Myths About Raw Feeding


On this page: "Statistics from Wolf Studies" and "Can Raw Meat Cure Illness?"


Statistics from Wolf Studies
Read what Mike Ferreira, a 20-year veteran of wolf and wolfdog studies has to say.

At the time these pages were written, this link was not found on the server. It has since been re-created, but most of what Mr. Ferreira shares has already been or will be refuted in this rebuttal or in the myth pages themselves.


I myself, have done extensive studies on wolves and wolfdogs over the years.

I would be curious to know what the nature of these studies are. Are they diet-related studies, behavior-related, training-related, etc.? Just doing 'extensive studies' on wolves and wolfdogs does not make one an expert on diet, particularly when all the previous discussions have been inaccurate according to the world's leading wolf experts (L. David Mech is one such expert, along with the other wolf biologists contributing to books like Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation—the result of 350 years of collective experience.).


I actually own a wolfdog, myself. Chinook is a high content Timber Wolf.

Good for you! Wolfdogs are interesting pets, and certainly are not for everyone. We will not discuss the issue of whether or not people should have wolfdogs as pets. However, I would like to note that owning a wolfdog does not make one an expert on wolves, just as owning a dog does not make one an expert on dogs.


Wild dogs often suffer from liver, kidney, an pancreatic problems from the raw meat in their diet.

Wild dogs, wolves, and domestic dogs can all suffer from similar problems. Whether or not these are from their raw diet remains to be proven. Additionally, liver, kidney, and pancreatic problems brought on by a raw diet are generally indicative of underlying problems (although quite a few people blame the raw diet first).


The bones they eat are covered with cartilages and fur - a wolf skat (feces) looks like a hairy stick.

Yes, the hair passes through undigested, while the bone is thoroughly digested. Raw feeders feeding a prey-model diet of whole carcasses witness this phenomenon as well. Contrary to what Mr. Ferreira states, raw bone IS digestible; otherwise, the volume of wolf poop would be enormous considering the amount of bone that is consumed from a kill. Bone chunks would come out as bone chunks, but wild wolf feces contain no bone chunks—just indigestible hair and a small amount of powdered bone (whatever is left after digestion).


The barf diet recommends raw, meaty chicken bones and it has killed and injured thousands of dogs.

Please do not issue such doubtful, blanket, unsubstantiated statements: "killed and injured thousands of dogs." I can issue blanket statements as well: commercial foods have killed and injured millions of dogs, as evidenced by the number of commercial-fed dogs sitting in the waiting rooms of veterinary clinics, including the 60,000 dogs suffering from bloat each year (which has incredibly strong ties to commercial diets!). 20,000 of these dogs die each year. This casts Dr. Julie Churchill's statement (found on the Testimonies page linked below):—"Any food that can potentially kill even one animal is not worth the risk"—into a very dubious light, especially when one takes into account the recent deaths of approximately 100 dogs from the aflatoxin found in Diamond pet foods. But apparently it is acceptable to recommend a food (processed kibble) that will kill numerous animals each year but is accepted as 'safe'. Remember, even AAFCO-approved foods allow for the deaths of two dogs during the testing process; if six of eight dogs survive, the food passes as 'complete and balanced.' Imagine if this ratio extended to the thousands (millions?) of pets eating this same 'complete and balanced' kibble! Yet vets continue to recommend a food that can and does kill animals with what I feel is astonishing regularity.


It is a WELL known fact amongst vets that dogs who eat raw bones often have dental problems ... it wears the teeth down flat, and they splinter in the jaws and gums (also throat and stomach).

This is possibly because the owners are feeding those huge marrow bones and cow femurs that break and chip teeth. These are the bones that most often inflict dental damage. Ironically, these 'knuckle bones' and cow femurs are the same bones many veterinarians and pet food companies recommend people give their dogs to help clean teeth because they are "safe" bones. Raw bones as fed in a prey-model diet may slowly wear down teeth, but this is nothing compared to the wear seen from tennis balls, sticks, rocks, rawhides, and even those artificial 'non-wearing' bones. As a sidenote: hair is actually much more abrasive than bone. Dogs that chew on themselves frequently (from fleas, allergies, skin conditions, or whatever reason) exhibit much greater teeth wear on their front incisors from the frequent contact with hair. And let us not forget that those impressive teeth in our dogs' mouths are designed for chewing up raw meat and bone.

