Recommending Raw

In a totally non-related area of my life, a conversation about dog food came up. The person who started the conversation was looking for a “good dog food.” She didn’t give any criteria about her budget or say what size dog she had.

Several other people jumped right in to recommend raw food.

I found myself in a weird position. I have seen tremendous benefits from feeding Silas raw food. If you have a dog with serious food allergies, I really don’t see a way around a home prepared diet of some sort. (Unless things are so bad that you really need the hypoallergenic kibbles, in which case I am sincerely sorry.)

Even though the raw diet has done great things for us, though, I don’t recommend it wholesale to everyone. In the original conversation, I recommended one of the dog food review sites.

The reason I don’t always recommend raw food is quite simple: people don’t do their research. Very few veterinarians know enough to help you formulate a raw diet, even if they aren’t completely horrified by the idea. Very few places in the country have knowledgeable stores that sell raw diets. Even places that sell the pre-made blends don’t always know a lot about what they’re selling. That means the raw-feeder is left almost entirely to her own devices. Grabbing the wrong book off Amazon could be disastrous, as, among other things, some of them recommend completely inadequate amounts of calcium. (For more information, see Mary Straus’s list of book reviews.) If you don’t find reading a lot about dog nutrition, with a lot of conflicting information, to be geekily exciting, then a home-prepared raw diet isn’t likely to be a good choice for you. As long as you have the basics down, there’s no need to obsess over the exact quantity of every nutrient every day, but those basics are extremely important.

It also isn’t a great choice for dogs who live with young children, elderly people, or immune-compromised individuals. Your dog is very unlikely to catch a food borne disease, thanks to the structure of his digestive system. He can shed those bacteria in his saliva and feces, which can be a problem for people who are already at-risk. (Although, to play devil’s advocate with my own argument, I suspect it’s less of a risk than eating at a restaurant or buying those horribly dangerous packaged hamburger patties.) People who are really devoted to raw food tend to downplay the risk to humans just because the bacteria risk to the dog really is fairly minimal.

There are great kibbles on the market, and great reasons to use them. There are also, as Silas is living proof, legitimate reasons to want something else. My bottom line winds up being very murky. I can see valid reasons to feed everything from the factory-prepared raw foods to home-prepared raw food to canned food to kibble.

Know your dog, know your life, accept your limitations, and don’t let anybody make you feel bad.

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10 thoughts on “Recommending Raw

  1. Great post. Sometimes I feel guilty for feeding Del dry food, not because I think it’s bad for him, but because some dog owners press their views on me. Once, a raw food enthusiast asked us if we feed Del raw food. When we said no, their reaction was ‘well you’re slowly killing him then’. I was quite shocked, because it just wasn’t necessary. Like you said, it’s what’s best for YOUR dog. There isn’t a set rule book and I completely respect people like you who don’t force opinion on people.

    Oh, I’ve just noticed that you’ve listed us in your blog roll- thanks so much!

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    1. Newsflash: living is slowly killing us all, no matter what we do.

      I think the difference between bad kibble and good kibble is astronomical. I’m not so sure about the difference between great kibble and raw food.

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  2. Great post. Some of the raw feeders are OTT about it. I am always leery of those types of people. I understand that it may be a healthier choice for some dogs. But many many dogs do just fine on kibble. I did look into some of the dehydrated and/or frozen raw for Freighter when we were changing his food. The price was a killer. It would have cost around $300 a month. I don’t spend $300 a month on people food…lol. Luckily he doesn’t have any real issues so I found a kibble that I thought would work for him.

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    1. It is seriously a downer. I started off with frozen raw and had to give it up because of the expense. Freeze dried is even worse. We go through about a bag a month as treats or the odd meal, and even that’s expensive. I do like to feed some pre-prepared food, though, just to cover my nutritional bases.

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  3. This is a really good post.
    I’m a raw feeder, but realise it’s not practical for everyone based on time, expense, etc. If people ask, I’m happy to weigh in, but will always recommend talking to those who really know their stuff before making the switch (we have some really knowledgeable, helpful pet store folks here to help with that sort of thing).
    Mostly, I’m annoyed by the weak (but popular) arguments against it. But you also have to acknowledge people can ensure your pets get a good diet without it.

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    1. I also have a really fantastic raw food store. It does make things amazingly easier.

      Having *some* kind of mentor is the most important thing, I think. People who I know will be doing it in a vacuum are the ones I really hesitate to recommend it to.

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  4. HOLLA! That’s about the best post on being a raw feeder ever. I’m a raw feeder, but I don’t recommend it to everyone. It’s a huge huge commitment and it’s only for people willing to do the work.

    That being said, like you, it’s the only option for Felix and I don’t hesitate to suggest it to people who are at their wits end for what to do with an allergic dog. Sometimes raw feeders are so over zealous because we’ve seen it “cure” dogs that traditional medicine told us could never be made well. It wears you down to be at the centre of a witch hunt after a while and I have to watch myself not to become one of those angry, defensive raw feeders.

    There are enough crazy people on both sides of the argument to go around and it’s really refreshing to hear a *not crazy* view on the subject.

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    1. Thanks! It really is a miracle for dogs who need it. I think people get so hung up on that side that they forget that maybe not every dog does. Or doesn’t need it enough to justify the trouble.

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  5. I’ve been lucky being as I have a very knowledgeable woman where I buy my food. And she cuts me a decent deal. Even so we still spend about $35 per week on dog food. We are lucky that we are able to do that. I’ve looked into other foods and they are WAY more expensive.

    Of course, I’m always prepared to drop back to kibble should circumstances dictate it. I’m sure I could feed a great quality kibble for less than what I pay for raw.

    But you are right, it’s not for everyone. I mean, my dogs are on the raw to help keep their weight down, but other than weight, they were doing fine on kibbles.

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