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This blog post sharing the pros and cons of raw feeding was originally published in November 2014. It has been updated with new information and reposted. Thanks for reading.

Are you trying to determine if raw feeding is right for your dogs? Here is a list of pros and cons I've noted after more than eight years of feeding raw to my dogs.

Several years ago, a woman contacted me because she wanted to know the pros and cons of raw feeding.  She wasn't interested in being sold on the diet, she wanted to be educated. Because she was so clear about the information she needed, I gave this a lot of thought and this is my answer.

The Pros of Raw Feeding For Dogs

This part is easy for me because I'm a raw feeder and a big fan.

  1. easier to digest, the nutrients are easier to absorb
  2. improved gut health, immune system
  3. improved muscle mass, healthier weight
  4. improved joint health and mobility
  5. improved skin and coat health
  6. cleaner teeth and gums
  7. many raw fed dogs live longer, healthier lives
  8. reduced allergies and itchiness
  9. smaller, less smelly poop
  10. no more blood sugar spikes experienced when feeding kibble
  11. we have better control of the ingredients so we can avoid problematic foods
  12. we also know the sourcing of food, treats, and supplements
  13. the need for some medications may be eliminated
  14. some health issues may clear up or be easier to manage
  15. if you like to do homework, there's lots to learn
  16. more veterinarians are supportive of feed fresh food
  17. a large community of people who want to help, including experienced raw feeders, meal formulators, animal nutritionists, and veterinarians

The Cons of Raw Feeding for Dogs

It feels sacrilege to speak negatively about raw feeding, but – HEY! – it ain't for everyone and, to be honest, if I could afford to feed 100% commercial raw, I would in a heartbeat. Yeah, I do love learning about raw feeding, but think of all the extra time I'd have…anyway, here are the cons:

  1. commercial raw is expensive
  2. DIY raw feeding can be more affordable, but not for everyone
  3. sourcing ingredients for raw can be challenging for some
  4. DIY raw feeding can take a lot of time
  5. raw may require you to buy a dedicated freezer, meat grinder, and other gear
  6. raw bones do pose a risk for some dogs
  7. the amount of information (and new information) can be overwhelming
  8. there is a lot of incorrect information about raw feeding floating around
  9. your vet may not support your choice to feed raw
  10. other humans in the house may not support raw feeding
  11. not all dogs will transition to raw smoothly; some may not want to eat raw
  12. as with many industries, there are shady people who lie about their qualifications and take advantage of people who want to feed raw (be careful and do your homework before hiring someone)

Debunking Raw Feeding Myths

I switched to raw as a last ditch effort to avoid costly medications and veterinarian bills for Rodrigo. And, for my dogs, transitioning to raw was the best decision I've made. I started feeding raw in 2013 and I've never regretted the choice to switch my dogs to fresh food.

If you're trying to determine if raw is right for your dog, I hope that the following clarification on a few falsehoods floating around will help you with your decision. Please note that I'm responding to these myths using my personal experience as a guide.

1 – The Bacteria in Raw Food will Make Our Dogs Sick – FALSE

None of my dogs have gotten sick from eating raw dog food. Scout ate raw 99% of the time that he was in chemotherapy with no negative side effects. In fact, I'm convinced that a combination of raw, Chinese herbs, CBD oil, and supplements to support the immune system is why he went immediately into remission despite being Stage 3 and remained in remission.

Our dogs have a shorter digestive tract and a highly acidic gut. This means that they process food quickly, not leaving time for bacteria to set up camp. And any bacteria left behind doesn't fare well in a dog's gut. Also, dogs have properties in their saliva that kill bacteria too.

I live in a rural area of the Pacific Northwest and my dogs have snacked on the carcass of a dead rabbit, they've killed and eaten other critters, and a few of them have eating poop, unfortunately. All of my dogs are fine; no one ever got sick. This doesn't mean that I encourage my dogs to eat dead animals, hunt critters, or eat stool.

2 – Raw Dog Food isn't Complete and Balanced – FALSE

There are some people in the fresh food community who are telling the masses that many commercial brands and most DIY raw food diets aren't nutritionally balanced. I take issue with this because the people who say these things haven't tested enough brands to state this unequivocally. Whenever someone is spreading a message that instills fear or worries, I begin to look for what they're selling in its place.

I have my dogs tested to make sure that I'm meeting their nutritional needs. Or you can work with a meal formulator (hopefully not one who is spreading this myth) to help you create recipes using products available in your area and fall within your budget.

When it comes to feeding my dogs, I choose to balance the diet of my adult dogs over time. And, for puppies, I choose to feed a commercial raw or a hybrid diet of DIY and commercial raw to make sure they're getting all of the nutrients to support their rapid growth. My logic is that, in the wild, an adult dog would not be eating a balanced meal twice daily. There would be days when they fast as they hunt for prey and, even then, they may not eat the entire animal.

A few years ago, I began using a base mix by Dr. Harvey's, which helps me better meet my dogs' nutritional needs. However, instead of following the instructions on the bag, I choose to add the base mix to an 80/10/10 (muscle meat, organ meat, bone) blend of raw.

3 – Dogs Have Evolved to Eat a High Carb Diet and Grains – FALSE

It may seem that dogs have evolved to eat a high-carb diet, but this isn't the case. Dogs are primarily FED a high carb diet and this is due to convenience, not evolution. Dogs do not have a biological need for carbohydrates.

I receive requests to review pet foods and treats all the time and I turn most down because they contain ingredients that I don't think are appropriate for our dogs. When I think of dogs in the wild, I don't see them eating corn, potatoes, molasses, dried bakery products (yes, some kibble brands add crumbs and extras from pastries), and the other ingredients that are adding to kibble and some dog treats. Yeah, if I leave a cupcake or some fast food sitting on the coffee table, one of the dogs will take advantage, but that doesn't mean that they've evolved to eat the junk food.

Learning More About Raw Feeding

If you'd like to feed raw, but you're confused about where to start, you're not alone. I was there once too and what I found to be helpful was to find books that were easy to read and understand (some get way too complicated when raw feeding is really easy). Join raw feeding groups where the drama is low and the information and support are amazing. And connect with a local independent pet store that sells raw and an integrative veterinarian who supports raw feeding.

Doing these things made learning about raw so much easier.

Are you trying to determine if raw feeding is right for your dogs? Here is a list of pros and cons I've noted after more than eight years of feeding raw to my dogs.

Read More About Raw Feeding

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