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Is Raw or Cooked Dog Food Better

08.FEB.2021 . By: Marissa Taffer


Marissa Taffer is a consultant, writer and strategist based in Philadelphia. She lives and works with her rescue dog Charlie, a certified therapy dog. With so many different kinds of dog food available now, how do you know what is best for your pet’s needs? One of the biggest ‘debates’ our there is raw food vs. cooked? What is best for your pup. We looked at both of these types of foods to learn the truth.


What is raw dog food?

Simply put, raw food is a combination of raw meat and fish. Sometimes it is sold fresh and others are frozen or freeze-dried for convenience. Raw food diets often contain meat that is still on the bone, organ meats, and even raw eggs. Some pet owners will also include a source of dairy like yogurt and some fresh fruit or vegetables.

What are the benefits and risks?

While supporters of the raw food diets say that it gives their dogs a shinier coat, cleaner teeth, smaller stool, and more energy, The American Veterinary Medical Association takes a different position.

Their official statement begins: “The AVMA discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans. Cooking or pasteurization through the application of heat until the protein reaches an internal temperature adequate to destroy pathogenic organisms has been the traditional method used to eliminate pathogens in animal-source protein, although the AVMA recognizes that newer technologies and other methods such as irradiation are constantly being developed and implemented.”

If that wasn’t enough to convince you of the drawbacks when compiling this position, the CDC sent the following to the AVMA: “Raw diets, especially raw meat diets, are not recommended because of the risk for salmonellosis and other infections that can affect pets and their owners.”

The FDA, The American College of Veterinary Nutritionists (ACVN), and American Animal Hospital Association have also spoken out against raw food diets. The risk of foodborne illness is too great. Not only for your dog but also for you and other members of your household. This is especially true for young children and those who are immunocompromised.

If your pup is a therapy dog, you might actually not be able to feed raw. Dogs wishing to participate in the Gerald B. Shreiber Pet Therapy Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have to eat cooked food. Per their guidelines: “The Dog cannot be on a raw foods diet at any time during their participation in the program. Raw food diets present an increased risk of pathologic bacterial and protozoal shedding and infection that can compromise the health of our patients.”

What is cooked dog food?

In contrast to raw food, cooked dog food is food that has been cooked to an internal temperature that is safe for consumption. Cooked food could be fresh, wet or dry food. The important thing here is that it is handled correctly and cooked and stored at the propper internal temperature to kill any pathogens.

What are the benefits and risks of cooked food?


One benefit of cooked food is the significant reduction in the risk of foodborne illnesses. If wet or fresh food is stored improperly, it can still cause foodborne illness so remember to read the package carefully for storage instructions. Open packages of fresh or wet food will most likely need to be refrigerated.

Cooked food will provide adequate nutrition for your dog as long as it is complete and balanced. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials , AAFCO “Complete” means the product contains all the nutrients required. “Balanced” means the nutrients are present in the correct ratios.”

In addition to balanced and complete food, you want to ensure that whatever you are feeding is approved for your dog’s life stage. AAFCO recognizes foods that are approved for:

  • Gestation/lactation

  • Growth

  • Maintenance

  • All life stages

Why is cooked dog food better?


Cooked food is easier to store and prepare than raw food. That is, unless you are doing some home cooking for your pet, which can be more time consuming and expensive. (Note that this is not recommended as you can cause nutrient deficiencies or imbalances since home cooked food is not regulated by the FDA or AAFCO.)

Physical Differences Between Dogs and Wolves

Both wolves and dogs have the same number of teeth, but they, along with the skull and jaw, are larger and stronger in the wolf. “This is likely due to their need to bite and break things like bones in the wild, compared with dogs who evolved much more as scavengers of human refuse,” says Dr. Hughes.

Dogs have rounder faces and larger eyes than wolves, says Jenn Fiendish, a veterinary behavior technician who runs Happy Power Behavior and Training in Portland, Oregon. “They also evolved to have floppy ears and curly or short tails, while the wolf has pointed ears with a long, sickle-type tail,” she says.

Wolves have enormous feet compared to a dog’s, and their two front, middle toes are much longer than their side toes, says Kent Weber, co-founder and director of Mission: Wolf, a refuge for wolves and wolf-dogs located in Westcliffe, Colorado. “With that, they can spring off of their toes, flex their longer ankles, keep their elbows right together and spring at incredible distances. That’s how a wolf can conserve energy and go so far compared to a dog.”

Dog Nutrition vs. Wolf Nutrition

Dogs are omnivores who evolved to eat what we eat. In contrast, “A wolf’s GI system can process raw meats, go longer without meals, and absorb nutrients in a different manner than that of a domestic dog.  This is an important item to remember when choosing a food type for your pet dog, as their ability to stave off common pathogens in raw foods is very limited,” says Fiendish.

Mossotti says wolves will sometimes eat plant materials, but that they’re true carnivores. They also eat more than dogs do. “Wolves know that it’s probably going to be a long time between meals or it will get stolen, so they can eat a ton at once. They can actually hold between 10 and 20 pounds, depending on the species. With domestic dogs, we give them [for example] a cup of food in the morning and a cup in the afternoon.”

A domestic dog being fed wolf kibble would probably get sick and have diarrhea because of the high level of protein, says Daniels. Conversely, “If I fed a domestic dog food to a wolf, that wolf would have deficiencies.”  

Differences in Diet

Wolves eat meat all the time, right? Actually, they eat whatever they get a hold of. Meat does seem to be what they like the best, though and their digestive system tackles meat easily.

Dogs eat differently and that may be why they were domesticated, while wolves remain wild. According to Science magazine, dogs have 122 gene differences in their digestive tract to wolves, making people food like rice.

Dogs are not carnivores like wolves

It seems like a truism, but “a dog is a dog, a dog is not a wolf,” Hervera says. Evolution has changed the species and now they are two different subspecies. In fact, one of the most important changes during these thousands of years of evolution has occurred in its digestive system: “Unlike the wolf, the dog has adapted evolutionarily to digest the starch present in cereals and vegetables that are part of the human diet, “he explains.

This is easier to understand when one learns that the dog began to evolve as a species in human settlement, eating our leftovers. “And our leftovers are basically starch; since the human being eats, above all, grain cereals, such as wheat or rice”, the expert notes.

It is not the only one that warns of this evolutionary change. There are studies that have compared the genetic material of the current wolf (a wild animal) with that of the dog, a domestic animal; and collated what variations explain the evolutionary journey made by certain wolves to become dogs.

asier to digest than meat.

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