Myths About Raw Feeding


On this page: "Who Advocates This?" (includes subsections "An Unsupportable Theory" and "Profiteering Veiled as Advocacy")


Who Advocates This?
Very few veterinarians recommend raw meat diets. I find it disturbing that the ones I have spoken to who do endorse the idea of feeding raw meat and bones did not have any medically sound reason for doing so, nor could they dispute the data I presented.

What data did you present them with? Yes, very few recommend raw diets, most likely because they have never been taught anything but commercial food nutrition, and have been told over and over again that raw diets are bad for pets. There are a few enlightened vets out there who do promote raw diets and who have seen clients' pets blossom under this recommendation. The number of veterinarians and animal health care professionals who recommend raw diets and holistic lifestyles for pets continues to grow.

'Medically sound reason for doing so': there is absolutely no medically sound reason for advocating commercial or cooked foods to our pets, either!! Veterinarians cannot dispute the data sitting in their offices every day. They cannot dispute the growing amount of evidence linking diabetes, cancer, hip dysplasia, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney disease, skin allergies, and bloat to the commercial foods they sell in their offices and the vaccinations they administer so dutifully and frequently. Combine this with the interesting twist that while human doctors are telling patients to eat LESS processed foods and MORE fresh, whole foods, veterinarians are telling their clients the exact opposite! Apparently we must feed our pets MORE processed food and LESS (or worse yet, NO) fresh food.


They just retreat to the position that "dogs in the wild eat it", without acknowledging that wild dogs are malnutritioned and have shortened life spans from their diet.

Here we go again. Wild dogs and wolves do not have shortened life spans solely from their diet! It is their diet that provides the life-giving energy to continue on, to repair their bodies, to fuel their bodily processes and reproduce the species. Wild dogs and wolves are malnourished and have shortened life spans because they live a hard life in the wild. Once again, I will repeat what I said earlier. They face the elements. They face high energetic costs associated with bringing down huge herbivores many times the size of themselves. They face injuries from their hunting habits. They face intraspecific competition for food as well as interspecific competition for food. They face predation, habitat loss, prey loss, and decreasing environmental quality in habitat and food. They deal with parasites, with foreign toxic pollutants, with altercations with other wolves or other animals. They face increasing encroachment and habitat destruction by humans. They face a sporadic prey supply and routine starvation. These are the reasons why their life spans are shortened, not because they are eating the life-giving food they were designed to eat!!

Yes, I believe people should know why they recommend a raw diet, but it does one good to remember that veterinarians generally cannot adequately defend why they push commercial foods or cooked foods either. Commercial foods provide them with an obvious source of revenue, and that is all they have been told to recommend to their clients. What it comes down to is this: "Why do you recommend commercial foods?" "Because we have been trained to recommend them, and I truly believe they are the only way to properly feed a pet. Oh, and we also make a lot of money off of selling and recommending commercial food." There is no satisfactory justification for feeding commercial foods or cooked foods, just as some feel there is no satisfactory justification for feeding a raw diet. But the basic question remains unanswered by them: "How can a highly processed food possibly be better for my pet than fresh, whole, real foods?"


One veterinarian who has seen an increase in illnesses due to feeding raw meat reported to me that he treated a 6 month-old puppy who had been on the raw meat diet from a book, "Give Your Dog a Bone". The owners had been diligent in strictly following the book's instructions for their dog's diet. This dog had a severe case of Eosiniphilic Panosteitis (Panos), which is not caused directly by diet, but can be greatly effected by it. The poor puppy was so lame he could barely support his own weight.

One 6-month old puppy is an increase in illnesses due to feeding raw meat? *Grin* Again, we need to establish guidelines for 'increases in illnesses'. Increases compared to what pre-established norm? The number of raw-fed dogs these veterinarians regularly encounter? The number of kibble-fed dogs coming into the clinic with similar problems? Or is that these raw-fed cases stand out in veterinarians' minds because of the non-traditional, highly controversial way of feeding? I also like the second part of this: "which is not caused directly by diet." This is exactly what happens!! A raw-fed animal is presented for a problem, and the veterinarians blame the raw diet for the problem even if it is NOT CAUSED by the diet. That is what goes into their records, and that is what makes its way in to the veterinary publications. The same thing happened with two cats fed raw meat who died as a result of salmonellosis CAUSED BY a distemper vaccine (see the Salmonella in Cats article on the homepage.) What did the researchers imply the cats died of? The raw diet. Oh, but it was the vaccine that caused the problems that put them in their graves. Never mind that the strains of salmonella isolated from the food were not the same strains found in the animals themselves; it was still the raw meat that did it.

