There is a lot of misinformation and fear mongering out there on reasons not to feed your dog a raw diet. I thought I would write about some of these to show you that feeding a raw diet is not perfect, but it is also not dangerous.
My two dogs have appeared to do well on a raw diet. Feeding your own dog a raw diet is a great option to consider, but it’s not for everyone.
Use this information as one more piece to your ongoing research and do what’s best for you and your unique dog.
Reasons not to feed your dog a raw diet
Most of these are not hard reasons not to feed your dog a raw diet. Instead, they are barriers or small risks that you should know about.
1. It costs a lot to feed a commercial raw dog food diet
It is a lot more expensive to feed your dog a quality raw dog food diet vs a dry dog food.
The larger your dog or the more your dog eats, the more significant the cost difference will be. The same is true if you have multiple dogs.
To give you an idea, it costs me about $390 per month to feed one of my 65-pound dogs any of the commercial raw dog food diets. Or about $13 per day. Most of us can’t afford this for the long term. If you can, great!
By comparison, it costs me about $80 to feed the same dog a higher-end dry dog food per month. This is about $2.70 per day.
If you have a smaller dog, then the cost of feeding a commercial raw diet is not as outrageous and makes more sense for the average person.
Each of my two dogs need to eat about 2 pounds of raw food per day. When they eat dry food, they each get about 4 cups per day.
Example cost of raw dog food per month
A sample raw dog food company charges $6.50 per pound of raw food.
So, for one of my dogs that is $6.50/lb x 2lb/day = $13 per day.
For 30 days, that ends up being about $390 per month ($13 x 30 days = $390).
The cost is still about the same even if you feed a dehydrated or freeze-dried raw brand. I looked into these options thinking I might be able to save some money and was disappointed.
Cost of homemade raw dog food
The cost of making your own raw dog food can vary greatly.
In my experience with three different raw-fed dogs, I was able to cut the cost of commercial raw food in half by feeding a homemade diet.
I don’t feed a homemade raw diet anymore because I didn’t enjoy the process. It was stressful for me and a lot of work. Some people enjoy the process.
I would buy meat in as large of quantities as I could justify and mix in my own fruits and veggies.
So in my case, it would cost about $200 per month to feed one 65-pound dog. This is about half the cost of a commercial raw brand and about twice as much as a dry dog food brand.
Some people are able to get the cost of a homemade raw dog food down significantly by:
- joining a raw dog food co-op
- buying meat in massive quantities (such as buying a butchered cow)
- hunting big game like elk
- having connections with ranchers or hunters
See our articles:
2. Reasons not to feed a raw diet – Homemade raw dog food is not nutritionally balanced
This argument can go either way.
Of course, you do not want to feed your dog a homemade diet that is not nutritionally balanced. For this reason, some vets will say it’s dangerous or irresponsible to feed your dog homemade food.
I think veterinarians are right on this. Most people who feed their dogs a homemade raw diet are probably not feeding enough variety of meat and organ meat or the optimal amount of raw bones. It’s not easy to find organ meat, and it’s not obvious what percentage of bone is in each cut of meat.
On the other hand, no diet is going to be perfect. The common “equation” raw feeders try to follow is 80% muscle meat, 10% organ meat and 10% bone over time – not necessarily every meal.
If you can do that and try to mix up the types of muscle meat and organ meat your dog eats, your dog will probably be just fine. Here is an article we wrote on where to find organ meat for your dog.
There are also high-quality supplements for dogs available these days to help balance out a homemade raw diet.
3. Challenging during travel
Another reason not to feed your dog a raw diet is if you travel a lot.
Traveling with raw-fed dogs is doable but it takes a little more planning because you have to pack a cooler and ice to keep the food fresh.
This is not a huge deal, but still something to consider. When I took my dog Remy on several long road trips in the summer I always had to haul the cooler up to my hotel room at night since it was so hot out I didn’t want to leave it in the car.
The cooler also takes up extra space in your vehicle. And, once you reach your destination you will still need to store the meat somewhere – whether it’s in your cooler or someone’s fridge or freezer.
I also took Remy camping and had to haul along a cooler for his food and make sure it stayed cold enough. These things are doable but inconvenient compared to feeding dry food.
If you board your dogs, not all boarding kennels are willing to feed raw diets. I have been lucky to have a boarding kennel that is willing to feed my dogs raw food.
See our article: Feeding a dog raw food while traveling
4. Raw dog food takes up more storage space
Two weeks worth of raw dog food can take up quite a bit of space in your freezer or refrigerator.
To give you an idea, 20 pounds of raw food for my dogs takes up about the same amount of space as two one-gallon milk jugs. This will feed one of my 65-pound dogs for 10 days.
