Fears About A Raw Diet


Because feeding a species-appropriate raw food diet is new to most of us, many people are understandably a little apprehensive about making the switch.  If you have some anxieties about switching your dog to a carnivore diet, read on!

Feeding raw - carnivore dietMany people are initially nervous about switching to a raw diet because they worry that their dog may choke on a bone. Choking is primarily caused by eating something that is too small. Carnivores don’t chew their food—instead they rip, tear, shred, and gulp—so sometimes they choke when eating something small, like a piece of kibble or a very small bone. When a dog eats appropriately sized raw meaty bones, they must spend time ripping the meat off the bone and scraping the cartilage and tendons off to separate the muscle from the bone. This slows down the rate at which they can inhale their food, significantly reducing the threat of choking (especially when compared to eating something like kibble).

Remember, too, that carnivores are able to regurgitate their food. Sometimes a dog may bring its food back up again if it hasn’t pulverized the food to a small enough piece; generally, it will just eat the food again after bringing it back up. This differs from vomiting and is no cause for worry.

IMG_2657Sometimes people worry that a bone may perforate their dog’s stomach or intestinal lining. As long as the bone is raw, this is not a cause for concern. Cooked bones may splinter and pierce the stomach lining, but raw bones are much softer and more flexible, and they do not splinter into pieces that can pierce.

Dogs should not be fed cooked meat and bones, only raw, so this is not an issue. When you first switch your dog to a raw diet, they may vomit up small pieces of bone. This should go away once they have adjusted to eating the new diet, and isn’t a reason to worry.

Many times, I have heard people express a concern that a species-appropriate raw food diet carries a high risk of salmonella and e. coli infection (or possibly some other bacterial infection). Bacteria such as salmonella and e. coli are naturally present, both in us and our dogs. An issue only arises when the salmonella or e. coli numbers get out of control, which creates an imbalance in animals or humans with weak immune systems. While raw meat and bones do contain these bacteria, kibble—and the meat you may prepare for your own meal—also do. Normal precautions, such as washing your hands thoroughly after handling and preparing your dog’s meal and cleaning the cutting surface, will ensure that these bacteria do not become an issue.

Washing Hands

IMG_2581Diarrhea and constipation are issues that can occur if our pets are fed too much bone (constipation), too little bone (diarrhea), or introduced too quickly to rich organ meat or a new protein source (diarrhea). They can also occur when a dog is transitioning off kibble or canned food onto a raw diet. In the case of constipation, decrease the amount of bone you’re feeding. Remember that one of the tenets of a successful raw diet is balance over time, which means that you can feed a bit less bone for a few days and then increase the bone percentage if needed when your pet’s stool has returned to normal.

Similarly, the idea of balance over time can help when transitioning a dog to rich organ meat or a new protein source. Until your dog has gotten established on a raw diet, introduce new proteins and organs slowly. And if your pet is transitioning from a processed diet, again, go slowly (for example, feeding only chicken for the first couple weeks) to allow their body time to start shedding out the toxins present as a result of feeding the kibble. Give them a chance to detox and move through the healing response before introducing new and richer protein sources.

Once the raw diet is established, you will find you can introduce variety more quickly. And remember the adage “Know thy dog.” Watch their stools, watch their demeanor, and watch how they react to various proteins and sizes of meals.

While you may still see occasional tummy upsets, you’ll be able to adjust what you are feeding to assist your dog through those upsets while still achieving balance over time.

One thing to keep in mind when you switch your dog to a raw diet is their stool will change. The stool of a raw-fed dog is much denser, more compact, and smaller than a kibble-fed dog’s. Raw-fed dogs also have to strain a bit more to get it out (which helps keep their anal glands clear). Sometimes people think that their dogs are constipated with a raw diet, when in fact they’re just eliminating much less frequently because their bodies can use almost everything in the food.

hardwired to eat raw meaty bonesDogs are hardwired to eat raw meaty bones, and switching to a raw diet does not lead to disease. If something occurs, it means the body was out of balance and this imbalance presented as pancreatitis or kidney disease (for example) when the body began to go through the healing response and throw off the toxins.

Healthy animals will not present with disease when switched to a raw diet. If a dog does exhibit disease symptoms when switched to a raw diet, it is important to stay with the raw diet to start giving the body the nutrients it needs to support and re-balance itself. If necessary, other modalities may be used to lend the body additional support.

Some people have told me that they think their dog may become vicious and aggressive eating a raw diet. They seem to think that their pet will develop a taste for blood and turn into a dangerous killer. In reality, though, raw-fed dogs are generally much calmer than their kibble-fed counterparts. This is because they’re getting the nutrients they need, they’re burning energy eating their food (they have to work at getting the meat off the bone and crunching through the bone), and the very act of eating taps into something primal and satisfying for them. There are plenty of reports of raw-fed dogs peacefully co-existing with other animals, even animals of the same species as what they are being fed.

raw-fed dogs are generally much calmer

IMG_2749Some people are initially reluctant to start their pets on a raw diet because they worry it may be too expensive or because they think it may be inconvenient. However, most people find that, after some practice and experimentation, feeding a raw diet is just as easy as feeding kibble. There are lots of resources available for finding high-quality meat at reasonable prices (we include customized information about where to find meat as a bonus in our packages!).

Because raw-fed dogs generally don’t have many of the health issues that a kibble-fed dog does, you save money in the long run on vet bills, teeth cleaning, and even things like anal gland expression.

Remember that health is not about convenience, it is about providing the body with the support it needs to keep itself in optimal health.

It is much more convenient to feed a raw diet than to constantly take your pet to the vet to deal with the issues feeding a processed diet causes. And ultimately, because raw meat, bones, organs, and glands are essential for carnivores such as your dog, feeding a species-appropriate raw diet can help your dog live longer and have a much greater quality of life while it is here.