Panosteitis can be affected by diet, as can a myriad of other health issues (which provides even more evidence for the fact that diet is one of the cornerstones of health. A diet devoid of freshness and life cannot provide you or your pets with the best possible nutrition.). I personally, along with many other raw feeders, have issues with the Billinghurst diet. In my mind it is an inappropriate diet that is not modeled at all after what is seen in the wild.


This is not an isolated case - I have also received email from numerous dog owners whose dogs are having projectile bloody diarrhea and severe bacterial poisoning while on Dr. Billinghurst's raw meat diet.

Billinghurst's diet is VERY high in bone content and vegetables, which may account for all this projectile bloody diarrhea (or perhaps the puppy had canine parvovirus; this has happened before on the Rawfeeding list; someone's puppy had bloody diarrhea and it turned out to have parvo. The vet could have simply blamed the raw diet had the owner not pushed for a parvo test.). It is also worthwhile to look at where the blood is coming from: is it coming from the intestines (and is hence black since it has been digested) or is it coming from the rectum (and is very red)? If it is coming from the rectum, could it be a side-effect of the force at which the diarrhea is being expelled, since 'explosive diarrhea' can irritate the blood vessels underlying the sensitive lining of the rectum? Again, before we can draw a valid conclusion (that BARF diets caused projectile diarrhea and severe bacterial poisoning), we need to look at all the extenuating circumstances and other factors. These could be things as simple as what the dog was fed before this happened to something as complicated as determining if there were any underlying health factors coming into play (like immune system problems caused by recent vaccinations). We must also not forget that dogs fed commercial food and cooked food can also suffer bouts of projectile bloody diarrhea and severe bacterial poisoning. If the animal is being fed grains, it can also suffer from toxic mold poisoning that can cause kidney failure and death, among other things (as is what happened with Pedigree dog foods in Thailand, or more recently with Diamond pet foods.).


It is just an example of health problems I believe will become increasingly common as dogs on these diets suffer poor health.

The belief that dogs on these diets suffer poor health is belied by the fact that there are thousands of dogs thriving in superb health while on raw diets, particularly while on raw prey-model diets. My belief is that we will see more and more commercial-fed dogs suffering with easily preventable diseases that are linked directly to the highly processed, artificial diets they eat (this has been the case, as demonstrated by the numerous 'therapeutic' commercial diets designed to take care of the problems caused by commercial foods in the first place). I also feel that vets may see increases in nutritional deficiencies as a result of home-made diets that do not sufficiently meet the dog's needs, particularly because they include grains and vegetables and cooked meats and lack necessary nutrients in available, natural forms. Periodontal disease will continue to rage among the populations of dogs and cats fed commercial and cooked foods, and we will see even more veterinary literature coming out on the disastrous effects periodontal disease has on the other organ systems of the body. I have even read of a new vaccine that is being developed to combat three common strains of bacteria that 'cause' periodontal disease! So instead of treating periodontal disease at its source—the diet—pet owners can subject their pets to yet another unnecessary vaccine. If this is not an example of the money-making efforts of the industries "serving" our pets, then I do not know what is!


There are a number of disorders a dog could have where human food of almost any kind (raw meat and dairy, in particular) could seriously harm them, Pancreatits being one example. Click here for more examples; Testimonies

Pancreatitis can be safely managed with a raw meat diet. I know of several raw feeders whose dogs have had bouts of pancreatitis while on commercial food who now have healthier, happier dogs since switching to raw. I also know of a couple raw feeders that had dogs undergo a bout with pancreatitis while on raw, but have simply cut out some of the fat from the animals' diets and still have happy, healthy, raw-fed dogs. I have assembled a page of personal testimonies from raw feeders who used to feed kibble or cooked food and have since switched to raw. Some of their stories are absolutely amazing, and they expose the horrors of feeding commercial, cooked food quite well. Personally, I feel a testimonial page is superfluous since one can simply join the Yahoo! Rawfeeding group and read first-hand (not second hand, as in being told through someone else) for themselves these testimonies. They can talk directly to a woman who has been feeding 26 dogs a raw diet for over five years; almost all of her dogs suffer from different illnesses that have been DRASTICALLY helped by eating a raw diet. But, I recognize that some do need or enjoy testimonies about the raw diet, so I have included a Testimonial Page for their benefit. For those who have lost pets while feeding a BARF-type diet, I am sorry. But please do not deny your pets the chance to eat fresh living food even if you are not feeding a raw diet any longer! I also truly wish more people would follow a true, prey-model diet based on whole, raw carcasses rather than little-bitty boney pieces of animals (honestly, what prey animal do you know of that is made completely of chicken backs and wings??).

