As raw diets become more popular, more information becomes available about it – but unfortunately, not all of this information is correct. Misconceptions about raw diets are spread by online raw feeding forums/groups, pet food companies, and sometimes even veterinarians. And it isn’t just the anti-raw crowd that contributes to these myths; in fact, a lot on this list are indeed spread by the pro-raw crowd in an effort to make raw seem more safe and less intimidating to beginner raw feeders. However, spreading misinformation does nobody any good, and only serves to contribute to the bad reputation raw diets have in the long run. Here at The Raw Feeding Community, we aim to give you an accurate, realistic view of what a raw diet really is, and all that it entails.
Raw is a cure-all “miracle diet”
This first misconception is a good example of a myth spread by the pro-raw crowd, usually in online forums and Facebook groups, and even by some pet professionals. Lots of people like to claim that raw diets will cure and/or prevent almost anything. Raw diets can certainly help many issues, such as food allergies, recurring yeast infections, dry skin, or yellowing teeth and bad breath. Raw diets typically help these things by containing fewer ingredients that dogs tend to have reactions to. It is also much easier for owners to isolate and avoid such ingredients.
Some of the wildest claims I’ve witnessed firsthand include that raw fed dogs are immune to fleas or ticks, raw diet dogs cannot get heartworms, raw fed dogs are immune to infection, and I’ve even seen someone claim that raw fed dogs have less chance of sustaining physical injuries. These claims are outlandish, misleading, and completely inaccurate. A dog’s diet can certainly contribute to better all-around health, but even the best possible diet will not prevent injuries or create immunity to parasites or infection.
While a raw diet certainly might improve your dog’s health, it should not be the only thing you rely on to cure a health problem, and it should not be a replacement for proper vet care. A raw diet does not make your dog invincible, nor is it guaranteed to cure any pre-existing health issues. A raw fed dog still needs to go in for annual check-ups too, just like a kibble fed dog should.
Raw diets are cheaper and easier than kibble
Raw diets seem to be advertised by the pro-raw fanatics as so much cheaper and just as easy to feed as kibble. However, this may not be true for everyone across the board. The price of feeding a raw diet can vary from one extreme to the next. Commercial raw diets are notoriously expensive, which is the trade you’ll have to make for their convenience. Homemade raw can be cheaper than high-quality kibble, but it is not that black and white.
Some people are able to feed homemade raw for incredibly cheap. But it is worth mentioning that these people have invested money in large freezers so that they can buy meat in bulk to save money. The price of raw will also depend on your location and the availability of certain meat products where you live. Some areas have an abundance of ethnic meat markets, which usually have some of the things most regular grocery stores don’t have, but their prices vary depending on location. Many of the people that feed raw for so cheap also have access to free scraps from local hunters, butchers, or processors, which is another thing that varies by location. They have the free time and gas money to drive long distances to pick up cheap or free meat.
As for raw diets being easier than kibble, that is most certainly a lie, or at the very least, a stretch of the truth, when it comes to homemade diets. The only effort that goes into feeding kibble is buy, scoop, and feed. A commercial/pre-made diet pretty much only adds one more step to that: thaw. This is why commercial/pre-made raw might be a better option for those owners that do not have the free time or extra freezer space to feed a homemade raw diet.
There is much more involved in feeding a homemade raw diet than any commercial diet, though. Buying and portioning bulk orders can be very time consuming. Buying large freezers to store raw food will not only take away some of your free time while you find one to buy, find out how to get it home, and find a place to put it, but it will also add a little bit onto your electric bill. Balancing a raw diet can require a lot of time, effort, and research, research, research!! Feeding raw is not nearly as easy as feeding kibble, and owners should be aware of exactly how much else goes into a homemade raw diet before they make the decision to switch. People that go into raw expecting it to be so much cheaper and easier than what they already feed are more than likely just going to back out and switch back to kibble after they realize that they weren’t told the whole truth.
Many people point out that the decrease in vet bills should be taken into account when considering the cost of feeding a raw diet as well. However, switching to a raw diet should not be an excuse not to take your dog to the vet annually for a check-up. In fact, it is arguably more important to take a raw fed dog in for annual bloodwork, especially if you are feeding a homemade diet, in order to make sure you are not causing any nutritional deficiencies.
It is too difficult to feed raw
That last section may have made it seem like feeding a raw diet will be like having another full-time job. That is not entirely the case. There are ways to make raw feeding easier and more convenient.
First of all, commercial raw diets are very convenient and much easier than homemade. There is no math involved, no research into making sure you’re balancing the diet correctly – just buy, thaw, and serve. The downside to commercial diets is cost, but there are some brands such as Vital Essentials that offer the option of cheaper 2 to 5 pound “chubs”, which basically just need to be thawed and portioned out into more manageable servings before feeding and/or re-freezing.
