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?



dogs should eat high PROCESSED commercial food? Let's change that to people.. "people should eat high processed commercial food" Isn' that like saying, "you should eat mcdonalds everyday or you should eat children's cafeteria food everyday". Ofcourse it is. We have been feeding our pets semi-raw food including raw beef bone and they have never been more healthy. We also provide cooked meals that even humans can eat to our customers at barking chef. Regardless, cook real food. give them semi-raw food. Sear the outerlayers of a chicken drumstick for 2 minutes or sear slice of pork meat for 1 minute and serve. It is so easy. E coli and Salmonela often sit on the outer side (not inside) where it can easily be exposed. Why do you think when you go to a steak out, they can give you raw steak with the outer layers seared? Kills off the bacteria that it may have been exposed to (outer layer).

We do this and we feel safer. THey still get the nutrion of healthy raw meats and bones. Cooked bone is too brittle and may be dangerous but a raw bone is very hard. For small dogs, they will naw on it which is the best way to brush their teeth. Next time you think about bringing your pet to be put under so they can get a yearly teeth cleaning, go get a beef bone and they will scrape their yellow and black teeth and with in a month they will be pearly white. I have also noticed the tartar build up of the gums have practically disappeared. Everyone thinks my 7 year of rhodesian mix is only 1 or 2 because of how great her teeth are or ask me which dentist we take her to. I always say, Dr. Raw Bone!

If you are interested in more you can find more on my blog. Holistic approach to your pets life is the best choice anyone could ever make. If humans are doing it, why not your pets?


I am a huge proponent of raw food and have done tons of research regarding this. I don't have my 2 Chihuahuas on a BARF diet, but feed them dehydrated raw, while supplementing my oldest Chi's food with either a Primal nugget or Bravo patty (my youngest had liver issues in the past, so I try to keep her protein minimal). They have been on this kind of diet for over 3 years now and they have never been healthier. Most vets know nothing regarding nutrition, what they do know is what the sales reps that come into their practice tell them about their garbage food. Vets only push these foods because they get a cut of the sales, one way to boost their income, just like they push the vaccines (vaccines cost little to produce, vets jack up the prices). I became disenchanted with my regular vet when they looked at me like I was crazy when I used to refuse many of the unnecessary vaccines, and whenever I asked them questions about a particular food or nutrition, they never had answers for me. That's why today we see a holistic vet.

I have a friend who recently adopted 2 kitties, when I asked her what she was feeding them, I nearly fell over when she told me it was Hills Science Diet, on the recommendation of her vet!!! I tried vainly for several months to get her to switch to a better food, threw all kinds of facts at her, and it took (hopefully) a recent article stating that Hills was going to start adding polyethylene to their food to extend the shelf life. I am hoping that scared her enough to finally listen to me and not her uninformed vet.

Kibble is baked at high temperatures to obtain that dry, hard stage, and therefore, because it is baked at high temperatures, most of the nutrients are baked right out of it. With raw, or dehydrated diets, the food contains all of the nutritional value. Like it has been already mentioned, there has been numerous recalls of kibble because of salmonella contamination, yet has anyone ever heard of a prepared raw food being recalled because of this? The big pet food manufacturers are behind the AVMA and that is why that poppycock report was published.


It seems to me that everyone gets really upset about the food is almost as bad as politics! I have a lovely, 4-year-old sheltie. I show him in obedience and Rally and take him on long walks. he is quite fit and his coat is absolutely gorgeous. I feed him homemade (cooked) food, usually turkey or chicken, sweet potato or some whole-grain pasta or rice, green beans and yogurt. I also give him fish oil. In addition, I also give him small amounts of Artemis Fresh Mix kibble; I often use it as a training treat.
I would not choose to feed raw because I worry about the possibility of food-borne illness. I also like preparing his basic foods myself, knowing that they are lowfat and low calorie, which is good for a sheltie who gets a lot of treats! I make him his treats myself or I use reduced-fat string cheese or a good-quality sliced turkey.
Having said that, I have some very good friends who use a raw diet, and their dogs are also beautiful and healthy. I suspect there are many good choices for feeding and many bad ones. Moreover, what is good for one dog may not be so good for another. It is no different with humans. I am allergic to raspberries and any other berry in that family; I also cannot eat most raw vegetables without getting very sick. These are healthy foods but are bad for ME. My dog has no problem with eating grains; I choose healthy, whole grains for him as I do for myself. Another dog may not do well with grains. My dog cannot eat carrots; they make him vomit. Other dogs eat them with no trouble.
Let's just not get mad at each other over this!


