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Raw Food Diets May Be Dangerous for Pets

Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 11:45am

Just like fad diets for humans, popular diets for your pets come and go. However, there’s one particular pet diet trend that gives us pause: ASPCA experts say raw food diets for pets that include raw meat, eggs and milk may be dangerous for your furry friends. We typically recommend that pet parents opt for well-balanced, high-quality commercial and cooked foods instead.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) agrees. In studies published in AVMA’s journal, homemade and commercial raw food diets for dogs and cats were found to contain dangerous bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, just to name a few. Other tests showed that unprocessed food diets can lead to nutrient deficiencies or excess that can cause serious illnesses in pets. Also, pets chewing on raw bones can lead to obstruction or perforation of their gastrointestinal tracts, and fractured teeth.

If you don’t want to feed your dog or cat a commercial diet, consider a homemade diet that will diminish the risks of foodborne illnesses. These meals should be thoroughly cooked and need to be formulated by a veterinary nutritionist or by your veterinarian to make sure they’re nutritionally sound.

If you are passionate about feeding your pet raw foods, please consider the following tips.

  • Work with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet’s diet is nutritionally balanced.
  • Avoid feeding raw foods in homes with babies and toddlers (who put lots of things in their mouths), the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
  • Practice regular hand washing before and after feeding pets.
  • Practice appropriate disposal methods when cleaning up pet feces.

For more information about pet-safe diets, consult your veterinarian and check out our complete list of people foods that are dangerous to pets.

Tell us in the comments below: Do you feed your pet raw foods or a homemade diet?

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Kimberly Gauthi...

Although I do respect that everyone has a right to an opinion regarding dog nutrition and those opinions are based on their experience; it's disappointing to see an organization as well respected as the ASPCA disregard all the families feeding raw successful with amazing results, calling this a 'fad diet.'

We switched our dogs to a raw diet in April 2013 and the changes were immediate. We did this after months of research, which I documented on my blog Keep the Tail Wagging and continue to document on Raw Dog Food Reviews. I don't think raw is for everyone and I know that some make the mistake of assuming that raw just means running to the store and grabbing some meat. There are different raw food models, each dog may have different requirements, and there is a budget aspect for some to consider.

The myth that it's dangerous for the humans would mean that we should handle raw meat at all. If you've handled raw chicken, stuffed a turkey for Thanksgiving, or made hamburger patties for a BBQ and survived, the you can feed your dog raw food. Wash your hands, wash the dishes, wash the counters.

If you have concerns about a raw food diet, I truly believe that going to a traditional vet with questions isn't a great idea if that vet is closed minded - we had one - go to an open minded vet who is willing to consider alternatives and stays on top of new diets and treatments for pets. Better yet, reach out to a holistic veterinarian for help and guidance.

The raw food community is huge; big enough to have received some quality information that would have provided a more balanced article for people who are looking to feed their dogs raw. I'm disappointed that I don't see that balance here, because I know your organization does a great job providing quality information about rescue, puppy mills, and animal welfare.

Rod

A thoroughly ignorant article based upon superficial research, at the most.

Sheila Tatman

I have been feeding a home made raw diet to my newfoundlands for years. Any time we are at the vet for a wellness check, they (the vet staff) are amazed at the perfect bloodwork, perfect teeth, perfect coats of my dogs. And always advise against the raw diet that promotes the perfect check-ups. Go figure. We only go to the vet once per year.

RG

Animals lick their own butts. Dogs try to eat random poop. Some raw, human grade meat isn't going to kill them. As a matter of fact, they are carnivores, and I truly believe a raw diet is better. Though I'm curious who's feeding milk?! That's certainly not species appropriate.

To those talking about how our pets aren't wild - they are. Stray or feral cats and dogs survive just fine without people. Any shortening of their lifespan is because they don't have vet care, and there are dangers in the wild that aren't related to food. To say they evolved to eat cooked food is like saying we evolved to eat junk food. Just because we CAN eat something and survive doesn't mean we should. Shouldn't we want more than for our pets to survive? We want them at their best, which a proper raw diet does.

Matthew

I have done some exhaustive research into feeding RAW.. which my APBT LOVES btw. Several vets have sites dedicated to feeding a " Prey model raw" diet... 1 of these vets had 2 dogs that were raw fed their entire lives. They lived to be 19 and 22 years old. If you believe your dog needs to eat corn, soy and other fruits and vegetables.... then you have done no research into the facts. A dogs stomach is not like a humans. It does not have a bend in it.. it runs straight through to the intestines. Because of this, a dog is not equipped to digest plant matter. A humans stomach on the other hand has a 90 degree bend in the bottom which allows us to digest plant matter. Also, a dogs stomach acid is between a 1-2ph, highly acidic.. this is for digesting raw bone. Kibble has been around for only 50 years or so... so, please explain to me why I must feed a plant based kibble that offers little nutritional value for my furry friend... over a rich and fulfilling raw diet.

Stephanie

How misguided a post and I am sad to see this from the ASPCA. Dogs are NOT omnivores. Corn is NOT digestible. Grain in general is nearly indigestible for carnivores. Dogs and cats are built to eat and digest prey, not processed balls of dried slurry. On kibble my dog was low energy with high seasonal allergies, high food allergies, medical conditions, incessant paw biting, patchy hair and flaky skin. On raw food ALL of her conditions have disappeared and she has become a healthy, happy, wonderful 3 year old. My puppy has been fed raw since the day he came home and he would not have gone from 11lbs to 50lbs in 3 months if the diet was not nutritionally sound. I have no doubt he would not be as healthy and growing as well as he is if he was on kibble! Please do not cook your dog's food and DEFINITELY do not give cooked bones. Raw chicken (including bones) is perfectly fine though. More than 1/3 of dogs naturally carry Salmonella in their gut flora. It makes people sick, not dogs.

Danova

The Raw food diet is NOT a fad diet - this diet has saved the life of two dogs that I know of personally and is in fact endorsed by some of the more knowledgeable vets You do however need to check the ingredient list for veggies added etc. Know Your Supplier! Same as any other product you are purchasing - know your supplier and check the ingredient list.

Logic

Here, let me clear up this entire debate: Raw people admit that there are pathogens and parasites. Non raw people accurately say this is a risk. The level of risk is clearly up for opinion. Solution? Cook the "whole foods". Simple. No more pathogens. Still get raw food. If anything, this is the "luxury" version of ripping apart a carcass in the forest. You get all the nutrients and none of the pathogens. I have yet to hear *ONE* raw enthusiast tell me why the food needs to be "Raw". The comparison is only between whole foods versus kibble. Since THAT is the correct comparison, if you are feeding whole foods raw, you are being lazy and putting your dog at risk. So cook your whole foods, and get the praise and admiration of every veterinarian on earth, while simultaneously silencing the kibble enthusiasts. You're welcome, everyone.

Lucy Fred

I feed my 3 shetland sheepdogs RAW and my VET agrees with my decision as he feeds his cats RAW. My once extremely ill kibble eating female is now a raw fed thriving A+ healthy dog. Blood tests confirm my decision was the correct one. In the wild they would eat their catch raw.

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