The raw meat 'theory' has been made popular by a few vets-turned authors such as Ian Billinghurst and Dr. Pitcairn. From there, many other holistic vets who put their trust into these authors have exuberantly promoted the concept.

Raw meat 'theory'? Since we are talking about BARF-type diets then yes, these are 'theories' as well as 'fads'. If we are discussing prey-model diets, then no, it is not a theory, nor is it a fad. Prey-model diets are truly what wolves and wild dogs eat in the wild—diets based on whole prey animals (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. Chapter 4: The Wolf as a Carnivore.). This sort of raw meaty bone diet has been around for over one million years (since whole animals are composed of raw meaty bones, plus organs and skin and hair), and has been fed to dogs and cats since their inception into domesticated life with humans. Even when kibbled food made its debut, there were still people (and still are people) who continued to feed their dogs 'the old way.'

For most veterinarians (holistic vets included), raw feeding is a 'new' concept because their education was bought off by the pet food companies long ago. The past two generations of veterinarians (generations as 'beginning vet school—retiring from practice') have known nothing but commercial pet food, just as the majority of people for the past 30-40 years have known nothing but commercial pet food (pet food really did not 'take off' until the 1960s and 1970s). They have been convinced that it is the only way to feed a pet. So for many vets this 'new' idea of raw diets is just that: a new fad. It is a pity that some buy into the fad BARF diets without actually researching canine and feline historical roots. If they did, they would realize that it still does not do to feed our pet carnivores as omnivores. However, feeding a BARF diet is definitely a step in the right direction—toward fresh food and away from processed foods.


These authors have created a significant paranoia - to the point where people are afraid to cook their food or purchase any commercial food products. Interestingly, most people following this diet only apply the logic to their dog's diet and continue eating cooked foods themselves.

Yes, paranoia and fear are easy things to create in people, sadly enough. It is way too easy to make people afraid of things they do not know about (such as raw feeding). Pet food companies, veterinarians, and anti-raw people often resort to fear-mongering to prevent people from switching to a raw diet. The critically-thinking mind is able to move past fear, to look at all sides of an issue and see it for what it is. The fact that we have people lacking such critical thinking skills is a testimony to how poorly we educate each upcoming generation (which, I might add, is not the fault of the educators being forced to teach what the government requires them to teach). It is also a testimony to the "consumer society" seen in developed, Western cultures (particularly the U.S.).

The world is full of hypocrisy. The fact that 'most people following this diet only apply the logic to their dog's diet' is one of those hypocrisies. Many people will take better care of their pets than of themselves. So what if they do? As for people continuing to eat cooked foods themselves: there are quite a few people who feed or advocate feeding raw who are trying to move toward more raw fruits and vegetables in their diets and less grains and cooked meats. I happen to be one of them. To suggest or imply that people should eat a raw meat diet like their dogs is a ludicrous idea, because obviously humans are not dogs and are not designed to eat that kind of diet (otherwise we would anatomically look like dogs in several key areas—teeth, for example.). I know that idea was not suggested here, but I want to address the issue that is implied. This aside, there are people who advocate a prototypical human diet that does include very rare meat, plus lots of raw fruits and vegetables.


They are contradicting what the great majority of veterinarians and qualified animal nutritionists have determined to be true.

Veterinarians are not qualified to be dispensing nutritional information. I am sorry, but that is the truth of it. They may take one class on nutrition in their entire four year career, and that class does nothing but expound pet food propaganda and commercial foods. They are not taught to look at the alternatives, and they are not taught to think beyond what they are told. The majority of their education concentrates on basic biomedical sciences geared toward understanding the biology of diseases and on learning diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, plus clinical practicums and rotations through the hospital to help them learn the clinical diagnostic techniques and management practices (Description of the Professional Veterinary Medicine program at Colorado State University.). There is so much that veterinarians must learn that the full depth of nutrition is overlooked despite the fact that it ties in to so many aspects of what they then learn about! It is my hope that veterinary colleges will begin to revamp their programs to include better nutrition courses (without the pet food company propaganda) that continue throughout the four years of the program and that discuss in greater detail the many links between what animals eat and the diseases they have.