All these statements about "oh my pets are on raw diets and they are so much healthier" are doesnt prove anything. If you go from feeding crap food to raw youre probably going to see an improvement - and when I say crap I'm not just talking about alpo and ol roy types, even Science Diet and Iams are crap. There are some very good commercially processed pet foods out there, do your research.


Actually many people I know dogs were on "High Quality" commercial food prior.


I have fed a raw food diet for over 18 years and I have had no problems whatsoever. And if you are scared about those little bacteria that everyone one warns you about, I highly suggest you read Dr. Pitcairn's book on Natural Health care for dogs and cats. I know my vet, at the time I started, voiced her concerns and I truly appreciate her concern as that is why I go to her to talk of ideas. However, I have chosen raw food diet for several reasons, most importantly given the latest problems with commercial foods of constant recalls. With no true answers as to why this happened creates trust issues with these food manufacturing giants. Most of the foods that have been recalled are not brands I would even consider feeding as they are ladled with known toxins and carcinogens allowed even in human food by the FDA. However, the ones I have tried a couple have been recalled or at a minimum called into question. So to completely avoid that and to ensure that I know what they are getting, I choose raw and will never change. I certainly recommend consulting an alternative veterinarian for the best advice on how to approach this type of diet. There are great mixes that can be added to the raw food to create a nutritionally balanced diet. Urban Wolf is one of them. Feeding a raw diet I have experienced an almost 30% increase in their longevity. No one can do a thing about genetic, or the environment, a problem even humans deal with, so why not take control of one of the areas that you have control of and that is their dietary intake!! One of the latest issues I had to deal with that was quickly resolved by the raw food diet is one of my dogs who competes in agility had severe stress dirrhea from travel and showing. After consulting with my alternative vet, she indicated that commercial kibble is too extruded in the process and thus passes too quickly through his intestines and thus the dirrhea. And I am sure a nutritional deficit!! She highly recommended going back to the raw diet. I did and it two days his problem cleared up and had not returned. Another resource to enlighten one about commercial pet food is "Food Pets die for". If you don't want to take things into your own control after that you need to read it again!!


Human food is also constantly recalled for contamination, often fresh produce is the culprit not just processed food, so does that mean we should all quit eating anything from the grocery store? We can't all hunt and forage our own food every day. I mean the argument that because sometimes processed pet foods are recalled we should not feed processed pet foods is ridiculous, it happens in human food too and it happens in RAW food. You dont here about it because there's not some big kibble company to blame who's food went out to thousands of households, it's one person here and there, but I promise you it happens. At least one person here already pointed out that a dog they rescued that was on a raw diet had giardia when she got it. It happens. If there is an argument for raw food it's not because it's safer because processed pet food is sometimes recalled. Do any of you possess an ounce of logic?


Accepting the fact that, as with any other food that I would purchase the basic ingredients for (as you point out) from a supplied, with feeding my dogs raw foods, I know what ingredients I am feeding them, and in precise quantities. I can vary the proportions of the nutrients to meet the needs of the individual dogs in my household - an internal nutrient flexibility that kibble does not allow for, since with kibble, I can only change the overall volume of what I feed.

I have four dogs. They vary in weight from 20lbs to 80lbs. They vary in age from 7 years to 2 years. They vary in how sensitive they are to various environmental factors of all kinds, from sounds and strangers to foods and temperature. As ethologist and trainer Jeanne Donaldson notes, as the mammal with the large melon sized brain with the more developed prefrontal cortex, it's my job to take note of all of those variables and provide the care my companion animals require - from affection and shelter, to health care and nutrition.

I would not go to the grocery store and buy nothing but frozen TV dinners for children, the same frozen dinners at that, day in, day out, and expect that because there are examples from each "food group" on the ingredients list that those prepackaged and highly processed foods are therefore meeting a child's nutritional needs adequately. I would not even buy "healthy" frozen dinners, which might be lower in fat, sodium and other less healthy ingredients, limit portion sizes and might allow me to track calories.

