Dog Food

What is a Raw Diet for Dogs – An Overview of the Big 3

What is a raw diet for dogs? With the rise in people wanting to feed their dogs a more natural and species appropriate diet, feeding raw diets has become more mainstream than they once were. Just throwing your dog a raw steak isn’t the correct way to do it though so keep reading.

Below you’ll find an overview of the 3 most popular raw diets for dogs: Prey Model, B.A.R.F., and commercial raw diets. Before switching your dog to a raw diet, make sure you consult your dog’s vet to make sure your plan is suitable for your dog specifically. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, let’s jump right into this…

So what is a raw diet for dogs?

Raw diets are just like they sound – it’s when you feed your dog raw meat. Depending on which type of raw diet you choose will determine exactly what you feed your dog but they all share the common theme of raw meat.

Why are people feeding their dogs raw meat? As I’ve mentioned before, our pet dogs have evolved from wolves who, as you probably already know, are carnivores.

A wolf’s diet is very different from your typical dry dog food. So, since our dogs have evolved from wolves, it makes sense to feed them real meat like a wolf would eat.

The most conflicting information when learning about raw diets for dogs is between Prey Model and B.A.R.F. because the idea behind each diet is different. Also, the people who get really invested in feeding either of these types of diets can get pretty fanatical and be really against the other group. One group thinks just eating raw meat, bones, and organs is the better diet and other thinks fruits and vegetables should also be included. Let’s get into the nitty gritty of these diets now.

What are there different types of Raw Diets?

Prey Model

Prey model is where your dog eats only muscle meat, edible bones, and organs of animals. This can be by either eating a whole animal (whole prey) or by feeding as many different parts from as many different animals as possible.

The latter is the most popular way to feed this diet and sometimes is referred to as franken-prey.

With this diet, your dog is fed a 80-10-10 ratio of meat, edible bones, and organs. This means 80% of each meal will be muscle meat, 10% edible bones, and 10% organs (broken down into 5% liver and 5% other squishy organs).

B.A.R.F

B.A.R.F stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or sometimes bones and raw food. This diet is similar to prey model but instead of just feeding meat, edible bones, and organs – vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts are added as well.

Though the meat, bones, and organs are fed raw like with the prey model, the plants need to be cooked and/or pureed for proper nutrient absorption. This is because our dogs’ mouths aren’t able to chew plant matter correctly.

A dog on the B.A.R.F. diet will be eating 70% muscle meat, 10% edible bone, 10% organs (broken down into 5% liver and 5% other squishy organs), and 10% fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts (broken down into 7% vegetables, 2% seeds and nuts, and 1% fruit)


This is the pivotal argument between these two raw diets. Since our dogs have pointy teeth, that’s a clear indicator that they’re carnivores. Their teeth are built for ripping into meat and crunching through bones.

They lack the flat teeth required to grind plant matter to make it digestible. So if our dogs can’t get the beneficial nutrients from plant matter without us first preparing it, then should we really be feeding that plant matter to them?

It’s not like wolves cook and or puree fruits and vegetables before eating them.

Both sides fight over this because the wolves have been documented eating some plants in the wild; but if those plants can’t be digested properly by wolves because of the lack of flat, grinding, molar teeth then they’re not actually getting nutrition out of eating the occasional plant. Thus the debate continues.


Commercial Raw Diets

Commercial raw diets are kind of like feeding your dog a raw diet with the convenience of feeding kibble, except it’s still a little more work that just pouring kibble in a bowl. Commercial raw diets fall into 2 categories: dehydrated and frozen. The dehydrated raw is prepared by re-hydrating the food with water and the frozen is thawed before serving.

Commercial diets are more convenient since they take the prep work out of it, you just measure and serve. The downside is that your dog won’t be ripping and chewing meat and bones so they won’t get the dental benefits that they would from eating prey model or B.A.R.F. diets. The other downside is that when you compare the cost of these diets, commercial raw diets are more expensive.

The most popular and recommended brand of commercial raw diets is Stella and Chewy’s but there are a lot of other brands available too. If you are interested in feeding a commercial raw diet, I definitely recommend you check out Stella and Chewy’s though. They offer frozen patties and morsels as well as freeze-dried patties.

They also offer freeze-dried meal mixers that you can add to your dog’s kibble, though that option isn’t raw feeding – it’s more like adding a supplement to your dog’s diet.

Is a raw diet for you?

Is a raw diet for you? Only you can decide that. Feeding raw isn’t for everyone and it takes a considerable amount of research and preparation to make sure you are doing it correctly. Once you know what you’re doing and get into a rhythm, it gets easier so don’t let that deter you.

