“Raw feeding will make pets bloodthirsty and aggressive” is a common myth associated with feeding dogs and cats a raw diet. This misconception often scares many pet parents away from raw feeding, which is a very natural reaction! No one wants their pet to become aggressive towards themselves, their family, friends, or other animals. However, a complete and balanced raw diet will NOT cause aggression in dogs or cats.
Raw feeding as a whole will not make a dog or cat aggressive, but there are additional factors that should be taken into consideration when discussing aggression and raw diets:
Once these additional variables are identified, it helps provide a clear picture of aggression and raw diets.
The first course of action to take when a pet is displaying aggression is to rule out medical conditions. Many medical conditions could cause a behavior change in dogs and cats, such as:
Dogs and cats have recommended allowances for essential amino acids to support healthy biological functions. This amino acid must be supplied daily in sufficient amounts via the diet. This is because the body is unable to synthesize tryptophan and does not store any excess from food.
Excess protein and amino acids are utilized for energy, and these excess calories are stored in the body as fat. Therefore, excess amino acids do not accumulate within the body as fat-soluble vitamins or minerals do.
Diets low in tryptophan have been clinically shown to cause depression, anxiety, and aggression. If a raw diet does not supply sufficient amounts of the essential amino acid tryptophan daily, aggressive behaviors can begin to display. However, this can easily be corrected by ensuring the diet supplies sufficient amounts of the tryptophan amino acid.
Recommended Allowances for Tryptophan
Tryptophan is an amino acid needed for normal growth and nitrogen balance for adult maintenance. The body uses tryptophan to synthesize niacin, melatonin, and serotonin.
Foods High in Tryptophan
Tryptophan is an amino acid found abundantly in lean muscle meat. A raw diet can be naturally abundant in tryptophan if the appropriate ingredients are fed. Below are some examples of raw foods that supply the highest amount of tryptophan per ounce (28 grams).
Ensuring the daily recommended allowance for tryptophan is met is important for optimal health. A raw diet that includes quality lean muscle meat and organs should provide a sufficient amount of the tryptophan amino acid.
A raw diet is naturally a high-value resource. This means it is not uncommon to see a display of resource guarding behavior when a dog or cat is fed a raw diet. Not all pets will display this behavior, so this is not to say it will happen in all scenarios. However, resource guarding behavior is often mistaken as the raw diet turning the dog or cat aggressive.
The following behaviors are common with pets who exhibit resource guarding behavior:
If a dog or cat exhibits any of the behaviors above with a raw diet, it is crucial to understand the root emotions associated with resource guarding.
If a dog or cat displays resource guarding around raw food, this does not mean they cannot eat raw food. Feeding routine adjustments are needed to help improve the behavior and change the mental state of the dog or cat:
A qualified dog or cat trainer experienced in positive behavioral modification with resource guarding is highly recommended in these cases due to safety concerns. Resource guarding can escalate to a point where the aggression is not safe and assistance from a professional trainer is warranted.
A raw diet does not inherently make dogs or cats aggressive or “bloodthirsty”. There are several factors to consider when aggressive behavior is displayed when feeding a raw diet. Always rule out medical conditions if the dog or cat shows aggression and ensure the raw diet is sufficient in amino acids to support healthy hormone function.
If a dog or cat is physically healthy and is consuming a diet sufficient in essential amino acids, resource guarding is the likely cause for aggressive behavior. A consistent feeding routine to eliminate the display of resource guarding and behavior modification training program is needed to overcome food aggression.