Concerns over feeding a raw diet to dogs

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I must admit, I have often suggested adopting a raw food diet for your dog, if your Border were suspected to suffer from Spike’s Disease or from specific food allergies. But, the more I have looked around, and the more I have noticed that, off lately, it has become almost a fashion to take our dogs back to nature and to start feeding dogs raw food.

Well, I have just come across an article published by the Daily Mail paper last Sunday, about potential dangers of feeding a raw diet to dogs. Let me tell you a little bit more about it.

Feeding dogs raw food diet to our dogs has become quite trendy
Feeding dogs raw food diet to our dogs has become quite trendy.

Where It All Started

The trend seems to have been followed more specifically by the more affluent social class, where purchasing more expensive raw meat and fresh vegetables and fruit is less of a financial burden.

In the last few years we have heard how we should fully respect the natural environment our dogs were originally bred in, and the fact that they descend from the more feral cousins wolves. I for one am fully in awe of the teaching of ‘dog whisperer’ Cesar Millan, albeit not being the best at putting his teachings into practice. I know, I am the worst of them all to allow my heart to rule over my head!

The point is, we started believing that taking our dogs, and cats, back to nature, and reverting their diet to a raw diet, as if they were still living in a feral environment, was a good thing for them.

In a way we started thinking about our dogs in the same terms as we think about ourselves, as if our dogs needed the same level of detox that we do after the Christmas food extravaganzas.


Danger for Dogs

Salmonella, with E-Coli and listeria, are poisonous bacteria typically found in raw meat
Salmonella, with E-Coli and listeria, are poisonous bacteria typically found in raw meat.

We should all be too aware that raw meat can contain poisonous bugs, such as E-Coli, salmonella and listeria. And such powerful bugs can cause really debilitating spouts of diarrhea and vomiting, which can weaken the human body to dangerously low levels.

The Daily Mail referred to a study conducted by the University of Utrecht, and whose finding were published by the British journal Veterinary Record, after analyzing renowned brands of raw meat and raw food products for dogs and cats. The Veterinary Record confirmed that the same findings recorded in the Netherland have been confirmed in UK, with the presence of these strong bugs in raw meat and other raw food many dog owners have taken up to feeding to their pet.

These also include raw meat which owners purchase from their butcher, when they decide to introduce a cocktail of raw food in their dog’s diet.

The study has concerns, of course, that if such powerful bugs can affect the human body, they will act even more strongly on the immune-system of dogs, and cats, making them more susceptible to health complications.

In fact the research was prompted after cats died after ingesting raw meat, and cases of gastroenteritis were reported on a number of greyhounds that had equally been fed raw meat.


The ‘Back To The Wild’ Theory

This new trend of feeding your dog a raw meat diet, comes from the need of taking back your dog to his or her natural environment and to the wild life style of when wolves used to live in forests before developing into different breeds – or rather, before man work intervened to alter the natural course of evolution.

However, if the medical evidence were not satisfactory in raising eyebrows and serious concerns, it has also been questioned why we want to take our dogs back to nature by feeding them raw meat, but then we allow them to sleep in our beds, we get them to wear coats or jumpers in the winter, and ensure they are well shaded from the hot weather.

In the wild, wolves do not eat twice a day, but only when they manage to hunt down some prey
In the wild, wolves do not eat twice a day, but only when they manage to hunt down some prey.

In other words, dogs may have been stripped of their ancestral features. But, now that hounds are used to a more comfortable way of life, where they get fed twice a day without counting treats during the day, we cannot expect their body not to react adversely to a raw food diet their ancestors used to eat only when they found something to eat.

In the wild, wolves do not eat twice a day, but only when they manage to hunt down some prey. And this means they may go without food for days on end. Trying to revert our pet dogs to such raw meat rich diet, it is suggested, does not add up to allowing their bodies to cope with the increased intake of poisonous bugs.


Danger For Humans

We all know, of course, how dangerous E-Coli and salmonella or listeria can be for humans. I do remember, a few years ago, UK news reporting of children in different parts of the countries falling badly ill after coming in touch with these bugs when visiting animal farms and after being allowed to pet the local animals.

When feeding raw meat to our dogs or cats, we expose ourselves and our family to the same bacteria as if we were ingesting raw meat ourselves. We can handle the raw meat when putting it in our dog’s bowl. Or we touch the bowl itself after our dog has finished his or her meal.

Not to talk about kisses. How many of you allow your dog to leak your face or hands, or legs even? Hands up if you do! Confession time, please: live your comment below.

Do I allow my Indy to give me kisses on my face? All the times. But you can see how your dog may pass bacteria to you when leaking your face, or other parts of your body, if (s)he has been fed raw meat.

Feeding Indy some treats
Of course I feed Indy and allow him to give me kisses all the times!

And, inadvertently, we may touch our face, shake hands with our neighbour or touch the hand of one of our family member, and the contamination process is transmitted over and over.


