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Originally published January 2014, updated February 2018.
There have been many articles listing the risks of raw feeding to dogs and their humans. I agree that if we feed raw and never wash our hands, we may have a problem. However, most of the information in these articles is a crock. I readily point out that I'm not a pet nutritionist or a veterinarian, however, I don't think I need to be one to know how to wash my hands after handling raw meat. And after feeding a raw food diet to my dogs for several years (we started April 2013) and not getting sick, I think I know something.
But that doesn't mean that raw feeders don't make mistakes. In fact, I've made a few.
5 Raw Feeding Mistakes I've Made
1 – Believing Raw is Just Ground Beef
A diet of ground chicken or beef (or whole chicken) isn't what people have in mind when they suggest transitioning a dog to a raw food diet. A diet that only has a ground protein doesn't contain all the nutrients our dogs need.
To make sure I'm feeding a balanced diet to my dogs, I do the following:
- I start with a base of 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, and 10% organ meat.
- I make sure that I'm adding variety and I do this by alternating the main protein each week.
- And I then think about nutrients that aren't covered by meat alone, like Omega-3 fatty acids (sardines), iodine (kelp), and, in some cases, zinc (oysters).
It seems complicated at first, but you'll be amazed at how easy this can be once you secure sourcing and gain a better understanding of what your dog needs in the bowl.
2 – Mixing Raw and Kibble Together
I want to point out that mixing raw and kibble together isn't bad for all dogs. Many people do this with no issues, however, I believe that if you have a dog with a sensitive tummy, this diet combo may be too much. This was my experience with Rodrigo, my dog that has a history of digestive issues.
Here is what people say about mixing raw and kibble together:
Adding Fresh to the Bowl
It's a great way to add fresh food to the bowl; by swapping 20% of the kibble with fresh food (raw dog food or vegetables), you can decrease cancer rates in your dog.
- Study: Evaluation of the effect of dietary vegetable consumption on reducing risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers.
- Study: Purdue University Urinary Bladder Cancer Research
Mixing Raw and Kibble Offsets the Benefits of the Fresh Food
While some people are encouraging pet parents to add fresh food to the bowl, including raw dog food, others believe that this is a bad idea. The idea of switching to raw is to improve our dogs' health. If we're still feeding kibble, then we may be offsetting the benefits that raw brings to the bowl. Kibble promotes inflammation, it's difficult to digest, and the sourcing of the ingredients are questionable. Some feel that adding 20% fresh food to the bowl isn't enough to offset the downsides of feeding kibble.
Raw and Kibble Digest at Different Rates
I've heard two stories of why raw and kibble don't belong in the same meal. Some believe that raw and kibble digest at different rates (raw is digested faster). When raw dog food is mixed with kibble, it's held in our dogs' digestive tract longer, causing it to decompose inside our pups, making them sick. Another theory is that raw and kibble require different pH in the tummy, which is what creates the digestive upset.
3 – Believing All Raw Bones are Safe
After trying different bones with my dogs and reading stories of dogs breaking a tooth or being taken to the hospital because of raw bones, I decided to slow my roll. I would try bones with my dogs, watching how they chewed, and determine which were and weren't safe for my dogs. I learned that it's not enough to ask others what bones they're feeding because every dog is different.
My dogs primarily enjoy beef knuckle bones, buffalo knucklebones, lamb necks, duck frames, and duck necks.
4 – Adding too Many Supplements
When I began DIY raw feeding, the kitchen looked like the laboratory of a mad scientist. I was adding everything to their meals. Every time someone in a raw feeding group would make a recommendation, I ordered it immediately without having a clear understanding of the benefits to my dogs. Today, I can explain the method to my madness, I feed more whole supplements (like sardines instead of fish oil) to my dogs, and I feed fewer supplements.
Getting advice from other raw feeders is a valuable part of our training; however, we need to take that advice and do our own homework because every dog is different.
5 – Feeding Too Many Ingredients in One Meal
Raw feeding doesn't have to be complicated, but I found that I made it crazy complicated and nearly quit because I overwhelmed myself. Over the years, I calmed down, but this lesson never left. Mixing too many ingredients in a raw meal can result in a meal that is too rich for your dog. Especially when you're new to raw. I started slowly and worked up to what I feed my dogs today.
- Are Raw Goat Neck Bones Safe for Dogs?
- A Quail and Green Tripe Raw Food Recipe My Dogs Love
- 6 Ways Pumpkin Guts Can Boost Your Dog's Health
- DIY Fermented Fish Stock for Dogs
- Easy Raw Dog Food Recipe with Ground Quail
Raw Feeding Can Be Complicated
When I began looking into transitioning my dogs to raw, I was quickly overwhelmed by the number of options about models to follow, brands to choose, and the amount of work that went into DIY raw feeding. Then I found a few books on raw feeding that spoke to me and connected with a few raw feeders and veterinarians who were kind enough to help me.
There is a lot more to feeding raw than feeding our dogs raw, ground meat and a few bones we picked up at the grocery store or butcher. I think the biggest mistake we can make as dog owners is not doing our homework with our dogs in mind. Although I love sharing my experience with our dogs, it's important to remember that my dogs may not have the same experience as your dogs.
- A Novice's Guide to Raw Feeding for Dogs
- Keeping it Raw™, 100 Questions Pet Parents Have About Raw Feeding for Dogs
Definitely, learn from my experience, but don't stop there.
If you're interested in learning more about raw feeding in a more organized way, check out the online course Raw Feeding 101. You can take it at your own speed and the course takes you from transitioning to sourcing to DIY.