Raw bones rarely splinter. Can it happen? Possibly. It is an incredibly rare occurrence. Most of the splintering seen in jaws, gums, and throat occurs from cooked bones, and veterinarians often issue a blanket claim of 'bones' without specifying whether the bone was cooked or raw. Cooked bones look and feel very different from raw bones, and it should not be an issue to tell them apart (yet it apparently seems to be an issue).


The barf diet that is so-called "evolutionarily correct" does not seem to coincide with the reality of evolution.

BARF diets are not evolutionarily correct. They advocate too much bone (no prey animal is more than 25% bone) and unnecessary vegetables and supplements. For a greater discussion of how BARF and a proper raw diet differ, please click here.


Pomeranians, corgis, labs, jack russells (for example) and most of the other breeds we have today did not evolutionize from wolves over thousands of years. They are man-made breeds that have come about from our intervention with genetics.

They are still considered to be a subspecies of the wolf, are still very closely related, and are still carnivorous animals. The only changes have been in size, coloring, coat, etc. The changes are primarily in outward, phenotypic characteristics, not internal physiological characteristics. The genetic manipulation man has done to produce small dogs like Chihuahuas and toy dogs has resulted in an even greater need for the necessary teeth-cleaning effects of a raw meaty bone diet (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. pg 46). For some rather graphic pictures of the horrid damage processed food can inflict on small dogs (or any dog, for that matter), please click here.


Domestic dogs are similar to wolves but there are many genetic differences --- wolves have a different dental structure (size and angle of teeth) and completely different skull measurements. From the nose to the top of their head, it’s flat with no indentation....the area by the ears is much wider than a domestic dog. Wolves mature physically at a completely different rate.

True, but this still does not change the basic nature of the dog, nor its physiological and metabolic needs. Dogs still have the teeth and internal anatomy of a carnivore, and should be fed as such. Grains, vegetables, and commercial foods are highly inappropriate for our domestic carnivores. It should also be considered that wolves may mature physically at a different rate because they are eating their natural foodstuffs and are facing a hostile environment that regulates the amount of energy allocated to growth. Dogs fed commercial foods mature very quickly due to the artificial supplements and easy calories of the food; additionally, the life they lead in 'domestication' allows for a greater percentage of calories to be allocated for growth, resulting in faster growth. Raw feeding breeders and owners have observed that when puppies are fed a raw, species appropriate diet, they mature at a slower rate, exhibiting a slower, more even growing pattern that is presumably closer to the growth rates seen in wolves.


The following quotes from Jennifer Sheldon’s "Wild Dogs, The Natural History of Nondomestic Canidae" show that many wolves and wild dogs do die of intestinal parasites which are contracted from eating raw meat. Of course, this is not the primary reason wolves die, but it does happen.

That last sentence should be emphasized more. 'This is not the primary reason wolves die.' Precisely. There is a variety of other factors that come in to play (like not getting enough food) that are conveniently left out. Additionally, virtually EVERY wild animal has parasites of some sort. That is part of life. Not all of these parasites are obtained from food, either; contaminated water can also be a huge contributor, not to mention vector-borne parasites like heartworm.


Regarding the red wolf (extinct in the wild, except for small reintroduced populations); "Their decline is thought to be due to a complex of factors including aggressive long-term control programs... and high mortality from susceptibility to parasites." (Parker, 1988; Paradiso and Nowak, 1971, 1972, Carley, 1979; Ferrell, et al., 1980)

"Due to a complex of factors." That says it all right there. Parasites can contribute, but they really take their toll when the animals' immune systems are severely taxed through starvation, environmental toxins and pollutants, and the stress brought on by 'long-term control programs.' It would be nice to see what other factors were listed.


"Parasites exact a heavy toll. Of 27 wild-caught wolves tested, all 27 had heartworm (Riley and McBride, 1972).

There is a difference between testing positive from heartworm and having a heavy infestation of heartworm that can cause death. This sort of heavy infestation is rare in animals with a healthy immune system. The presence of heartworm seems to indicate an underlying problem.

