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Raw Dog Food: The Myths, Facts, and Future of Raw Feeding for Dogs

Raw Dog Food Debate

To feed raw, or not to feed raw dog food, that is the question that plagues owners.  Unfortunately, this debate is not as easily solved as Coke vs. Pepsi (Coke, of course!).

The reason is simple.  Both sides have merit.

It was just six months ago that I made the decision to switch Sulley and Junior back to raw dog food.  [READ:  Raw Food: A Decision Every Big Dog Owner Should Weigh.]  I did not enter this raw feeding journey lightly.  It took me months of research before I felt confident enough to start Sulley on raw dog food at 11 weeks old.  And it took me 8 months to gain back my confidence after my failed attempt with Junior at 12 weeks.

My point is this, none of us started raw feeding our dogs on a whim.  Most spend months or even years researching, debating, and waffling back and forth.  Should I?  Should I not?

In preparation for writing this, I wanted to dive a little deeper into this very real internal (and external) conflict and why it is that some dog owners choose not to make the switch to raw dog food.


This post contains affiliate links from which I may receive a small compensation.  There is NO ADDED COST to you should you use these links. 


Facebook Survey on Feeding Raw Dog Food

Rather than making assumptions, I surveyed some kibble-feeding friends on Facebook to gather feedback on why they choose NOT to feed raw dog food.

As I address each of the following concerns, it is not my objective to convince kibble feeders to feed raw or to address the pros and cons of either diet directly or comprehensively.  I will leave that to the Dr. Karen Becker’s and Rodney Habib’s of the world.

My hope is that by sharing my experience and perspective, as one Big Dog Mom on a dietary journey, the widening gap will narrow between the two opposing sides of the raw dog food dilemma.

Because in the end, this is not a figurative battle between heads and tails, or in this case, raw versus kibble.  We are, in fact, two parallel sides of the same coin.  On the same team.

Welcome to Team Loving Dog Owner, a growing community of dog moms and dads who want the very best nutrition for their canine companions.

This is not a figurative battle between heads and tails, or in this case, raw versus kibble. We are, in fact, two parallel sides of the same coin. On the same team. Click to Tweet

Top 5 Arguments against Feeding Raw Dog Food

1. Raw Dog Food Takes Too Much TIME

Raw Dog Food
© 2019 Big Dog Mom, LLC

“Kibble is just so much easier.”

Time constraints top the list as the most common complaint about raw feeding.

It wasn’t that long ago that I worked full-time, was raising two young children, managing my household, AND raw feeding my sweet, silly puppy, Sulley.  Now replace a full-time job with a business, two slightly older kids in multiple sports and Cub Scouts, and I am even more stretched for time than I was when I was working outside the home.

We all have different life circumstances which determine our ability (or willingness) to add one more thing to our already overflowing plate.  But with the same 24 hours in a day, my guess is we could all find opportunities to improve how we spend that time.

Raw dog food does take more time than pouring kibble in a bowl.  There’s no doubt about that.

My raw dog food routine consists of monthly trips to my co-op to pick up food, breaking down the cases of meat into smaller, freezer-size portions (a.k.a. Cross Fit for Raw Feeders), thawing and planning their menu for the week, and weighing the food at every meal.

This may seem crazy to some of you, but with the exception of breaking down the cases of meat on co-op day (which is as enjoyable as doing my taxes), it is really not that bad.

2. Lack of Freezer SPACE for Raw Dog Food

“I just don’t have the freezer space.  I can barely fit our human food in there, much less hundreds of pounds of meat.”  

When I started feeding Sulley raw dog food, I did end up buying a second freezer.  It was not expensive to buy new and I know many people have picked up used freezers on sites like Craig’s List for less than $200.

For two Mastiffs, my second freezer provides more than enough space for their raw dog food and frozen food for a family of four.

3. Raw Dog Food is COSTLY and Difficult to SOURCE

Raw Dog Food Myths

“Cost is a big factor.  Meat is really expensive where I live.”

Cost ranked as tied for my Facebook kibble feeding friends’ top reason for not choosing a raw dog food diet.  Most of my friends are fellow big dog owners who are already spending a small fortune to feed their dogs.  The desire to not add to a ballooning dog food budget is justifiable.

