As a dog parent, you want to increase your furry friend’s lifespan, and one of the best ways to do that is to feed them the right food. But what you should or should not feed your dog continues to be widely debated, and one such topic that is chock-full of controversy is should dogs eat raw meat? We at Dog Advisor HQ lean toward a FRESH diet, but we do not go all the way to raw meat.
As a rule, dogs should NOT regularly eat raw meat and bones. While dogs’ digestive systems CAN tolerate raw meat, this doe not mean that they SHOULD eat raw meat. Remember that dogs are domesticated, not wild, so raw meat could be dangerous as it’s not nutritionally balanced, there is of risk contamination (such as Salmonella), and eating raw meat can lead to gastroenteritis and gastrointestinal injury or disease. However, if you do choose to feed your pet raw meat, be sure to buy from reputable suppliers, wash your hands well, and disinfect surfaces.
If you are thinking about putting your dog on a raw meat diet, read on. In this article, you will learn how the veterinarian community feels about the raw meat debate.
Raw Meat Diet for Dogs: Is It Good for Your Dog?
The raw meat debate for dogs is really a CAN vs. SHOULD issues. While dogs CAN eat raw meat right off of the bone, many believe that the risks outweigh the benefits.
Ever since Dr. Ian Billinghurst’s books Give Your Dog a Bone and The Barf Diet came out, people have constantly been arguing for or against this raw meat diet. Both books promote feeding your dogs raw meat and bones because commercial dog food can supposedly lead to health complications later on.
But what exactly is a raw meat diet?
Many pet owners hope to recreate how dogs would have eaten in the wild before they became domesticated. This diet consists of muscle meat (uncooked and usually still on the bone), whole or grounded bones, and organ meats (livers and kidneys). They can be homemade, such as the BARF diet, or commercially made, which are typically frozen.
So, is raw meat good for your dog?
Raw meat-based diets (RMBD) are supposed to be more nutritious because the vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients are preserved in their natural state. A survey study also shows that dog owners who made raw food or bones a part of their pets’ main meal reported their dogs as healthy.
On the other hand, if you feed your dogs cooked meat, you are supposedly reducing its nutritional value. If they eat commercial dog food, raw meat proponents believe you are practically feeding your pets toxic ingredients. It also does not help the anti-RMBD crowd’s case that commercial pet foods are often recalled for containing harmful toxins, quite recently due to fatal levels of aflatoxins.
As you can see, it is an ongoing debate, so let’s go through the reasons why you should and should not let your dogs eat raw meat.
Reasons Not To Feed Your Dogs Raw Meat
Since most people feed their pets kibbles or other commercial food, let’s first discuss why raw meat might not be the best choice.
Dogs Are Not Wild Animals
Many people think that since dogs are animals, they should be eating raw meat because that is what animals in the wild eat. But dogs are NOT wild animals…they are domesticated.
While your furry pet has the same ancestor as the wolves, do not discount the fact that dogs have evolved over the years and have lived alongside us humans. They have learned to beg and wait for table scraps of human food, while wolves have remained in the wild, hunting and eating deer and elk to survive.
Wild wolves also have a shorter lifespan (6 to 8 years on average), while most family dogs live for about ten years or more. Therefore, what you consider nutritionally optimal for a wild wolf is not ideal for our pet dogs, especially since we want them to live healthy lives for as long as possible.
Raw Meat Diets Are Not Nutritionally Balanced
Unlike commercial dog food, raw meat diets are not well regulated, and dogs can experience dietary nutritional imbalance. A study shows that raw diets are low in calcium and phosphorus. There is also a deficiency in potassium, zinc, and magnesium, and an excessive level of vitamin D is found.
If not monitored and regulated, these imbalances can lead to serious health complications in your dog later on, particularly to their kidney and heart.
Risk of Contamination
One of the major reasons why raw meat is not safe is that pathogenic bacteria and other microorganisms may be present in the animal flesh. Even commercial raw meat products’ ingredients are not USDA certified for humans.
It means you could be feeding your dog animal parts that came from those who were sick, heavily medicated due to some illness, or died on a farm, which can all be very dangerous.
