When we began looking into the possibility of feeding our young dogs a raw diet, we were overwhelmed by the conflicting information we were reading online. The first thing we wanted to understand was are any of the concerns about a raw diets for dogs true or are they just myths.
5 common myths about raw dog food:
- Bacteria in raw meat is dangerous to my dog
- Raw fed dogs get parasites
- Raw diets are not balanced – dogs are omnivores
- Raw dog food is very expensive
- Feeding a raw diet makes your dog aggressive and blood thirsty
Myths about Raw Dog Food
Myths evolve about a subject largely because people don’t like to challenge their own beliefs and come up with bonkers reasons why their age held ideas are correct. This is true of raw feeding but the revolution is not helped by the heavily invested international pet food industries churning out low cost, high return, dried brown biscuits.
We have spent a long time researching this topic – trying to make sure we’re doing the very best by our dogs and have made strenuous efforts to present a balanced view on each of the five common myths we’ll address here.
We will show you just why many of these myths exist and why some have some merit. We’ve consulted with experts in the fields of veterinary science, animal behaviour and canine nutrition, so hopefully by the end of this article, you will see the truth behind raw feeding and why and how each of these myths has evolved.
There are many more myths around raw dog food, hundreds in fact, but after whittling down our list, these were the top 5 concerning most of the pet owners we consulted. The one unexpected discovery from this exercise was finding out just how educated and knowledgeable most raw feeders are. They had accurate data on their dog’s daily consumption, weight and the exact elements of their dog’s diet. This could not be said for their kibble feeding counterparts many of whom could not tell us what the main constituent of their dog’s diet is.
Let’s cut to it – here’s what we learned – bacteria in raw meat is NOTdangerous to your dog; raw fed dogs DOget parasites (but not from the raw food); raw diets AREbalanced if made correctly; dogs are NOTomnivores, they are carnivores; raw dog food CAN BEexpensive; and feeding a raw diet makes your dog WILL NOTmake it blood thirsty and aggressive.
Read on to find out how we debunked these myths with the help of experts and common sense and why you should to.
Bacteria in Raw Meat is Dangerous to My Dog
Raw dog food is not dangerous.
In rare circumstances where your dog consumes meat that is highly contaminated, she may develop a bacterial infection which could be anything from an upset stomach to something much more dangerous. It must be stressed this is extremely unlikely, especially if you take the precautions we’ll talk about more here.
The reason people believe that raw meat poses a risk to their dog’s health is due to lack of education and understanding around a dog’s digestive system and more importantly, how raw dog food is manufactured.
In fact, in the EU and the US, commercial production of raw pet food is highly regulated with strict guidelines for registered producers. You may be surprised to learn that these regulations go so far as to impose a zero tolerance on the presence of the Salmonellabacteria in dog food where it is tolerated in small amounts in food destined for human consumption! So feeding your dog premium steak from the supermarket posess more risks than a proper raw dog food.
Dogs are susceptible to bacterial infections such as salmonella but are far more robust when it comes to low grade bacteria. However, you should never consider feeding your dog contaminated food.
How do I make sure my raw dog food is safe? It is important to make certain that you purchase your raw food from reputable, regulated producers. This way you will know that they are following strict guidelines regarding food preparation and hygiene and all products regularly tested by professional laboratories.
You should also look out for the following warning signs as it is possible for the meat to become contaminated after it has left the manufacturer.
Defrosted.It is perfectly safe for refrigerated raw dog food to have a cycle of freezing and thawing. What you don’t want is raw dog food that has reached room temperature and then been refrozen. This is an issue if you order your dog food online and you should ensure that your dog food is still frozen when it arrives with you.
Damaged packaging.Raw dog food often comes in vacuum sealed packaging. Where this is the case, it is really important that you make sure it hasn’t been pierced. Our one major gripes about raw dog food is the packaging – it’s either difficult to handle, brakes and splits too easily, leaky or worst, comes in packaging that it is not possible to recycle.
Rancid:Our policy is if it’s a complete food and the smell is making you wretch, you need to think twice about feeding it to your dog. We know – offel smells revolting but it’s different from rancid – you need to literally trust your gut on this one – if it smells nasty, get rid of it and talk to your supplier.
What to avoid:
- Unregulated producers
- Farm or abattoir ‘waste’
- Raw foods not labelled ‘human grade’
- Raw food with preservative additive
Raw fed dogs get parasites
All dogs get parasites – it’s as part of being a dog as getting headlice is for school kids.
They get parasites because they sniff (and worse) other dog’s poo, they lick snails and they get into all manner of things that we humans think is disgusting!
They will not get parasites from eating responsibly produced, high quality raw dog food. This is largely because all meat produced commercially is subject to parasite control and this is largely done when the host animal is still breathing. If you couple this with the fact that the vast majority of commercially available raw dog food is frozen (for quite some time), the risk to your pet is almost negligible. The freezing process kills a great many parasite species – so much so that parasite infestation in animals or humans is not in the spotlight at all with regards to health.
Dogs that are fed fresh raw wild game and fish would be at risk from parasites as wild animals are not monitored and treated in the same way that farmed animals are.
Raw fish is a particular area of concern to many dog owners who understand, as with humans, the many benefits of omega 3 in their dog’s diet. Farmed fish doesn’t present any real risk to your dog when it comes to parasites but farmed salmon in particular is the topic of much debate – particularly with regards to the chemicals used in rearing farmed salmon. If you are keen to avoid the potential risks associated with heavily contaminated farmed variety, traditionally caught fish is perfectly safe for your dog if frozen for at least three weeks (many reports say one is sufficient but we’re cautious). Our dogs absolutely love sprats (herring) which we serve both as part of their meal and as an occasional treat. They’re also fantastic for hiding any medication in as they are down in one!
