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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Wow ... it's disturbing that the ASPCA is publishing such disinformation. I guess they, too, have been bought by Big Pet Food! My donations to the ASPCA will stop until they become more enlightened. And, by the way, my dogs are thriving on raw, dehydrated, and freeze-dried food - no way will I subject them to overprocessed kibble that is little more than meat-flavored crap.

Matt L.

The most telling thing about this article is that it makes no mention of the dangers of the typical commercial kibble, mainstream brands such as Pedigree and Purina. The main ingredient in those foods is GM corn, and many contain gluten. Dogs digestive systems are not equipped to digest those things, and they both cause allergic reactions and cause dogs to develop new allergies to other things they eat. Commercial food also contains industrial waste products. Their packages would lead you to believe that they are formulated for ideal nutrition because they conform to AAFCO's pathetic standards, but they are actually formulated for maximum convenience and lowest cost to manufacture. That is why they have so many times been found to contain contaminated ingredients from China. How many times have there been recalls on commercial food because it was making dogs sick, and how many dogs have been made sick by a raw food diet? ASPCA clearly knows which side its bread is buttered on, and it makes me angry that people will trust this article because in most other respects ASPCA is a good advocate for animals.

The people saying that dogs' nutritional needs are different from wolves lack a clear understanding of evolutionary biology. Dogs share 98% of their DNA with wolves. Zoologists actually consider domestic dogs to be a subspecies of the gray wolf, one of 27. Domestic dogs have only existed for about 15,000 years, and the gray wolf dates from the Middle Pleistocene Era, which ended 126,000 years ago. Most of the differences between the subspecies are merely cosmetic. Dogs' digestive systems evolved to process raw meat, entrails, bones, skin and fur, and that is what fulfills their nutritional needs. Most of the plant matter that a wolf consumes is the partially digested contents of the digestive tracts of its herbivorous prey. The first thing they eat from a fresh kill are the organs - liver, heart and kidneys.

Wolves' and dogs' short digestive tracts make them especially resistant to common bacteria such as e. coli, which is found in the intestines of most warm-blooded animals and is mostly non-pathenogenic anyway. However, I would be cautious about feeding factory-farmed meat to a dog raw, because most of those animals are diseased and often carry mutated, resistant strains of bacteria (because of the over-use of antibiotics), the ones that have been causing so many disease outbreaks in humans. I would hope that the commercially prepared raw food brands are getting their meat from somewhere other than the typical factory sources. I would think that at the very least, game meats such as rabbit and venison would be safe. Also, any raw meat that you give your dog should be accompanied by bones or egg shells as a source of calcium. Frozen raw dog foods typically have bone meal mixed in. Dogs need calcium to balance out the phosphorus in the meat. So if you're just tossing your dog a raw steak every night, no, that is not healthy because it is not a well-balanced diet. Your dog's diet requires a little more thought than that.


Crap! Do you know what arguement people in my country have relating to raw feeding? Your pet can catch something...ummm...something...the vet's bad you know!
If it were bad then raw feeding owners wouldn't have cats and dogs that outlived their breed's expectancy. While on the other side there are commercial feeding owners whose pets die young, obese and a slow agonizing death, so agonizing that they have to euthanize them so that they won't suffer as much. I have a family background of hunters, who fed their dogs animal intestines and bones all of their lives and they lived up to 18-20 years. My friends have cats which are fed on kibble, hell, my cat was once fed on kibble and he was obese and unable to even clean himself, how is that for a "healthy" cat?
But this is a no end arguement. No matter how many proof there is in favor of raw feeding, there will always be people who think it's best to feed kibble and crap.


However, ASPCA espousing the idea that they are dangerous is VERY dangerous, and is going to prompt me to cancel my ASPCA Guardian membership. How much did Purina donate to you to get you to say this? The supermarket dog food giants pump nothing but corn, soy, wheat and meat by-product that humans wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole into our pets. Do your own research and do not buy into the idea that feeding a quality, home-prepared (raw or otherwise) diet is unsafe. If you can't prepare at home or are uncomfortable feeding all raw, you can supplement a high quality (I prefer grain-free) kibble with raw meaty bones (raw chicken backs, raw turkey necks, raw marrow bones -- these are FANTASTIC for your dogs). Your dogs and cats need real meat to be truly healthy and happy.


My family doctor does not suggest what I eat, as he is not a nutritionist ... Why are vets, who have little or no training other than from (Big Pharma Kibble Company) being accepted as authorities on this subject??? It is all scare tactics, use your common sense people, and feed your pets appropriatly!!!


Only thing I have to say is:
For those people saying 'we shouldn't feed according to the wild, because animals in the wild don't live very long,' what do you think wild cats in zoos eat? Kibble?
Wild cats in zoos eat the same things their free counterparts do. And *in* captivity, away from the dangers of the real outdoors, they live as long as our domestic cats. Servals (which are *frequently* bred with domestic cats to produce the Savannah breed) live 20 YEARS in captivity; eating a raw diet like they were always meant to do. :)

Cindy Barnett

My dogs live on two fenced -in acres. They catch and eat birds, bunnies, and squirels. It's second nature to them. There isn't anything we can do about that. It doesn't worry me cause it's "fresh" meat and it hasn't harmed them yet. I do not feed my dogs raw anything. They get store bought and the small occaisional bite of "people" food.


Here is a much better article on the pros/cons and controversy over raw food diets. If you read it you'll see it's a complicated issue. There are a lot of things to think about. The big thing I take away is that as of yet there are no studies comparing raw diets to commercial, so any claims of success are not scientifically supported (that doesnt mean theyre not there, they just havent been studied yet). However, there are studies documenting the potential nutritional and bacterial risks of raw diets. In light of that, everyone should weigh the risks and do what they think is best for there pets and family and if that means feeding raw, fine, but dont try to tell everyone else that raw is better and it what's right for them.


My dog, Ty, is allergic to everything under the sun, and had hives so bad for a few months that he was constantly itching open lesions. My vets coached me through steroids and Benadryl, and I experimented with commercial foods, but the few that contained none of the things he's allergic to still left Ty itching. I finally put him on cooked chicken only to "reset" and see if he still had reactions... he did. Upon researching and speaking to many friends, I tried a raw diet with hopes that bioavailable nutrients would help boost his immunity, and his hives started clearing up. I use Stella & Chewy's, since they make sure it's balanced with vegetation and they test every batch for disease. My dog is healthy, happy, itch-free, and has great digestion. I'm so glad I found something that works for him (and he LOVES it!).

Nancy Goodnow

I cook either ground beef, turkey or chicken breasts and mix with brown rice and either brocoli, peas, green beans, carrots or a mixture of them. I cook it well. Sometimes I add eggs, cooked, and some canola or fish oil. My dogs are small mixed breeds. Earlier on I tried some raw and ended up at the vets. He was against it. They do very well on this diet. At times when I run short, I tried some canned food... not good. I do keep some dry food available for them to crunch on them. They eat a little of it between the two meals I give them every day. Their fur is nice and shiny, they have been healthy (ages 4 years). I did my research on cooking for them and the amount of starch and vegetables to add. I hope to be able to continue to cook their food. I cook a weeks worth at a time and freeze some, keep 5 days defrosted. Some dogs may do well raw, mine do not.