My average raw food co-op bill is around $350-450 and I pay that monthly for two Mastiffs who are 100% raw fed.

In addition to that, on a quarterly basis, I order green tripe, knucklebones and duck necks from a different co-op.  That bill runs me $200-300 on average every three months.

At the peak of my kibble feeding days, I was spending between $300-350 on a variety of “premium” kibbles.  I say variety because when I was feeding kibble I switched foods quite a few times trying to figure out why one would cause Junior to have soft stools, and another would cause Sulley to itch.

In addition to pouring the kibble in the bowl, I would add any number of “mix-ins” to get the boys to eat it.  With the exception of Burton, our Labrador retriever [READ: The Labrador Retriever May Hold Answers To Feeding Woes In Big Dogs], none of my dogs have been that crazy over their kibble.

So, for me, while raw dog food requires more of me mentally and physically, it is not that much more expensive than the “premium” kibbles I was feeding.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way” is a phrase that perfectly describes what it is like to source raw dog food economically for more than one giant breed dog.

Most people have access to some source of meat; an organized co-op, a farmer or hunter, a meat market, friends or neighbors with a freezer they need to empty, and even a local grocery store can all serve as sourcing options for raw dog food.

Yes, this does require more time and energy than picking up a bag of kibble from the pet store.  But fortunately, once you have found your source, you don’t need to find it again.

It is like learning to ride a bike.  Once you figure it out you can ride like the wind (with a helmet on, son!).

4. The BACTERIA in Raw Dog Food is Dangerous

“Just like in humans, there is a lot of risk in eating raw meat.  I don’t feel comfortable with that risk.”

Yes, it can be dangerous … if you handle it and stick your fingers in your mouth.  Otherwise, handling raw dog food is no more dangerous than you prepping a raw steak for the grill or a raw chicken breast for your casserole.

Most of us are aware of the risk of cross-contamination when we are prepping our own food.  Handling raw dog food bears the same risk as they are essentially one in the same; raw meat.

I keep a container of Clorox wipes handy while I prep raw meat (human or canine) and I usually wash my hands several times during the process.  I sanitize both the counters and all of the dishes judiciously.  I also use handmade drool cloths to wipe the boys when they are done eating which then go into the laundry.

I have two young children, elderly visitors, and neighbors with toddlers that have come over and fed these raw meals for me when I am traveling, and, knock on wood, not one person has ever gotten sick from it.

**For some simple, actionable tips on preventing the spread of bacteria and food-borne illness, download my FREE Raw Feeder’s Guide to Preventing Cross Contamination.

What about our dogs?  Can’t they get sick from eating raw meat?  The simple answer is no, they shouldn’t.  More often than not, dogs and cats handle food-borne bacteria well due to the acidity of their stomach and short digestive tract.  That said, I make sure all of the meat I feed has been frozen at least 1-3 weeks to kill off bacteria and I always thaw my meat in the refrigerator.

Raw food can be dangerous …if you handle it and stick your fingers in your mouth.  Handling raw dog food is no more dangerous than you prepping a raw chicken breast for your casserole. Click to Tweet

5. Raw Dog Food is Not Balanced

Raw Dog Food - 2
© 2019 Big Dog Mom, LLC

“I feel I don’t have enough nutritional knowledge to feed my dogs accurately, so I have always talked myself out of raw feeding.”

While this was not the top concern of my Facebook kibble feeders, it ranked high especially among those who either worked as Veterinarians or Vet Techs.   “Nutritional deficiencies” were cited numerous times as reasons to opt for a “balanced” commercial kibble over raw dog food.

The trepidation surrounding one’s ability to prepare a balanced homemade dog food diet at home is not only understandable, but it is also what drives the educational evolution of most raw feeders.

This elusive “balance” is what we all strive for, but never quite know if we have achieved it.  Imagine a mirage of a goal post.  You see it.  You are running toward it.  But it’s hazy and keeps moving.  This is how I feel.

