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Dogs: Raw v Cooked Food

29/09/2014 14:19 BST | Updated 28/11/2014 10:59 GMT

The raw vs cooked food debate for dogs is something that goes back and fourth a lot.

Many people do swear by feeding their dogs raw food and as a canine dietician, I sometimes feel that owners aren't aware of all the facts. The blind faith given to raw food diets could land your dog in trouble.

I'm not against feeding dogs raw food and I don't want to deter anyone from doing so but it's important we know what's fact and what's fiction to be able to make the best dietary decisions for our dogs.

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One of the reasons people do feed their dogs raw food is because they think dogs resemble wolves and this is what they would have eaten.

Although they're similar, this isn't strictly true. Dogs have developed a lot in terms of living environments, relationships and diets. They have been domesticated for 10.000 - 15.000 years, and they have been eating human leftovers for the vast majority of that time.

Saying a dog should eat what a wolf eats is like saying I should eat what a chimpanzee eats. You can't really compare the two.

Another problem that I do have with the raw food debate is that many people claim it's more natural for their dog. As a dog dietician, I know that natural isn't always best. For example, a dog having fleas are natural but I'm not sure many owners would think it's a good thing.

Ideas about raw food being better for your dogs in terms of weight, life span, and oral health have also never really been proved or disproved so it's hard to see what's fact or opinion.

My main concern with raw food however has to be the illnesses attached to it. Salmonella and E.Coli are just two of many bacteria found in raw foods. Although a lot of this debate is based on opinion, it is a fact that dogs can become ill from such bacteria.

Most do not become clinically diseased, but some do and could pose a threat to other animals, including their own puppies or humans. Some raw pet food manufacturers have started using high-pressure pasteurisation (HPP) to destroy bad bacteria. However, HPP also destroys all the friendly bacteria that prevent bad bacteria from multiplying.

"Once these friendly bacteria are destroyed during HPP, there is nothing to keep the bad bacteria from growing out of control if the raw food is re-contaminated during manufacturing or customer handling."

As I wrote in the beginning, I'm not against feeding dogs raw food, nor do I want to frighten people away from them but the raw versus cooked food debate needs to move away from emotional arguments and become based on facts. If we neglect science the only loser will be the dog.