Ever notice how some people who feed their dogs raw food act like they know everything?
And not only do they know everything about their own dogs but apparently that makes them know what’s right for your dog too! HA!
They’ll say things like, you should “never” feed ground meat or you should “always” feed organic. Or “kibble causes cancer.” Oh really? If only it were that simple!
I can barely manage my own dog, let alone tell anyone else what they should do with theirs.
But, I do feel that feeding a dog raw food involves taking on some amount of risk and worry, and I’m OK with that. You’ll have to let me know if you agree.
So, assuming you feed your dog raw or are thinking about feeding raw, here are 5 health concerns you will deal with. Am I right? Check them out and let me know what else you’d add to the list.
5 health concerns when feeding raw dog food
1. Your dog will get an upset stomach.
Dogs can handle bacteria much better than we can, so you rarely have to worry about your dog getting sick from bacteria in raw meat. Dogs are meat-eaters, after all!
When they do get upset tummies, it’s often a result of introducing new foods too quickly or from mixing raw and dry food (which some dogs don’t handle well).
It’s not a matter of if your dog will get an upset tummy, it’s when. 🙂
Usually this is no big deal (other than maybe a mess to clean up), and it will pass. There’s usually no need for a vet visit.
When this happens to my dog, I typically fast him for 24 hours.
How to avoid upset tummies:
You can’t avoid this completely (things happen), but I recommend you introduce new foods slowly over a few days or even a week.
Also, if you need to feed dry food for whatever reason, it’s best to wait at least 12 hours after your dog’s most recent raw meal. Start with a small amount of dry food to see how your dog does.
2. Not feeding enough organ meat.
Balanced raw dog food diets should include a variety of organ meat. See some recipes here. The general percentage raw feeders agree on is that 10 percent of the diet should come from organ meat (kidneys, pancreas, lungs, whatever you can get!), and about half of that should be liver.
But, organ meat is hard to find. Because of that, some people don’t feed any organs or not enough.
For example, the grocery stores in my area only sell beef liver as well as chicken and turkey livers and hearts. That’s something, but not enough.
What you can do:
You can get organ meat from some butchers or from food co-ops or from friends who hunt. I recommend you stock up and store the meat in a freezer.
But if you’re looking for a simpler, store-bought option, I recommend adding one of these to your dog’s diet:
Base mixes from The Honest Kitchen
The base mixes from The Honest Kitchen are a convenient option. All you have to do is mix in your own meat. No organs or bones are required due to the vitamins and minerals in the base mix. I verified this with THK, just to make sure.
To give you an idea, a 7-pound box of base mix will last my 70-pound dog about a month. It’s not a bad cost either at around $58. Click here.
Primal Pet Foods makes a variety of “grinds” designed to be added to your dog’s meals. Most of these grinds contain hearts, liver and bone, so you would add in your own meat and – if you choose – fruits and veggies.
These grinds are a convenient way to add a little variety.
3. Not feeding enough calcium.
Some dog owners are afraid to feed any raw bones, which is understandable. I used to worry about feeding bones too.
To make sure your dog gets the right balance of calcium and phosphorus, the general recommendation is that about 10 percent of the dog’s raw diet should be raw bones.
This is really easy to do if you’re comfortable feeding chicken with bone.
For example, I feed my dog chicken thighs and others feed chicken quarters or chicken necks. You can even grind these up first if you have a meat grinder.
If you’re uncomfortable feeding bones, there are other options. Obviously, you can always feed a pre-made raw brand where the bones are already ground up in the meat.
Another option is to look into a bone meal or a calcium supplement. You can even use egg shells to make your own calcium supplement.
4. Dealing with puke and regurgitation!
Yep, this is just going to happen at some point if you feed raw. There’s no way around it!
Even if you feed dry dog food, you may have noticed your dog throws up a yellowish liquid every now and then, usually in the morning before a meal.
This hardly ever happened to Ace when I fed him dry food, but it happens every now and then when he’s eating raw.
It’s no big deal, other than it’s a pain to clean up. It’s just the stomach acid his body is producing in preparation of digesting his raw meal.
Finally, it’s normal for dogs to throw up the food they just ate in order to … wait for it … re-eat it! This helps with digestion, and K9s Over Coffee had an informative post about the topic last month. Regurgitation is normal and it happens. … Dogs!
Every now and then, my dog will also throw up a piece of joint bone from a chicken thigh.
