When Lindsay asked me if I could write a post about why I personally chose to feed my dogs raw food and what’s prompting me to continue to do so, I happily agreed.
The short answer is because it helped my boxer mix Missy stay in remission from cancer for 3+ years and her brother Buzz continues to thrive on it.
I essentially learned that dogs are what they eat after Missy was diagnosed with cancer, and consequently I wanted the best, healthiest, most nourishing dog food for both her and her brother.
As I found out several years ago, raw food happens to be it and trumps anything else available on the dog food market.
I know that’s a bold statement, yet it’s one that any raw feeder will sign in a heartbeat.
I realize feeding a raw diet entails a slew of “whys” and “hows” from anyone unfamiliar with and curious about this type of dog food. So, here’s my attempt to explain what convinced me and why I continue to believe in its power.
To feed your dog a raw diet means exactly that – to feed raw meat, bones, organ meat and sometimes raw fruits and veggies. See an example of a raw dog food recipe here.
Why I feed my dogs a raw diet
I first came across raw dog food when I was looking for a solution for Missy’s cancer diagnosis in late 2014.
While she was undergoing treatment which included the removal of her thyroid tumor and 3 rounds of preventative chemotherapy, I spent many hours in front of the computer, looking for answers to the following questions:
- What could possibly have been the cause of a young dog’s cancer besides her genetic boxer makeup?
- Was there anything that could help her on her road to recovery?
- Were there any lifestyle changes that could boost her immune system and keep cancer’s ugly face from resurfacing?
I found answers to all of my questions, both from holistic raw feeding veterinarians and normal dog owners who actively fed their furry friends raw dog food. These dog lovers switched their dogs to raw after experiencing canine cancer in their pack or because of their nutritional knowledge in dogs.
Here’s the brief rundown:
1. Cancer in dogs can be caused by environmental factors (not always, of course). One environmental factor could include heavily processed dog food like kibble and canned food.
After reading this, my jaw dropped. Missy had been on exactly that – kibble and wet food – for all of her 3 years and 3 months of life before coming down with cancer. Had I unknowingly contributed to her disease by feeding her the wrong type of dog food?
2. It was recommended to make a switch from kibble and wet food to raw dog food, either via the detour of dehydrated raw food or a cold turkey approach to raw food (pun intended). So I made the switch.
3. It was also recommended to limit the number of vaccinations administered to a dog and eliminate as many chemical components from their life as possible. I identified several in Missy’s, and eliminated dryer sheets along with topical and oral pest preventatives from her and her brother’s lives.
I also replaced our generic dog shampoo (made in China by the way…) with an all natural, chemical-free, herbal dog shampoo.
Side note: That was before I realized that raw-fed dogs rarely need a bath at all! A little more about that under “perks of raw-fed dogs.”
Unfortunately, Missy is no longer with me now as her cancer ended up coming back and taking her from me after all. However, I have no doubt that the raw diet allowed her to live another happy 3 years with me and her brother Buzz.
Her immune system must have received an additional boost, her coat was always glossy & shiny black, her pearlies were as white as they could be, and her appetite for her fresh, raw meals never faded. May she rest in peace along with an abundance of her favorite raw food!
Here’s why I will continue to feed (my future) dogs a raw diet:
Benefits of a raw food diet for dogs:
- Dogs do exceedingly well on raw food because it consists of a variety of cuts of real meat that are chock full of all the necessary vitamins and minerals a dog needs not only to survive, but to thrive, therefore boosting their immune systems.
- Unlike kibble and wet food, a raw diet has only been minimally processed and not exposed to extreme heat which causes the loss of so many nutrients.
- It doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients like harmful preservatives, flavors, and colors.
- It’s designed to work with a dog’s teeth, jaws, and acidic digestive system that’s made to break down raw meat and bones and kill potentially dangerous bacteria.
- A raw diet mimics the food dogs ate not only in the wild, but before the smart people in the food industry realized there was money to be made with the introduction of canned and dry dog food in the late 1800s.
- The raw diet addresses skin and coat issues, allergies, and ear infections.
