Note: This post has been expanded into an ebook with 10 raw dog food recipes and a guide to raw feeding. Learn more here.
















I always wanted to switch my dog to a natural, raw diet. I held back because I needed to do some research on canine nutrition and the pros and cons of a raw diet for dogs. Feeding raw doesn’t have to be complicated, but it’s not as easy as tossing a cup of kibble in a bowl.

To see if a raw diet is right for my dog Ace, I did a lot of research. Next, I decided to feed him a pre-prepared, commercial raw diet for 90 days to see if the diet works for us. He ate raw dog food that came in ground, frozen patties including meat, organs, bones, fruits and veggies. I hope I encourage you to think about switching your dog to a raw diet, or at least a natural, grain-free kibble.

What is a raw diet for dogs?

A raw diet for dogs is simply that – raw. Raw meat, raw organs and raw bones along with raw fruits and raw vegetables if you so choose.

Why is a raw dog food diet healthy for my dog?

Woman who feeds her dog raw dog foodRaw, organic dog food is the healthiest food for my dog because it is fresh, whole and unprocessed.

Dogs can get by on a heavily processed diet (just like their owners get by), but it’s not the healthiest. A wide variety of fresh, unprocessed foods contribute greatly to a dog’s overall health.

Why can’t I cook the meat for my dog?

I can, but why would I?

Raw meat and raw vegetables are healthier for most dogs than cooked food because cooking destroys the enzymes needed for superior digestion and nutrient absorption, according to The Whole Dog Journal, a monthly publication for dog owners. These enzymes survive the freezing/defrosting process just fine.

Remember, dogs ate raw meat for thousands of years before “dog food” was invented.

Why is dry dog food kibble bad for my dog?

I do not have to be a vet or a nutritionist to realize that most commercial dog foods are not ideal for Ace. Please read the ingredients of your dog’s food and let me know what you find out.

The first two ingredients in a dog’s food should be high-quality proteins, according to Michelle Smith, owner of Natural Pet Center in Fargo, which sells natural dog food and other pet products. These should be specific proteins like duck or chicken. Other ingredients should be high-quality fruits and vegetables. Grain is not necessary, and all corn and by-products should be avoided.

When an animal goes to a slaughterhouse, only about half of that animal is used in human foods, according to Born Free USA, a national animal advocacy organization. These “other parts” (heads, feet, blood, unborn babies, etc.) are considered by-products and are used in pet foods.

“Meat meal,” “poultry meal” and “by-product meal” are also common ingredients in pet foods, according to Born Free. The term “meal” means the ingredients have been rendered. Rendering plants take all the random, leftover body parts and boil them down to a broth. Although the high temperatures kill bacteria and parasites, the natural enzymes and proteins found in raw ingredients are also destroyed.

An animal that died on the farm may not reach the rendering plant for several days, according to Born Free. By this time the carcass is highly contaminated. Although so called “4D” animals (dead, dying, diseased or disabled) are now banned as ingredients in human food, they are legitimate ingredients for pet food. There are also no laws or regulations against using rendered roadkill, horses, dogs or cats in pet foods. To be sure, only buy dog foods with specific proteins in the ingredients such as duck or lamb, not “poultry meal” or “animal by-products.”

Many pet foods also contain brewers rice as the first or second ingredient, which is an inexpensive rice by-product that contains no nutritional value, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials. The AAFCO sets (unenforced) standards for the quality of livestock feed and pet food.

If you do decide to feed your dog rice (most dogs don’t need grain in their diets), make sure it’s whole grain brown rice.

Commercial dry dog food is also loaded with chemical preservatives, sweeteners and dyes, according to Born Free. None of these ingredients provide any nutritional value to a dog. They are used to improve the taste and appearance of the food. Potentially cancer causing chemicals such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin are permitted in pet foods as preservatives.

Why should I feed my dog a raw diet?

Well, if the above reasons weren’t enough …

1. A raw diet is the healthiest diet for most dogs.

A raw diet is the healthiest diet only if it is done properly. Do your research or you could end up with a very sick dog.

A raw diet is the healthiest diet for dogs because it consists of real, raw meat without any preservatives or by-products. Raw food also contains natural enzymes that haven’t been destroyed by the cooking process.

2. A raw could prevent cancer and many other health problems.

A raw diet can help prevent obesity, allergies, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and so much more. Don’t wait until your dog has something terrible like a cancer diagnosis before you switch him to a healthier diet. Switch his diet now in order to potentially prevent future diseases.

