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Dear Katie… can a raw diet suddenly cause aggression in dogs?

I am thinking of transitioning my dog to a raw diet, but I’m concerned after reading that this can cause aggression in dogs. Is there any truth to the theory? 

dog bearing teeth

Does a raw diet cause aggression in dogs?  

It’s a common myth that feeding dogs raw food causes them to become ‘blood thirsty’, increasing their desire to chase and eat live animals. However, no studies have ever shown this to be any likelier in dogs fed raw than those on dry or wet foods. For example, just because a dog is fed raw beef, this doesn’t mean they will look at a cow and associate it with mealtimes. A keenness for hunting prey comes down to the individual canine – not their diet.

Of course, as with any food that a pooch really enjoys, some may be defensive or territorial when eating and won’t want to share. If your dog is known to be possessive over food or you’ve witnessed some aggression linked to treats or meals, do bear this in mind when switching to something they may view as a high reward.

We know that what we feed can affect a hound’s wellbeing. A raw, species-appropriate diet can strengthen the condition of your dog’s microbiome, the route to improved physical and mental health, which, in turn, can help improve overall behaviour.

Although aggression in dogs is no more than one of many myths associated with raw diets, feeding your friend fresh whole foods can bring about some changes – ones you may not have expected or experienced with dry, processed food. It is important to be aware of these in advance to avoid issues and differentiate between what is normal and what may not be, as is needed with any alteration in diet.

Let’s take a look at the changes you might see… 

dog drinking from a bottle

They don’t drink as much water

A raw food product contains approximately 65-70% water. Compare this to standard dry dog food, which is about 15-20% water, and we can see why the drive to drink is significantly reduced on a fresh, raw diet. This is entirely normal and nothing to be concerned about. 

On hot days, you can always pour some extra water into meals to keep them hydrated or add enticing things to their water bowl to encourage drinking.

They don’t pass as much poo

A raw diet is around 95% digestible compared to a processed diet which is roughly 75% digestible. As a result, a raw food diet produces less waste and fewer smells – a major perk!

They produce white faeces

White faeces are an indication of a diet containing bone. You may notice whiter faeces the day after you feed a bone-heavy meal or if you leave a poo for a few days in the garden – as it breaks down, it may change to a shade of white. Again, this is totally fine and no cause for concern unless your dog is constipated.

In most cases, adding water and green, leafy vegetables to a hound’s diet will help ease constipation. Longer term, make sure that the individual canine has a low bone content in their diet of around 8-10% – each dog has a different bone level tolerance, so it’s essential to monitor this when switching to raw feeding. For more advice on this, please do get in touch.

Fighting with other dogs?

Raw meat and bones are greatly prized and can cause some dogs to become protective if they are known to have food possession issues. If your hound is prone to guarding, avoid giving bones in an area with several dogs, and observe them closely during feeding times. 

In multi-dog households, this problem can arise over extra desirable treats, chews or bones, so it is crucial not to cause conflict. Simply feed separately or, if you are feeding a complete, raw diet, there’s no need to give dogs bones at all; there are plenty of alternatives you could use instead for chewing or mental stimulation, such as papaya or coconut chews.

dog digging in mud

They start burying bones

It’s wonderful to see natural canine behaviour come on display thanks to raw feeding. In the wild, bones are used as food during periods of starvation, so if your dog buries theirs, they’re just exhibiting a hard-wired instinct.

On the other hand, some pet parents may not be happy with their pooch trying to dig holes in the garden – or the sofa! Keep an eye out if you want to avoid digging, and do be aware of hounds unearthing bones that have been hidden for a while, as these may not be ideal for eating.

They’re hungrier during the switch

We often find that dogs switching from a kibble diet to a raw diet appear hungry. When kibble hits the stomach, it swells, and the carbohydrate content gives a false sense of fullness. As your dog settles on their new raw diet, their stomach will get used to the change, but it’s always crucial to monitor body condition, as feeding amounts may need tweaking to suit their unique needs and ensure they maintain a healthy size. 

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To summarise, the simple answer is no, a raw diet isn’t the cause of aggression in dogs.

If you have any concerns surrounding behaviour and food, it’s always worth consulting a behaviourist or trainer to work on the underlying problem. It’s also a good idea to talk to your vet so they can rule out any underlying health conditions, especially if a shift in behaviour is new or sudden.

I hope this helps ease your mind. The benefits of raw feeding are well proven, and the impact it can have on dogs’ lives is incredible.

Katie x

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