When it comes to homemade diets, they do require a bit of extra work than kibble or commercial raw. However, if you stay organized, it won’t be as overwhelming as it might seem at first. Although your days off might turn into your bulk order portioning days, if you spend the time portioning meals into easy-to-serve containers, you’ll be able to just thaw and serve. That is, until you run out and have to portion more again, of course. You just have to decide if the extra time and effort is worth the benefits of homemade raw, such as cost, or knowing exactly what ingredients you’re feeding your dog and where they came from.
Some people find the middle ground between commercial and raw foods by feeding both – raw when they can, and commercial when they have to. For instance, maybe they’ll feed commercial during the week, and homemade during the weekends. This is a great solution as well, and it works with many people’s busy schedules, but still allows them to add as much homemade raw to their dog’s diet as possible. This would also be easier on people with limited freezer space.
Bones are dangerous
One of the most common reactions you might get from veterinary professionals when you tell them you feed raw meaty bones is that feeding bones to your dog is dangerous. As long as you feed the correct amount of bones, and you feed the appropriate sized raw meaty bones based on your dog’s size and eating habits (gulper vs. careful eater), you should not have a problem.
Raw bones also do not splinter like cooked bones do. Raw meaty bones that are meant to be fed as part of a raw diet should also not be dense enough to crack a dog’s teeth. Weight-bearing “recreational” bones, such as femurs, definitely carry that risk – there’s a reason why they’ve gained the nickname “wreck” bones, because they can wreck teeth! – but appropriate raw meaty bones such as turkey necks or chicken leg quarters (or chicken necks/wings for smaller dogs) should not crack teeth.
Although raw meaty bones are great for your dog’s teeth and gum health and provide most of the source of calcium in a homemade raw diet, if you are still worried about feeding bones, you actually aren’t required to; a homemade raw diet can still be balanced without raw meaty bones as long as you include supplements to make up for it. You can substitute the bone requirements in a homemade diet with the correct amount of bone meal powder, dried ground eggshell powder, calcium carbonate, or calcium citrate. When feeding a homemade diet that doesn’t include raw meaty bones, you should be substituting the bones with about 900 milligrams of calcium per pound of food. (Half a teaspoon of dried ground eggshell contains about 900 milligrams.) Also, the ground commercial and pre-made options mentioned earlier are available that are already complete and balanced, so you don’t need to add raw meaty bones if you don’t want to.
Raw diets can give your dogs parasites and salmonella
Yes, obviously raw meat can in fact contain parasites. However, part of feeding a raw diet involves taking steps to avoid feeding potentially infected meat. Your dog should also get regular fecal tests to check for parasites, regardless of if your dog is being fed raw or kibble, as part of his or her annual check-up.
Meat sold for human consumption should not contain parasites. Wild game (such as venison or wild caught fish) should be frozen for 2 weeks in order to make sure any parasites the animal had are killed by freezing. When feeding wild game, it is also important to be aware of any diseases that might be going around in the wild population in the area the animal was killed. It is also helpful to check the organs of the animal for abnormalities before feeding.
A healthy dog’s digestive system will be able to handle the normal amount of salmonella that raw meat contains. Even kibble-fed dogs shed salmonella bacteria in their feces. However, if your dog is immunocompromised, talk to your vet before switching to a raw diet to be on the safe side.
It is also commonly said that raw diets can cause humans to be infected with salmonella. Yes, this is true. However, as long as you practice safe meat handling and sanitation, and you don’t go around licking your cutting boards or eating your dog’s feces, you will be fine. But again, if you or someone in your household is immunocompromised, you do need to be extra cautious, and talking to your doctor to weigh the risks wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Raw diets make dogs aggressive/bloodthirsty
Changing a dog’s diet will not make it aggressive or bloodthirsty. However, this myth may have stemmed from the fact that since raw meat is so much more of a high-value food item to most dogs than kibble might be, these dogs may display resource guarding over their raw food, even though they did not react in such a way with kibble. This doesn’t mean that it is the diet’s fault, it just means the dog is thinking, “wow, this is better than what I usually get, I don’t want anyone to take it away!” These dogs will typically behave the same way when given other high-value treats; resource guarding is certainly not exclusive to raw.
Raw diets also do not increase prey drive or make it more likely that your dog will attempt to chase or kill small animals. Prey drive exists in kibble fed dogs, and the amount of prey drive a dog has does not have anything to do with their diet, but much more to do with their breed or how they’ve been trained. Many kibble fed dogs excel in sports such as lure coursing, which involves channeling a dog’s natural prey drive. Raw fed dogs are not any more likely to try to chase, or even kill, prey items than a kibble fed dog would be.
