Myths About Raw Feeding


Because of the growing 'fad' of feeding pre-made, ground raw diets, this is one myth that must be addressed. There are a good number of BARF feeders and raw feeders who feed their dogs ground meat and bone or pre-made, commercial raw diets. While this will always be better than commercial kibbled foods, there are still several good reasons why ground and pre-made raw should be avoided if you and your pets are able to do so (remember, even dogs with only a few teeth are still able to dispose of raw meaty bones!).

1.) Feeding ground meat and/or bone encourages the dog to gulp its food even faster, increasing the risk of it choking on its food. Why switch from one easily gulped food (kibble) to another? Some raw-feeders feed ground or pre-made raw in order to avoid the risk of choking on bones; dogs can be notorious 'food bolters' or gulpers, and until they have learned to chew their food thoroughly they may be more likely to bolt down large chunks of meat and bone (granted, this is how many dogs eat anyway). Rather than depend on ground or pre-made raw (both of which also can cause choking if the dog inhales its food too quickly; no food is 'choking free'. Please remember that choking is NOT a risk of epidemic proportions when feeding a raw diet as many would have us believe; however, it is still a consideration, as it should be with ANYTHING the dog puts into its mouth.), several steps can be taken to teach a dog how to chew its RMBs carefully.

First, avoid feeding small bony parts like chicken wings and chicken necks unless attached to a whole bird. Stick to larger RMBs like chicken leg quarters, whole rabbits, whole beef or pork neck bones (not the ones sawn in half), whole slabs of beef or pork ribs, and turkey thighs. Second, feed the RMBs frozen. A frozen RMB will help the dog to slow down its chewing. If the dog chews the bones down to a point where it might try to bolt the rest of it and choke because it is still too big, take the RMB away right before that point is reached until your dog is has learned to chew properly. Third, if feeding multiple dogs, try to feed the dogs separately so the animals feel no need to rush through their dinners so the other dogs do not try and eat their food. There is no prize for the first one finished, so easing any competitive pressure during mealtimes may help. If you do not feel uncomfortable with feeding your gulper completely consumable RMBs, you can try feeding meals of pre-made or ground raw accompanied by large RMBs that are not completely consumable for your dog. Depending on your dog's size, this could be a chicken quarter or an entire slab of beef ribs; the dense, hard leg bones of ungulates (such as cow femurs, etc.) should be avoided if possible since they are responsible for many cracked or broken teeth. This will still provide your dog with the necessary teeth-cleaning benefits of RMBs while helping teach it to gnaw and chew the RMBs. Ideally, the dog would eventually be weaned off the expensive pre-made diet (or time-consuming ground diet, if you grind your own meat and bones) and onto a prey-model diet of whole carcasses and RMBs.

2.) Ground meat and/or bone does NOTHING for scrubbing those teeth and gums. One of the main points of feeding a raw diet is to ensure the dental health of the pet, as periodontal disease can affect all the systems of your dog's body and is very detrimental to its overall health. Feeding ground is worthless for cleaning the teeth of the pet, and neither does it give your pet the satisfaction of ripping, tearing, and chewing its meal. Feeding ground deliberately excludes the excellent psychological and physiological benefits your dog gets from chewing raw meaty bones. Please see the Raw Meaty Bones 18 November 2002 Newsletter "The good, the bad, and the misguided" for further reference and a discussion on the whole business of feeding ground.

3.) Feeding ground does not 'prime' the dog's system or forewarn the stomach that it is receiving food. This means your dog wolfs down the ground meal in 10 seconds and then sits there looking for more while a large amount of food just sits in the stomach until the digestive system kicks into gear and starts digesting the food (think of how you feel after wolfing down a bunch of food before your body is ready for it—the food just sits there in your stomach like a rock, your stomach may start to churn or cramp, and you fill either a) still hungry, or b) grossly full and like you have a sour stomach). Chewing raw meaty bones, by contrast, prepares your dog mentally and physiologically for receiving food, since the dog must work at its meal and this act of 'working' at its meal engages the parasympathetic nervous system that encourages saliva production, stomach acid secretion, and gut motility (Saladin, K.S. 2004. Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function.). The food is added to the stomach slowly, which has been primed by the acts of chewing and salivating and is producing the necessary stomach acids for digesting the meal. The body is given time to prepare for the food while the dog is given the immense psychological pleasure of chewing on a raw meaty bone.