Striking That Fine Balance

So, where do we stand against the recommendations to feed your dog raw food, if (s)he is suspected to have some food intolerance or, like more commonly with Borders, if (s)he suffers from Spike’s Disease? After all many owners of Borders suffering with Spike’s have found the raw meat diet literally a life saver for their dog.

I myself have advised on many occasions to try out a raw food diet to owners of dogs with Spike’s, after reading about the miraculous effect such diet has had on Cecs sufferers.

So, what’s the solution? Which one is right? Cooked prepacked food or raw food?

First of all, and especially if your dog does not seem to need any specific diet, do not try to feed him or her a special diet as such. You will learn with time, and through the good old ‘trial and error’ method, what your dog likes and dislikes most. And to be honest, your dog will be equally very good at telling you what (s)he doesn’t like because that specific food has an adverse reaction to his or her tummy.

Lately we have switched to kibble as well as his usual wet food, and Indy is in his element, so to speak.
Lately we have switched to kibble as well as his usual wet food, and Indy is in his element, so to speak.

As mentioned many times, I have been lucky with my Indy, as he has never really suffered from life-changing tummy troubles. For this reason, I have always fed him just normal supermarket food. Lately we have gone onto kibble as well as his usual wet food, and Indy is in his element, so to speak.

The only couple of things or three I would advise are these:

  1. reduce the intake of human food as a treat, possibly to none at all;
  2. once you have found the ideal food combination for your dog, stick to that food, and do not swap and change brand or variety, unless your dog shows an intolerance to it;
  3. if, however, you believe your dog may benefit from a raw meat diet, because of specific medical conditions discovered in your dog, such as Spike’s, then I suggest you speak to a vet specialized in nutrition for the best option to take regarding your dog’s diet.

Raw meat does not necessarily have to be bad for your dog. And if you do not want to offer cooked meat to your dog, you can kill bacteria through steaming process.

Ultimately you are the best judge of your dog’s needs.  All you may want to do to be on the safe side, is to seek professional reassurance from the experts.

I am sure many of you are already feeding your dog a raw food diet. Do drop me a line in the Comment box below to share your thoughts or to advise in turn whether your dog has improved in health, or whether (s)he has had a nasty tummy. I shall answer to each and every of you as soon as I possibly can 🙂


  1. // Reply

    My saint bernard is raw fed and has been from 6 months… He had severe stomach infection when younger which resulted in 3 operations. Since then he couldn’t keep down kibble. We switched to raw and he’s nearly 2 now and never had a problem and he is such a happier dog.

    1. // Reply

      Awww Jon, I am ever so pleased to hear that you finally managed to find a diet that has stopped your dog’s stomach infection. Like with humans, ultimately with dogs it is a matter of trial and error in trying to find the right food combination for them. Each dog is individual, and the guidelines I give here are generic, and as such not always suited to all dogs at all.
      Many dog owners stick to raw food for their hounds, like you, as this is what is best for their dog as a result of sensitivity to specific food category.
      I don’t know if you have come across my article on Spike’s Disease. This conditions seems to affect particularly Border Terriers, but not exclusively. It appears however that it can be managed with gluten free or raw food diet. I expect there will be many dogs who are going to be unable to sustain a dry diet, for whatever reason. You and your dog are a fine example.
      Thank you for letting us know about your order with your fur baby – I am sincerely glad he is well now he has found his ideal diet. I hope you will come back to this site to share more information about your fur boy 🙂

  2. // Reply

    We have a 14month old Border Terrier which from bringing him home at eight and half weeks until a couple of weeks agoe had raw mince with Arden Grange dry food and then has time passed has steamed chicken with Arden Grange dry food. But in the last few weeks has not wanted his raw mince so am now giving him Chappie wet food and Arden Grange for breakfast. He also has raw carrot . So willjust have to see how it goes.

    1. // Reply

      Sandy, thanks for stopping by and fore leaving your comment. I think you are taking the correct approach. On one hand, when your dog is affected by Spike’s Disease (as diagnosed by your consultant neurologist), they advise that often a raw diet is what helps manage the disease and keep the episodes at bay. But, as your Border thankfully has not been diagnosed with anything, I guess it is a matter of trial and error. My experience tells me that dogs are very much like humans, in so far that, like us, sometimes they suddenly get bored of the same food day in day out. Our Indy has loved his kibble for breakfast for many years … until now, age 14, he’s decided in the last few weeks that kibble is boring and he’d sooner have dog biscuits.
      Yes, it’s true, sometimes Border test their own limits and see how far they can push that line with us. But if your boy likes Chappie with dry food, and if you see that he is happy with it and he doesn’t get any ill effect, then why not!!
      And, in passing, raw carrots and apples … Borders love them and yes, they are good source of fibre for them!
      Look forward to hearing from you again soon 🙂

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