Myths About Raw Feeding


This is completely false! Of all the dogs that NEED a raw diet, toy breeds and small dogs (including brachiocephalic dogs like pugs) are the dogs that perhaps need it most! The teeth of small dogs are drastically overcrowded in their jaw, making them more prone to severe periodontal disease (and this is common knowledge among veterinarians). Their teeth are packed into a small jaw, leaving very little space in between them and providing plenty of places for bacteria and plaque to develop and grow. Periodontal disease can then develop very rapidly, providing the harmful bacteria in the mouth immediate access to the rest of the animal's body. Remember, periodontal disease is more than just bad breath. Periodontal disease can lead to systemic damage, particularly to important organs like the kidneys and heart. If you need a pictoral reminder of the nastiness of periodontal disease and plaque accumulation, please visit this page here.

Granted, years of selective breeding have resulted in the small size of small dogs AND the increased need for the teeth-cleaning effects of raw meaty bones. But the intensive breeding for smaller size and phenotypical changes like coat length, color, and ear carriage has not changed the physiological needs of the dogs. A small dog is still a carnivorous animal and has the dentition, anatomy, and physiology to prove it. Small dogs and toy dogs CAN be fed a raw diet successfully, as evidenced by the number of small dog breeders and owners who feed a diet of raw meaty bones and whole prey. The key to feeding a small dog successfully is to select appropriately-sized food. Just as one should not feed a dinky chicken wing to a Rottweiler, one should not feed huge slabs of beef ribs to a Papillon or Chihuahua and expect them to eat the entire slab in one sitting. Small dogs (and toy breeds) thrive on foods like chicken quarters, bone-in chicken breasts, whole game hens, whole quail, whole ducks, rabbits, pork ribs, pork necks, lamb, beef, liver, heart, and other organs. Fish and mice or rats can also factor in here.

There is still one primary rule of thumb when feeding small dogs and toy breeds, and that is to feed big! A small dog does not need small food when it comes to raw diets. That means steering clear of chicken necks and wings; these are too small and are too easy for the dog (yes, even a toy dog!) to attempt to swallow whole, which then results in gagging or choking (natural responses, but scary to see!). One of the endearing personality traits of many small dogs is that they think and act like they are much bigger than they really are. This goes for feeding, too. A pint-sized Chihuahua is still going to think it is a huge wolf-like dog when it spots that raw meaty bone. The behavior is ingrained, and the desires to rip, tear, chew, gulp, and swallow (sometimes with emphasis on gulping and swallowing, especially if the dog was fed commercial food before) should still be very strong. So get rid of the lone chicken wing and neck; only feed those if, and ONLY IF, they are attached to half of a breast, half of a chicken, or a whole bird.

An additional reason to feed big food is also one of the primary reasons for feeding raw: to keep those teeth clean and healthy, which in turn will keep the dog healthy by preventing nasty "foul mouth disease" from developing and affecting internal organs. Those little dogs need just as much chewing, ripping, and "flossing" action as the big dogs, and many argue that they need MORE than big dogs because of their unique mouth size. To keep those teeth and gums healthly, little dogs need to have a grand time chewing and shredding their food; of course, the easiest way to allow for this is to feed big pieces that will challenge them and require a workout.

So toss the Pug a chicken quarter. Let the Shi Tzu and Lhasa Apso work on a pork neck. Avoid the temptation to cut their food into smaller pieces; remember, smaller is NOT good, because smaller pieces increase the likelihood of the dog gulping and then gagging on their food. Stick with the big pieces, and your dog will get the hang of chewing its food very quickly. If you need to start with boneless meats at first to get your dog used to the taste and texture of raw food, then do that first. Once they are eating their meaty meal with gusto, add in a bony meal and let the dog figure it out. If the dogs are picky, pick the raw meaty bone up after 15 minutes and put it away for later. Offer it again at the next feeding or at the next day. A little bit of tough love (assuming the dog does not have any health problems or special needs that require it to eat at least once a day) may be necessary to encourage the dog to use its teeth, but it will be well worth it!

Toy breeds and small dogs can be fed in a manner similar to other dogs. Start out feeding about 2% of their ideal, adult body weight—3% if the dog is very active and has a fast metabolism. So if you have an 18-lb dog, you will only be feeding between 1/4 and 1/2-lb of meaty bone PER DAY to start. If you only have a 3 or 4 pound dog, then you must select food carefully and rely on the "touch/look" test to make sure your dog is not getting too fat or too skinny. Monitor your dog's weight closely; if she starts looking a little fat, cut back on the amount of food. If she starts looking too lean, then increase the amount of food. Most dogs can handle one meal a day; unless your dog has a medical reason for eating multiple times a day (or is so small that it needs to eat frequently, or is still a puppy), start feeding the dog once a day. This will allow you to feed big meals of substantial raw meaty bones. If you are feeding a really big meal (like a slab of pork ribs), let the dog eat as much as it needs for the day and then pick up the food and refrigerate it for the next day. For dogs that are only a few pounds, this 'eat until you are full (or, if your dog does not have a good 'stop eating' mechanism, 'eat until I say you are full') and then picking up the remains for later' method may work best. If your dog must eat more than once a day, you can feed an organ meat or egg meal in the morning and then provide a substantial raw meaty bone for dinner. Or you can cut off a little of the thigh meat from a chicken leg quarter, feed that for a morning 'snack', and then feed the rest of the leg quarter in the evening.

After introducing one protein source to the dog, be sure to start adding in organ meat slowly. Little dogs should have just as much variety in their diets as big dogs. As your dog's diet branches out into different protein sources, you can start experimenting with different raw meaty bones to challenge your dog and give it a good chewing workout. However, stay away from those big, dense, weight-bearing bones! Beef knuckle bones, beef femurs, etc. can easily chip a dog's teeth and do not have a place in a species-appropriate raw diet. Stick with MEATY bones where the bone is at least partially edible. For more information on the specifics of feeding a raw diet, visit the Feed Raw page. For information on switching to a raw diet, visit the Switching to Raw page.


Meet Riley
Riley is an 18-lb Cairn Terrier. His owner, Cristina, graciously allowed me to use her pictures to show a small dog with his raw meaty bones.

Riley eating a pork picnic roast

Riley eating a whole game hen

Riley working on a goat leg