THE CANINE BEHAVIOURIST: NO! YOUR DOG ISN’T A WOLF AND IT DOESN’T NEED RAW MEAT

Dogs are descended from wolves, right? So, they should eat what wolves eat in the wild, right?

A leading proponent of raw diets for dogs is Dr Ian Billinghurst, a vet who promotes the BARF diet (Bones and Raw Food) based on the theory that wolves eat raw meat in the wild so dogs should too.

Unfortunately, his arguments are based on no scientific data, at all. He, and the supporters of BARF argue that wolves don’t eat dry food. That’s true but it ignores that the domesticated dog is long separated from the wolf in evolutionary terms.

BARF proponents argue that all commercial diets are inadequate and unhealthy for our dogs. In fact, Billinghurst claims that most degenerative diseases in animals are a direct result of commercial foods. That’s again based on zero clinical research.

A huge range of conditions in dogs are blamed on the horrors of feeding commercial food to them by BARF advocates.

But wolves kept in captivity live longer than wolves in the wild. And what are captive wolves fed? Commercial dog food. Evidence suggests captive wolves fed raw diets suffer from poor nutrition and health. Wild wolves often die because of disease, parasitism and malnutrition.

BARF proponents argue that commercial food lacks nutritional quality and is unsafe. That’s also wrong — commercial food production is strictly regulated unlike the raw diets, and is based on extensive nutritional research and testing for digestibility and nutritional content.

Commercial dog food is accused by BARF fans of making dogs sick, being undigestible because of grain content, lacking nutrient content and, most crazily, of being made from dead pets! None of these claims are substantiated by research.

Many raw diets have been found to contain pathogens including E.coli and Salmonella which are harmful to our dogs and us.

The bones contained in raw diets have been known to cause intestinal obstruction and perforations. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned pet owners against feeding bones to their dogs.

There is no evidence for BARF diets. They are not based on sound research. I would go as far to say that feeding dogs on RAW foods is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with their health.

For more sound information on the risks of and reasons to avoid raw diets, read ‘Raw meat and bone diets, it’s enough to make you barf’ by Brennen McKenzie.

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