This really freaked me out at first, but I’ve learned it’s a natural way for dogs to get rid of food they might have a harder time digesting. Now that my dog is used to raw bones, he rarely does this.
5. Your dog’s overall diet is not balanced.
A nutritional imbalance is probably the most common problem with homemade raw diets, wouldn’t you agree? If the dog’s diet is lacking over time, it may lead to problems down the road. See my post, 5 tips for feeding raw dog food.
Health problems are unlikely to happen overnight or in a few weeks or even months, but problems might occur eventually.
Think about it, we can survive on potatoes or grilled cheese sandwiches for quite a while, but it’s not exactly the healthiest for the long term, right?
What it comes down to is we all try our best. We should always be evaluating what we’re feeding our dogs and making positive changes if we can afford them.
No diet is perfect, not mine, not yours and certainly not our dogs’. But, we can always look for little ways to make small improvements over time, and that’s what counts.
OK, now I want to hear from some of you because I don’t have all the answers.
What are your concerns about feeding a raw diet?
What would you list as a potential health risk?
If you’re looking for more details on feeding a raw diet, my ebook “10 Easy Raw Dog Food Recipes” goes over all you need to know. The cost is $9, and it includes 10 easy recipes. Download the ebook using the button below.
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Monday 25th of January 2016
My question is this. I keep getting told to start with chicken. Wellll being my budget is very low- i can only get so much. So i started with beef stew cuts. She's a Gerberian Shepsky. so i figured since she's mixed with those two working breeds that starting on red meat wont hurt her. Also being my budget is limited I can only get it so often. I feed her 4Health Salmon during the days and just started raw Monday. I get the remains my job's meat section couldn't sell. Sometimes it's a lil brown not dangerously brown but brown from it being in the fridge too long. Should i worry? Also i threw an egg in her first bowl. It's making me so anxious because i keep reading/being told different things and i don't wanna make her sick.
Tuesday 26th of January 2016
Dogs just generally seem to tolerate the chicken better. Chicken also has bone in it, which keeps the stool more solid. What you're doing might be just fine or your dog might get an upset tummy. I wouldn't worry at all about the meat being old as long as it's been in the freezer it should be fine.
Monday 26th of October 2015
I started feeding Johnny, (my Aussie) raw, after the Vet told me he had Congestive Heart Failure and didn't give him long to live. I starting researching chf and came across many websites touting raw, but I like this one the best, because I sometimes feel that I am doing everything wrong and slowly killing Johnny! Thanks Lindsay for making me feel better! Now, the reason that I am writing today. I do not understand what the fuss is concerning raw meat? People have had in their homes for thousands of years, so treat it like you would if you were going to cook it for you and clean up when your done. Oh and in closing, it has been almost a year and Johnny is doing great! :)
Wednesday 12th of August 2015
I appreciate this article and all comments so I can learn from the pool of experiences. My female Rottweiler has been on home made raw diet for 2.5 years; she seems fine and nothing out of ordinary, and being at around 80 lb. in the past two years.
Sunday 9th of August 2015
Having fed raw for more than 15yrs, I think the biggest thing is to use common sense. I'm not a human nutritionist either, yet no one would ever suggest to feed myself or my kids prepackaged foods ONLY because poor little me cant figure out decent nutrition. Is my kids' diet perfect? Nope. and neither is my dogs' but I balance things out best I can and offer plenty of healthy choices, as big a variety as I can reasonably manage and call it good.
re: Sammonella, I also think kibble is a bigger risk there these days. Its too easy to touch some kibble and 'forget' to wash hands immediately. With fresh meat, I deal with it like I when I prepare dinner. I touch the meat, then wash my hands before I touch ANYTHING else. When I'm done prepping, I wipe down the counters and the scale. I feed outside or on a towel. bowls go immediately into the sink and go into the dishwasher. I feed the dogs after the kids go to bed to minimize the dogs kissing them with raw meat breath. We wash our hands immediately before we eat or touch utensils, fridge or food. You know, basic good hygiene....
kibble certainly is easier but imo doing a decent job feeding raw isnt THAT hard.
Sunday 9th of August 2015
Yes, that's all good advice, B. Good common sense. Thank you.
Sunday 9th of August 2015
I'm guilty of not feeding enough organs and not providing enough variety. So yesterday, my dog got chicken liver mashed with an egg and ground turmeric before his bone-in pork. I also ordered canned green tripe from Amazon to add something new to his diet. It's cooked but we all are trying our best.
Sunday 9th of August 2015
That's exactly it. We all do our best.