Updated: Jul 20
The debate surrounding how to best feed your pet is getting more confusing than ever. With so many myths and rumours surrounding raw food diets, it makes it very challenging to know what’s fact or fiction. So to help settle the score, we will address and debunk 6 myths about feeding raw, to provide you the education to make informed decisions regarding raw food diets.
Statement #1: Feeding Raw Pet Food Will Make My Dog or Cat More Aggressive and Increase Their Prey Drive.
This is a myth that’s been around for a long time but is still very common today. Our animal nutritionist, Sarah Griffiths, points out that what an animal eats does not change their natural prey drive. A lot of people mistake resource guarding tendencies for prey drive, while in fact they are two separate things.
Resource Guarding vs. Prey Drive
Resource guarding behaviours are very common in animals but aren’t based solely on food. Dogs will guard anything that they consider “high value” – this can be anything from humans to toys to specific foods. Although this is very natural for dogs (and other animals) to do, this is more about training and behaviour modification than it is related to food. For instance, a dog who was starved will likely protect kibble if it’s something they perceive as high value and they haven’t had access to it before!
In contrast, prey drive is a genetically predisposed behaviour relating to whether a dog (or animal) likes to chase moving objects. A dog with a high prey drive doesn’t necessarily like to kill things, they can just be drawn to the movement.
Dr. Karen Becker, an integrative pet care expert, does identify a special case where a symptom of a poor diet can be aggression. If your dog has a deficiency in certain minerals, iodine for example, this can manifest as aggression. However, mineral deficiencies can be present in any type of pet diet, whether it’s kibble, cooked food or a raw diet.
Statement #2: Raw food Diets Are Not Balanced and Complete.
Veterinarians continue to caution against fresh food diets because they sometimes do not meet AAFCO standards or are missing vitamins and nutrients that could cause issues for your pet. It’s important to recognize the use of the word “sometimes” in this situation. Let’s look at some facts…
When Done Correctly, Fresh Food Diets Can Exceed AAFCO Minimums
AAFCO sets standards for the pet food industry in Canada and the U.S., but did you know that the AAFCO standards are actually based on the requirements of livestock and their feed? That means that there are many nutrients that aren’t recognized by AAFCO as essential, such as live enzymes and naturally occurring vitamins and minerals (compared to synthetic versions), which are beneficial and only found in whole foods.
Think about it this way: There is no nutrient found in whole natural food that isn’t there for a reason.
If you look at many large commercial pet food companies, they use the “conventional” approach to pet food. That is to say that whenever there is a nutritional deficiency, they just add synthetic components to make the food “complete and balanced”. However, this is not the same as feeding natural-source nutrients. On a microscopic level, synthetic vitamins don’t even come close to resembling their natural counterparts and therefore it’s difficult to consider them nutritionally equal.
Are Red Dog Blue Kat Meals Complete & Balanced?
Complete Meals (Single Source Proteins)
When these meals are fed in rotation- eg. Poultry 3x / week, Fish 2x/ week, Red Meat 2x / week then your pets diet will be complete & balanced while also exceeding AAFCO recommendations.
No Frilz & Eco Meals
Each of these meals themselves are complete and balanced, however, we still recommend feeding each protein in rotation to achieve a diverse nutrient profile.
To learn more about the formulation of RDBK meals, check out our blog
Fresh Food Diets Are Not the Same As “Grain-Free” Kibble Diets
Sometimes fresh food diets get lumped in with what the industry is now calling “grain-free” diets and we must make a distinction here. They are NOT the same thing!
Technically, grain-free diets can be made up of any dry food, canned food, cooked food or raw food that doesn’t include grain products. BUT each of these diets is very different. Dry food, in general, almost always has some form of starch in it. However, food labelled “grain-free” has legume starches that replace grain starches. Even “grain-free” canned food often has legume powders in it. This is not the same as feeding a fresh food diet that has no grains!
Legumes are not part of a raw “ancestral diet” model. Since fresh home-cooked and raw food diets can be easily customized, they don’t traditionally use processed starch of any type. Home-cooked and raw diets are generally composed of meat, organs, bones, vegetables, and other whole food “extras” that have omega-3, micro mineral and vitamin benefits. We want to make sure you understand the differences behind the catch phrase “grain-free” and a species-appropriate diet.
Processed Foods Aren’t “Complete” Either
If you look at any bag or can of pet food (even the ones that are considered “really healthy”), they all use synthetic vitamin and mineral sources. That’s because the raw food materials are usually selected based on the all-mighty bottom line—the cost—and/or altered with high heat.
All processed food on the market has some added synthetic vitamins and minerals. If the companies that produce these products just relied on the food sources for nutrient content, it
would, in most cases, be incomplete and cause nutrient deficiencies. “Real food” or fresh food done right contains all of the appropriate macro and micro-nutrients in natural forms that are totally available for your pet to absorb and utilize.
Diet-Related Health Epidemics are Rising
The Banfield Report tells us there are a multitude of health epidemics related to processed pet foods. Specifically, diet-related diseases are the top killers of dogs and cats. These include obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, dental disease, and heart disease. All of these absolutely have dietary components to them. That’s why it’s so important to do your research and make small steps into improving your pet’s diet consistently. The information is always changing so sometimes it’s hard to keep up, but we promise we’ll do our best to help you stay up to
date on important changes!
As we wrap up this topic about “balanced and complete”, we leave you with this thought: You do your best to feed yourself with a variety of fresh food that, ultimately, equals a balanced diet. It’s the same for your pet! So, try and block out all the marketing mumbo-jumbo and consider your specific pet. What works for one pet doesn’t work for another and it’s up to you to advocate for them.
Statement #3: Puppies (or Kittens) Shouldn’t Eat Raw Food Diets.
This is one of the most common myths out there about raw food diets. But it’s just NOT true! Puppies and kitties can reap all the benefits of raw; however, it’s especially important that it is done correctly to ensure proper growth.
The Importance of Nutrition For A Growing pet
This idea that puppies and kittens aren’t able to eat raw pet food is so ingrained into our thinking due to the fact that most traditional vets are reluctant to recommend it. This is primarily due to minimal nutritional training while at vet school, unless their education is furthered by becoming a specialized veterinary nutritionist. There is also a lot of education involved with recommending raw diets to new pet owners, so unless you are a holistic vet or specialist veterinary nutritionist, it’s easier to stick to the easier commercial recommendation! As a result, vets often tell new owners to stay away from raw food because they’re worried about possible nutritional imbalances with raw meals that may lack important vitamins and minerals such as calcium, particularly with DIY raw feeding.
Mineral content in a young pet’s diet is so important for growth, especially in larger dog breeds. If they have a poor diet while they’re growing, then they can experience permanent musculoskeletal damage. However, these deficiencies are not exclusive to dogs who are fed raw diets. In fact, it’s actually very hard to feed a raw food diet that is incomplete and unbalanced… unless you’re just feeding your pet ground beef from the grocery store and nothing else!
Giving Your Dog Bones
A good way to ensure your puppy is getting a complete and balanced diet is to rotate through a variety of meats – our nutritionist recommends a variety of appropriate bones for your pet’s size 4-5 times weekly. This could be in the form of ground bone or whole bones to chew on. Another vital component to a proper diet for puppies is bones! If you don’t want to feed your dog bones, then a raw food diet is probably not the right fit for your lifestyle. However, if you just don’t like the idea of feeding whole bones, dogs can get the same nutritional benefits from ground bone.
So, why are bones so important? Adding bones to your dog’s diet is the easiest way to balance all the essential minerals! Since bones are a natural source of all these beneficial minerals, they will provide a perfect balance that is species-specific to dogs. Nothing is better (or more natural) than bones, even if you’re feeding a top-of-the-line synthetic supplement.
Education and Expert Support are Vital
The point we want to highlight is that if you’re feeding a proper raw diet, your puppy (or kitten) is probably going to thrive! In fact, the likelihood that your puppy is going to grow perfectly is
actually higher than if you’re feeding them a high starch diet. Many dogs who eat solely commercial dry food diets often end up with a lot of inflammation in their joints due to the high amount of starchy ingredients. This inflammation can lead to a lifetime of issues including hip and elbow dysplasia.
Therefore, the most important aspect about whether a raw food diet is appropriate for young pets is about how you prepare it. The largest problem people run into is not having enough information to properly feed a raw food diet. Furthermore, the lack of support many feel from their vets is another reason why people turn away from raw feeding for puppies and kitties. That’s why we work so hard to provide education to help pet parents, whether you’re just starting the raw journey, or you’ve been a supporter for a long time and are looking to make continual improvements!
Statement #4: Raw Food Will Make My Dog Sick Because of Bacteria, Parasites, and Pathogens.
Another reason veterinarians have historically been known to caution pet guardians about feeding fresh, raw food is because of potential bacterial contamination such as salmonella, e. Coli, and listeria. For some raw diets this may be true, whether it’s due to lower quality ingredients, uncontrolled manufacturing processes or even improper handling of food.
But wait… Do you remember when there was a romaine lettuce recall due to e. Coli and salmonella? In the wake of this romaine recall, did your doctor tell you to stop eating lettuce? Of course not! We would never consider removing fresh food from our diet just because there was an isolated occurrence of one type of food being contaminated. So, why is this any different in the pet food industry? It’s not!
There are risks associated with ALL pet food. It is not isolated to raw pet food diets. So, what are some ways for you to ensure that your pet’s food is safe? Let’s get into why you shouldn’t be scared about raw food and how to take the proper precautions.
Processed Food Isn’t Sterile Either
Salmonella, e. Coli, and listeria pet food recalls happen regularly on dried/processed pet foods. Additionally, processed foods are recalled for other horrifying reasons such as dangerously high levels of synthetic vitamin D supplementation and aflatoxin (a dangerous by-product of mould from rotten grain products) – both of which can make your pet extremely sick. You can check out the FDA
veterinary recall page to learn more.
Our question is why is that not being discussed more within the veterinary community? Just because dry/processed pet food comes from a bag does not mean it is free of bacterial or fungal contamination. In fact, processed dry pet food is generally left in an open bag out of the fridge
at room temperature — which creates an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply. So, although most people consider “easier” to store dry food, many are doing it in a way that makes food potentially harmful for their pets.
Pathogenic bacteria can come from anywhere since bacteria surrounds us all the time. When talking about humans’ food and environment, we have moved on from the days where we believed everything must be 100% sterile. Now we know that there’s both good and bad bacteria and that completely sterilizing things, food for instance, means that all the good bacteria is gone as well.
This is the way we should be thinking about our pets as well. That’s why keeping your pet’s microbiome healthy is your first and highest priority. You can actually prevent pathogenic bacteria from growing by giving your pet a rotation of probiotic strains. Because we’re total pet food nerds, we actually add special strains of probiotics to our meals that target pathogenic bacteria for destruction! See our Probiotic series for more details here.
Quality Control and Food Safety DO Matter!
It’s important to know WHERE your pet food originates and is processed. Also, since there are no Canadian regulations for pet food safety it means there isn’t usually much transparency when it comes to quality control in the pet food industry. Currently, pet food manufacturers do not have to answer to anyone about how they produce their product — this can contribute to significant food safety issues.
Given the lack of a regulatory body for pet food in Canada, we at Red Dog Blue Kat have chosen to undergo the long and detailed process to have our facility HACCP verified. HACCP requirements are the highest human food safety standards in North America.
Learn more about HACCP and what’s involved
We also have a full-time microbiologist on staff, Tanys Franz, who does daily testing of our products, equipment, and facility to ensure that food contamination is never an issue. The only way to make sure that harmful pathogens are not present is to test the food, so that’s what we do on every single batch! Furthermore, we use fresh whole-food ingredients that do not present the risk of accidental overdose of synthetic vitamins or dangerous fungus from rotting industry by-products.
If you were worried about feeding fresh food to your pet for bacterial reasons, we hope this information and direct quote from Sarah Griffiths, our animal nutrition specialist, helps put your mind at ease: “I literally personally would verify that I would actually eat the meat here… raw. Myself.” The benefits far outweigh risks, we just need to manage risks and we have taken all the steps to do that at Red Dog Blue Kat.
Statement #5: There’s No Science Behind Raw Pet Food Diets Being Better.
Would you accept it if your doctor said you should only consume packaged foods to be healthy? What about the same advice for your kids? – It’s really common sense!
This is where you really have to make a choice for yourself about what you believe is best. We believe the choice is clear. When you remove the filters, dig underneath the marketing bumph, and just use good old common sense, choosing the right food for your pet doesn’t have to be so complicated! The traditional veterinary industry is the only medical industry in the world that preaches the idea that processed foods are better than fresh food! Really?!
It’s Untrue That There’s No Research
There is a growing body of research being done about fresh food for pets. The demonstrated results are undeniable and the processed pet food companies are definitely feeling the pushback.
Here are some of our favorite independently conducted studies and projects:
Raw Proof - 24-month study about raw diets for dogs
… and these are just a few of the studies that we found.
Independent Studies Have More Merit…
If you are referring to studies done by researchers who have an agenda (specifically, research that is bought and paid for by dry or canned food brands), the research might have a bias. Also check the age of the subjects, the length of the studies, and exactly what they are measuring — is it puppies or kittens being able to survive for 6-8 weeks or is it a long-term study with years of data to back up the results?
As you must be aware by now, there are many political aspects at play when it comes to both the human and pet food industries — including some “health food” and veterinary food. If you want to know the unvarnished truth, look for studies that have been conducted by independent researchers (like the ones listed above) who report results that don’t have a specific goal in mind from the beginning. These are the studies that will point to whether or not specific foods have value for dogs and cats. Pet food research is not the same as science, even if labeled “science-based”.
Statement #6: Cooked Pet Food Is Better Than A Raw Diet.
This is something that a lot of the new fresh cooked food companies are advertising. However, this one’s dependent on the situation. The most important thing to consider here is that you need to meet your pet where they’re at! What works for one pet doesn’t always work for another and that’s why you need to really know your pet and their body.
There are lots of instances that cooked pet food has worked! Our animal nutritionist sees a lot of senior animals who have been on raw all their life need to switch to cooked food eventually. This can be because their stomachs become more delicate or their palette changes. Furthermore, there are lots of pets who have stomach cancers, bowel cancer, ulcers who do better on cooked food diets. Basically, it is a great solution for any animals who have GI systems so compromised that their bodies can’t handle external bacteria of any kind.
If your pet is healthy and vital, we still suggest raw over cooked meals, because there are less changes of structure in the ingredients. However, picking a home-cooked fresh food meal over kibble is still better. If you’re worried about specific raw components, try cooking part of the meal and leaving others uncooked. A lot of the time we worry about feeding our pets different things when in fact, the variety can help build up a healthy and strong immune system!