GreenSpace — Pets get a raw deal with natural diet

By Dawn Schuett

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Two years ago, following widespread recalls of pet food due to contamination, Diana Mann stopped serving kibble to her dogs every day and started feeding them raw food, including chicken necks and beef hearts.

Believing she could do more to keep her dogs healthy, Mann learned about raw food diets for pets and even had help from her daughter, Mackenzie, who researched the topic for a 4-H project in 2007.

"Feeding raw is not something you just wake up one day and decide to do," said Mann, a Rochester resident who shows and breeds Cardigan Welsh Corgis. "It is more than just throwing some raw meat in a bowl and putting it in front of the dog."


A natural diet of BARF, an acronym for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food, consists of raw, meaty bones, muscle meat such as ground turkey, venison, beef or lamb, and organ meat that may be anything from kidneys and livers to gizzards. Raw food diets may also be supplemented with raw eggs, ground fruits and vegetables, flax seed, fish oil and more. Mann feeds her dogs a diet that is 65 percent raw, meaty bones, 25 percent muscle meat and 10 percent organ meat.

Opinions differ among pet owners and veterinarians about whether a raw food diet is better for dogs and cats than commercial pet foods. The American Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend feeding raw meat to pets with one concern being an increased exposure to salmonella, E. coli and other infections.

Mann said her dogs have benefited from a raw food diet.

"It does great things for their muscle tone," she said, adding that it’s easier to manage their weight and condition, and their teeth are "incredibly clean" from chewing bones.

Pam Miller, retail manager at the pet supplies store at Leashes and Leads in Byron, has introduced raw food into the diet of her 10-year-old border collie after it was diagnosed with a borderline low thyroid.

"I’m thinking it’s worth a try," Miller said, hoping to avoid having to give medication to her dog.

The store sells freeze-dried raw food products along with dozens of brands of dry pet food, some labeled as natural or organic.

Even if pet owners prefer not to feed their animals raw food, Miller encourages them to carefully read the labels on commercial pet food. Two protein sources should be listed in the first three ingredients and pet owners should watch out for corn and wheat, two ingredients that often effect allergy-prone dogs. Pet food that also lists "animal fat" or "meat by-products" without being specific about the source should also be avoided, Miller said.


Dawn Schuett is a Farmington freelance writer.

For more, go to


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