If you want to store more than that, you might need an extra freezer just for your dog food.
5. Dogs get sick from different foods
Despite what some vets tell you, it’s unlikely that a dog will get sick from the bacteria in raw meat. This is because a dog’s digestive system is designed for eating raw meat!
However, a lot of dogs do get sick from suddenly switching from one type of food to another. So, if you suddenly switch your dog from a dry food to raw food, he might get a bad upset stomach for a few days.
It depends on the dog, but my dogs have always done better when I gradually switch them from dry food to raw food by slowly mixing the two over a week..
This is no different than when you’re switching a dog from one dry brand to another. It’s usually best to mix the two over a few days to help them adjust to the change.
See our article:
6. Raw dog food requires extra cleanup
There is just more cleanup to deal with when you’re feeding a raw diet.
- You should wash the dog bowls regularly.
- Pre-made raw food will come in wrapping you’ll have to throw away each time. It usually has blood on it and sometimes these leak and you’ll have to wipe out your fridge.
- If you’re making raw food, you’ll have knives, cutting boards and storage containers to wash.
- You’ll want to wash your own hands afterwards.
I’m not saying any of this is a big deal. Just that it takes extra time and not everyone has the time or energy to worry about extra tasks like this when it comes to feeding the dog.
7. A dog could crack a tooth on a raw bone.
A dog could crack a tooth while chewing any type of hard chew, whether it’s a raw bone, a cooked bone, an antler or various dog chew toys such as Nylabones.
Raw bones are actually one of the safer things for most dogs to chew because raw bones are softer than cooked bones.
The smaller the bone, the easier it is for a dog to chew.
If you stick to softer, smaller bones like poultry bones, your dog should be just fine and you should not have to worry about him cracking a tooth. Dogs will easily crunch up and swallow poultry bones, and they usually digest these small bones just fine. Just make sure you give your dog raw bones, not cooked bones.
Larger raw bones such as beef soup bones or beef knuckle bones are the raw bones you want to be more careful with. There is a small risk that your dog could crack a tooth on these larger bones.
Some dogs will enjoy chewing on beef bones for a long time and not have any issues – the same way a dog would chew on a Nylabone or an antler. But some dogs are very hard chewers and could bite the bone just right and end up fracturing a tooth.
So, it helps to know your dog’s chewing style – if you have more of a “hard chewer” like my weimaraner, you might not want to give him any raw beef bones.
8. Low chance of an intestinal blockage
The chance of a raw bone causing an intestinal blockage in a dog is very low. Some vets like to use fear mongering though. This is because most vets do not have a lot of experience or training with raw diets.
As long as you are feeding your dog smaller, softer raw bones such as chicken thighs or chicken quarters, he will chomp them up a bit and be able to digest them just fine.
Dogs have very efficient digestive systems, and they are designed for eating raw meat and raw bones. If they swallow something they’re having trouble digesting, they will often regurgitate it and then re-eat it! Disgusting, I know, but efficient!
If a dog has a blockage, it is more likely from swallowing cooked bones or non-edible pieces of toys like Nylabones. However, there is a small chance something like a large chunk of a raw beef bone could cause a blockage.
9. Low chance of choking on the raw bones
In general, the chance of a dog choking on a raw bone is also very low. Dogs are pretty good at self regulating and will chomp something up before swallowing. They are also good at digesting raw bones.
I remember I was worried the first time I gave my dog Ace a raw chicken thigh. He pretty much swallowed the thigh whole with just two or three chomps and down the hatch it went within 5 seconds! I soon learned that this is normal and perfectly fine.
Generally, you want to feed the dog chunks of meat and bone that he would have to at least chomp on a little before swallowing.
So, for my Lab-sized dogs chicken thighs are a good option but chicken wings are pretty small for them. For a smaller dog, either a chicken wing or a thigh would be just fine.
Another trick you can use is to feed the food slightly frozen. That makes it harder for the dog to swallow and they will generally chomp on it a bit before swallowing.
10. Reasons not to feed a raw diet – most vets are not supportive of raw diets
Unfortunately, most vets are not educated or supportive about feeding a raw diet. However, as more and more dog owners are feeding raw, more vets are learning about raw diets and getting on board.
If it’s important to you to have honest discussions with your vet about feeding a raw diet, you might have to research different vets in your area until you find a good fit. I am lucky to have several veterinarians in our area, but I know that some people have limited options.
I hope this information will help you understand that feeding your dog a raw diet is a great option, but there are certainly reasons not to feed your dog a raw diet. It doesn’t come without a few challenges, but raw diets are a healthy option for most dogs.
In the comments, let us know if you have any questions!