Ingredients lists on packaged foods, other than being in the order of "most" to "least" are not required - either in foods intended for human consumption, or those intended for consumption by other mammals, by birds, reptiles, or other commonly kept companion animals - to list specific amounts or even relative proportions. Even the Daily Value Percentages are of limited value, when you consider that those numbers are based on a fairly narrow definition of caloric intake for a narrow definition of a "normative" individual (human or otherwise).

I researched raw feeding for 5 years before switching from one of the "top" kibbles. Kibble producers are not held by anything like the same standards as human food producers. This is hardly a surprise. Champion Pet Foods has a good reputation overall, and generally speaking, their ingredients lists include good more meat than filler. I spent the extra money on the formulas that were grain free.

Nonetheless, there were times when I would, in the process of scooping out kibble, find some mold or mildew on some kibble; on two occasions I found larvae of. Those are just thing that I could pick out easily with the naked eye. Life happens, as you say, and I didn't necessarily see it as a huge reflection on the company, but it was a reminder that even good quality kibble can arrive in apparently vacuum sealed bags but with issues. When I open a bag of kibble, I'm trusting blindly in the marketing that is on the packaging.

I learned about the specifics of the canine digestive system. It has a high acidity, made to deal with the bacteria in raw meat. It is a much, much shorter digestive tract than humans. Although dogs are technically opportunistic omnivores, and far more so than say cats, who are strictly omnivores and shouldn't be getting grains at all, dogs are not truly omnivores - like say, a bear - which will actively seek out both living protein sources and significant volumes of vegetal matter for their diet (i.e. berries, small mammals). It is a commonly held misapprehension that wolves, whose diet "raw" feeding is often modeled after - eat the stomach contents of their prey. It depends on the prey they happen to take. The stomachs of small prey like rabbits and fish would be consumes, including the contents (perhaps) but ungulates, like caribou, moose, deer, Dall sheep, usually get the stomach content shaken out. The wolves do, however, eat the tripe, which not being treated, is referred to as being 'green'. Due to the fact that ungulates are purely herbivores and have digestive systems designed to break down the tough cellulose and fibrous matter, something that canine stomachs are not well suited to doing, it is consuming the green tripe that helps keep the wolves healthy by providing them some of the nutrients that they would not otherwise get sufficient quantities of through just the muslce and organ meats of their prey.

The section on how much do wolves eat addresses this:

A comprehensive site on just about every listed entry in known taxonomy is
It is "crowdsourced" but it's also peer edited more stringently than a wiki.
This link is the detail entry on dogs, including the 'actual' dietary needs of dogs. I put actual in single quotes because it's a very simplistic description.

This next part is, I'll be honest, my personal feeling on the matter, but having had a step-grandfather that raised cattle for slaughter, I know that they although the cattle got some wild graze, mostly they got a lot of high 'white' carb feed. As he explained it to me, the point was to bulk them up, and to make the meat "sweet".

As someone who grew up in a family that hunts moose, and now lives in a community where for many people hunting is the first line of subsistence for feeding one's self and one's family, I know first hand the significant difference in taste between industry raised prey animals, or herd animals if you prefer, and wild animals. In fact, here, you only generally take some animals at particular times of year - caribou for instance has an entirely different taste and texture from one season to the next depending on what it's graze is.

I get my dogs' food from a musher who has been running the Yukon Quest (a longer and more intensive race than the Iditarod) for more than 2 decades). He in turn sources it from a farm in Alberta where the animals are not fed other animal biproducts, fed unnecessary antibiotics, and are fed natural graze. The meat is double ground bone in. This ensures that the dogs get the calcium of the bones with less risk that eating a lot of what are referred to as "rec" or recreational bones.

Due to the fact that muscle meat, with bone in, doesn't have sufficient iron, there must be a proportion of the raw diet that is organ meat. Unfortunately, many kibble diets and even people who do homemade cooked diets are not meeting this need. Boiled and broiled chicken and turkey breasts are actually too low in fat for some dogs - say my Alaskan Husky, or my Rat Terrier x Dachshund. My female Retriever x Husky needs less fat - she has a much thicker coat and under coat, and like many women can attest to, she packs fat onto her hips and belly without trying. Her littermate - barely an inch bigger in length and height? Needs more fat - higher metabolism by far, even though they get the same exercise. The female's sad eyes never fail to remind me that she is entirely aware that she gets less food than her brothers and knows it.

