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Pros & Cons of Raw Food for Cats and Dogs

Pet Diet & Nutrition 7 min read
Image of a hand giving a Golden Retriever dog a bowl of raw food for cats and dogs.

Clinical studies show that raw food for cats and dogs can help promote a longer and healthier life for your little ones. But recent research also points out concerns about the presence of bacteria in raw meat and how this can affect your furkiddo. So how do you balance out the pros and cons and decide which diet is ideal for your cat or dog?

The correct diet is a big part of naturally supporting your little one and improving their quality of life. That is why, at NHV, we recommend a balanced homecooked vet-formulated diet for all pets. However, if you are looking to transition your furkiddo into a raw diet, it’s important to consider the risks as well as the benefits. 

Should I feed my pet a Raw Diet?

Many pet parents are adopting a raw diet for their furkiddos as these meals aim to imitate what our little one’s ancestors would eat in the wild. Both cats and dogs can eat raw food, as long as the diet is properly balanced and the owner uses fresh and good ingredients. Extra care is needed, however, seeing as raw ingredients increase the risk of bacterial infection and malnutrition, especially in pets that are sick and have low immunity.

Raw ingredients increase the risk of bacterial infection and malnutrition, especially in pets that are sick and have a low immune system.

The raw food diet for cats and dogs is also known by the English acronym BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) or RMBD (Raw Meat Based Diets). The base consists of raw meat, organs (kidneys, liver, etc.), bones (whole or ground) and cartilage, complementing the meal with vegetables and raw eggs. 

If you are determined to feed your pet a raw diet, you can find plenty of different commercial brands that sell balanced raw diets in the market. If you are looking for an even more natural approach, consider getting advice from an expert veterinarian nutritionist and prepping their meals at home. 

Precautions To Be Taken with a Raw Diet for Cats and Dogs

The growing demand for raw food for cats and dogs also increases the potential risk. Many people do not understand the associated risks and, without knowing them, they will not be able to avoid them. So, here are some precautions to take, as well as some caveats:

Chance of malnutrition – If you try to formulate the raw diet for your kitty or pup by yourself at home, you may miss important ingredients and the diet will not be complete. If you want to prepare homemade raw food for cats and dogs, a veterinary nutritionist can help you formulate the ideal diet for your pet, with the correct amount of ingredients. 

A veterinary nutritionist can help you formulate the ideal diet for your pet, with the correct amount of ingredients.

Handling raw food – raw food can be a source of bacteria and harmful pathogens. It doesn’t matter if we are handling raw food for our pets or for us, we always have to be careful and clean everything really well to avoid those pathogens. Again, the alternative here would be choosing frozen raw commercial diets, which you only have to defrost and give it to your furbaby right away. Make sure that your little one is eating everything at once. Don’t ever leave raw food sitting in the bowl the whole day. This shouldn’t be done with dry food, even less with raw food. 

Storage of raw meat – The meat must be frozen at -20°C for at least 3 days (to kill parasites) and must remain frozen until use. This process does not kill the bacteria and they may be present and viable even after freezing. After thawing, it cannot be refrozen.

Possible digestive complications – not all pets are suited to eat a raw diet. Some furkiddos with certain health conditions like sensitive stomach, digestion issues like IBD, or even if you have a pet with low immunity, are not advised to transition to raw food. There are, however, other nutritional plans that could be better than dry food in these situations, like a personalized home-cooked diet or dehydrated food.

Benefits of Raw Food for Cats and Dogs

Photo of a tabby cat trying to catch a bowl of raw food for cats and dogs from a human's hand with his paws.

Following a balanced raw diet for cats and dogs comes with many benefits, but it also requires effort and a lot of information on the part of those who decide to opt for this route. Here are some of the pros of introducing raw food for cats and dogs:

Following a balanced raw diet for cats and dogs comes with many benefits.

Healthier skin and coat health – typically, a balanced raw diet has a high concentration of Omega 3 and 6. These fatty acids allow for healthier skin and a shinier coat. And because the diet is more biologically appropriate, it is easier for them to absorb the good nutrients of meat, eggs and fish for example.

Cleaner teeth – raw food is proven to keep teeth cleaner for longer if compared to kibble. That’s due to the lack of synthetic filler ingredients, sugars, or starches that are usually present in dry pet food.

