Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat? Here Are 8 Myths

When humans look at raw meat, they can have either one of these thoughts or both: “Eww … gross” or “Yum, can’t wait to barbecue that.” Seldom will people go, “Ooh, I wanna sink my teeth into that raw, bloody drumstick.”

The first two lines of thought are the possible psyche of dog owners who are against feeding their four-legged babies raw meat. Transposing human qualities onto a pet is quite a common and innocent mistake.

Let us be reminded that our dogs are not humans. They are canines or omnivores – whichever family you believe in – and they are ancestors of the wolf. Dogs are biologically adapted to eating raw food.

Here are 8 myths about feeding dogs a raw meat diet. These myths are caused by lack of knowledge, lack of understanding and incorrect presumptions about the diet.

dogs eat raw meat

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Myth 1: Raw meat diets aren’t balanced

First of all, you’ll need to understand what exactly a raw meat diet constitutes in order to claim that it isn’t balanced. A balanced and complete meal should contain 6 categories of nutrients:

  •       Protein
  •       Fat
  •       Moisture
  •       Carbohydrate
  •       Fibre
  •       Vitamins and minerals

For an in-depth reading about each of these essential nutrients, you can read this article. As long as your dog’s dinner has all of them, it is considered complete.

The next thing to take into consideration is the proportion of each nutrient. In totality there are 40 essential nutrients required by dogs – each with a specific role in the body. When they are provided in inadequate concentrations, the body cannot function at its most optimal and suffering may result. Similarly, nutrient excesses can also cause illness.

The proportion changes according to a dog’s stage of life. Puppies need more energy-filled nutrients (fat and carbohydrate) while older or less active dogs need less of them. 

A general rule you can follow for adult dogs is to go by the BARF diet ratio:

  •       Muscle meat – 70%
  •       Edible bone – 10 to 15%
  •       Vegetables – 7%
  •       Secreting organs – 5 to 10%
  •       Nuts or seeds – 2%
  •       Fruit 1%

All the ingredients must be fresh without any additives such as sugar, salt or flavouring.

BARF diet ratio

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Grains such as rice, wheat and barley cannot and must not be fed raw. They must always be well cooked. Dogs are incapable of digesting raw grains because grains are not part of their natural diet.

The myth of raw meat diets being imbalanced is more likely to be a reality for homemade raw meals than commercially prepared raw dog food. Why is this so? Read on.

Myth 2: Raw meat diet is time-consuming and complicated

Yes, this is true – if you are preparing it from scratch! Making sure homemade raw dog food is balanced and complete is not easy.

Every food item comes with different nutritional values. The percentage of protein to fat changes according to which part of the animal it comes from as well as what animal. Chicken, beef, pork and fish, duck, lamb – all of them have different nutrient profiles.  

Since offal is an essential ingredient, you may need to go out of your way to buy it. Some supermarkets only have liver and gizzard at the most. On top of that you need a dedicated meat grinder to mulch bone if required.

After that you need to cut all the ingredients into appropriate portions to make up the maximum daily dose of nutrients. This requires some mathematical calculations, or you can follow some recipes online. However, not all recipes are fail-safe.

It is not time-consuming and complicated if you buy commercially prepared raw dog food curated by qualified animal nutritionists. These professionals would have worked everything out for you. Just store and serve according to instructions. If you’re a more careful person, you can get your veterinarian’s assistance.

Read more about the precautions in preparing homemade raw food here.

Myth 3: Raw dog food is too expensive

If you have been buying a generic brand of kibble, chances are a raw meat diet will cost a little more on a per serving basis. That being said, there are premium kibble that can cost more than commercial raw dog food.

If you’re able to prep homemade raw diets by yourself, you can keep the cost lower by buying large chunks of good quality meat. Organs actually don’t cost a lot.

If you’re getting a small animal like a chicken or duck, just buy the whole thing. It would be cheaper than going for special cuts. Besides, you’re supposed to get human-grade meat to make raw meat diets. Any meat you buy for doggie’s meal is also good for human meals.

You’re probably already paying a premium for good quality kibble or canned food if you’re concerned about your dog’s nutrition and want to give it the best.

Myth 4: Raw meat makes dogs aggressive

This is one of the biggest myths based on an irrational fear. Perhaps this fear is fueled by movies which show innocent creatures turning savage at the taste of blood.