More information on the wolves is much needed. What was the status of their immune systems? Why were they caught? Were they injured? Were they starving from lack of food? What was their habitat like? What about human interference and encroachment?


Intestinal parasites, distemper, and mange are also widespread (Riley and McBride, 1972; Paradiso and Nowak, 1972).

I am getting the feeling that this is a very sick population of wolves. Why are they so sick? As stated numerous times before, diet generally is not the reason for wild animals' illnesses unless they are not getting enough to eat.


The high parasite burden carried by all red wolves may indicate that they were occupying marginally suitable habitat.

This is the key sentence. 'Marginally suitable habitat'. This ushers in a variety of factors that are contributing to the illness of this population. Poor food sources, poor habitat, environmental stressors, sporadic prey, pollution, etc. If a species occupies marginally suitable habitat, then in all likelihood their prey supply is not very abundant, resulting in periods of starvation and malnutrition and then death. Their food did not kill them; the LACK OF food killed them coupled with environmental/habitat degradation.


The majority of animals captured during the intensive capture efforts of 1972 were less than 4 years old (Carley, 1979), indicating a very high mortality rate for older individuals. Paradiso and Nowak (1972) noted that there appeared to be very low levels of pup survivorship on the Texas gulf cost in the late 1960s, with most pups dying before 6 months of age. Potential lifespan, if comparable to that of free-ranging coyotes, should have been as much as 12 years."

Red wolves have experienced severe blows to their population, but as stated before, most of this is a result of occupying 'marginally suitable habitat'. Their decline is due to human interference in many forms (habitat encroachment and loss, prey loss due to human movement, etc.), not due to the food they eat. The very high mortality rate for older individuals is due to a variety of factors. For those who wish to know more about population dynamics, I would suggest picking up an ecology textbook.

Coyotes are a VERY successful species, quite unlike the red wolves. It might be interesting to note that the coyotes used for comparison had a life expectancy close to 12 years. These same coyotes presumably consume raw prey (and hence raw meaty bones) as well, and yet they are outliving red wolves and not dying from heavy parasite loads contracted from the raw meat as you would have us believe. The diet does not seem to be the problem (especially since heartworm—one of the parasites afflicting this population of red wolves—is transmitted via mosquito, NOT through raw meat).


Regarding the diet of red wolves, "…small animals such as rabbits, raccoons, and nutria, are their primary prey. The consume fish, insects, carrion, and plant material as well (Paradiso and Nowak, 1972; Carley, 1979; Riley and McBride, 1972; Shaw, 1975). Only occasionally do they prey upon ungulates.

Red wolves are a different species of wolves, and are not implicated in canine lineages. Red wolves have evolved to eat what prey is available to them, which may be smaller animals. This may also be due to social dynamics and hunting methods.


Regarding the grey wolf;
"Disease, parasites (intestinal), starvation take their toll as well"

Yes, parasites take their toll, especially when the animals are starving. Wolves are not immune to the maladies that affect wild animals. Such is life in the wild. Thankfully, we are able to provide our animals quality meat from human-grade sources, which means the chance of parasites is incredibly low. Additionally, our dogs enjoy a posh lifestyle in our homes rather than out in the wild braving the elements and dealing with the high energetic costs associated with life in the wild.


Regarding the maned wolf;
"In free-ranging individuals, parasites (particularly nematodes, which may destroy the kidneys), cystinuria (a potentially fatal inherited metabolic disorder), and human-caused deaths seem to be the most important factors contributing to mortality (Meritt, 1972; Dietz, 1984)." NOTE: the meat aspect of their diet was an important contributing factor to mortality!!

I think it is interesting that the meat aspect of their diet is not listed as an important contributing factor to mortality; is this an inference, and if it is, is it a viable inference? The meat aspect of their diet may be important in contributing to mortality if all these parasites are obtained from the prey they eat. However, parasites can be obtained from other sources as well: contaminated water, other animal's feces, the environment, etc. Cystinuria is an INHERITED metabolic disorder. Natural selection, if left to its own devices, would naturally take care of this by eliminating from the population the wolves affected with such a disorder. "Human-caused deaths" does not seem to get much notice, although it is an incredibly important factor contributing to maned wolf mortality. Once again, it seems necessary to note that the diet of raw meaty prey cannot logically be blamed for all the wolves' problems, especially if the absence of prey in their diets would lead to death of an entire species. If they did not eat prey, what would they eat? If they did not eat prey, they would die.


