I want to talk a little about raw feeding and the myths surrounding it.  I also want to offer a little more supportive evidence as to what I deem to be the ideal way to feed a dog providing your pet is NOT sick or elderly.

A lot of the resistance about the raw food diet for dogs (and cats) comes out of the myth-building of opponents, something that can either derive from an extensive culture of fear around raw foods in general or something that can come from those pushing a largely commercial, largely dry dog food diet.

As we’ve been exploring here for a while now, there are many reasons to resist that largely commercial, largely dry dog food diet as well, with more and more evidence emerging as to the relative vicariousness of its product lines and the unreliability of its finished products.

Dietary Needs

When it comes to our pets, they have certain dietary needs. They have evolved a certain way and have become domesticated, which means that they no longer hunt for their prey and no longer consume “whole” animals as a result. This sets up certain other needs, like fiber and other natural sources of vitamins, minerals, fats, and so on, that a dog needs in order to have the proper nutritional balance.

The lion’s share of commercial brands out there plainly neglect to meet those nutritional needs. What’s more, they provide other byproducts that dogs (and cats) don’t need. These byproducts include colors, additives, chemical components, grains, processed food products, preservatives, and other surprises that do more harm than good. We all know that feeding a dog a diet that consists mostly of these byproducts does him or her no favors over the long haul.

Sadly, many domesticated dogs are still being fed cheap forms of commercial dog foods and the raw food diet for dogs is knocked to the sidelines.

Raw food diet myths persist, just like a lot of other cultural myths, because many people fail to educate themselves properly and simply go with the status quo.

The Bacteria Myth

One of the biggest myths out there is that raw food diets are unhealthy because of the bacteria potential.

Let’s get it out of the way: yes, there is the potential for bacteria in a raw food diet. Improper handling of food, any food, can draw out that potential. It’s no different when you’re handling raw meat for yourself or your dog.

You take precautions to clean and sanitize the surfaces, utensils, etc.  You wash your hands thoroughly and place your dog’s bowl in the dish washer daily to sanitize it.  If we are careless with what we feed our dogs, whether through a raw food diet or through adopting a commercial diet, we have the potential to do harm.

But the raw meat in most available raw food diets is USDA inspected, meeting national standards for quality. If you follow safe food handling instructions, you will eliminate the risk of contamination.

Plus, if you’re uncomfortable feeding totally raw, you can also look into feeding foods that freeze dry or dehydrate the raw meat and include it in with a nice variety of other healthy ingredients.

The Omnivore Myth

Another persistent myth is that dogs are omnivores and this drives me absolutely nuts!

It follows, then, that the raw food diet for dogs is against their evolutionary make-up. This is simply not true. Dogs ARE carnivores FIRST, as we’ve explored in detail elsewhere. The myth that dogs are omnivores has led to a number of changes in how dogs are fed, including the adoption of vegan diets which I am NOT a fan of at all unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary and I have never encountered a dog with any condition that I would say should be a vegan!

In my opinion, this is a very reckless way to feed a dog.

The Domestication Myth

Another myth is that dogs have been domesticated for so long that they’ve adapted effectively to mass produced dry foods. The particular myth is pushed pretty hard, because large producers of dry food count on you to believe this and believe that this is a healthy way of feeding by itself.

Dogs have been bred selectively by humans for thousands of years for various purposes, but the commercial kibble diet has only existed for about a hundred years. Couple that with the notion that commercial food diets have led to a number of health concerns, not to mention extensive recalls, and you’ve got a recipe for dispelling that myth.

The Specification Myth

A final myth worth dispelling is that of breed specificity. Opponents of the raw food diet often cite the fact that different dog breeds have different food requirements, leading to a propensity of so-called “designer diets” on the market for small dogs and larger dogs.

The only real difference worth paying attention to has to do with the amount of food that one should feed his or her dog, not the type. The physiology and nutritional needs, on balance, is the same between breeds.

The raw food diet, done properly, can meet those needs.

RAW IS THE HEALTHIEST WAY TO FEED A DOG — BUT, DON’T ATTEMPT TO DO IT WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING HOW. THERE’S MORE TO IT THAN THROWING RAW MEAT IN A BOWL!

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Showing 6 comments
  • Wendy
    Reply

    Hi Janie,

    Thanks for your article about raw foods compared to kibble. One question though; is it also ok to feed raw hamburger (or ground beef). I wonder about the possible contaminants in it as well as about the fat content. How much beef fat is ok?

    On a related note; we run a dog and cat boarding kennel and people bring their own food. It often saddens me greatly to see what I am to feed these animals. Many brands of kibble are SO lacking in nutrition. We have two yellow labs in, separate owners, both eating the same popular brand of kibble with the first ingredients being corn, corn gluten, I think, animal bi-products, wheat gluten etc. One lab has no energy and never playful. The other has ongoing ear problems so visits the vet regularly for that and other issues.

