Now that raw feeding has come into the mainstream, more dog owners are considering the practice as a nutritional choice for their pets. Even national brands are putting premade raw dog food and cat food options—consisting of blended raw meat, bone and organs—in neighborhood pet stores and national chains.
Although there have been no scientific studies into the potential health benefits of raw-food diets for dogs or cats, pet owners that follow raw guidelines have attributed the diet to improved digestion, healthy skin and coats, better mobility, and an increase in energy in their pets. A raw food diet may also help pets prone to allergies.
Despite its growing popularity, there remains a lot of misinformation about switching over to a raw pet food diet. Here are 10 myths about raw feeding that you need to know.
1. Feeding a raw diet is dangerous due to salmonella bacteria.
According to Dr. Karen Becker, an integrative wellness veterinarian, salmonella can be found in up to 36% of all healthy dogs and 18% of healthy cats regardless of the food they consume.
Safely handling raw meat for our pets should be no different than when we handle raw meat for our family’s dinner—if you’ve cooked chicken or a Thanksgiving Day turkey, you have safely handled raw meat. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after handling raw pet food. You should also wash your hands before preparing human food and before eating. This applies to both kibble and raw food.
2. Raw diets are unbalanced.
Feeding our dogs a diet of only ground beef or chicken quarters isn’t balanced or safe. Traditionally, a raw food diet contains 85% meat, 10% bone and 5% organ meat. I’ve also seen a breakdown of 80% meat, 10% bone and 10% organ meat. It’s this combination that brings balance to our dogs’ diets.
Also, it’s a myth that a dog’s diet needs to be balanced at every meal. Raw feeders strive for balance over the week. Think about your own diet—you likely don’t seek balance at every meal. Our goal is to find balance over a period of time and the same is true when we are feeding our pets.
3. Raw diets are expensive.
Don’t get me wrong; feeding dogs a 100% pre-made raw diet can be expensive. In a premade diet, a brand is grinding and mixing together raw meat, bones and organs. Sometimes fruits, vegetables and other natural supplements are also added. A premade diet is balanced and convenient; therefore, more expensive than homemade.
To save money, many dog owners either make their dogs’ food at home or order the food through local raw food co-ops (which are located across the US). My family was able to cut our food budget in half by switching from premade to a raw food co-op.
4. All veterinarians are opposed to raw food diets.
A veterinarian may be wary of raw feeding due to lack of information or a negative experience with the diet, which includes treating pets who are malnourished due to an unbalanced raw diet.
However, there are many vets who feel positively about raw feeding and seek to educate pet owners—Dr. Karen Becker and Dr. Patrick Mahaney to name a few.
Raw feeding takes continued study by pet owners and shouldn’t be switched to on a whim.
5. Raw bones are dangerous for dogs.
Not all raw bones are dangerous for dogs. What isn’t always clear are what bones dogs can eat and can’t eat when on a raw diet. Weight-bearing bones (bones that were meant to hold a two-ton cow upright) may be too strong for a dog’s teeth, leading to breakage. Rib bones may not be strong enough for a tough chewer, resulting in splintered pieces in a dog’s digestive system, which can lead to a perforated bowel.
Personally, I don’t feed our dogs weight-bearing and rib bones, because of the concerns I shared. I do, however, know others who feed these bones with no issues. After some research, I settled on turkey necks, beef knee caps and beef knuckle bones for my dogs. And it’s important to note that these bones are only given under supervision.
The raw-food diet isn’t for every pet. The goal should always be to provide our dogs with better nutrition. This can be a raw dog food diet, a dehydrated raw diet, or a diet of quality, grain-free kibble. This is a personal choice that every pet owner will be faced with and this choice should follow a lot of research and questions.
Kimberly Gauthier is the proud pet parent of four dogs and the founder of Keep the Tail Wagging, where she shares personal experiences about raising her dogs naturally. You can follow Kimberly on Twitter at the Fur Mom.
Kimberly Gauthier writes about raw feeding for Keep the Tail Wagging while raising four gorgeous dogs in the Pacific Northwest.