Back to the topic at hand - in addition to the double ground bone in meat, my dogs get a variety of organ meats. While liver tends to be the go to for most people, this also limits the type of nutrients you feed your dog. This falls under basic sense. Would you only eat one meat, one vegetable, one whole grain starch, all the time? I used to make a point of getting a variety of kibble protein sources from the Champion Pet, and now I get multiple meats, double ground bone in, with occasional additions of wild game or "exotics" like moose, caribou, bison, fresh fish that are high in omega oils (I like to do little smelt that are frozen, so that the dogs get itty bitty organs and bones into the bargain). Sadly, people often mistake things like "hearts" for "organ" mean. An organ is something that secretes particular necessary fluids and/or hormones. The heart is a muscle. Makes a great high density meat addition to raw feed - my dogs will sell their little four legged souls for frozen chicken hearts - but for organs they get liver, kidney, and on rare occasions if I can get them from local butchers, things like pancreas. I at least try to get a variety of animal organs (i.e. turkey, lamb, goat, beef, moose, etc) since those animals all have different biological make ups, and eat different diets themselves. Further, I hope that by not limiting my dogs to single proteins, that they will not develop sensitivities. There's not much science about that yet, but dogs seem to have more food based sensitivities than humans - not always fully anaphylactic reactions, but reactions ranging from digestive upset through to anaphylactic reactions. Given that humans often feed their dogs one type of food for years running, there is speculation, which I've discussed with multiple vets in two provinces, that over-exposure to just one protein or too much of certain low -value simple carb grains may be contributing, as well as things like moulds, bacteria etc.

Finally, since my dogs are not (generally) hunting their food, outside of the occasional field mouse or bunny, and since their stomachs are not really designed to take on veggies and fruits which are actually quite hard to digest - and often, some of the most nutritionally dense veggies, like kale or spinach, being very fibrous, are really, really hard to digest!! - I add green tripe to their diet, and a smoothie made of 'rainbow' fruits and vegs, as well as keffir for gut flora. I go with rainbow - something red, something orange, something yellow, something green, something blue, something purple - because their macronutrient requirements are less exacting in general than those of humans. I do try to limit highly starchy and sugary fruits because the one female gains weight easily and the Alaskan Husky tends towards high blood sugar. So I might offset pumpkin - great for moving the stool along, which is important to keep raw food from staying too long in the gut and rotting - with low starch, low sugar cranberries, spinach, and kale. They get some pineapple juice - high in sugar but not fibrous - because three of them adore eating poop, and some of the enzymes in pineapple make it less appetizing. They get berries like raspberries and blackberries because those are lower in calories than other fruits, and more ... for lack of a better term, indigenous to the kind of prey they would 'naturally' eat if they were wild, vs. feral, vs. what they are - my four legged family members.

By purchasing all of these items as separate ingredients rather than as kibble, I can adapt any given meal to each dog as needed. If one dog seems to be struggling a bit with being bunged up, well, time for a bit of pumpkin. Coming up to winter, let's add some more fish (oh the farts at night in a cabin are proof that I love my dogs, let me assure you - but actually less mind shattering than the kibble was, truthfully).

Due to the nature of the drying and extrusion process used for prepared kibble, it doesn't work well to just add some of this to a kibble based diet. Generally when you do, a dog starts vomiting. Frequently. I have rarely smelled anything as vile as vomited (vs. regurgitated, which has not really begun being digested) kibble. And green tripe is digested matter that smells like .... well, it's herbivore pre-poop, acidically broken down vegetal matter. Blech. While I am preparing it for feed, I chant to myself "I love my dogs, I love my dogs, I love my dogs...."

I am feeding raw only after long and careful examination of my capacity, my finances and my dogs' health. In the summer, when the musher can't carry that much frozen meat (enough for his own dogs and to sell to others) we go to a freeze dried frozen model with the addition of the tripe and organ meats. They do get uncooked poultry with bone in because uncooked poultry bones are soft and don't splinter the same way that cooked bones do, however they only get those under supervision, just as I wouldn't give certain treats to a kid unless I was with them.

Generally, my dogs get their meat frozen or only partially thawed and they gnaw at it off a huge lump. Other times, I thaw it completely and make what I call "Sludge" - a sort of meat porridge with the keffir and the veg/fruit smoothie. Meat can be re-thawed safely (according to both my vet and the butcher and the musher) - it's only that humans don't like the texture - but by keeping it frozen, I reduce the issues around temperature based food borne illnesses. It also makes it much easier to cut things like liver and kidney.

