Research into the nutritional aspects of raw feeding

Honey’s Real Dog Food has recently published Raw Proof, ‘the results of a 24-month research investigation into a species-appropriate diet for dogs’.

The researchers were looking at two aspects of a raw diet for dogs:

We set out to investigate two things. First, whether a species-appropriate (aka raw food) diet can be formulated so as to meet the highest possible nutritional guidelines for dogs, as specified by the European Pet Food Industry (FEDIAF). Second, whether such a diet will prove to be nutritionally adequate when fed to a meaningful sample of dogs over 26 weeks using an extended version of the rigorous trial protocol developed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). If you are looking for research relating to a species-appropriate (aka raw food) diet for dogs, here it is.

Twenty six dogs were selected, three of whom dropped out. All of the dogs were kept in their home environment. For 26 weeks they were fed raw complete food, five varieties in rotation. The name of the products used is not given but the food was additive free.

Blood tests were performed and at the end of the 26 weeks the dogs were found to have no nutritional deficiencies.

The Vet Times report on this study is here: Canine raw food study claims diet is safe and nutritional.


Jonathan Self of Honey’s Real Dog Food was to give his presentation of this trial at the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society Conference earlier this month. Sadly, Jonathan was too poorly to give his presentation, President, Nick Thompson, stepped in and gave it on Jonathan’s behalf. The conference will be available to view on Vimeo from December, so hopefully this will also be included.


It’s always great to see research into pet nutrition and this study does provide some interesting findings but after taking a good look through, it doesn’t seem to be nearly as clear cut as presented.

The company really wanted the study to prove that raw foods, without any synthetic supplementation, can definitively provide everything a dog needs throughout his or her life. If they had been able to prove that, it would have been quite something and would have silenced at least some of the criticism raw feeding has been receiving from the veterinary community and some parts of the established ‘processed’ pet food industry.

Unfortunately though, the data didn’t really bear it out so the findings are full of caveats.

The major problem is that for 17 of the 38 nutrients tested for, one or more of the recipes failed to meet the FEDIAF guidelines. These are presumably the most ‘complete’ recipes the Honey’s team could come up with but on the basis of this data, you could just as well argue that the study proves that these recipes do not meet FEDIAF’s criteria for complete foods.

Honey’s defence is that the five recipes are intended to be rotated and therefore the diet as a whole meets the complete food criteria over time. A fair point but for me the main insight here is how much planning and how incredibly diverse a menu must be in order to meet FEDIAF’s nutrient guidelines. Unfortunately, the headlines alone won’t convey this information at all.

The other caveats are largely based on criticising the data that has been used to create the FEDIAF criteria in the first place. This is a worthy criticism - since there is a fundamental lack of good research on pet nutritional requirements, FEDIAF has had to piece together its guidelines from all sorts of non-ideal, often heavily flawed sources over the years. But their self imposed target was to prove that the diet met FEDIAF’s criteria so simply choosing to ignore the criteria and their own goal whenever it was convenient seems fairly counterproductive.

The second part of the study was much more positive, showing that no dogs developed any signs of nutritional deficiency when fed the 5 diets in rotation over a period of 26 weeks. A good result but, as they themselves point out, 26 weeks is really too short a period since some deficiencies can take upward of two years to manifest.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for raw feeding and I personally have no doubt that raw foods, when done right, can provide everything a dog needs without the need for synthetic supplements and I would love to have some concrete, scientific data to prove that this is the case, but I’m not sure that this study is it.

Quote Seaweed: Jonathan Self of Honey's Real Dog Food was to give his presentation of this trial at the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society Conference earlier this month. Sadly, Jonathan was too poorly to give his presentation, President, Nick Thompson, stepped in and gave it on Jonathan’s behalf. The conference will be available to view on Vimeo from December, so hopefully this will also be included.
Thank you Seaweed. Please can you update the thread when the video becomes available? What did you make of the piece?

My first thought was that if one does not read it carefully, it may be assumed that this applies to raw feeding per se. Some people do DIY raw feeding which might not be balanced. They acknowledge this:

However, it is also true that an imbalanced raw food diet can cause health issues.