My solution to this enigma is not to opt for a “balanced” commercial kibble, but rather to provide as much variety as I can into my dogs’ diet.  This includes meat, bone, and organ as well as cooked, minced or fermented vegetables and fruits.  I also add NuproNWC Naturals Probiotic and Enzyme powder.

Am I 100% certain their raw dog food diet is 100% nutritionally balanced?  No.  I am not.  But that doesn’t stop me from trying to reach the goal post.

Annual preventative exams by a Veterinarian are essential whether you are raw feeding or not.  I prioritize these screenings for preventative health maintenance and to monitor the balance we are able to achieve through their raw diet.

[READ: Homemade Dog Food: Is Balance Possible (or a Pipe Dream)?]

This elusive “balance” is what we all strive for, but never quite know if we have achieved it. Imagine a mirage of a goal post. You see it. You are running toward it. But it keeps moving... Click to Tweet

What is a Dog Owner To Do?

No More Guilt

First, read What To Do About Dog Food? First, Let Go Of The Guilt!

I believe letting go of the guilt is the first step.  We make decisions every day that affect ourselves, our family, and our dogs.  Fortunately for us, the vast majority of those decisions are not of the life and death variety.

Second, lose the judgment.  In a country with over 300 million people, we aren’t all going to agree and that is ok.  When I reached out to those kibble-feeding Facebook friends, many of them cited their dogs’ years of health and longevity on a diet of commercial kibble. 

Who am I to minimize the significance of that experience for those people?

I firmly believe in the benefits of feeding a raw dog food diet.  I’ve seen the indisputable benefits first hand.

And while I am happy to share my raw feeding journey, I believe each one of us should be free and empowered to make our own decision on behalf of our canine companions.

While I am happy to share my raw feeding journey, I believe each one of us should be free and empowered to make our own decision on behalf of our canine companions. Click to Tweet

How Do You Eat An Elephant?….

Raw Dog Food Facts

Perhaps a gory reference given the subject matter, but the essence of this saying is true for raw feeding.  If time, space and balancing concerns are forcing you into a perceived dry kibble prison, take heart.  The following are a few natural ways to improve the quality of the food you are feeding, one bite at a time.

  1. Bone Broth – Easy to make in bulk and freeze. It adds much-needed hydration and is great for the immune and digestive system as well as bone and joint health.  Here is a terrific recipe from my good friend and fellow raw feeder, Holly Montgomery, from Brindleberry Acres.
  2. Omega 3 – I alternate between whole sardines, cooked or canned salmon or salmon oil, krill oil, regular fish oil, Dr. Harvey’s Health & Shine, or phytoplankton. Here is a terrific article by Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, who covers why Omega 3 supplementation is critical, especially for kibble-fed dogs.
  3. Probiotic – Gut health is critical for the health of our dogs. I alternate between kefir, raw goat’s milk and a probiotic by NWC Naturals for Junior and Sulley.
  4. Cooked Meat and Vegetables – While I am not one that cooks for my dogs, I do believe there are enormous benefits to providing some healthy whole food to a dry kibble diet. Perhaps you could alternate between a whole cooked meal and a kibble meal?
  5. Raw Whole or Ground Meat, Bone & Organ – If you are not ready for cold turkey (so to speak), perhaps adding one or two raw meals a week? Baby steps.

Additional Raw Feeding Resources Worth Checking Out

Facebook Groups or Pages:

Raw Feeding 101 – Learn To Feed Raw

 

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23 Comments

  1. Hindy Pearson says:

    I’ll admit this is a path I don’t want to travel personally, mostly because there is so much conflicting information I just don’t have the time, or the inclination to try and figure it all out!! Having said that I enjoyed this article, particularly when you say “no more guilt.” There seems to be such a craze for raw feeding, with some proponents going so far as to almost shame those who are happy with their store bought brand. Thank you for sharing your journey and the lessons you’ve learned, and most importantly for talking about the “downside” and giving those considering going down this path a more balanced view to help them make a better informed decision.

  2. Thanks for looking at both sides of raw and kibble. I became certified by Dogs Naturally as a Pet Food Nutrition Specialist when I got my new puppy because I wanted to better understand nutrition. I had fed my previous dog a holistic diet that was a mix of raw, premium kibble and dehydrated.