For me it has nothing to do with kibble sometimes being recalled but it does have to do with it being "processed" in the same way that I wouldn't feed a child only frozen dinners, or Cheetos, just because they are human grade food.

I purchase food for my dogs that - as much as I know about the food I buy for myself - I believe to be healthy, safe and to be ingredients that are in the best interests of their nutritional needs. I have researched those nutritional needs. I have spoken to veterinarians. I have spoken to people who have decades of keeping hundreds of dogs healthy. I have researched scholarly articles, and read books that argue for and against. I adapt what I feed my dogs based on their current health, just as I would do for any member of my household.

I'm a responsible human companion to my companion animals. I have health insurance on all of my dogs. They don't get in the car without their harnesses being buckled in to seatbelts. All four are rescued, and since two are very, very fear aggressive to the point that they are unsafe around men, I live out of town, in a 20x20 trailer with no running water, but where my dogs have a larger fenced run outside than my living space (although inside, the whole floor is pretty much a dog bed).

Bart The Genius, you make a a lot of assumptions about people. You may still disagree with my choices or the choices that other people who feed their dogs raw food have made. To label us ridiculous and illogical is a generalization which in its turn is fairly illogical.

As to your argument that there is not "some big kibble company to blame who's food went out to thousands of households", there have been several class action law suits against Purina in the last few years and another one in progress right now. The difficulty of course being proving causation beyond any reasonable doubt. Even when the only thing that all of the litigants have in common is having fed the same kibble, because any single one of the litigants could have other contributing factors to the harm or disorders experienced by the dogs, Purina has avoided legal repercussions more than once, and likely will again. Avoiding legal repercussions does not mean that they are not in fact ethically, or even technically culpable, it simply means that laws around dog food safety are nowhere near as stringent as they could, and probably should be. That being said, there are a lot of laws that need revision, and I doubt that dog food laws are going to get attention any time soon.

I haven't seen you mention your own dogs, or whether or not you have any. I have no idea whether this is a matter of any personal interest to you, or if you're simply trolling. If you're trolling, enough. If you have dogs - feed them what works for you and for them. You lose nothing by not insulting people you don't know.

Teresa F. Roberts

People wake up! Raw diets have saved my animals! Use caution, do your research, etc. Make sure they get supplements, etc. There are many "enlighted veterinary personnel" who recommend a raw diet. And know full well of the detriminal effects of packaged food!


Please see

As far as I can tell, there's no hard evidence that raw food is more dangerous than prepared food: there's just a bunch of "studies" without valid control groups, instituted to obtained pre-ordained results. There are recalls of prepared food because of salmonella and other pathogens, the very reason AVMA supposedly objects to raw food, at least once a month; check out the FDA's website sometime. Nonetheless, on the basis of pseudo-research, which is nothing but big dog food manufacturer marketing in cheap disguise, AVMA has instead put every single US veterinarian in a position of risking having her license pulled if she does not to push the "no raw" party line, no matter what her conscience and research tell her is better for a particular patient, when asked. Raw food certainly hasn't caused the loss of life melamine has done, but small companies don't have the money of large companies.

Personally, I feed by-product-free, cooked, pre-prepared, name brand food and am not a raw food groupie, so I have no personal stake in raw food per se. Nonetheless, I find it troubling that what should be an independent body whose sole concern is pet health because its decisions have a direct bearing on veterinary policy throughout our country, is instead a blatant tool of big pet food manufacturers. If AVMA truly gave a rat's heinie about pet food safety, it would come out with a "recommendation" against by-products, rendered products, sugar, and food ingredients that come from diseased animals, rather than against a type of feeding that almost no one uses unles they've done a whole lot of research and care a whole lot about their animals; it's more expensive and time-consuming that opening a bag of whatever's cheapest at the local grocery. It's no coincidence AVMA's first food "recommendation" - and is it really just a "recommendation" when going against it can be reason to pull people's licenses, should a patient complain? - in years happens to be about a trend that threatened to cut into the profits of pet food giants? What about recommending against the practices of those pet food giants which have, over and over in the very recent past, caused thousands of sick and hundreds of dead animals?