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Frequently Asked Questions about Raw Diet for Dogs

....your questions answered

Q - My vet says feeding bones will kill my dog

A - This is a common belief among Vets, as many a Vet has had to remove a cooked bone from a dog's stomach and they automatically seem to believe all bones are bad. Vets get approximately 4 hours of nutritional training during 5+ years of vet school and those lectures are sponsored by pet food manufacturers. As a result, most Vets are ignorant when it comes to raw feeding which is why it helps to say you feed a homemade diet if they ask. Vets will blame everything on raw if the dog is fed raw and then they don't look for what's really wrong with your dog.

Q - My puppy keeps trying to swallow his food whole!

A - Some dogs who have never come across raw food before can get a little confused or over-excited and some may even try to swallow the food whole. Ideally, particularly in the beginning, feed large enough pieces that can't be swallowed whole, or alternatively hand feed by holding onto one end of the portion until the dog gets used to chewing it properly. This is something particularly important with puppies in the beginning. With dogs that might be possessive about their food, hand feeding is a great way to reassure them.

Q - Why do you say no vegetables or dairy?

A - The prey-model diet ensures that the dog acquires the optimal balance of bone, organ and meat. In fact, latest studies on wolves and wild dogs have determined that contrary to previous belief, wolves and dogs shake out the contents of the stomach before eating the highly prized stomach (tripe) rather than eating the contents as well. No vegetables or dairy are therefore needed as the prey model diet approximately mimics the kind of carcass your carnivore would be consuming in the wild if it were hunting for its own food, such as rabbits or birds etc.

Q - My dog keeps vomiting his food

A - Usually (if there is no underlying medical condition) vomiting indicates that the stomach is rejecting the food because it can't handle it. Usually, this is when there are any of these factors:

  •  too much food - feed smaller amounts over more meals
  •  too much fat - reduce fat and skin content
  •  too much bone - reduce bone content
  •  pieces swallowed are too large - this is the most common cause because the dog gets over-excited at his new food. As above, hand feed large pieces instead so that they gnaw on it whilst you hold the other end until they relax that this is their new food now.

Also, with dogs that have been fed kibble for many years, their stomach acid is often a little bit weaker, thought to be because carbohydrates don't need as much acidity to be digested. Try feeding smaller amounts, more often, while they adjust.

Q - My dog got a mix of diarrhoea and constipation from raw, why is that?

A - A dog that gets both diarrhoea and constipation is most likely from too much fat and too much bone - for example a pig’s foot that is both very bony and very fatty, or a duck carcass which is also bony/fatty. Some dogs can tolerate this for occasional meals, yet new to raw dogs and/or dogs with sensitive constitutions can't, so always feed according to the health of your dog.

When monitoring your dog's stool, bear the following in mind:

  • Too much bone = constipation (some dogs can only have 10% bone or less, some as much as 25% - each dog is different)
  • Too little bone = loose stools
  • Too much organ = loose stools (introduce organ nice and slowly)
  • Too much fat/skin too soon = loose stools (build up fat and skin content nice and slowly)

As discussed in the rawfeeding guide, the approximate ratios to build up to are 80% muscle meat, fat, sinew / 10% edible bone / 5% liver / 5% other organ). So monitor your dog's stools until you get the ratios just right for your dog.

Q - My dog just doesn't like raw! What can I do?

A - It's quite common actually, especially with older dogs who have only ever known kibble their entire lives. Some don't like the 'wet, squidgy' texture of raw after their hard kibbles. There are several options:

  • Try a different meat type to start off with.
  • Sear it very lightly in the pan, not enough to cook it, just enough to give it that cooked smell and texture, then gradually reduce the amount of searing over the course of several days/weeks.
  • Feed it very slightly frozen/partially thawed and then gradually decrease the ratio of frozen.
  • Grind it for an interim period, and use gravy etc to flavour, so they get used to the texture of raw yet still with tempting gravy.
  • Tough love (unpopular with owners, yet unlike a cat, a dog will not starve itself, it will eat what is given eventually).

The options are endless really. Dogs that refuse raw are usually objecting to the texture and strange smell. Some of the tougher meats like mutton can overcome the texture issue, as does searing in the pan etc. Experimentation is the key, to see what works for your dog.

Q - My vet says my dog will get worms and parasites from feeding raw

A - Yes, there can be parasites in raw meat. The parasite issue is something that Vets use as a scare tactic, telling you that your dog is going to die if it eats raw meat because it will get a weird parasite. They neglect to tell you the very low incidence of these parasites in meat reared for the human market; nor do they tell you the most "deadly" of these parasites come from things like infected sheep placentas or stillborn calves. Simple solution, do not feed those things to your dog. If the dog looks like it has parasites, simply get a stool sample or blood sample taken.