There is only one “right” way to feed raw
There are many options when it comes to balanced raw diets, and there is not one specific “right” or “wrong” way. Many would argue that their way is best for all dogs, but the fact is, not all dogs are the same – each dog has different requirements based on its activity level, metabolism, age, weight, health issues, etc. And not only that, but not all owners are the same either. We all have different lifestyles, budgets, living situations, etc.
Some people might be able to spend more time preparing a homemade raw diet for their dogs, and that is fantastic. However, other people’s busy schedules or limited freezer space might make commercial or pre-made raw, or even feeding just a partial raw diet, a better choice. There are also the people that do not put in the correct amount of research in order to feed a correct and balanced raw diet. For those people, feeding a diet that is already complete and balanced, without any effort involved on their part, would be best for the sake of their dog’s health.
Basically, if you are feeding a balanced diet that is working for you and your dog, you are doing it right.
The only way to feed a raw diet the wrong way is to feed an incorrect and unbalanced raw diet. Diets that are not balanced can cause serious health issues, and even have the potential to be fatal. It is incredibly important to do your best to provide a balanced diet to your dog. If you can’t, switching back to commercial foods would be a better option, even if that means switching back to kibble, for the sake of your dog’s long term health.
A balanced diet is just meat, bone, and organ
While it is true that meat, bone, and organ can be a balanced diet, this can be misleading, and even potentially dangerous, if it is not elaborated on. For instance, a diet of meat, bone, and organ that is comprised solely of chicken will not be a balanced diet. Meat, bone, and organ is the backbone of prey model feeding, but it is not the only requirement.
A balanced prey model diet requires as much variety as possible in order to provide adequate nutrients. Red meat is also very important, and should ideally be the majority of the diet. A diet that contains at least 3-4 different protein sources should be the absolute minimum. Fish oil is also important in order to make up for the low levels of omega-3s in conventionally farmed meat (vs. wild game).
If you are worried that you aren’t providing enough variety or balance, supplements might be in order. Multivitamin supplements, such as Canine Complete, Nupro, or B-Naturals Daily Blend can be added to a diet in order to insure the diet is not lacking. However, don’t use supplements as an excuse to start slacking with the diet as a whole. The diet should still contain correct percentages of meat, bone, and organ, and as much variety as you can possibly provide. Adding a multivitamin to a diet still doesn’t mean that the diet will be automatically balanced regardless of what else the diet consists of.
You cannot feed kibble and raw together
The kibble/raw myth seems to spread like wildfire, yet it is still unknown from where or why this misinformation became such a strict “rule” of raw feeding.
Although I have witnessed many people in Facebook groups and online forums warn against feeding raw and kibble together – claiming that the differing digestion rates will “trap” the raw behind the slowly-digesting kibble, causing bacteria in the raw meat to sit in the stomach for too long which will potentially harm your dog – I have never seen this claim backed up, but rather, have just seen it spread around by someone-that-heard-it-from-someone-else. Scientifically, this theory doesn’t make sense; the digestive system just doesn’t work that way. In fact, the canine digestive system is built to handle large amounts of bacteria. Not only that, but the longer something stays in the stomach, the more time it has to break down; adversely, something that passes too quickly through the digestive system may not get enough time for the nutrients to be utilized completely.
There is nothing inherent to all kibble or all raw foods that would influence a generalization one way or the other, and no logical reason to support what seems like more of an “old wive’s tale” than a scientific fact. When we eat a meal (sushi for example) composed of raw fish, grains, and veggies, we never “worry” about the fish sitting in our stomach too long. The same principle should be applied to our pets. Mixing raw and kibble is no different than mixing liquids and solids or high fat and low fat dietary components. Likely, this misinformation was started by strict raw feeders as a way to discourage newcomers from continuing to feed kibble.
Don’t let this deter you from feeding a diet of kibble and raw if that is what works best for you and your dog. Mixing raw and kibble is a common and effective way to feed, and has been successfully practiced for years by countless pet owners. It would be unrealistic to assume that every owner could switch to a completely raw diet. The more raw you can provide, the better, even if that means you have to feed raw alongside kibble.
Raw is best because it’s what wolves eat
This myth is busted and explained extensively in one of my previous articles, which you can find by clicking here.
Basically, we should not try feed our dogs like wolves, because dogs are not wolves. They have indeed changed since they were domesticated, including their ability to digest starch. It has not yet even been proven what wild ancestor dogs originated from, and more and more research seems to point out that dogs are more closely related to each other than they are to wolves. Therefore, feeding raw because “it’s what wolves eat” is not the way to look at it. Dogs are dogs, and each dog has different dietary needs. Ruling out certain things because “they wouldn’t get them in the wild” is unnecessary, and only serves to restrict your dog’s diet. Keep an open mind and find what works best for your dog – even if that means adding supplements, dairy, or fruits/veggies.