Can Raw Meat Cure Illness?
No! When an improvement in a previous condition is seen after feeding raw meat to a dog, it is more likely due to the absence of some offending agent in the food they were eating before.

The improvement in previous condition is often due to the absence of some offending agent, like grains, preservatives, additives, cooked proteins, etc. However, it is also due to the "life" found in the food. Raw food is living food bursting with living energy, whereas cooked and kibbled food is lacking living energy and devoid of any semblance of life. This is what Traditional Chinese Medicine and holistic practitioners call "Qi" ("Chee").


Some people see what they perceive to be immediate results from the barf diet...a shiny coat, or some type of condition has cleared up. Raw meat has a high fat content that will sometimes give a dog a shiny coat (at least initially). While coat texture can be a sign of good health, it's not a reliable measure of a dog's health.

True. A shiny coat is not the only measure used for good health, although the fact that the coat and skin are replenished frequently and that any nutritional issues will show up rapidly in an animal's coat do lend creedence to its use as a tool in evaluating an animal's overall health. But it should not be the only evaluating tool.


The truth is that it's NOT the element of *raw* meat that improves a dog's health. They would see the same results with cooked meat. Often times it's simply the absence of one or more ingredient(s) in the kibble they were feeding. When you go from a low quality kibble to barf, you're basically hopping out of the pot and into the fire.

According to this logic, then there is not a single element in cooked food either that improves a dog's health—only the absence of an offending agent in the kibble improves health.

Cooked foods can, however, be harmful. They have carcinogenic compounds in them (particularly cooked meats [The American Society for Nutritional Sciences, Journal of Nutrition. 134:776-784, April 2004.]), are harder to digest, are more abrasive on the intestinal wall, and can be altered enough chemically to be rendered useless to a dog. Is a cooked diet better than kibble? Definitely. Is a cooked diet better than a raw, prey model diet? Well, consider the fact that raw proteins are more digestible, are not carcinogenic, are of superior quality, are easier on the intestinal wall, create a very inhospitable environment for bacterial growth in the intestine (unlike cooked food), and are in a pure, unaltered state. People who have switched their pets from cooked diets to prey-model raw diets have seen improvements in their dog's health, which seems to imply that the cooked diet was inferior to a raw diet. To read more about the negative side effects of cooked food, please see the Cooked Food myth.


In other words, you could have taken your dog off their current food and put them on another commercial food, or possibly a vet-supervised homemade diet with small amounts of cooked meat, and seen an improvement in the condition - without the dangers of raw meat.

Yes, you can see an improvement in the condition of your pet's illness, but how much of an improvement? Is it a sustainable, long-lasting improvement, or just another "6-months-and-we-are-back-where-we-started improvement? All kibbles are not created equal, and home-made diets are definitely superior to kibbled food. "The dangers of raw meat": we must remember that raw meat is more 'dangerous' to humans than it is to our carnivorous pets that have systems uniquely adapted to eating raw meat and bone. Our human manipulation and artificial selection have done nothing to change the basic physiological processes and dietary needs of our pets. Yes, raw meat has bacteria on it. This is effectively dealt with in the carnivore's digestive system, where food is pushed through the small intestine and very short colon quickly. The fact that raw fed dogs—and commercially-fed dogs—shed bacteria in their feces only provides testimony to the fact that dogs can effectively deal with the bacteria entering their bodies via their food and environment. Let us not forget that dogs can eat the feces of other animals with no ill effects. I know for sure that humans cannot do that; we get ill if someone does not even wash their hands after going to the bathroom. We do not need to eat the poop directly to get sick. Yet dogs will eat cat poop, horse poop, goose poop, and any other poop that looks appetizing, poop that is crawling with all sorts of bacteria. Veterinarians and researchers say they have no evidence that dogs are more resistant to bacteria; I think this evidence is quite compelling on a very common sense level!


