Common Misconceptions About Raw Diets: A Realistic View

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.

Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons
Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons

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.

Advertisements

31 thoughts on “Common Misconceptions About Raw Diets: A Realistic View

  1. I raw feed and find it cheaper than kibble, I have a cheap freezer bought second hand. Its not hard work at all, But I am in the UK and think we have lots more raw suppliers that the USA. I spend £1.50 a day on feeding 7 dogs. Although this article has some good advice a lot of rubbish

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My 3 raw fed dogs also eat much cheaper than kibble. This is because the kibble I was buying was the highest quality available (Acana and Orijen,) and it was incredibly expensive. I was spending about $15 per pound for kibble and, well, it was still just kibble. Raw costs me under $60 a month for all three of my dogs.

      Like

      1. I feed Acana and Orijen. It is NOT $450 a bag. Not even close. While I would believe you could feed raw for less – let’s be honest about things, ok?

        Like

  2. I’ve been fixing raw/commercial for years. I’m still balancing for my dogs life stages. Was getting expensive for the particular ingredients and supplements I’m using. I’m making a change in what I prepare and not buying as much raw ingredients. I’m blending kibbles now with ‘The Honest Kitchen’ – ‘Preference’ and balancing protein and fat levels with the dry kibbles mixed with less raw ingredients. In otherwords – greens, fruit, protein etc with supplements they get their daily intake of complete meals.

    Like

  3. One of the first reactions, and certainly one of the more memorable, I received when I announced I would be switching my dog to raw was, “If you can’t afford dog food, you shouldn’t have a dog.” Of course, finances were not the reason behind my switch.

    A few months into raw feeding, we did realize that we were saving money. We had wonderful meat suppliers who offered amazing prices and excellent variety. Unfortunately, we recently moved and are still struggling to establish connections and find comparable meat sources.

    Like

  4. I have been feeding raw since i got my Sheltie, she weaned on raw, I also add veggies, raw eggs and fruit and yes raw bones, i also give Dinatachious earth with kelp on her tripe once a week, she is very healthy with lots of energy and pearly white teeth,stools are smaller too. Luv this diet.

    Like

  5. I’m from Malaysia and feeding raw is not cheap. Cost me a bomb but I like raw as I want my babies to eat real food not kibbles. Can you imagine eating the same thing day in day out. It can be so boring. My lab girl she has issue with skin problem even though on raw and hard core raw feeder advice me not to give her any fruits or veg, so I’ll be taking these two item out of her diet and see if her skin improve. Previously my golden boy was also having skin problem – acne under his chin and around his muzzle. I cleaned his muzzle and under his chin now with chlorhexidine and then dab with coconut oil diligently twice a day for about 3 months now and he is free of acne and his under chin’s hair has grown back. He still scratch his face but not as before till he bleeds and I continue to clean his face this way once a day now. In fact I added steamed vegs in my golden raw food. Also I finally managed to get my hands on raw green tripe consistently which previously I can’t so now I’ll see if it will fixed my furkids problem.

    Like

  6. As a new raw-feeder to the game, these tips and misconceptions brought into the light and seen in a realistic view, help out a lot. I am constantly fighting the battles of raw-feeding myths with many people. I love that you debunked each and broke them all down in an easily understandable way.
    Thanks for being a great source of raw-feeding tips and helpful blogs!

    Like

  7. I like how this is broken down by myth. I do not feed raw because of the amount of time spent. When people say they spend less on raw, they are not accounting for their purchase, research and prep time. For example, If you spend an hour a day preparing your dog’s food, then you have to include that in your cost. Even if it is accounted at minimum wage, that is an extra $7 a day. Saying raw is $2 or $3 a day is not realistic if this is not included. I am in no way against raw but want it to be represented realistically.

    Like

  8. I’ve been feeding raw for over 10 years now and I can honestly say, this “realistic view” is bunk for the most part and obviously endorsed by Purina, or some other poison supplier.

    Like

    1. Hi Shirley,

      This article was actually written by myself, also a raw feeder, with no affiliation with Purina or any other company. This article is not anti raw, and in fact is the exact opposite of that. If anything, it is biased more pro raw due to the fact that I am a raw feeder myself.

      Would you mind explaining why you feel this article is “bunk” or in any way associated with Purina? Did you happen to read the article in full?

      Thank you for your feedback.

      Like

  9. My friends Leonberger was fed on raw when he purchased him, sadly from 8 weeks he got stomach upset after stomach upset, the raw feeding has caused him permanent gastro problems, damaged his stomach lining and he now has to have a specially designed gastro veterinary diet for life as he was no longer absorbing nutrients or getting any benefits from his food, had he continued eating raw he would not have made 12 months of age. He’s now nearly 5 and healthy no thanks to raw feeding. Dogs require a lot more than just raw meat and bone and organ, if you feed this way correctly it is far more costly and time consuming and potentially more harmful to your dog. The reason dogs live longer now is not just because of improvements in veterinary although of course this plays a part but also because of the millions of pounds spent on research a good healthy Balanced diet for them, part of the reason that wild dogs die so young is due to poor nutrition so think again.

    Like

    1. I like this article very much. Seems very realistic and encouraging. From one online raw feeding site I was beginning to get the feeling that it was some type of cult with very obsessional views so much so I can not imagine a dog ‘in the wilds’ being able to follow.Some dont advocate chicken, some no fish.But I still have a query on raw green tripe. Some are saying definitely not, nothing good for a dog and another that its a miracle food. Because of skin problems, not solved by a raw diet, I have to be careful within a low range of variability- not so much horse meat, not too much chicken. probably no mutton or beef.Tripe seems to be Ok.About once a week I offer her Royal canine and when in kennels she has Royal Canine Skin food, which Id rather not (both cost and a disbelief that large scale processed foof can be the perfect diet) but it does seem that it is one food that seems to cut down scratching and licking. Still Have had a good two months with no tablets (now summer in New Zealand).

      Like

  10. I have fed raw for 5 years. Love the raw diet. Yes, lots of work and in our area, very expensive. For 4 Giants (3 Danes and a St Bernard) it was costing me between $700 and $900 dollars a month. Unfortunately, economical sources for raw in our area are drying up. Butchers are on the raw band wagon and now instead of giving away the scraps, they are selling them for up to $3.00 a pound.
    I have since switched to kibble and am fighting the fact that my dogs don’t like it and we struggle with pudding poop! Hate Kibble–wish I could continue with raw!

    Like

  11. Thank you for writing this well-thought-out article.

    I wonder whether the myth that feeding raw increases aggression arose from the 1996 Nicholas Dodman study showing an increase in territorial aggression in some dogs when fed a high protein kibble diet. (J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1996 Feb 1;208(3):376-9.) I have seen this in my own Australian Cattle Dog, and his breeder confirmed having seen it in some other dogs in her lines.

    In any event, Dodman did see a significant difference, but extrapolating this to a raw diet fed to all dogs isn’t appropriate.

    Like

  12. I atill not 100% sure if i should give my pup raw and kibble in the same meal. Im realy new into all this. Thought at first your not supposed to mix them at all. Now seems its ok. But was told not to give them at the same time and leave bout 8h between raw and kibble to let it digest. She eats kibble and wet food at the same meal. Loves her fryits and vegies in between. Looked at natures menu raw food as it gets good reviews. Would not make my own raw. Even if it is cheaper. For a simple reason. I am affraid to do more harm to her than good. As we all knowm different sources say different thing and not always truth.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s