As for qualified animal nutritionists: what are they learning in their education? Who is giving them that education? What makes them a 'qualified animal nutritionist'? How are they more qualified to tell people what to feed their pets than those who have been actively researching and feeding their pets species appropriate diets for periods longer than the animal nutritionist's entire education? I understand that veterinarians and animal nutritionists work hard to get their degrees, but I highly doubt the qualifications of any animal nutritionist who advocates feeding a highly processed, artificial food to a carnivorous animal. All one has to do is take a course in animal biochemistry and in anatomy and physiology (form and function) to see that dogs and cats are designed through and through as carnivores, and that their biochemical body processes are not geared for utilizing a carbohydrate-based diet. How can someone who studied nutrition advocate feeding processed foods over fresh whole foods? You would think that in their classes to become a 'qualified nutritionist' they would have learned about the dangers of processed, starchy, and sugary foods and the links to diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory bowel disease in humans. How can a processed food ever be better than fresh, real food? If they advocate cooked diets over kibbled diets, then great! But did their education teach them about the chemical changes food undergoes when cooked? Would they not know that the purest, most natural, and most easily digestible form of most (not all) nutrients is found in raw foods?

Just because someone is 'credentialed' or 'qualified' (i.e. has a degree) does not mean they actually know what is best for us or our pets. Nothing can ever beat a critically thinking mind when it comes to being 'qualified.' Come now, you do not believe everything our 'qualified' government officials tell us, do you?


I have not met anyone who could provide scientific data to support these claims.

I doubt that you will be able to meet anyone who can provide scientific data that soundly supports the claims made by pet food manufacturers. And finding scientific data supporting the healthfulness of cooked foods in our pets will also be hard to find. For a more in-depth discussion of why this 'data' on raw diets does not seem to exist, please see the Research myth page.

One final note: science and scientific data are not the be-all, end-all. Do not let 'science' (and pseudoscience in particular, which is what many of the pet food companies and researchers practice; see the AAFCO Standards myth page for more detail.) blind you to the reality of common sense; even with science and scientific data you still must use your mind to think critically through what is being presented. Results are often interpreted through or even skewed toward the biases of those doing the research. There is no such thing as an unbiased scientist.


The owners of B.A.R.F. (Bones and Raw Food) websites and Internet discussion lists are (to my knowledge) dog owners and breeders, not veterinarians. They provide questionable testimony and are not qualified to be prescribing diets for your dog, or advising on alternative medicine in any way. A qualified, respected veterinarian would not do this over the internet.

Let us not forget that there are "vets-turned-authors" who promote raw diets—Billinghurst, Pitcairn, Lonsdale, etc. So there are qualified, respected veterinarians who promote raw diets and have thus been denigrated by many of their colleagues within the profession for cutting against the status quo. They have even been viewed as "traitors" that are 'biting the hand that feeds them'. Whose hand? The hand of the pet food manufacturers, who provide large amounts of money to veterinary universities and helped educate them in terms of pet nutrition.

Given the previous discussion of the qualifications of most veterinarians, I feel that the owners of many raw feeding groups and internet websites are MORE qualified than veterinarians to be discussing nutrition. The Yahoo! Raw feeding group, for example, is owned by a breeder who has fed a raw diet to over 20 dogs for more than five years. That is an everyday lesson in nutrition for over four years! The experience of many on these lists exceeds that of veterinarians, and they have definitely not bought into the idea that no one but a 'qualified veterinary nutritionist' can tell you how to feed your dog. Mother Nature is far more qualified to instruct us on how to feed our pets than anyone can ever be, and this is who prey-model feeders pattern their pets' diets after. The research worth reading is out there (such as research into canine evolution and wolf diets), and many people who feed raw have done more research into their dogs and their dogs' dietary needs than any veterinarian ever will. People find these lists because they want a better quality of life for their animal, because they are not satisfied with the nutritional advice their 'qualified veterinarian' is giving them. A respected, 'qualified' veterinarian would not do this over the internet because it probably breeches their code of conduct (which they violate anyway by promoting a harmful, commercial pet food) and because there is no money to be had in it. There is also the possibility that their treatments will be challenged directly by people who are incredibly knowledgeable or who are ignorant, by people they cannot see and meet with. These internet groups dispel the facade that many vets try desperately to uphold: that veterinarians hold all the knowledge to your pet's health, and that they are the only ones who can dispense this knowledge. I am sorry, but veterinarians do not know it all. They are only repeating what they learned from the pet food companies and pharmaceutical companies in vet school. When it comes to doing surgeries, a veterinarian's worth is unparalleled. But when it comes to advising you on how to 'properly' feed your pet, a veterinarian's training has short-changed them immensely.


These "followers" of Billinghurst, Pitcairn, Schultz and other authors are so dependant on the books that they casually refer to it as their "bible." The barf lists on the Internet are very much "cult-like." You will be warned if you even mention my website, and banned if you agree with it.

