Thursday, September 24, 2015

3 Dangers of Feeding Raw Dog Food

by Kimberly Gauthier, Keep the Tail Wagging

3 Dangers of Feeding Raw Dog Food

The raw feeding community is very exciting right now.  It began with press releases about the dangers of raw feeding last year.  This year, the targeted recalls that some are calling a witch hunt fired everyone up.  And I type this post as a webinar is being held about the dangers of raw feeding.
OMG! Enough is Enough!

I started feeding a raw food diet in April 2013 and our dogs have thrived on this diet. 

Gone are the days of strange rashes and obsessive paw licking.  I said “goodbye” to the constant vet bills for chronic ear infections.  I replaced dry dog food with two freezers stocked with raw meat for our four dogs.

I never looked back.

Benefits of Raw Feeding

The list of benefits that come with feeding a dog a raw food diet is long and impressive.  I’ve experienced all of this with our four dogs and more.
  • Clean, white teeth; fresher breath
  • Healthier weight
  • Healthy skin and shiny coat
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved immune system health (allergy relief)
  • Improved joint health
  • More energy
  • Smaller, less smelly poop
  • Fewer veterinarian visits

My success with raw feeding isn’t unique, but just because this diet works for me doesn’t mean that it’ll work for everyone.  If you’re interested in feeding your dog a raw food diet, I encourage you to do three things:
  1. Read a few books on the diet.  There are several on with great reviews that will introduce you to the diet while others go into further detail.

  2. Follow raw feeders.  I follow both raw feeders and holistic vets who promote raw feeding and home cooking for dogs.  This is a great way to learn the ins and outs of raw feeding from experienced dog lovers.

  3. Remember that all dogs are different.  As you delve into raw feeding, you’ll come across contradiction – veggies/no veggies, ground/whole, etc.  Not every manner or model of feeding raw dog food works for every dog.  Ultimately, you want to do what’s best for you dog.
3 dangers of feeding a raw food diet to your dog

1. Malnutrition

One of the dangers veterinarians are warning us about is the risk of malnutrition.  A dry food diet is created to be a balanced diet; when left to our own devices, we may find it difficult to feed our dogs a balanced diet that we make at home.  It’s not impossible, but the risk exists.

Raw dog food is 80% muscle meat, 10% organ meat (5% is liver), and 10% bone.  Pre-made raw obtains this balance in every meal.  Homemade diets strive to obtain this balance over time (a week, for example).

Signs of Poor Nutrition
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Dull coat and dry/flaky skin
  • Digestive issues
  • Compromised immune system, allergies
  • Lack of energy
  • Poor growth for puppies
  • Poor dental hygiene

2.  Broken Bones, Perforated Bowels

When I started feeding our dogs a raw food diet, I was hesitant about the bones.  If bones are too strong (or if you have a voracious chewer) the risk of a tooth breakage can increase.  And although raw bones are softer than cooked bones, when they splinter, they can do damage while going down, leading to a perforated esophagus or bowel.

I don’t believe these risks are common, but my concern prompted me to make a few rules.

  • No Weight Bearing Bones – our dogs aren’t allowed to chomp on weight bearing bones.  If a bone is strong enough to hold a 2,000 pound animal upright, then it’s too strong for our dogs. 

  • No Unsupervised Chomping – our dogs aren’t allowed to enjoy their raw bones alone.  I always give them bones under supervision, which has allowed me to know each dog’s chewing style and to keep Rodrigo from stealing and hoarding all the bones.

  • No Rib Bones – the only exception (so far) are lamb bones, which are a lot softer, in my experience, than beef and pork rib bones.  I put the kybosh on rib bones, because when Rodrigo would eat them, they’d splinter and he wasn’t chewing the bones into small enough pieces for my comfort level.
I prefer to give our dogs raw meaty bones: duck necks, turkey necks, and lamb necks.

3.  Bacteria

It’s said that dogs are built to handle more bacteria than humans.  That may be the case, but there still is a danger that I experienced firsthand.  I purchased a grocery cart full of chicken quarters (they were $0.49 a pound) and ended up throwing most of it away.

I learned from our veterinarian that the amount of bacteria allowed to grow on the chicken didn’t mesh well with our dogs, which resulted in explosive diarrhea and vomiting in three out of four dogs.   Also, since I had ground the chicken, I had mixed the bacteria all around, giving it more surface area for growth.  Freezing the chicken for a month didn’t work for us, so it was tossed.  Sucked!

Today, we buy our dogs’ food through a local co-op that sources the meat from humane and ethical farms and raw food brands.  We haven’t had a repeat of our experience with the grocery store chicken since switching to the co-op.

Raw feeding is one of many diet options for dogs.  

I’m one of those crazy raw feeders who believes it’s the best option; however, logic forces me to admit that it’s not for all people or all dogs. If you’re interested in learning more about raw feeding, take your time and do your homework.  There are plenty of books, e-books, and communities that will provide you with a lot of information.

Do not allow anyone to push you into raw feeding until you’re ready and don’t allow yourself to be made to feel bad should you decide that raw feeding isn’t appropriate for you and your dog.


Kimberly Gauthier is the blogger behind Keep the Tail Wagging, a blog about raw feeding, dog supplements, and raising littermates.  Kimberly and her boyfriend are raising two sets of littermates in the Pacific Northwest where they enjoy a property with plenty of room to run and explore.  Kimberly finished her first e-book on raw feeding called Raw Feeding from A to Z.  Rodrigo, Sydney, Scout and Zoey are all herding mix dogs, including Blue Heeler, Border Collie, Catahoula, Australian Shepherd, and Labrador (a lover, not a herder).

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