Naturally tasty – a raw diet is much tastier for most cats and dogs than a dry option. For this reason, raw food for cats and dogs can be a great alternative for picky eaters.

More energy – it is easier for healthy pets to absorb the good nutrients of a balanced raw diet, that way they often are more energetic and ready to play. They also seem fitter and with defined muscles if compared to pets that only eat dry food.

Less stinky poop – seeing as the digestion of nutrients is easier, they produce stools with less volume and less odor.

Photo of a bowl of raw food for cats and dogs seen from above with two black and brown paws next to it.

Supplementing Raw Cat and Dog Food

Some of these NHV supplements may help make the raw diet for cats and dogs even richer and healthier:

Supplements like NHV Multi Essentials can help offer all the vitamins and minerals your little one needs to grow strong and may help fill any dietary gaps. 

Seeing as a raw diet increases the risk of parasite transmission – for the pets and the others who share space with them – NHV Inulin-PK works as a natural dewormer and also helps improve the absorption of nutrients from the food.

Lastly, NHV Plantaeris can help to prevent diarrhea, a common reaction to changing your little one’s diet. 

When Can I Consider Raw Food for Cats and Dogs?

A raw diet might not be ideal for every furkiddo, seeing as each pet has a different body and different needs. As a rule of thumb, only healthy pets are good candidates to start a new raw diet. Pets that are fighting a serious disease should not make any drastic changes to their nutritional plan.

As a rule of thumb, only healthy pets are good candidates to start a new raw diet. Pets that are fighting a serious disease should not make any drastic changes to their nutritional plan.

When deciding whether or not to consider raw feeding, please have in mind your pet’s age, health condition, breed and weight, and most importantly, the vet’s recommendations. 

Particular care is needed with young pets and raw meat-based diets. An incorrect calcium and phosphorus ratio can cause bone deformities and growth problems. Younger animals are also more sensitive to diet transitions. 

Seeing as our feline friends are strictly carnivores, they can usually handle raw food diets from a younger age. However, small puppies have a more sensitive digestion system, so we recommend starting their transition into an exclusively raw diet for dogs at around 8 months. 

Some Cats and Dogs Shouldn’t Eat Raw Food

Due to the potential risk of infections, raw food is not recommended for cats and dogs undergoing chemotherapy or who have been diagnosed with diseases that affect the immune or gastrointestinal systems.

Due to its high protein content, raw diets are also not recommended for cats and dogs with liver and/or kidney failure (as they have difficulty metabolizing proteins). And due to the high content of fatty acids, natural food (not formulated by experts) is not recommended for animals with pancreatitis or diabetes. These pets need very special formulations, and a homemade cooked meal prescribed by a vet might be a better option.

Whether a pet is eating dry kibbles or raw meat-based diets, they should always have regular veterinary checkups to ensure that there are no deficiencies that need to be addressed with a specific nutritional plan. This need is even greater in young furkiddos and cats and dogs with chronic diseases.

Transitioning Your Cat or Dog Into a Raw Diet

Photo of a cat-shaped bowl of raw food for cats and dogs seen from above with a gray cat sitting next to it, looking up, with its tongue out.

You have considered the factors in play, spoke to your vet and are ready to start your little one on a raw diet. Your first step is to ask the shelter or the previous owner what your little one has been eating and make the transition slowly. 

Like any diet change, we recommend mixing the current diet with a little bit of the new raw food. Start with a bigger portion of the current kibble and just a little bit of the raw diet. Slowly and steadily increase the raw portion and decrease the old dry food, each day, for about 7-10 days. 

Throughout this, please observe your little one’s stool consistency, overall behavior and if there is any weight loss or gain. Some adjustments might be needed in the beginning, and a vet nutrition specialist can help ensure that the transition goes smoothly.


At NHV we have pet experts that can help you select the best diet and supplements according to your furbaby’s needs. You can book a consultation with our in-house vet here or get a customized diet plan, specially formulated for your pet’s needs. We are here to always help you! 

Dr. Rebeca Oliveira DVM

Dr. Rebeca Oliveira DVM

Dr. Rebeca is a holistic veterinarian from Brazil with a passion for natural and integrative medicine. She’s been studying integrative medicine and alternative (and healthier) diets since 2015, and now started to study the power of herbs with the NHV Family. In her spare time, you can find her spending time with her golden retriever, Kuga.

Published: August 18, 2022

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