If you decide to go raw, do remember to consult your vet first. Also, something very important to remember is meat is digested much faster than kibble. That’s important to know because it’s the reason why you can’t feed both at the same time. If you feed your dog kibble and then raw food too close together, the raw meat will be in your dog’s digestive system longer than it should be which can make your dog sick. So make a choice and only feed that food.

Also remember, you are feeding raw meat which means more bacteria. This isn’t a problem for your dog but it can be a problem for humans. Make sure you take extra precautions to keep your dog contained while eating and clean the area well after each meal.

My Thoughts

I’ve been down this rabbit hole already. I tried the prey model raw diet for my dogs and fed them raw for about 2 years. If you’d like to read more about the prey model diet and my experience with it check out this post: What is the Prey Model Raw Diet – Plus My Experience Feeding It. In that post, I go into more detail about the prey model raw diet, how to feed it, and my opinion about it after feeding it for 2 years.

Do you or have you fed your dog a raw diet? If so, leave a comment below, I’d love to hear which one you tried and what you thought about it.

8 Comments

  • Vinc Lee

    Hi Missy,

    I like how informative your site is about! I thank you for allowing me to learn lots of new stuffs about dogs today. I am a dog lover too, just too bad my parents are allergic to dogs! Ranging from raw diets to dry dog food’s top pick to the compilation of your feeding experiences, it was really educational and constructive. If I have the chance to rear a dog in the near future, I’ll definitely look back at your site for advice!

    Cheers!

    -Vinc

    • Missy

      I wasn’t able to have a dog growing up at my parents house either, maybe that’s why I have so many dogs now. I guess I’m making up for lost time and all that. In all seriousness though, owning a dog – or being owned by one as many people are – is such a rewarding experience and I hope that one day you will get to experience it too. Thanks for the compliments on my site 🙂

      Missy

  • Phil

    Hello Missy,

    I was fortunate enough to grow up with many dogs. We had so many we had to give some away. Those were sad days but I knew they were going to good homes 🙂 .

    Thank you kindly for all of this information as I am looking to get a new dog when my situation permits i.e. a place with a back garden.

    I have bookmarked your website so I may use it as a legit and solid reference for this kind of information. I did not even know to be honest there was even a question like what is a raw diet for dogs. I always believed it was bad to give dogs raw food and so thank you for informing me better on this point Missy.

    • Missy

      You learn something new every day! I’m glad you found this post helpful. If you ever have any questions once you get a dog, don’t hesitate to ask me.

      Missy

  • randyford

    Hello Missy! I have 20+ dogs at my farm and i never tried to feed them raw food. I always cook meat for them. I had this thought that feeding my dogs with raw food will make them realized that they are born to eat fresh meats so there will be a tendency that if they are hungry they would probably eat my farm animals or even bite human and that would be a Big NO. That is just the way i think but there is no proven result. Would you enlighten me about this one? and if ever i am thinking the wrong way, i would try your prey model raw food. Thanks!

    • Missy

      Don’t worry, if you feed your dogs raw meat it won’t make him go after your farm animals or people. I’ve never read any correlation between the two. In fact, when I was feeding prey model raw I bought my dogs some feeder chicks, mice, and bunnies (the kind that are already dead and frozen). Try as I might, I couldn’t get them interested in eating any of them. I was able to get the cats to eat the chicks and mice by cutting them up (seriously gross) and I ended up having to get my brother to skin the rabbits and chop them up so the dogs would eat them.

      So, the only way I’d say your dogs might go after your farm animals is if they already were. Feeding raw won’t increase their prey drive and it definitely won’t make them attack humans.

      And wow, 20+ dogs! My husband’s giving me grief for 5. I tell him all the time the people I meet online have more dogs than me but I don’t think he believes me lol.

      Missy

  • sefe

    I will most likely look into the Barf. I like that you are able to give your dog some veggies and also fruit. I find that very interesting giving some source of fruits. Dogs will eat anything you give so you do need to be carful and create good habits for your dogs like the diets you suggested. Very helpful information. I say this because our pets are just important to us like family so a good diet to keep them from an kind of disease is key.

    • Missy

      Good luck with trying B.A.R.F., many people and their dogs are happy with that diet! As you learn more about it, you will find out which fruits and vegetables are better to feed than others. You probably already know, but never feed dogs grapes/raisins, onions, avocados, or seeds and pits from fruits. I agree that feeding your pets a quality diet can keep them healthier and help them live longer.

      Missy

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