The raw diet also comes with a few side effects I’ve very much come to appreciate over the years:
More perks of raw-fed dogs
1. Smaller poop volume
I like the way Dr. Ian Billinghurst describes this in his book “Give Your Dog A Bone” (page 126):
Dogs fed raw meaty bones produce smallish quantities of solid minimally offensive stools. These are quite different to the revolting mounds of evil smelling partially liquid waste which oozes its way out of the back end of dogs fed processed food.
This is so true! The difference between a raw-fed dog’s poop and his kibble-fed counterpart is huge. Literally!
2. No dog smell – eliminates need for baths
I could tell the difference in smell particularly because of my work as a professional dog walker. My clients’ homes whose dogs are fed a kibble diet have that very distinctive dog smell that my home no longer had every since making the switch from kibble to raw, especially when their dogs got wet on a rainy walk.
One of my Air B&B guests pointed this out as well after she had been in my home for several days! She said something along the lines of “It’s kind of odd, but your house really doesn’t smell like dogs at all, and you have two!”
Once Missy & Buzz were several months into our raw feeding journey, the only time they would get a bath was when they had rolled around in a puddle of mud and truly had dirt on their coats.
3. Excitement at meal time
Missy was a slave to her stomach regardless of what type of food I’d offer her, but I specifically noticed the change in excitement at meal time in her brother Buzz. He was an extremely picky eater back in our kibble and wet food days, and it was always a little challenging getting him to eat.
This behavior changed instantly when I introduced raw dog food. He never turned down a single raw meal and has eaten every last bite of raw goodness that made it into his bowl!
4. Clean teeth
A raw diet eliminates the need to manually brush a dog’s teeth in most cases, if raw meaty bones are part of the diet.
This also saves dog owners the expensive dental cleaning performed by veterinarians. Neither Missy nor Buzz have needed any dental cleanings after their introduction to raw meaty bones as part of their raw diet, and I never again touched a doggie toothbrush!
So there you have it! For more info on feeding your dog a raw diet, see some of our past articles:
- Raw dog food for beginners
- How to safely feed your dog raw bones
- Supplies for feeding raw dog food
- Raw dog food on a budget
- The pros and cons of a raw diet.
Barbara Rivers writes regularly for That Mutt about feeding her two boxer mixes a raw dog food diet. She is a blogger and dog walker and maintains the blog K9s Over Coffee.
Wednesday 24th of March 2021
Good morning Barbara. We have fed our girls raw for 6 years. We have used mostly bought raw already put together. I want to make it myself. Do you have any simple recipes to start? Feeling a bit overwhelmed and there are so many different ones.
Thank you for your time Trish
Wednesday 24th of March 2021
Here are a couple of Barbara's recipes: https://www.thatmutt.com/raw-dog-food-on-a-budget/
Friday 2nd of November 2018
Hi there! After 2 of my dogs died of cancer I started feeding raw. What a difference! Our boy golden also got cancer, he's a rescue about 4 when we got him. He was diagnosed over 4 years ago. The oncologist said only 3-6 months to live. With raw and supplements he beat it! And our rescue girl golden got her first agility championship at 11 1/2 and her second at 12 1/2! The absence of carbs even helped her with anxiety and aggression.
Wednesday 13th of March 2019
Hi Lynn, wow, here's to the power of raw!! I'm so sorry to read that you lost two of your pups to cancer though. It's such an awful, awful disease.
I have heard of raw being able to minimize anxiety issues drastically in dogs - how awesome to hear your testimony about that.
Thursday 20th of September 2018
I'm so glad that you wrote this post, it warmed my heart to read your second sentence (and the rest as well, of course).
Our dog, Lady, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that would have required biweekly chemo treatments. Instead, we switched her to a diet of food we prepared (rather than store bought bagged or canned food) and the difference was night and day. It was like she was ten years younger. We will never go back to manufactured food again.
Thursday 27th of September 2018
Your comment truly made me smile. I am excited and happy for you that you tried something new that's helping Lady!!
Isn't it sad though that we as pet owners tend to only find out about the massive benefits of a raw diet after our pets have been diagnosed with a terrible illness?
Either way, let's work together in spreading its benefits!
Would you consider sharing a picture of Lady?