    I told the owner about the ingredients being worse than useless to their dogs’ health and that vet trips are a costly outcome. She didn’t know the food was poor quality. That was the brand the breeder fed where they got their dog as a pup so they figured that was the best to feed – for years! Sometimes it’s a question of cost for an owner but, sometimes it’s just trusting manufacturers and vets to know what’s best. Some of the vet kibbles smell like floor sweepings to me and the ingredient list is not much better.

    I tend to be on the lookout for kibbles that are better alternatives to some of the really low quality ones they bring in with their pet but, not cost too much – and sometimes less than what they have been paying. It’s not the best diet but, maybe a step up from what they have been feeding.

    My plan now is to write up a big board, to hang on the wall, of food information for people to possibly read while waiting for their dog.

    • janie knetzer
      Reply

      Hi Wendy:
      Not sure what you mean about possible contaminants in raw ground beef, unless you mean bacteria and if that’s the case, I wouldn’t worry at all. Many recipes are developed by holistic vets such as Dr. Pitcairn using raw ground beef and it’s no different than any other raw protein source. Regarding the fat content, I wouldn’t worry about that either unless you have an over weight dog and then you may want to go a little leaner on the ground beef.

      I’m happy to hear that you’re educating your customers Wendy. Good job. I would emphasize all the negatives about feeding cheap brands loaded with corn and other grains:
      chronic ear and skin problems
      chronic stool problems
      anal gland issues (scooting)
      constant gas
      belching and burping
      lack of energy
      coat problems
      depression & temperment
      etc.

      I also recommend that you consider selling some of the better brands of foods on site so that they can take it home with them immediately. Include a good canned meat source as well like Wellness Ninety Five Percent. While I don’t like to recommend kibble of any kind, I realize that no matter what, there will always be those that are going to feed it, no matter what. So, with that in mind I recommend that you also take a look at my list of some of the better foods to give you some guidance. This list will soon be changing to include only one or two kibbles amongst different formulas.

      I hope this helps Wendy.
      Janie

  • Jodie Bacque
    Reply

    As much as I want to try this for my dog, I don’t know where or how to begin! 🙁 The information I have looked at online is quite intimidating.

    • janie knetzer
      Reply

      Hi Jodie:
      I realize how intimidating and confusing feeding raw can be. You do have several options though that will give you and your dog the best of all worlds. You can feed a commercially balanced prepared raw food which is typically sold in patties, nuggets, etc. Take a look at Primal, Natures Variety, Answers and Bravo!

      You can also mix it up a bit for your dog by feeding one of the above raw foods say 3-4 days a week and then using a food like Preference made by The Honest Kitchen and all you do is add warm water to it and then add your raw meat. Maybe another day you could include GREEN Tripe mixed with the Preference (Tripett is a good brand). Remember that tripe should always be green and never white which means it was bleached. Also, tripe stinks and dogs LOVE IT! I hope this helps Jodie.

      Janie

  • Claire
    Reply

    Hello. Wow, what a find! I need so much information and I think I may find it here. Meg has recently been diagnosed diabetic following two years of on-off-on steroid prescriptions for skin and ear infections, despite my best efforts to take care of her as per the vet’s instructions. She was tested for Cushings in January and the results came back negative. She also wasn’t diabetic in January. Right now I can’t get a straight answer from anyone, except one vet who wants to “save [me] a lot of money and heartache” (no mention of how Meg feels about it! We are still careening from diarrhoea to constipation and puddles and leaks and a lot of wind. Can you please tell me what I’m doing wrong and what I have to do to keep my Meg happy and healthy? She is 14 but most days she’s bouncy and mischievous, other days she is sad and grumbly. I feed her a mix of raw mince (forbidden!) boiled chicken, rice which she manages to leave in the bowl, Butchers Tripe mix (from a tin, no idea what colour that was when it went into the mix! but it’s grain-free) and Gourmet cat food . . . actually, she steals that from Chloe. I know I have rambled but I wonder if you might have some advice, please and thank you.

    • yourolddog
      Reply

      Hi Claire:

      I’m so sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Very busy couple of days.

      Anyway, I’m also sorry to hear about Meg. Stories like yours are what yourolddog.com is all about. I would completely dump the diet you are currently feeding, including the cat food. Avoid allowing her to eat it if at all possible, please. Instead of recommending a completely home prepared diet for Meg, I’m recommending that you look into the dehydrated dog food called Pure Pet Food which is out of the UK. You simply add fresh, warm water (I prefer to microwave it until very warm). You can read their reviews here.

      I would start here Claire and see if this helps what I believe could be a reaction to food, and the use of steroids over the past couple of years that have most likely helped to weaken her immune system. If you can swing it, one of the best products you can buy for dogs like Meg is our Repair & Strengthen. It is designed for dogs with leaky gut, yeast and food allergies. I realize you’re in the UK, but it may be worth checking into for you.

      Please stay in touch and let me know how things go for Meg. I recommend staying away from vaccines and chemical related flea and tick products.

      Hope this helps.

      Janie

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