3. Dog food companies do not care about the health of your dog.

Raw dog rood patties frozen and pre-madeDog food companies want to make money. That’s why most dry dog food is made with cheap ingredients like corn, rice by-products and animal by-products.

You can’t trust a bag of kibble to provide your dog with the nutrition he needs just like you can’t trust a TV dinner to give you the nutrients you need. It’s fine every now and then, but a lifetime of eating this way creates serious problems.

4. When you make homemade raw dog food, you know exactly what she is eating.

If you suspect your dog might be allergic to certain dog food ingredients like grain or corn or certain proteins, making raw dog food yourself is a good way to eliminate the source of the allergies, according to Dr. Amy Anderson of West Fargo (N.D.) Animal Hospital. Amy just so happens to be Ace’s vet :)

5. A natural raw diet makes it easy to add more variety to your dog’s food.

If I ate the same food for every meal, I would start to become deficient in certain vitamins or minerals. However, when I look at my food overall, I am eating the nutrients my body needs throughout each day or week. This is why you want to mix up your dog’s food.

Once your dog adjusts to one raw protein such as chicken, you can start switching it up and feeding him turkey, duck, salmon, beef, lamb, etc. Plus, you can add all kinds of yummy vegetables to the food such as broccoli or carrots.

6. Your dog will look healthier if she eats natural raw dog food.

Owners who feed their dogs a raw diet claim their dogs have shinier coats, healthier skin, more lean muscle and less fat. They have cleaner teeth and gums, and their breath is less smelly. I hear there’s a lot less poop, too. That’s always nice :)

7. Raw dog food contains enzymes that are important to the body.

These enzymes are important for digestion and nutrient absorption. When food is heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit, the enzymes are destroyed, according to Aimee Quemuel in her book “42 Rules to Fight Dog Cancer.” For the same reason, you should include raw fruits, vegetables and nuts in your own diet.

8. You love your dog and you want him to receive the very best care.

The least you could do for him is look into a raw diet and see if it’s something reasonable for you and your dog. No one loves your dog more than you. And no one is looking out for his health better than you. Don’t forget that.

9. Dogs ate raw food for thousands of years.

Eating raw meat is natural for a dog! Dogs have been eating grain-based kibble for only the last 100 years or so. How on earth did they get by without kibble? :)

Reasons not to feed a dog a raw diet

There are, of course, perfectly acceptable reasons not to feed your dog a raw diet. Here are a few:

1. Feeding a dog a raw organic diet costs more.

Some hard-core raw food enthusiasts will tell you that feeding your dog raw does not cost any more than a high-quality kibble. This might be true if you’re going to buy mass quantities of meat in bulk or if you work out a deal with a local rancher.

But who’s really going to do any of that? Not me. If I feed my dog a raw diet, I just assume I’m going to pay quite a bit more. During this trial, Ace will be eating pre-prepared raw patties. If I make the food myself, I will be buying meat from the grocery store. Either way, $$$$. Here are some tips on making raw dog food affordable.

2. Feeding a dog a natural raw diet can give the dog an upset stomach.

There are mixed thoughts on this. Sure, raw meat can make a dog sick, but so can cooked food. A new diet is bound to cause a few digestive issues. Some raw dog food companies and vets say it’s better to switch the dog from kibble to raw instantly, with no transition. The reason for this is because it’s difficult to digest the combo of kibble and raw. Others say to do a gradual switch the way you would with two kibbles. This is the route I am taking. Either way, if my dog experiences an upset stomach, it will pass.

3. Raw dog foods are messy.

Ace the black lab mix eating raw dog food homemade natural pre-prepared organicCleaning up after a sick dog is messy, but so is preparing a bunch of raw meat. It’s smelly, and it sits in your fridge to de-frost. The dog’s bowls and eating area will probably also be messier. And in Ace’s case, there will be more drool, too. You’ll also have to wash your own hands, the dog’s bowls and the area where you prepared the food because of the raw meat and the possibility of bacteria. It’s no different than the precautions you take to prepare your own meat.

4. Feeding a raw dog food diet is time consuming.

If you go with the pre-prepared route like I’m doing, it doesn’t take that much time. You just throw a patty in a dish and let it de-thaw overnight. Then serve. But you will have to wash your dog’s bowls more often. And, if you plan to prepare all the food yourself using your own ingredients, then you’ll spend time planning the meals, shopping for ingredients, storing the ingredients, preparing the food and cleaning up.

