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Why Raw Feeding is Safe

written by  Olivia Hudson /of OCRAWDOG

I manufacture a raw pet food and have been feeding raw to my 18 dogs for over 6 years.  I have made it my personal mission to educate people about the benefits of raw feeding.  When I go to dog events or speak to people about the food, I am consistently asked the same general questions.  How is feeding raw safe?  What about raw meat and bacteria like salmonella?  Is it dangerous to feed my dog bones ?  Why can’t I just feed them raw chicken?  Here are my answers:

Raw feeding is a philosophy which is based on what wild dogs, coyotes, wolves, lions, panthers, etc. would eat in the wild.  There are some people who follow a “like in the wild prey model” of feeding using a large variety of different protein sources like beef, pork, deer, fish, and chicken to feed their animals.  This hunting philosophy may be easy to visualize with a coyote, wolf, large German shepherd or Rottweiler but may not be as easy with Pomeranian or Chihuahua.  Regardless of size, on the inside they are all the same.  Same type teeth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines.  They are all built to eat raw.

The number one question I am asked is “what about Salmonella?”  The bacteria we are inundated with as the source of countless recalls.  The first line of defense against salmonella is biologically inherent in all dogs and cats – The Stomach.  When a dog starts to eat, the pancreas releases a chemical in the stomach to lower the pH balance of the stomach which breaks down the food.  When a dog ingests food, the pH of the stomach plummets to a level between 1 and 2.  At a pH level of 2, salmonella bacteria cannot survive.  When the dogs pH level reaches 1, the dog’s stomach roughly equals a 0.4% solution of hydrochloric acid, an acid so corrosive it would burn holes in your skin.  People on the other hand cannot tolerate salmonella because our pH level never goes below 5.  This is why we cannot eat raw meat and need to take precautions like cooking to kill the bacteria.

The second line of defense against the bacteria found in raw food is - The Intestinal Tract.  The average length of the intestinal tract in a dog is a meager 16-36 inches compared to an average person’s intestinal tract which can measure up to 30 feet in length.  On average it takes a person 24-48 hours to digest their meals.  Allowing whatever bacteria present to fester and multiply.  A dog can completely digest its raw food in under 8 hours - a time frame which does not allow the salmonella bacteria to grow.  FYI, a commercial kibble can be digested between 12-18 hours but has been known to take up to 24 hours.

The concern regarding salmonella is not on behalf of the dog or cat but on behalf of the caretaker.  Safe handling instructions are labeled on most reputable commercial raw foods.  I urge you to read and follow them just like you were handling raw meat for your family.  Recently the FDA has gotten involved in the regulation of dog food.  Go to www.regulations.gov and search “salmonella in animal feed” to see all the comments and new regulations the FDA is considering.

Another issue regarding raw feeding is the bones and if they are safe for dogs.  It is NEVER safe to feed cooked bones to dogs or cats.  When you cook meat with the bone the moisture from the bone is transferred to the meat making the meat more tender and juicy.  After your delicious dinner is cooked, the bone is dry and brittle bones which can splinter and cause severe intestinal damage.  Dogs and cats have the ability to break, chew, and digest raw bones.  Subsequently, bones are a natural source of calcium and phosphorus.  Not to mention nature’s tooth brush.  Obvious precautions need to be taken when feeding raw bones if your dog or cat is a “swallower” not a chewer.   Use common sense.  If you think your dog is too small to chew a large beef bone, then they probably are and opt for a smaller less dense bone like a chicken or turkey neck.

So you might be thinking, since raw is safe and bones are good than why can’t I just give my dog an extra chicken thigh with his kibble.  You can and I recommend it.  But you will not be taking advantage of all the benefits raw has to offer.  If you really want to see a significant improvement in your dog, I challenge you to feed your dog or cat raw for 30 days.  Dr. Beckie Williams, a Veterinarian at Yorba Regional Animal hospital (and my personal favorite) “encourages people to feed commercial raw food because it is balanced.  Too many people’s idea of raw food is chicken and oatmeal and they don’t pay any attention to the vitamin and mineral requirements.  A major cause of fertility failure is feeding an unbalanced raw diet.”

As I mentioned earlier there are people who do very well with raw feeding based of the prey model.  If you are new to raw but don’t think you can afford a commercially available raw product there are books which help educate how to make your own raw food at home, websites dedicated to the right ingredients, co-ops developed to making bulk meat available to anyone, and online communities to help support the philosophy and lifestyle of RAW FEEDING .

I understand raw is not for every dog owner but I believe raw is a “better choice” diet for most dogs and cats.



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