Veterinary Universities believe (and I agree) that better nutrition and veterinary care is extending the average dog's lifespan past what is normal, which is why we see chronic cases such as diabetes or cancer.

Diabetes and cancer are diseases that are conclusively linked to processed foods (Giovannucci, E. 2001. Insulin, Insulin-Like Growth Factors and Colon Cancer: A Review of the Evidence. Journal of Nutrition. 131: 3109-3120.). These are not 'old age' diseases; they are diseases caused by a lifetime of eating inappropriate processed foods, although cancer is often influenced by other causes like the mercury and aluminum injected into pets' bodies via vaccines (for more info, see the Vaccines page.). The 'old age' excuse is something veterinarians are being fed in their nutrition classes at their vet schools; they seem to forget the valuable biochemical pathways they should have learned in the biochemistry classes, particularly the insulin pathway and what happens when the pancreas and the body is consistently overtaxed by insulin. Cells do develop insulin resistance, which plays a key role in adult onset diabetes, or diabetes mellitus. Insulin is produced, but the cells no longer respond, possibly because the constant presence of insulin has resulted in resorption of insulin receptors on the target cells (Saladin, K.S. 2004. Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function. pg. 669.). The same thing happens in our pets, and it is invariably linked to diet, not to 'old age'.

As for cancer: feeding our pets a processed food with all sorts of additives and artificial ingredients is not nourishing to their bodies; how can it be? The additives and preservatives create more free radicals, which in turn destroy cells, and the cooked foods do not provide enough high-quality nutrition to help combat the effects of free radicals, nor to actually bind up the free radicals. Add to this the constant onslaught of vaccines, toxic pesticides and chemicals our dogs face, and you have a recipe for disaster. Nutrition has not done much to extend the lives our our pets other than to ensure that they are never starving. Better veterinary care and better status in society are what have extended the average dog's lifespan, plus the recent determination of just what a dog's lifespan is (determined by whom, I wonder). I also wish to add that the high amount of carbohydrates in kibble (which turn to sugar in the body) can actually contribute to and feed the growth of certain kinds of tumors and cancers (Damjanov, I. 2000. Pathology for the Health-Related Professions. W.B. Saunders Company. pg 80)


Overbreeding has resulted in an increase of dysplasia, allergies and skin conditions. These are effected by diet, but caused by genetics (poor genealogy from overbreeding and puppy mills).

Dysplasia, allergies, and skin conditions are not the solely a problem of overbreeding; yes, they can be affected by diet, but they are not solely caused by genetics. All of these can be linked to nutrition, particularly the inhibited uptake of necessary nutrients in the duodenum of our animals by the grains in their diets. Sporadic, erratic growth seen in growing puppies on commercial foods or home-made diets containing artificial supplements also can result in hip dysplasia, particularly unilateral hip dysplasia. It has been hypothesized and is well supported that unilateral hip dysplasia is not solely genetic, but is a result of nutrition and exercise issues (Wakeman, M.C. Unilateral Hip Dysplasia. Breeder Vet.) Erratic growth patterns seen in commercially fed puppies—where the hind end often grows faster than the front end—places unnatural stress on the developing joints as a direct result of changing the angulation and torque on the joint and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Allergies and skin conditions can be inherited (or induced through excessive vaccination), but these are also a HUGE indication of inappropriate foodstuffs in the diet, primarily grains. The byproducts of the grain will coat the villi of the stomach, inhibiting uptake of valuable nutrients (Dogtor J. Gluten Intolerance and Your Pet.). The body mounts an attack against this sticky coating, and the result is an immune-mediated response where the body starts attacking its own cells. This results in itching, hives, etc. Genetics is not the sole problem for the increase in dysplasia, allergies, and skin conditions. Once again, it is very foolish to contribute such complicated diseases to one factor when so many other factors surround the diseases. For example, hip dysplasia can result from erratic growth, injuries, excessive exercise as a puppy, excessive vaccination, inappropriate nutrition (which results in erratic growth), and inhibited uptake of Vitamin C and calcium. It is not just 'genetics.'