely add raw into your dog’s kibble. The simplest way to safely mix raw with kibble and boost the nutritional value of your pup’s kibble, is to use a freeze-dried, raw food topper like this OC Raw Dog Meaty Rox Beef Freeze Dried Dog Food Topper.

It is generally safe to mix raw and cooked food unless your dog has a sensitive digestive system or an increased stomach pH level (less acidic stomach). A dog’s stomach is highly acidic and it doesn’t just digest food. The acidic stomach also protects the dog from bacteria and other harmful organisms that might be eaten along with his food. A less acidic stomach would increase the risk of illness from salmonella, E.coli, and other harmful pathogens that may be present in poorly prepared raw food.

Feeding raw has both its benefits and risks. If you choose to feed raw, weigh the benefits and risks, and make an informed decision. Raw dog food can be homemade but look for recipes that are AAFCO-approved or work with a veterinary nutritionist for a well-balanced recipe. An unbalanced diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies or excesses, resulting in detrimental health consequences like obesity, poor skin health, dull coat, allergies, and behavioural issues. Alternatively, get high-quality commercially prepared raw dog food. Do be aware that dogs with certain diseased conditions like pancreatitis may do better on freshly, cooked food. If you are still unsure, please discuss with your veterinarian the best type of food to feed your dog.  








Katherine Khoo
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.

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