    Before I go deeper into raw, I want to complete my Raw Food certification. Maybe I am making this complicated but even my vet doesn’t have all of the answers.

    My question to you is this: are you checking for Vitamin D when you are having blood work done? Research is showing this comes from the dog’s diet, not sunshine as we humans get it. I am having to supplement my puppy’s diet even with the additional dehydrated raw and cooked meats.

    Let’s stay in touch on our feeding journey so that we can learn from each other and the resources that we have.

    1. Thank you, Amelia! Yes, let’s definitely keep in touch regarding our raw feeding journey. I have not checked vitamin D levels for either Sulley or Junior. I feed them sardines, kefir, eggs daily or every other day and cheese once in a while… all of which I believe are natural sources of vitamin d. I guess I haven’t given it much thought beyond that I am embarrassed to admit. I would love to go through the Dogs Naturally training. It’s on my list once I start making a little money. 🙂

    2. Just had my pups vitamin D tested. She was the only dog my vet has tested in a year that was in the normal range, not on supplements! She actually was on the high normal. I couldn’t believe it. She has been raw fed since weaned. She is 2 1/2 and i feed a raw mix from Darwins. Hope this helps

      1. Thank you so much for that feedback, Damon! If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to share this with Darwins as well. I’m sure they would be very happy to hear this! 🙂

  3. Raw food is doable for us because we feed a pre-made variety which eliminates most of the issues listed above but… cost. It’s pretty convenient but comes with a corresponding price tag. I tell Mr. N if he was any bigger, he’d have to suck it up and eat whatever we feed him!

    1. Haha! Yes, I can definitely understand that. I very deliberately didn’t focus on some of the great pre-prepared raw choices due to the cost for big dogs. For most of us with giant breed dogs, pre-prepared raw is a great supplement, but too expensive for most average dog owners.

  4. I love the idea of raw but realistically not sure I can handle it right now. I do add some of the store bought raw foods to Ruby’s regular food – Primal, Stella & Chewy’s, etc. This is doable time wise for me. I also use bone broth.

    I am a lifelong vegetarian and although I know the benefits for Ruby, I admit handling raw meat is challenging for me. I like Primal, etc. because it doesn’t actually look like raw meat. Totally silly I know!

  5. My pet passed away however before she passed I was exploring feeding raw for all the benefits and the similarity to a diet thats more natural to our pets lineage as carivores. But you are right in your reseach raw diets do have some cons in tearms of still needing supplements for a balanced diet with the right nutrients. However I really love that you acknowledge in the end we as pet parents are on the same team and just want to give our pets the best quality of life within our means.

  6. You handle this topic so diplomatically, which I think opens people up to learning more about raw feeding. I also appreciate your honesty about cost and time. I once had a conversation with someone about feeding dogs kibble, and they compared it to us eating the same thing every day, how boring! I’m open to adding some raw elements to my dog’s diet for that reason. But I do have a kibble that is keeping both boys happy and healthy at the moment too! Thanks for informing me more on this topic!

  7. This topic tears me up, so I appreciate your inclusive approach and all of the resources you’ve provided links to. I absolutely hate feeding Bernie and Lizzie kibble. Hate it! I supplement with a lot of human food at every meal plus the pups get Turmeric chews every day. The sad reality for me is that therapy dogs are not allowed to be fed a raw diet. I’ve even considered abandoning our therapy dog goals, but that tears me up too!

    Last summer, I tried cooking for the dogs for several weeks. I was following a recipe book that uses a supplement created by a pet nutritionist with actual degrees recommended by our vet. The diet is complete and balanced, so our vet highly endorsed it, even though he doesn’t sell it through his office anymore (not enough people were buying the supplement). I cannot begin to describe the amount of time I spent cooking and preparing these meals. And this was during the summer when school’s out, so Im not working.

    One of my goals this summer is to explore other cooking options for the pups. I definitely like how Karen Becker, DVM and Rodney Habib share so many resources and ideas for making a healthier diet accessible to pet parents. Reading your post also makes me think joining some of the raw feeding groups may be helpful too. I may not be allowed to feed raw by therapy dog groups, but I’m guessing that people in the raw groups post about supplements, cost-cutting tips, etc. Thanks for such a thoughtful post! Coke for the win!