5. Storing raw food for your dog takes up more space.

We have a small freezer. Right now my freezer is holding two weeks of raw food for Ace, along with some of my own food. If you have a small dog, storage won’t be as much of an issue. But if you have medium to large dog (or a great dane!) or if you have multiple dogs, you should consider buying a larger freezer for more storage.

6. Some dogs can’t handle all the raw protein.

Old dogs, dogs with kidney issues and dogs with pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) are just a few examples of dogs that should not eat a raw diet, according to Anderson.

Always check with your vet if you are not sure.

7. Your vet might not understand the benefits of a raw diet for dogs.

A good vet will listen to you and openly discuss the pros and cons of a raw diet for your dog. If your dog’s vet does not support a raw diet, find a holistic vet in your area or explain to your current vet why you are interested in a raw diet.

Anderson said she typically does not recommend a raw diet for her clients’ dogs because it is too complicated to maintain longterm. It’s also hard to know whether or not your dog is getting a balanced diet, especially if you are making the food yourself.

8. Your dog will be begging for more ‘human’ food.

This will be a nonissue for most of us since most of our dogs already beg.

Lately I’ve been more likely to mix in healthy table scraps, vegetables or cooked meat with Ace’s food or give it to him as treats. Now he seems to expect a piece of banana when I make my morning smoothie. He seems to expect a piece of asparagus when I am cooking vegetables, etc. When he gets too annoying with his begging, I make him lie on his bed in the other room. Poor Ace.

9. It’s difficult to feed your dog a healthy raw diet while you travel.

It may not be realistic to feed your dog raw while traveling. I know I plan to feed Ace kibble when we travel or when he stays at a kennel or with a pet sitter. If switching back and forth is too hard on his digestive system, then it may be better to stick to kibble 100 percent of the time. We will see.

Please share any additional pros and cons to a raw dog food diet for dogs.

We can always learn more.

Check ThatMutt.com for upcoming blog posts on a raw food diet for dogs, and check out my ebook for a detailed guide on how to feed your dog raw.



Pin It

164 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. Lindy Wells on January 24, 2013

    One of my 3 shitzus was diagnosed with anal carconma cancer last March. Wasn’t supposed to live past May but it is The end of January and he is still here with a tumor but no pain yet, walked 45 minutes a day and has been on a cooked diet since he was diagnosed. Last week he stopped eating for 3days. I panicked but was considering having to let him go. I was getting ready to cook 2 riveted hoping and praying he would take a bite because I had tried every kind of cooked meat and vegetable there was but I had read that you could feed your dog raw meat so I offered him some raw steak. Oh my gosh. He ate it and I went to the store and got him some beef ribs and serloin and he has been eating it ever since. Then he ate apple slices, raw carrots and some bran cereal. Hey he doesn’ t have long but his energy and bright eyes are back and if I can give him comfort that’s what I am here for. So I started my youngest 6 yr old girl on it two days ago. Raw steak and stir fry vegs chopped up. She loves it and so far is doing well. My 16 yr old blind, deaf, boy still wants his roasted chicken, brown rice, raw vegs.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 25, 2013

      Sorry to hear one of your dogs is sick, but I’m glad they are all benefiting from a raw diet. Thanks for sharing your experience, and I hope your dog has many good days ahead. Sending you my positive thoughts.

  2. reagan on February 1, 2013

    If you are worried about the inconvience of raw taking up your freezer space or when you travel or board your dog. You can use stella and chewys freeze dried raw dog food. All the convience of kibble with all the belnifits of raw. You just add some water to it and its rehydrated again. Its pretty awesome! and totally balanced for you so you dont have to worry

  3. Author Grams on March 13, 2013

    Hi, I have a 5 year old Shitzu, who suffers from itching and bites her paws and her arm pits till they bleed, she also just got stones, I am so fed up with vets as they put her on a prescription diet s/d and she refuses to eat it, so I’m not able to give her meds. I am strongly considering putting her on this raw meat diet that everyone is talking about, she has no problem eating raw meat. My nephews vet suggested it for his German Shepard and the clean up( his poop) has no smell and it can be sprayed with a hose and disappears into the grass, NO MESS! Wonderful My question is how much raw meat, ounces would I feed a 17 lb shitzu….?Please help my Pebbles needs help!

  4. Kathleen on March 21, 2013

    Stella’s makes a freeze dried raw diet that you can buy for when you travel. It’s just as good as the frozen raw. It’s just made for those pets who are on a raw diet but also travelers. Our two 8 month old Papillons don’t seem to notice a difference or they just don’t care. They tolerate both equally well.

