Raw feeding is founded upon a natural, fresh diet of species-appropriate foods. However, as the raw feeding movement grows, incorrect information and misconceptions spread. Misinformation gets mixed in as popularity rises and many pet parents become confused between myths and facts.
There are many myths surrounding raw feeding. Most of these myths are created by individuals without a full understanding of raw diets and how the diet impacts a pet’s life. These myths easily spread far and wide. The most common myths include the following:
Fortunately, these myths are inaccurate. Many of these myths do not give the full picture of the benefits dogs and cats can receive through a fresh, raw food diet. They are a fabrication of misinformation or fear mongering to steer pet parents away from feeding their pets a raw diet.
Myth: Raw feeding will makes pets become aggressive to humans.
Feeding raw meat to pets does not result in aggressive behavior when a balanced diet is provided. However, an improperly balanced raw diet that is lacking in the essential amino acid tryptophan can have a negative impact on serotonin in the brain. This can result in aggressive behavior as a symptom of tryptophan deficiency. These affects can easily be reversed with a properly balanced raw diet that supplies the recommended allowances for tryptophan.
Myth: Raw meat makes pets “bloodthirsty” and kill animals.
Dogs and cats are carnivores and therefore, they are natural hunters. Hunting is what they are designed to do. Even when dry food is fed, dogs and cats have been known to hunt and kill small prey animals such as mice, rats, small birds, etc.
There are breeds with a higher instinctual drive to hunt and kill prey – so some pets will naturally hunt while others may never hunt. The foods pets are fed is not a determining factor of whether they will hunt prey or not. Prey drive is determined by a combination of breed genetics, obedience training, and how a pet’s behavior is managed.
Myth: My pet will get salmonella from raw meat.
Salmonella can only survive in higher pH conditions (4-8+) and requires at least 12 hours to incubate. The hydrochloric acid in a carnivore’s stomach is a protective component against pathogens. Their stomach is highly acidic (about a pH 1) and their digestive system is short and lacks complexity. Bacteria is typically killed when ingested and passed within 4-6 hours as waste. Since the time to complete digestion is very short, the bacteria does not stay in the body for long. It is important to note that multiple dry foods and other commercial pet foods have been recalled for Salmonella and E. Coli as well.
However, it is never appropriate to purposely feed spoiled meat or meat that has not been stored and handled properly. Always practice safe food handling and dispose of any spoiled ingredients.
Cooked vs. Raw
Myth: Feeding cooked meat is better than raw.
Cooking meat will destroy or alter some proteins, vitamins, fats, and minerals. In contrast, other nutrients are liberated via cooking as they are not bioavailable in their raw form. Therefore, cooking food makes some nutrients less available and other nutrients more available.
Due to the nutrient losses when cooking meats and organs, cooked diets will require professional formulation to ensure all essential nutrients are provided. While it is possible to balance a raw diet without supplements, cooked diets will require supplementation to make up for the nutrient loss.
Raw Bones Are Dangerous
Myth: Raw bones are dangerous because they splinter.
A very common misconception about feeding bones is that all bones are dangerous. In reality, many raw bones are great for pets and are totally safe! Raw bones are softer and easier to digest in comparison to cooked or dehydrated bones. Cooking or dehydrating bones removes the moisture from the bones which makes them hard and brittle. They can splinter when eaten and be difficult to digest, which can result in harmful intestinal perforations or blockages. This is where the idea originates that bones are dangerous.
Bones Are Unsafe For Puppies & Kittens
Myth: Puppies and kittens are too young and small to have raw bones.
The same rules for feeding raw bones to adult pets apply to puppies and kittens as well. Giving raw bones to puppies and kittens is totally safe when providing the appropriate size meaty bones for the size and age of the pet. Additionally, meaty bones are a source of calcium and phosphorus which are essential nutrients for growing pets.
Smaller bones are recommended to start with and work up to larger bones as the pet grows. If the puppy or kitten is weaning from the mother, raw grinds with bone ground in is ideal in the very beginning until they can begin chewing whole foods.
Large & Giant Breed Puppies Cannot Have Raw
Myth: Large and giant breed puppies should not be fed raw because it will affect their growth.
Large and giant breed puppies are no different than any other puppy in their nutritional requirements. Like all other breeds, large and giant puppies need to grow very slowly to avoid developing joint and bone issues. They do have specific recommendations to maintain a balanced calcium to phosphorous ratio closer to 1.2:1, whereas small breeds have a bit more flexibility here. However, this does not mean that large or giant breed puppies cannot eat a raw diet during their developmental periods.
Remember, each dog (and puppy) is an individual – the guidelines provided are just starting points. The diet should be adjusted to provide sufficient calcium and phosphorus as well as a balanced Ca:P ratio.
As long as pet parents are following the correct feeding guidelines and using safe food handling practices, raw feeding should pose no risk to pets. It is important not only to do research before starting a raw diet, but also to verify that the information used is from a reputable, knowledgeable, and reliable source.