Yes, some of these followers can be this way. And some of the BARF lists (and even the Rawfeeding list, since it only advocates a proper, prey-model raw diet without veggies and extraneous supplements) may indeed seem 'cult-like'. What about mainstream thought? Those who feed commercial pet foods (including vets) can be so sold on the idea that dogs and cats must eat pre-formed, processed pellets that proclaiming anything otherwise is heretical and severely unhealthy! Raw feeders encounter this kibble-oriented, 'cult-like' mentality when they simply take their pet in for its annual checkup or when they casually engage in conversation at the dog park! Some are even shunned or harrassed BY VETERINARY STAFF because they—*gasp*—feed their pets real food. Seems pretty 'cultish' to me: the cult of processed pet food, which has "brainwashed" its followers to believe their pets can never have anything else but processed, pre-formed pellets as food. They even have the audacity to call that processed garbage "food!"

It is sad that some people do not take the time to investigate both sides of the issue and know WHY they dismiss someone's website or claims so readily. Prey-model feeders can also be 'cult-like' in our beliefs about things like dogs and cats not needing vegetables and grains, but this is more a facet of being strongly opinionated people. We utilize Tom Lonsdale's book Raw Meaty Bones as a wonderful reference tool, but we rely on nature and ourselves to create a proper diet for our dogs and cats, one that is modeled on a whole prey animal. The raw feeding list provides a common network of support and experience from which people can draw. The Second Chance Ranch website has been mentioned several times on the list since its inception; it comes up at least once each month by a newcomer. Some of the old-timers simply dismiss the site as junk, but they have already put their time into researching it on their own. One of the list members actually went through and researched all of the links and research papers, and one by one debunked each one (I believe these research links and papers have since been removed from the SCR site). Quite a feat, actually (to see her work, please click here.). If people agree with this Second Chance Ranch website, then they obviously are not going to be raw feeders or BARFers, so they have no need to be on a list that is soley for those feeding or wanting to feed a raw diet.


They will not tolerate ANY opinion other than their own and are extremely hostile toward anything that challenges their belief system.

It is sad that this may be this case with many BARFers, and even some raw feeders. When it comes to ANYTHING relating to pets, people tend to be very stalwart and opinionated, regardless of the issue at hand. In my own personal experience, prey-model feeders do believe that a prey-model diet is the best way to feed a pet and that vegetables are completely unnecessary, but most also understand that some people still want to feed vegetables, or still want to feed part kibble, or still want to cook their dog's meat. Most try to meet people where they are at. Most take the time to explain their stance and why they feed the way they do, as well as present people with the reasoning and evidence for why dogs should be fed a raw diet. People regularly challenge this "belief system", and it is the people who challenge prey-model feeders who are often incredibly hostile, because they have either bought in completely to kibbled food, are ignorant and do not want to be exposed as such, or are vigilantes avidly against a raw diet. Most raw-feeders try to remember that not everyone is going to want to feed raw, and that not everyone is going to listen to what is said. Generally people just dismiss raw-feeders and that is that; they do not want to hear what raw-feeders have to say and they do not want to be re-educated. I truly wish that more people would at least listen to the reasons for feeding a raw prey-model diet and take the time to understand WHY we feed that way rather than just retreating behind a screen of fear, ignorance, and pet food company propaganda. This cuts both ways: I sincerely hope that raw feeders also take the time to listen to why others cannot or will not feed raw; doing this engenders respect not only for you as a person, but also for the raw feeding community as well.

Knowledge dispels fear of the unknown, and if we can at least get people to stop fearing the 'unknown' world of raw feeding, then great! But because raw feeding challenges others' belief systems on how to take care of a pet properly, we are often received with great hostility. Sadly, this hostility sometimes becomes mutual. Not everyone is nice, and sometimes all it takes is one forceful, dogmatic person to leave a negative impression that outlasts the impression formed by many kind, gentle, and helpful people.


Barfers have retaliated to my website/article by attempting to discredit me with accusations of being affiliated to a commercial dog company. So for the record, I do not sell dog commercial dog food. I am not selling anything.

Yes, I heard that early on in my raw feeding research, about the same time I came across the website. I personally get a little tired of all the 'affiliations to a commercial dog food company' accusations and do not take much stock in them unless people are referring to those that are actually deeply tied to commercial foods, such as veterinarians. Veterinarians have a very valuable place in our society, but it should not be because they peddle commercial foods and therapeutic diets and special 'care packages' to cover up the damage done by those commercial foods they promote.

For what it is worth—I too have been accused of affiliation to pre-made raw food companies, and of attempting to sell these kinds of diets. All one has to do is check out the Ground/Pre-made Raw myth page to see my disdain of pre-made raw diets. I am not selling anything; rather, I am informing pet owners of what I feel is the best way to feed our pet carnivores. I may recommend resources that I have found to be incredibly helpful, but that is it.