  8. Raw food IS costly and hard to source where we live. For now, we stick with commercial raw.

    I have to laugh about the freezer space – our freezer is a dog food freezer. SOMETIMES, when we run lower, hubby is allowed to get a box of ice cream LOL

  9. A loving dog owner, same side of the coin… No guilt… You brought tears to my eyes. I have had quite the dog nutrition journey myself having had a rescue dog with Diabetes and then a rescue dog with Arthritis, Allergies and Cushing’s disease. The later I seriously considered raw and know he would have benefited from it greatly. He was also a pet therapy dog and ended up improving with our kibble changes so we did not make the switch. If it had come down to it though, I would have changed and had him give up the pet therapy. I agree we are ultimately trying to do right by our beloved furry family members.

  10. I find certain high quality kibble very convenient and balanced. I use it as training treats and make Kilo work for his food all day- he is always hungry- very food motivated and needs a lot of training with medium value options. I mix home made cooked and freeze dried raw with his morning and evening small meals and also give him raw veggie treats that I am eating like carrots during the day. I have kids with weak immune systems particularly susceptible to bacteria like salmonella and e-coli so all works for me and Kilo the Pug so far. It is scary how easily bugs can spread from certain raw and freeze dried raw food. Handling meat is very complicated. I may look at adding a little more raw for a few dinners but no reason to change what is working well for now.

  11. Personally, raw feeding is not for me. I feed my dogs kibble mixed with wet food including some fresh chicken, fish, veggies I make myself. As a therapy dog handler I am not permitted to feed my therapy dog raw due to concerns about bacteria that could potentially be present in the dog’s mouth after eating and transferred to patients or others they visit, through licking. Two of my own Veterinarians also had concerns over bacteria potentially being transferred from a dog’s mouth to others through licking as well. I have, however, included kibble that contains freeze dried raw food in their diets. Like everything else, there are many points of view. Thanks for sharing this interesting information.

  12. I know that there are dogs who are thriving on kibble, as well as dogs who do best with a raw diet. There are so many factors to consider when making the choice, and I appreciate you sharing some of your knowledge to help people decide what is best for their dogs and lifestyle.

  13. I appreciate your approach when talking about raw feeding. I like that you talk about both the pros and cons and that you don’t “crucify” those who choose to feed kibble to their dogs. There are some communities, especially among cats, that believe we are killing our cats with commercial food. I’ve talked to my vet about a raw diet for my girls, and she wasn’t very supportive. I will do what is best for my girls, but I’m not quite sure raw feeding is what they need. I am beginning to go on a different path for Truffle’s diet since she had the bladder stones removed.

  14. Wonderful post! At the pet boutique where I work I am constantly getting these questions or hearing these myths from customers. I feed my dogs half raw. For our wedding gift last year, my aunt and uncle gifted us a second refrigerator for our new house since they knew I wanted one for my dogs’ food. I guess that goes to say, my family realizes how important my pups are to me! LOL

  15. What an awesome post to help demystify the raw feeding conundrum. The cost variable that you mentioned seems a lot more approachable after seeing what you pay monthly and what we currently pay for our two (much smaller) dogs. Thanks for taking the time to poll people to see what the common concerns in order to be able to curate those subjects into a single, educational post.

  16. Hi Stephanie Seger, you have discussed on a very important topic, I think people are now more interested to learn about raw feeding. Sometimes people are shown to give their dog only the dry kibble and they compared it to us eating the same food every day. I love my dog a lot and I always try to make the variation in her food. Sometimes I used to share my food with her from my table because she likes that. I know it’s not a good practice and I don’t mind to share a bite. I have enjoyed my reading! Thanks a lot.

    1. Thank you, Jordan! I agree that more and more people are becoming interested in raw diets for their dogs in the advent of all we are learning about commercial kibble. Education is key and I hope the information here helps to play a role in helping big dog parents to make the decision to move to a raw diet for their dogs.

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