Myths & Concerns about feeding raw:
Myth! Dogs are carnivores, not omnivores. Your dog’s impressive teeth are designed for grabbing, ripping, tearing, shredding, and shearing meat (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 258.). They are not equipped with large flat molars for grinding up plant matter. Dogs and cats have the internal anatomy and physiology of a carnivore (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 260.). Dogs have the shorter foregut and hindgut consistent with carnivorous animals. This explains why plant matter comes out the same way it came in; there was no time for it to be broken down and digested. Dogs do not normally produce the necessary enzymes in their saliva (amylase, for example) to start the break-down of carbohydrates and starches.
Myth! The only truth found in this statement is that humans have changed dogs through breeding. BUT, we have only changed their external appearance and temperament, NOT their internal anatomy and physiology. The result of feeding dogs a highly processed, grain-based food is a suppressed immune system and the underproduction of the enzymes necessary to thoroughly digest raw meaty bones (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones). This does NOT mean, however, that the dog does not “have” those enzymes. Those enzymes are present, and once the dog is taken off a grain-based diet those enzymes quickly return to the proper working level that allows for optimal digestion of raw meaty bones. In fact, dogs are so much like wolves physiologically that they are frequently used in wolf studies as a physiological model for wolf body processes (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation). Lastly, dogs have recently been reclassified as Canis lupus familiaris by the Smithsonian Institute (Wayne, R.K. “What is a Wolfdog?” www.fiu.edu/~milesk/Genetics.html), placing it in the same species as the gray wolf, Canis lupus.
Myth! It is possible to feed your dog completely balanced meals based on raw meat. We feed according to the prey model and provide variety. If you are feeding a variety of raw meaty bones and organ meats, then your diet will be balanced. Raw foods contain the exact proportions of fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes a dog needs.
Myth! 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. Although rare and unusual, the bacteria in raw meat might make your dog sick IF the dog already has an immunocompromised system or some underlying problem. The dog, plain and simple, can handle greater bacterial loads than we can.
Myth! There can be parasites in raw meat, but if you are getting meaty bones and carcasses from places fit for human consumption, the parasite factor is negligible. Most parasites are a non-issue and can be safely dealt with by your dog if it is healthy. There is a very low incidence of these parasites in meat deemed safe for human consumption. If the dog looks like it has parasites, simply get a stool sample or blood sample taken. A dog can be wormed holistically or allopathically (the chemical insecticide dewormers). Generally speaking, if your dog has a healthy immune system, it can deal with the parasites before they even get a chance to establish themselves. Freezing meat can help kill many parasites (such as the parasite present in salmon; 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.
Myth! Raw diet critics tout this myth as a main reason for not feeding raw. Yes, there is bacteria in raw meat. So if a raw-fed dog licks you, are you going to get sick? On the whole: no, you will not get sick. This bacteria does not persist in the mouth of a raw-fed canine. Canine saliva contains lysozyme, an enzyme that lyses and destroys bacteria, but more importantly, the absence of plaque from eating raw meaty bones means the dog’s mouth is no longer a hospitable place for bacteria to inhabit. As for dogs shedding bacteria in their feces: even a kibble-fed dog regularly sheds salmonella and other bacteria. The responsibility is the same, clean up after your dog, wash your hands after cleaning up after them, and you will not need to worry.
Myth! By nature the dog is a carnivorous predator. A dog that chases things (with or without killing them) is just being true to what it is: a dog. Feeding a dog meat is not going to turn a dog into some vicious animal that will attack every living thing that moves. With the domestication of livestock and introduction of smaller pets, hunting and killing on their own became undesirable. People bred and selected dogs that could coexist peacefully with such animals but still retained enough prey drive to do things like retrieve and herd. This is why dogs retrieve balls and chase toys and animals that move quickly. It is interesting to note that herding breeds have coexisted peacefully with the animals they herded without savaging or killing them, even while these dogs were fed raw meat and bones from the very same kinds of animals they were guarding. The dog is, by nature, a predator, and will chase other animals because it is hard-wired to do so, not because it is bloodthirsty or has a taste for meat in the human definition of the words. Feeding raw does nothing to change this. The dog should recognize the kids, the cats, and the small pets as a) part of its own family, and/or b) under the protection of the alpha leader (which should be you!). In all likelihood, you will see a calmer, happier pet that is more of a pleasure to be around—not only because he is not hyperactive from all the carbohydrates and additives in the kibble, but also because his breath will smell better and his coat will feel and smell softer and cleaner.
Myth! A raw diet is as convenient as you make it, but it will always be more work than pouring preformed pellets into a bowl. But your pet’s health should be much more important than convenience. Raw feeding can also be as expensive as you make it. It can be more expensive at first until you find a reliable source for meat. Do not forget about all the money you will save on vet bills and from the artificial chewies and toothbrushes and toothpastes for dogs (since you will not need those anymore). Buy in bulk. An extra freezer for your pet’s food is optional, but that one-time investment definitely helps cut costs dramatically, especially if you have more than one dog or cat!
Myth! This is a difficult issue that is guaranteed to offend some people, particularly those in the profession. Nevertheless, while veterinarians perform much-needed services for our pets, they receive very little nutritional training. The training they do receive is often advocated by or even administered by the pet food companies. Their nutritional training comes from the incorrect view that dogs are omnivores (see omnivore myth) and can safely be maintained on a grain-based diet, even when scientific research has proven that canines and felines have no evolved need for carbohydrates. Perhaps that is why pets today are suffering from a variety of ailments linked to carbohydrate-rich, processed food (cancer, diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, hyperactivity, seizures, etc.). In 2014, over $22 billion dollars was spent on pet food by the US market. The very institutions from which veterinarians receive their instruction are sponsored and taught by the commercial pet food companies. Simply put, vets are not educated in an unbiased manner on proper nutrition. Most veterinarians are highly qualified individuals; however, their qualifications are for surgery, conventional disease diagnosis and treatment, and conventional drug