  5. Laura on March 27, 2013

    I have fed PRIMAL raw food to my border terrier since no other food (dry or canned) would alleviate his CECS (also known as Spikes disease or formally as canine epileptic cramping syndrome) which has plagued him since about 6 months of age. What I have found is that his particular cecs is aggravated by PROCESSED proteins….like proteins cooked so much as to turn them into kibble or to safely can the food, or to make treats like chicken, pig ears ( which I never fed anyway) jerky treats, etc. Basically he eats all raw including fruits and veggies and his Primal patties. He gets treats of apple or banana and on occasion a bit of string cheese or pure yogurt (fage, as no additives, flavors, corn syrup etc.) He did well with this for 4 years with only one brief seizure. Recently having some construction work and he got ahold of something from them, and has had a horrible prolonged episode of 5 days on and off, seems to be coming out of it….why do people seem to think they can give your dog a treat when you tell them not to?
    Anyway RAW FOOD saved this dog. I am a true believer. He is 9 and recent blood, liver work shows he is in perfect condition!!!!!!
    Another thing you might think about is vaccinations. My dog is done with these. Most dogs by later ages are fully protected. Because of the processing of vaccines, he has has seizures as a result of these too, now I do the more expensive titer blood tests, to show his immunity is acceptable to licensing agency.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 27, 2013

      So glad your dog is doing well. I hear you on the vaccinations.

  6. Suzie Jackson on May 30, 2013

    My dog is about 8 or 9 (she’s a rescue–Mini Schnauzer), diabetic, about 20 lbs.
    There are no diabetic formulas for dogs that aren’t pure GMO based. There’re a lot of corn (Science Diet WD) and other junk, so I decided to home feed her. Our vet’s testing methods are off and we don’t always know where she stands on insulin amounts. Here’s what I feed her: Organic chicken, cooked, organic unsweetened yogurt, flax seeds, vinegar (3 drops), organic black beans, organic raw carrots (she probably eats about 10-15 a day as treats), organic green beans, organic extra virgin olive oil and if I’m out of chicken, I replace it with sardines that are in heavy oil and salted. I give her about 4 of those x 2. And I give her 1000 units of fish oil-1x. She gets 5cc of insulin–the horrible recombinant stuff. Am I doing the right thing for her? She was overweight–up to 26 lbs. and now she weighs less. Do you think this is a balanced diet? I can’t get answers or interest in her diet from the vet. She said no fruit. I give her a couple of drops of honey on top of her yogurt if she looks wobbly. She eats at 6am and 6pm with green bean and carrot treats and then yogurt treats at my lunch time. She was strangely wobbly and weird and restless tonight and I’m worried, because she also eats a lot of seasonal bugs and maybe frogs. Thank you!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on May 30, 2013

      One thing to include in the diet is calcium and organ meat. You can probably get some chicken liver or turkey parts at your grocery store, or you can ask a local butcher for some beef organ meat. I also recommend feeding raw chicken bones such as chicken thighs or chicken quarters. If this makes you nervous, try giving some ground egg shells or a calcium supplement.

      These are just my suggestions. Since your dog is a diabetic, I think it would be best to consult a holistic veterinarian. Another option could be pre-prepared commercial raw food. It’s pricey, but you could feed it once or twice a week.

  7. Paul on June 8, 2013

    This blog is complete garbage. You state that a raw food diet PREVENTS CANCER. In fact it was #2 in the reasons why you should switch. BULLOCKS.

    If you have the cure for cancer (ie you can stop all Osteosarcoma’s from ever happening in any dog) then why are you not rich and famous with your portrait in every vet’s office?

    And why does just about EVERY raw food diet has to add some non-raw-food supplement because (wait for it) the raw food does not provide all the nutrients a dog needs?

    Lasty most of your cites/quotes are garbage. You talked to a pet food store owner and she said it was OK? Really? How many years of medical school do you go to before you can open a pet food store? Call us Michelle Smith and have her list her credentials. Oh, and I’m sure the ADVOCACY group ‘Born Free’ is also a learned group and not just a lot of dog owners who want to save all the cure puppies.

    The author of this useless blog should be banned from the Internet.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on June 9, 2013

      Sorry to read such a hateful comment from you, Paul. I see that you love dogs, and I know you will do what you feel is best for yours.

    • Renchan Li on August 14, 2013

      I thought that internet provides freedom for people having different opinions. I hope that no one just with different opinion is banned from freedom of expression on the internet.