There are a few Internet discussion groups against the feeding of B.A.R.F - however, they have had to go "underground" because the members of B.A.R.F lists will join and make it impossible to have a discussion without arguments and attack. Barfers have even gone as far as to start discussion lists posing as "anti-barf" groups, only to lure in people who are looking for more information, and to attack those who speak out against B.A.R.F. It's absurd!

That is absurd. I get angry when I hear of people doing this, because it is disrespectful to others. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if they are wrong. It is one thing to discuss an idea (such as what is happening on this page) or a practice; it is another to attack people personally or try to 'force-convert' people to a certain way of thinking. Not everyone will think the same way as others do, and we need to respect that even if we think they are wrong.


Sadly, many of the discussions on the barf message boards are about how ill the dogs are from raw meat/bones.

I do not know much about the BARF message boards, and I often avoid the public forums because people on both sides of the issue can be rather mean-spirited toward one another, attacking the person rather than refuting the argument. But I do know about the Yahoo! Rawfeeding message board, among others. The raw feeding lists are a resource tool, a place for people to ask questions and receive answers from those who are more experienced and more knowledgeable. The questions cover a variety of topics, ranging from the classic omnivore vs. carnivore debate to constipation problems, from how much to feed a dog to how to start a dog on raw, from dealing with pancreatits or inflammatory bowel disease caused by a lifetime of eating kibble to where the next David Mech seminar will be. The questions are generally practical, how-to or what-to-do inquiries, as they should be (we do not sit around talking about what we fed our dogs today or yesterday unless we are trying something new).

We do get discussions about how ill a dog was made by kibbled foods or by something like Giardia. We do get discussions about constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting, for example; however, if we started a list for kibbled foods, these same questions would appear, as would questions about stinky breath, doggy smelling coats, periodontal disease, fatty cysts, cancer, kidney failure, flatulence, yeasty ears, repeat ear infections or bladder infections, anal sac problems, bloating, joint problems, itching problems, obesity, lack of interest in food/picky eating, and diabetes (and some of these surface on the raw feeding list as well, mostly along the lines of 'How do I manage a dog that has ________?' A quick tour of breed-specific boards will find all of these problems being discussed, and most of the dogs afflicted with these problems are—surprise—kibble-fed.). Choking would also be a topic of interest, as dogs can and do choke on kibble as well as a variety of chew toys. Cooked food boards would have similar questions: vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, lack of interest in food, choking, flatulence, supplementation, nutritional deficiency questions, etc. Many of these issues are universal and are not only a problem of a raw meat and bone diet, plain and simple. In my own experience on breed boards where people feed diverse types of foods (various levels of commercial foods, cooked, raw), I have read about more commercially-fed animals suffering from various health problems than I have read about raw-fed dogs suffering from these same issues (allergies, for example).


People who are new to feeding B.A.R.F. are told that symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, choking on raw bones, and other health problems are perfectly normal, as their dogs are "purging" toxins.

The whole 'purging toxins' thing depends on who you ask; not everyone accepts the 'purging' philosophy. To the best of my knowledge, purged toxins show up as itchy skin, a bout of yeasty ears, flatulence, or coat blowing, not diarrhea and choking. Certain "health problems" are normal (like coughing up something that went down wrong; that happens with kibbled and cooked foods as well. Heck, it even happens with spit!) and easily resolve themselves or are resolved with a little adjustment of the diet. Bloody diarrhea is an issue that is not just a raw diet 'problem', and there are a myriad of reasons for diarrhea. Among the raw feeding community, the primary reason is that the dog is given too much variety too quickly, which can result in an upset tummy and diarrhea. It is just like someone who is not used to eating rich meats like rabbit going out and having a rabbit for dinner at a fancy restaurant. What do you think the results will be the next day? If you guessed loose stools or diarrhea, you are quite accurate (but again, every person and every dog are individuals, and thus respond differently). Choking on raw bones can happen, and there are many reasons why this happens. One primary reason is that the dog is so used to inhaling kibble that it tries to eat its first RMB (raw meaty bone) that way. Kibble does not need much chewing, whereas RMBs do. The dog quickly learns that it has to chew its raw bone. The second reason is that people feed too small of pieces to their pets when first starting off. If the dog is the size of a Rottweiler and is not used to having to chew its food, then you do not want to start off with a chicken wing or chicken neck; you want to start off with something like half a chicken! It is unfortunate that these mistakes do happen; this illustrates the necessity of raw feeding groups where people can research and find out how to properly start their animals on a raw diet.