If you maintain a regular worming schedule, this should largely protect your dog against any nasties – even though they won’t be from their food!
Raw diets are not balanced – dogs are omnivores.
Nonsense. Dogs are carnivores. A raw diet could however be unbalanced in so far as without the correct proportion of muscle meat, bone and offal, your dog would suffer from some deficiencies and this would express itself in the consistency of their poo!
The BARF [biologically appropriate raw feeding] philosophy suggests that your dog should be on a ratio of 80% muscle meat, 10% bone and 10% offal. This is a universally accepted guideline, but it doesn’t need to be stuck to with precision. If generally, these are the proportions your dog is consuming as a whole, they are getting a biologically appropriate, raw, balanced diet.
During the process of transitioning to a raw diet, you might, like us, struggle with the idea that your dog does not require vegetables, fruit or any grains. In which case it will not do any harm! It’s just an unnecessary addition to their diet – but it will make you feel better and if your furry friend likes a bit of broccoli and the odd spoon of pasta, it won’t hurt them.
Raw dog food is very expensive
Ok – so this one isn’t really a myth, but if you put some spin on it, you’ll see that the benefits far out way the costs and this can mean over the lifetime of a dog, the investment in a raw diet may pay off financially.
Raw dog food costs a lot. By our calculations feeding our dogs a raw diet costs about three times as much as the premium kibble alternative. The way we look at it is that as kibble is not something we consider an alternative, so, in a quest to provide the best food we can for our dogs without braking the bank, we constantly review the price of our suppliers, look for offers and make considerable savings by buying in large quantities and storing in a chest freezer.
Like anything there is a vast spectrum of prices in the prepared dog food market and due to it’s growing popularity, the suppliers are sharpening their pencils and becoming more competitive.
This has no true scientific support however, if you believe the raw supporting vets, trainers and behaviourists, you will find that these people believe that raw is best for your dog’s health. Teeth cleaning for example is not a process you will need to invest in if your dog is getting a regular supply of meaty bones. Ranging in price from $100-$300 (average £233 in the UK) this is not a small cost and can be entirely avoided with a balanced raw diet.
Looking at more serious health issue, kibble diets for dogs and cats have been associated with a great many health issues with disastrous and fatal consequences including heart failures and kidney disease – both conditions attributed to a kibble diet and under investigation by the FDA.
Many behaviourists and trainers will also talk about the benefits they see in raw feed dogs. With everything they need, and nothing they don’t, raw fed dogs have a more stable metabolism and are said to have better sleep cycles without slow to digest slower biscuits laying in their stomachs. All this supports a more stable temperament.
Feeding a raw diet makes your dog blood thirsty and aggressive
Our absolute favourite! This is a huge myth that has no basis in science or folklore. To put it simply, you dog, whatever breed, is ALREADY BLOOD THIRSTY! Dogs are carnivores. They have a ‘taste for meat’ because that’s what they are designed to eat.
Over time, the hunter in many of them has been bred down as it is not considered a desirable trait. We agree – having a ravenous canine running about your neighbourhood in search of food is not a recipe for harmonious community living!
Healthy, balanced dogs only hunt when they are hungry so if your dog is well nourished but still insists on chasing, catching and eating your neighbour’s cat, this is on you. They are genetically predisposed to chase – some breeds more than others – but they are also bred to herd and protect livestock, guide the blind and retrieve game. None of which are blood sports! Teaching your dog to curb their chasing instinct is about training and developing your relationship with your dog and instilling boundaries. It is not about changing their diet.
Now let’s look at aggression. The theory presented is that once you have fed your dog raw meat, they can become consumed by rage. In a fascinating article written by Shutzhund trainer Carissa Kuehn, she sites that formerly aggressive and hyperactive dogs calmed down considerably once they were switched to a more ‘natural’ diet. And Carissa isn’t the only one waving the flag for raw food as a way to rear and train a balanced dog. Many trainers and behaviourists support her – in fact, if you can find one proponent of this blood-lust theory, we would be interested to talk to them to better understand their reasoning.
The hormone debate
There is a lot of discussion about the existence of hormones, anti-biotics and other pharmascuticals in all meat products, not just those fed to dogs. Antibiotic resistance and horomone related disease is a likely side effect that we are all facing, including our dogs. This is a reason to fully understand the source of your dog’s meat – something that is easy to do. ‘No antibiotic’ labelling is becoming more common in our supermarkets and we will likely see this on the rise as consumer preference takes over. These human contaminants may affect your dog’s health (however unlikely in their lifetime) but they will not make him aggressive or blood thirsty.
Does a raw diet make dogs bigger?No – the opposite in fact. Raw fed dogs tend to be leaner than their kibble fed counterparts. With the correct quantities and exercise all dogs should be calorie neutral but evidence suggests that the digestion of raw food is more efficient and therefore the dogs remain leaner.
Can puppies eat raw dog food?Yes! There are puppy specific formulas (finer mince) but it is not necessary to feed a young dog a different raw diet. All dogs need introduced to bones and it is important not to overdo the calcium carbonate for pups but otherwise it is encouraged to start young!
Is DIY Raw cheaper than premade?Yes. As long as you have a source of quality meat, bone and offal, making your own raw dog food is cheaper than the pre made variety.