Just think of it this way: if your dog is injured, it will instinctively lick a bloody wound. It will do so for other dogs and even its owner because that is how dogs care for a wound. Will this act cause it to suddenly become vicious?

Some dogs can have food aggression when eating something they really like. This boils down to training and the owner not showing enough pack leadership. The food is not the problem.

Myth 5: Bones are dangerous

It is true that not all raw bones are suitable for dogs. Small fine ones can break easily, turning into tiny lancets. Very big bones can crack a tooth.

Just like gravity, size is a matter of relativity. A lamb shank will be meh to a Nepolean mastiff but gigantic to a chihuahua. The secret is to choose the right type and size.

The most dangerous bones to feed dogs are cooked bones. These splinter the most easily and can cause severe damage internally and externally.

You’ll also need to consider Fido’s eating habit. Is it a gobbler or a slow eater? If it tends to gobble, you might not want to give it bone.

Whatever the case, dogs should always be monitored when they chew on bone. For example, after chewing slowly, it might try to swallow a broken off chunk or the whole bone. That’s when you should take the bone away. This practice should also be implemented for toys and treats.

Myth 6: Raw meat diet is only for big dogs

Some people assume that small and toy breeds don’t have the jaw strength to eat raw meat. It is a wrong assumption and underestimation of how strong a dog’s bite can be. Nevertheless, this can be resolved very easily by cutting the meat into tiny pieces.

The next reason for this myth is from a fear of choking on bones, which has been covered in Myth 5. Bones that are good picks for smaller dogs include chicken or duck necks and wings, and lamb riblets.

Myth 7: Your dog might catch Salmonella

The truth is, salmonella is an ever present possibility in eggs as well! So do you stop buying eggs? No. We minimize risks by washing the eggs and by washing our hands with soap after handing them.

In fact, salmonella is not the only pathogen that may exist on raw meat. There are countless bacteria, viruses and parasites in our environment which could make a dog sick.

Our dogs will lick the floor if they see or smell something interesting there. They don’t fall ill because of that. You’d be surprised at how resilient a dog’s digestive system is.

What’s more important is that we handle and store the raw meat with good hygiene protocols. If you’re still worried, buy commercially prepared raw meat diets. Sterilisation is a compulsory practice in the pet food industry.

Myth 8: Dogs live longer with cooked food

Just because we have been feeding our dogs kibble or processed food for the longest time, it means that dogs can live longer. This assumption might have been made by comparing wild dogs with domestic dogs.

Wild dogs have notably shorter lifespans than our pets. The reason is not the diet. In fact, there is no scientific evidence to prove that a raw meat diet can prolong the life of a pet.

There is however, evidence to prove that wild dogs are exposed to all manner of danger – including parasites and germs – but they do not get healthcare.

In the past, dogs were treated more as dispensable workers than family members. When they could no longer do their job, they were disposed of or if they fell ill, they were seldom treated.

Pet dogs today live longer due to advances in medical care and more conscientious care from their owners. Nonetheless, we still see veterinary clinics crowded by dogs with skin problems, kidney disease, diabetes and obesity. All these problems have connections to cooked and processed foods.

Conclusion

Needless to say, giving your pet a raw meat diet necessitates a little more education on your part. Even choosing the best kibble requires some understanding of dog nutrition. Picking the cheapest bag or can off the shelf can do a lot of harm in the long run. Caring for a dog is like caring for a child. It is dependent on you for its well being.

Sources:
American Kennel Club. 31 October 2019. Cooking For Your Dog: Do’s & Don’ts of Homemade Dog Food. (Online) Available at: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/cooking-for-your-dog-dos-and-donts/  [Accessed on 8 July 2020]

Make Homemade Dog Food. (Online) Available at: https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/homemade-dog-food#2[Accessed on 8 July 2020] 

Homemade Dog Food: Is It Healthy to Cook For Your Dog? (Online) Available at: https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/how-make-sure-your-homemade-dog-food-delivers-right-nutrients [Accessed on 8 July 2020]

PetMD. 30 June 2020. What You Need to Know About Raw Food Diet for Dogs. (Online) Available at: https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/5-mistakes-people-make-when-feeding-pets-raw-food-diet  [Accessed on 4 July 2020]
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