The "other health problems" claim needs to be elaborated. Common ones that I have heard of are vomiting, which usually occurs when the dog scarfs its food in too big of pieces or eats something that does not agree with it. The food DOES need to be brought up and re-chewed before being digested, and this is what happens. This is normal, not because the dog is 'purging' toxins, but because that is what dogs do, and it is a necessary component of who they are (I have known dogs that regularly vomit up their kibble after inhaling it too quickly.). Not all dogs do this either, because not all of them do not know how to chew their food properly. It is a learned skill for many dogs, particularly those that ate nothing but kibble for an extended period prior to switching to raw.


I receive numerous emails from people who have left these lists due to their dogs becoming very ill or actually dieing from the barf or other raw meat diets.

That is a sad thing to hear. I do wish that people would inform the list why they are leaving, to let them know they had a dog become very ill or die. We need to hear these things, even if they are hard to take, just as veterinarians and pet food companies need to hear how the products they sell and make are killing our pets. We all need closure.



First and foremost, I would like to comment on this title. In this context it is specifically referring to raw food manufacturers, but I think this can also refer to pet-food companies and manufacturers (since they make billions of dollars off selling pet foods and off the image of 'advocating' for the health of our pets) as well as veterinarians (who make a substantial amount of their revenue off selling commercial pet foods in their office AND off treating the illnesses of commercially-fed pets). Readers, do not assume that this title only applies to commercial raw food manufacturers!!


The makers of raw meat diets sold in pet stores that I have met are not vets, and do not have a science/microbiology background nor experience in the practice of veterinary medicine. They have been salesman, groomers, or simply dog owners. Their information seems to be wholly derived from those books written concerning the raw meat diets without examining the subject in a critical way. And, there are others that act as nutrition consultants... bearing in mind that "Nutrition Specialist" is a meaningless title with no certification required. I don't say this to insult anyone, but it is something that consumers should be aware of.

In my opinion, pre-fabricated raw meat diets are nothing but a waste of money (although they can be helpful in helping people transition to a proper raw diet). And remember, experience in the practice of veterinary medicine does not make one truly qualified to dispense nutritional advice (see Vets and Nutrition myth.). Pre-fabricated raw meat diets are something to be aware of. They are not species appropriate diets, are designed to take your money, and are—by definition—an example of 'improperly handled' raw food. People would be much better off taking their money and stocking up on whole rabbits and fresh raw meaty bones. For more information on pre-made raw diets, please see the Ground/Pre-Made Raw myth page.


Unfortunately, the raw meat diet manufacturers and authors of books providing home-made diet recipes base their opinions on the concept of what they assume is the "wild dog diet".

Yes, and many of them get it wrong. They include grains and vegetables and fruits, none of which dogs need or utilize. They also advocate too much bone.


They seem to disregard the hard scientifically proven facts and statistics about the typical health of a wild dog due to it's diet, and injury and deaths to both wild and domestic dogs directly related to consumption of raw meat and bones.

Those hard scientific facts and statistics remain to be specified (what specific facts about diet? What area of diet? Most scientific facts involve cataloguing what an animal ate prior to being killed to have its stomach contents examined), proven and substantiated. The fact that the wolves reintroduced into North America are thriving quite well on their diet of wild ungulates seems to indicate that wild prey (which consists primarily of raw meaty bones) are quite good for wolves. Yes, raw bones and meat can cause injury, illness, and possibly even death in wild and domestic dogs (as can just about everything else in this world), but we must get off the point of blaming diets for all wild wolves' and dogs' problems. We have already covered this in great detail, and it is NOT their life-giving, much needed food that generally kills them.


Furthermore, many authors of raw meat diets or makers of such a diet present ludicrous unsupportable claims as fact, such as these:
(1) raw chicken and turkey bones will not splinter (in fact, they are the most common bone to kill a dog).

Correct. Raw bones, even poultry bones, generally do not splinter. The cooked bones do splinter and can kill a dog. That was how the whole "do not feed dogs bones" things got started in the first place, because people started cooking their food and then started handing their dogs the leftover cooked bones. Dogs started getting sick and some even died because of the intestinal punctures and obstructions caused by COOKED bones. When vets realized what was going on, they told people to stop giving their dogs bones. It seems over the years they forgot to specify the 'cooked' part. However, some vets and pet food companies still advocate giving dogs raw marrow bones or knuckle bones (which can then crack or break your dog's teeth so you can pay them a hefty fee to fix the teeth after feeding the dog the bones the vet recommended) to help clean your dog's teeth.

