The Facts and Myths Behind Raw Food Diets for Pets

We all have the best intentions in our desire to feed our pets a good quality diet. However, it can be very confusing when trying to make the right choice when we are overwhelmed by so much online information and media hype. The raw food diet has become very popular over the past ten years. If you are considering this diet for your pet, there are some important facts to be aware of when feeding raw food diets to pets.

We often hear that people think a raw food diet would provide similar nutrition to what a pet would receive in the wild. However, our pets are domesticated animals, and they typically live longer, healthier lives than their wild ancestors due to modern medicine and good quality nutrition. Animals foraging in the wild did not necessarily eat a balanced diet, and they were exposed to all sorts of parasites from these food sources. Here are some important facts to review when considering feeding a raw food diet.

  1. Raw food diets require careful handling and can be more easily contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella.
  2. Feeding raw meat could potentially expose your pets to harmful bacteria, parasites and protozoa.
  3. Raw food meals cannot be left out to defrost or in a pet food bowl for extended periods of time. It is especially true in the summer months as bacteria will multiply rapidly at these temperatures.
  4. Family members handling raw food could also be exposed to these same organisms, and safe handling techniques and safe food storage are essential skills when dealing with raw meat. Immune compromised people, young children and elderly people are at greater risk when exposed to these microorganisms.
  5. Salmonella contamination in raw food diets is frequently found when tested.
  6. Bone fragments in raw food diets can cause serious injury to pets. Sharp pieces of bone can damage the esophagus, stomach and intestines. Raw and cooked bones can fracture teeth. We often see dogs with fractured teeth after being given bones to chew. Bone fragments can also become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract.
  7. Typically, raw food diets are not nutritionally balanced. Diets composed primarily of meat and bones are most certainly lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. Calcium deficiency is a common issue with raw food diets. Diets containing large quantities of the liver can lead to vitamin A toxicity.

In conclusion, a raw food diet may not be the best choice for your pet. Please consider all the facts and risks to pets and family members before choosing a raw food diet. We encourage everyone to use their veterinarian as an educated source of information about pet nutrition rather than attempting to sift through the myriad of misinformation online.

Written by: Jill Whitfield, AHT