Freezing meat can help kill many parasites (such as the parasite present in salmon that CAN cause a deadly disease in dogs; freezing fresh raw salmon, steelhead, trout, and other salmonids for at least 24 hours before feeding effectively disposes of the parasite). As long as one exercises caution in obtaining their meat, parasites are a non-issue.

Worms thrive more on a carbohydrate laden diet than they do on prey-model raw. If you are worried about worms, do a fecal test and if positive your dog can be wormed holistically. Generally speaking, if your dog has a healthy immune system, it can deal with these parasites before they even get a chance to establish themselves. Parasites hate a very healthy host.  We have found this to be very true through our work at K9 Rescue and once we get the dogs onto raw food, worms are a thing of the past.

Q - My vet says my dog will get Salmonella poisoning and other bacteria from feeding raw

A - Dogs are surprisingly well-equipped to deal with bacteria. Their saliva has antibacterial properties; it contains lysozyme, an enzyme that lyses and destroys harmful bacteria. Their short digestive tract is designed to push through food and bacteria quickly without giving bacteria time to colonize. The extremely acidic environment in the gut is also a good bacteria colonization deterrent. Vets often point to the fact that dogs shed salmonella in their faeces (even kibble-fed dogs do this) without showing any ill effects, as proof that the dog is infected with salmonella. In reality, all this proves is that the dog has effectively passed the salmonella through its system with no problems. Yes, the dog can act as a salmonella carrier, yet the solution is simple - do not eat dog faeces and wash your hands after picking up after your dog.

Add to this that there has been research done showing that dogs do not carry Salmonella in their saliva or on their skin, not even after eating 100% Salmonella infected raw food! But, when they do eat Salmonella infected food, about one third of them will show a moderate concentration of Salmonella in their faeces - yet no clinical signs of being sick.

As vet Dr Tom Lonsdale writes: "I put forth that it is the kibble, not the raw meat, that causes bacterial problems. Kibble in the intestine not only irritates the lining of the bowels but also provides the perfect warm, wet environment with plenty of undigested sugars and starches as food for bacteria. This is why thousands of processed food-fed animals suffer from a condition called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO. Raw meaty bones, however, create a very inhospitable environment for bacteria, as RMBs are easily digestible and have no carbohydrates, starches, or sugars to feed the bacteria."

Q - Doesn't feeding dogs a raw diet simply increase the demand for factory farming?

A - Not if you are creative and make an effort to find suitable sources of food. Wherever possible try to feed 'second grade' meat which is meat that is either not approved for human consumption or undesirable (such as some organ meats etc) yet it is approved for animal consumption and would normally go into pet food anyway. It's a bit more difficult in some poorer countries where many of the parts that are seen as 'not fit for human consumption' in the West, are sold for soups etc, however there is still plenty available if you ask local butchers or wholesalers. Also go direct to farms, especially small scale organic farms who may be more approachable and whose waste meats will be of a higher nutritional value. The easiest approach is probably to explain that you 'Make Your Own Dog Food'. In the UK, some EU countries and USA, there are specialist companies that buy 'second grade' meat and bones and sell it to pet raw feeders, either as it is or turned into ready packaged raw meals.

Q - Are the E-numbers listed on supermarket processed chicken safe for my dog?

A - Some meat, often chicken portions (legs, quarters, breasts) can be "enhanced", which basically means tumbled in phosphates so that it absorbs more water and hence greater saleable weight. Some dogs can tolerate these additives fine; some may get upset digestion/itchy skin from it. Try to avoid these meats wherever possible. These additives are usually listed as E numbers so check labels. Avoid labels that contain any E numbers.

Q - The meat I had in the fridge wrapped in plastic cling film has become 'slimy' and doesn't smell so good even though it is in date, is that safe for my dog?

A - As a general rule, try to avoid storing meat in plastic. If it is bought or thawed in plastic, remove the plastic as soon as you can to allow the meat to breathe. This is in fact also good advice for meat we are going to consume ourselves! Plastic creates unnatural bacteria that a dog's stomach is not designed to cope with natural bacteria from old meat stored naturally on an open plate or in a glass covered dish for example are absolutely fine for dogs even if it smells ripe to us!

Q - What can I use for training treats?

A - Anything meat or fish based such as cubes of meat, organ or even fish such as baby herring or whitebait - for easy handling cut meat into small strips, then place on a wire mesh tray and place in the oven on the lowest temperature setting and leave it to cook/dry out for several hours until dry, then place in a glass jar. They do not need to be refrigerated - you can put them in your walking coat pocket and keep there for weeks. The dogs love them - they're crunchy and they keep coming back for more!

For more frequently asked questions please visit: www.rawfed.com/myths