  8. Peter Pfisterer on June 19, 2013

    I am self called dog fanatic and since my boxer Bruno died of poisoned dog food during infamous 2007 Menu Foods recall, I am on the crusade. My goal is to save dogs from being murdered by mass manufactured so called “dog food”.
    Out of loss and out of love TopDogDinners.com was born. Visit me and see for yourself that there are no more excuses NOT to feed dogs real food – fresh, natural, custom designed with specific dog in mind!
    Stop the kibble! Stop the can! Stop the recycled food!
    ps-Lindsay…you have class!
    ps-Paul…I feel sorry for you! you must be very unhappy person!

  9. Wilfred on June 25, 2013

    Nice post! This part “Reasons not to feed a dog a raw diet” is very useful. I think every dog owner wants to know the reason behind this post. Anyway, thank you for posting. Very HELPFUL :D

  10. JVick on August 2, 2013

    7.5 years ago I picked up an Aussi puppy. What a great dog. I always fed him Taste of the wild and finally EVO. The 1st of this year he could no longer do our 2.5 mile walk 5 days a week. Arthritis started to cripple him. He loved to chase and catch a Frisbee. No longer. He would have to push himself up with his front legs. Stairs were soon out of the question.

    His vet said he had rheumatoid arthritis and there is no cure. He recommended I should have a MRI done on him and possibly a visit to a specialist. We put him on Carprofen pain meds. I decided to see another vet who recommend a dog acupuncturist!

    His weight went from 57lbs-67lbs lying around always sleeping. Broke my heart. What was happening to this very active dog? I was surprised that this affliction came on so suddenly and at such a young age IMHO.

    My daughter started pushing me to switch him to a raw meat diet like her two dogs, I rejected the idea. Finally 3 months ago after watching him suffer so long I did.

    I am 61 and as a kid we always fed our dog table scraps and some caned animal meat bi-products (remember Alpo?) but never dried dog food with no problems. My dog went to the vet only to get rabies shots and when a bike hit him once.

    After the 1st week on raw meat his stiffness showed some slight relief and we noticed he was loosing the tarter from his teeth. Instead of taking a day to eat all of his Evo he would devour his raw meat, weekly bones & veggies twice a day in less than 1 minuet. His bowel movements were 75% less in volume.

    90 days later his weight has fallen from 67lbs-58lbs. His arthritis is no longer apparent & no pain pills. He is a red tri and his coat is now very soft & a rich red color again. No problems with stairs, walking or even vigorous tug of war. Most importantly he is now very active, happy and makes me smile.

    An allergy effecting his hip joints, inflammation? I don’t know but I do know for sure a raw meat diet works great for Tek!

  11. ingrid on August 14, 2013

    I just started about a week ago a raw meat diet for my 6year old Chihuahua and his girlfriend a 170 pound 18 month old English mastiff Maddy. They loved it and have more energy. I cut the beef up in the morning about 1 1/2 pounds stewing beef bought locally and add in raw blueberries, cooked yams turnip and carrots that I grow , mix a bit of that in with the raw meat. It is way better than the blue buffalo and flats of canned dog food that I went through. Maddy’s and Rocky’s life will be much healthier and less vet trips for allergies.

  12. Guin on November 10, 2013

    Can I use ground turkey ( no artificial ingredients) in chubs to make raw dog food with fruit and vegs added

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 10, 2013

      Yes, definitely. You’ll want to make sure your dog gets enough calcium by including some chicken or turkey bones a few times per week. And include some organ meat.

  13. Alison on December 5, 2013

    I just recently adopted a stray yellow lab, and being a proponent of the paleo diet I’ve been interested in researching ways to feed my girl Avi a more primal diet. I see you’ve mentioned Fargo a few times, and I actually live in Fargo :) I’ve been searching for more of a holistic veterinary clinic, but can’t seem to find any. Any suggestions? I’m so new at owning a dog and just feel a little lost with trying to start her on a raw diet. Also any other advice on places in Fargo with cheap raw food would be helpful :) I’m a graduate student with a limited budget, so i’m trying to see if I can make this raw diet work. Thanks!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on December 6, 2013

      When I lived in Fargo a lot of people would go to the Casselton veterinarian because there is a more holistic vet there. Commercial raw dog food is always expensive. I would buy it at Natural Pet Center, but only on occasion. Instead I just bought the meat at the grocery store. Having a Costco membership helps. Chicken is usually 99 cents per pound.

HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY?