Should Dogs Eat Raw Meat?

There is no doubt, that our dogs are meat eaters. Dogs have the digestive system of carnivores. This makes their digestion completely different than ours, even though many of us do so enjoy a juicy steak more often than not. Since dogs historically don’t cook their food, their digestive system is made to deal with the benefits and disadvantages of raw food. Dogs cannot chew as well as we can, their jaw does not move sideways and their teeth are made to rip off flesh of a bone. If you have a dog, you may have noticed that often they do not take the time to work their food in tiny pieces – instead they literally ‘wolf’ down as big parts as they possibly can. This may well be an explanation why they only have about 1,700 taste buds as compared to our whooping 9,000! Cats, who are true carnivores, have even less – they have to make do with just about 470. The dog’s saliva acts as lubricant and helps them to swallow big pieces of food. It also lacks the enzyme which helps us breaking down our food already while we chew. Once the food reaches the stomach, a very strong gastric acid helps process it. The gastric acid of a raw fed dog is normally stronger than ours and is partially the reason, why bacteria on food such as salmonella are not as big an issue with healthy dogs as it is with us. In the wild, dogs don’t only eat fresh kill but also food that has been laying around for quite a while. In fact, many dogs bury their food and eat it a couple of days later. I have observed my dogs doing that – not something for our noses, that’s for sure!

Dogs have a very short digestive system. It takes about 8 hours for them to digest food whereas we need between 24 and 72 hours. Their large intestines are only about 8 inches to 2.6 feet long, depending on the size of the dog, where as ours is about 4.9 feet long. When you look at true herbivores, such as cows and goats, theirs are even longer. Plant matter is much more difficult to break down and does take more time. And it makes sense to pass food that may rot, like raw meat, through the system much faster, while plants are less delicate.

So, is a dog strictly a meat eater? While meat should be the main ingredient in a dog’s diet, our canines absolutely benefit from different food sources. Many dogs like fruits, such as berries, apples or bananas. Leafy foods, such as herbs and veggies should be prepared in a food processor, frozen or blanched to make them adjusted for a dog’s digestive system. Feeding raw meat to healthy dogs can be great for them, but you may have to be extra cautious when handling it as we are more susceptible to things like salmonella. Dogs can lead healthy and long lives without being fed raw meat, but given their digestive system, they are made for it. Ultimately, it will depend on what you are comfortable with feeding your dog. And there is nothing wrong with that.

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4 thoughts on “Should Dogs Eat Raw Meat?

  1. I feed Orijen, for two reasons. #1, my dogs will not eat organ meat. Especially liver. #2…watching my dogs tear apart a chicken carcass is just about the most disgusting thing I have ever seen in my life.

    I wish I Wasn’t such a girl. One of my co-workers can feed her dog a sheep’s head without blinking.

    • I heard good things about Orijen. Feeding raw is not for everyone, that’s for sure. I love to see my dogs dig in with such joy and do what they are naturally apt to do, but I fully understand, that this is not a sight that many share my delight. 🙂 I am fortunate enough to have a butcher, where I can get sheep’s heads and other goodies – and nice enough neighbors, who do not raise eyebrows when they glance over into our backyard when it’s feeding time.

  2. It’s definitely a sight I’d have to get used to but my girl’s known to have a sensitive stomach. We’ve tried Blue Buffalo, Wellness then Nutro, Nutro gave her more solid stools so we settled with that. For her birthday, we gave her raw steak and she loved it! Surprisingly, the stools were still solid.

    Question for you since you feed RAW. What’s the difference in monthly costs between Kibbles and RAW? Would you say they’re about the same?

    • Since I would feed a high quality dry food (which, by the way, are absolutely out there – I’m not stuck on raw), and since I do not use a pre-processed commercial raw food, I’d say, it’s about the same per month. I buy a lot of my meat from a butcher and things like bones, heads and legs as well as trimmings come pretty cheap. Tripe isn’t too expensive either, but not easy to come by. If my local supermarket has meat on sale or sells meat about to expire cheaply, I buy there as well. I have a big freezer just for the dogs. Fruits and veggies I get mostly from the local Farmers Market and prepare it for about two weeks worth. Feeding raw is a bit more time intensive, but for the most part, I know exactly what I feed my dogs and I can change it according to their needs.

      If your dog has issues with solid stools, you can always give her a bit of canned pumpkin. Just make sure, you buy the cans that are 100% pumpkin and don’t have anything else in there, like sugar.

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