If a raw chicken or turkey bone is wrapped in plenty of meat, then it generally will not splinter as the dog crushes it with their jaws. Can the raw bone still 'splinter' and hurt the dog? Anything can happen; there are no guarantees. There are thousands of dogs and wolves safely eating raw fowl with no problems, which, according to Second Chance Ranch, apparently means the claim of raw bones not splintering is 'ludicrous' and 'unsupportable'. If one is worried about splintering poultry bones, then either avoid the cylindrical leg bones or avoid poultry altogether.

One can easily test this claim. Grab a raw chicken thigh and whack it with a hammer (you may want to wrap it in a towel first to avoid being splattered with raw chicken). This is similar to the crushing pressure your dog applies on the bone with its mouth (similar, but still a far cry from the short work a canine jaw can make of a bone). Is the bone splintered, or crushed and broken into small pieces? This is not a perfect experiment (and obviously has many variables), but it will give you an idea of what a chicken bone might do when crushed.


(2) pasteurized products contribute to arthritis.

Since many prey-model feeders do not advocate feeding milk and milk products to our pets, I will not comment on this other than to note that there is a whole book written about milk and the benefits of milk and the drawbacks of pasteurization (for humans, not pets). It is called The Milk Book, by William Campbell Douglass, MD. It is thought that pasteurized products do contribute to arthritis in humans. For more information, please visit and read this article by Dr. Mercola.


(3) mixing proteins causes gas in carnivores (dogs are omnivores, as are humans) as well as an acid condition that may lead to disease.

I have heard about the gas thing; that depends on your dog since all dogs are individuals and may respond differently to different meats. Never heard about this acid condition.

Dogs are not omnivores, they are carnivores. (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill.). There is nothing about a dog that even remotely hints at it being an omnivore. They may be opportunists, and humans may have restricted them to an omnivorous diet, but we have done nothing to change the form and function of their anatomy and physiology as pertains to meeting their metabolic needs. Humans are omnivores, as are black bears; form follows function, and the function of the teeth will dictate their form. Are the teeth used to grind up plant matter (and are thus flat), or to rip and tear meat (and are thus sharp and pointy)? Both dogs and black bears are placed in the Order Carnivora, but the differences in their dentition dictate what each animal eats. The dog lacks the big flat molars necessary for grinding up the plant matter. We will get to more on this later.


(4) grapefruit seed extract and/or fruit sugars will kill any dangerous bacteria in raw meat.

I have heard about the grapefruit seed extract. I have also heard about apple cider vinegar having antibacterial properties as well. They may have antiseptic properties, but I do not know how effective they are. White vinegar and colloidal silver are still prized for their antibacterial properties and actually ARE effective antimicrobial agents that do not contribute to the creation of superbacteria (although the use of colloidal silver has the potential for other problems relating to silver poisoning). It is unnecessary to put these on raw meat, however. If one is concerned about bacteria in raw meat, do not feed ground raw meat to your pets and consider washing the exterior of the raw meaty bones with a mild soap or with white vinegar (not an anti-bacterial soap; that extreme is not necessary and contributes to the creation of 'superbacteria'). However, given the digestive systems of our pets, it is unnecessary to wash the meat. For more information on our pets and the bacteria in raw meat, please see the Bacteria myth.


(5) beta carotene and vitamin A prevent cancer. None of these claims has been demonstrated to be true, nor are they widely accepted as even possibly true.

Lots of things claim to prevent cancer. I do know that it is a widely accepted theory that antioxidants (Vitamins C and E, for example) may help prevent cancer by binding up free radicals. Beta-carotene is widely considered to be one of these antioxidants. However, it would be wise not to overdose vitamin A, since a problem called Vitamin A Toxicity can occur. This is sometimes seen in cancer patients that are prescribed high doses of the antioxidant beta-carotene as part of their therapy.


I was appalled when approached by a few of the raw meat manufacturers/distributors with the enticement that "you can become a millionaire selling this stuff". This is not to say that each and every person advocating this fad has money as their prime motivation, but it certainly seems rule, not the exception. There is nothing inherently wrong with making a profit, but it is wrong to make a profit selling dangerous products and ideas at the expense of our animal friends to unsuspecting, well-meaning dog-lovers.

It is just plain wrong to be selling pre-fabricated raw meat diets to well-meaning pet owners. There is not many notable differences between pre-fabricated raw and kibble, other than the glaring fact that the food is raw and not cooked. You still do not have control over the ingredients; you still do not know what quality of ingredients went into the food; you still do not know what additives and preservatives may have found its way into your pets food during processing; your pet will still suffer from periodontal disease if not given appropriate raw meaty bones to chew on daily. Pre-made raw diets, also known as a commercial raw diet, are a waste of money and a disgrace to raw feeding.