4.) Ground food actually increases the "risk" of bacteria. Yes, bacteria is not a huge issue anyway, but it is worthwhile to note that grinding meat and bone drastically increases the surface area available for bacteria and thoroughly mixes in the bacteria throughout the meat. Bringing bacteria to the inside of the meat means bringing them into a nice wet, dark environment sequestered from the air—the perfect environment for anaerobic bacteria to grow. This 'redistribution' of bacteria and the increased area for proliferation are some of the reasons why more people get E. coli food poisoning from ground hamburger than from steaks or non-ground beef, which have only a layer of bacteria on the outside in contact with the light and the air. While bacteria is something to think about, it is not something to worry about in terms of 'food poisoning' for pets. Something more troublesome than food poisoning is that the proliferation of bacteria means a decrease in valuable nutrients like taurine, an important amino acid (especially for cats!) that many types of bacteria use. More bacteria means a greater loss of these valuable nutrients. However, most of the issue with feeding ground resides in the fact that ground meat does not clean the dog's teeth and can actually stick to their teeth, encouraging the formation of plaque and the proliferation of harmful bacteria in your dog's mouth.

5.) With pre-made raw diets, you are just changing one commercial diet for another! You have no control over the quality of the ingredients, which ingredients are used, what is added, or how the pre-made raw was prepared. AND pre-made raw diets are generally more expensive than fresh, raw meaty bones. Oh, pre-made raw may be more convenient, but since when does convenience take priority over the health and well-being of your pet? Pre-made raw still does nothing for your pet's dental health, and this can lead to later health problems. Pre-made raw also contains vegetables and may even contain grains! Dogs are carnivorous animals that DO NOT eat the stomach contents of their prey and have no need for vegetables. Plus, it is typically ground, which is essentially useless for your dog.

There are several situations where ground or pre-made raw may be used acceptably, although it is not the ideal. One instance where ground raw is "recommended" is when a dog has just had a surgery of some sort or is ill and probably should not be eating whole bones just yet. But even in this case whole slabs of meat—like boneless chicken breasts—are preferred over ground because the dog still has to work at it a bit. Ground meat can make a nice treat: stuff a Kong with ground beef, freeze it, and then present it to your dog or puppy when you must crate it for an extended period of time. Raw feeders occasionally have to compromise on feeding ground;some boarding kennels put up a huge stink about feeding your dog raw meaty bones while it is being boarded, but will feed a pre-made, ground diet. If you have to board your dog or are traveling for an extended period of time (with or without your pet), a ground or pre-made raw diet may work as a suitable substitute—particularly for boarding kennels. One raw feeder who found herself in this situation reported that by the time her dog's stay at the kennel was up, he already had tartar back on his teeth from not chewing bones for just that short period of time (C. Kuehn, personal comm.). Those who enjoy camping and backpacking are sometimes forced to pack freeze-dried raw food for their pet (for more information on backpacking or camping with a raw-fed pet, click here.).

The key is that the ground or pre-made raw is fed as short of a time as possible! It is not ideal to be feeding an animal designed for ripping, chewing, shredding, and tearing its food a mushy, ground up product that does nothing to stimulate the animal's mind or digestive system and nothing to give the pet the NECESSARY dental workout. For a deeper discussion of why this dental workout is so crucial, it is highly recommended that you read Dr. Tom Lonsdale's Cybernetic Hypothesis on Periodontal Disease posted under the 'Papers and Articles' on This Cybernetic Hypothesis is also found in Chapter 14 of his book Raw Meaty Bones.