The study was only on 26 dogs, three of whom dropped out. Also, the trial period was quite short - 26 weeks. The dogs were kept in their home so compliance could presumably not be vouched for. Some raw feeders will give processed food for various reasons ie forgotten/too busy to thaw the food, holiday times or perhaps if the dog is housed elsewhere for a short while.

As far as I can see, the only thing the study ‘proves’ is that this particular additive free complete raw product meets the nutritional needs of dogs.

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One of the reasons I switched to raw, was an unsettled feeling that giving the same dry food day in, day out must lead to some nutrition requirements not being met. I never felt that the problem was completely solved by changing and I add various bits of cooked human food such as quinoa, brown rice, well cooked veg, sometimes a few lentils or chick peas. The more I learn about pet and human nutrition, the more convinced I am that the best way to avoid deficiencies is to mix it up as much as possible. Of course this doesn’t always work due to allergies or digestive issues but I have been lucky that my dog rarely has any adverse effects from her diet.

I have had issues with some complete foods leaving her hungry and making her go to the toilet excessively so I try not to mess with the main food without a reason but use one that has some variety anyway then I just vary what I add to it. I am still not convinced that I am getting it right although she seems happy and healthy.

It is hard to find a study on nutrition conducted without a possible bias. :frowning:

After giving it some more though, I think I was too harsh in my original assessment. To its credit, the study does show:

  1. It is possible to create a diet, albeit a complicated one, that meets all of the FEDIAF complete food criteria over time without the need for synthetic supplements. This is significant as the entire complete pet food industry is built upon synthetic vitamin and mineral supplementation but whether they are as beneficial for our pets as their natural equivalents has always been a contentious issue.

  2. How important dietary variation is - a topic that is completely ignored by most pet food manufacturers.

The trouble is, as Dottie has mentioned, the headlines alone (which is of course all that most people will read) don’t really convey these messages so it will be interesting to see how the findings were presented at the RFVS conference.


Thank you for your appraisal of the study David. As you and Tinyplanets have mentioned, I too feel that variety is important. In the past, it was usually thought that the pet owner chose a food and if it suited, the dog would be given the same product day in, day out sometimes for many years. Changing food used to be frowned on, the theory being that a dog’s digestive system was somehow a delicate thing and could easily be disturbed. In a healthy dog, the digestion should be able to cope with small enhancements without problem.

Whether one raw feeds or not, the study shows that variety is a good thing nutritionally. Unfortunately, for the pet owner who uses dry food practically speaking this is not easy if there isn’t a range of flavours in the chosen line and due to pack size/economy. However, Rodney Habib (Planet Paws) has something of a solution when he talks about enhancing dry dog food in his video What to Add To Pet Food To Make It Better! and in the article Why Adding “Human Food” To Your Dog’s Diet Is So Important.

One of the strengths of raw feeding is that the companies who sell these products usually emphasize variety and sell products with different meat/poultry/fish so it is easier for the pet owner to provide something of a varied diet. For people who do not wish to raw feed, we now have quality wet foods which are also sold in a number of flavours (grain containing and grain free) and can provide a diet that is varied. These can be used as toppers on dry food to provide some variety, taste and aroma .

On the subject of additives, I can only say that arguably, if we didn’t have them our supermarket shelves would be less replete than they currently are. Whether we like it or not, to a certain extent we need additives to prevent food from spoiling. As for vitamin and mineral additives, I would hazard a guess that many of us consume these on a daily basis in our breakfast cereal. They are not all bad. Fortunately, for our dog food we have reference to suspect additives on this website.

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No Problem Dottie I will keep an eye out for the RFVS conference on Vimeo. Lets wait and see the presentation. On reading countless articles and watching various videos from raw feeding vets, raw bloggers and raw researchers they do seem to supplement their dogs raw food. I had a look at six well known UK raw dog food companies to see if they mention FEDIAF, the only one I found was Natures Menu.


Raw Proof is now on Vimeo, Jonathan Self was too poorly to give his presentation, President, Nick Thompson, stepped in, plus other coverage from the Raw Vet Feeding Society 2018 conference

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