The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that some of the most common pathogens found in meat include “Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. Other pathogens that may contaminate raw meat include Toxoplasma gondii (the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis), Cryptosporidium, Echinococcus, Clostridium, Neospora, and Sarcocystis.”
They add that these are also applicable in the raw meat that pets eat. If the contaminants are not properly treated, you could be giving your pets harmful pathogenic bacteria that could lead them to get sick and, consequently, your family and the people around you.
There is already a lot of research on the contamination of raw meat and its risks to back this claim
The FDA launched an investigation on the safety of raw meat-based diets. The results show that nearly 24% of raw pet foods tested were contaminated by either Salmonella (which can affect dogs) or Listeria (though rare, it can lead to death in dogs). Another study conducted also found that rejected raw meat not meant for human consumption is linked to Greyhound dogs’ infections.
Therefore, because dogs can be carriers of Salmonella and they can spread it through their feces, you should not feed raw meat to:
- Dogs that live with children (especially infants), pregnant women, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals
- Dogs that are in a household that has another pet, especially one that is either very old or has a weakened immune system
- Dogs that regularly visits hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities
- Puppies because they are more prone to infections
There Are Health Risks
Aside from the health problems that can occur when dogs experience nutritional imbalances, your pet can develop gastroenteritis due to bacteria infection. This leads to vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Bones, raw or cooked, can also fracture your furry friend’s teeth. A gastrointestinal injury can also occur; bones can block or cause lacerations to your dog’s esophagus, stomach, or intestines.
A study also shows that meat, along with dairy, is the most common allergen in dogs.
The Cases for Why You Should Feed Your Dogs Raw Meat
Now let’s find out the benefits of feeding your dog raw meat.
Raw Meat Diet Is Safer Than Commercial Dog Food
Due to numerous commercial dog food recalls, many people fear for their pets’ safety.
There were several instances where products were outed and recalled because substances typically used to euthanize dogs were found. So, instead of keeping them alive, they were naively feeding them barbiturates. A pet food brand was also sued after it was discovered that their dog food contained arsenic and BPAs.
Because of news stories like these that pop up every so often, many pet owners would rather feed their dogs home prepped food, consisting of raw meat and bones (and veggies and fruits), so they will know exactly what the ingredients are and where they come from.
There Are Health Benefits
Dogs can have an allergic reaction to their food and something in the environment. This leads to dry skin and coat, and your pet’s kibbles can be the primary cause since most are full of grains, such as wheat and corn. If you want them to have thick and soft fur and prevent the appearance of dry and flaky skin, you might try feeding them raw meat instead.
Raw meat contains omega fatty acids that can help with your dog’s allergies and zinc, which is an important mineral that contributes to your pet’s coat and skin health. Muscle meats, such as liver, kidney, and heart, are great natural sources of zinc.
Michelle Welton of Your Purebred Puppy says that dogs are meant to eat and digest raw food and get the maximum nutrients possible. If you cook their food, the vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants, and amino acids found in raw meat are minimized or damaged.
Anecdotally, bones in a raw meat diet are good for a dog’s dental health, but pet owners should know the right size. A study also shows that chewing raw beef bones can reduce tartar in Beagles’ teeth.
The Veterinarian Response to Should Dogs Eat Raw Meat?
Some vets support a raw meat diet because they do not trust commercial dog food; they want to avoid certain ingredients, and they truly believe that alternative food options are better and healthier.
However, most veterinarians do not recommend feeding your dogs raw meat because of science and the strong evidence against RMBD. Additionally, a lot of what is considered proof of the benefits of this diet is purely anecdotal.
Pet groups and associations, such as The American Kennel Club (AKC), American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), discourage pet owners from giving their dogs raw meat since they can be carriers of pathogens, which can lead to pets getting sick or even dying.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) also stand firmly against raw meat-based diets since not only are they dangerous to your dog’s health, they are also potentially harmful to you.
But if you do decide to feed your pet raw meat, take the following precautions that can help reduce, though not eliminate, the risks:
- Get your raw meat from reputable suppliers.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching raw meat, including disinfecting the surfaces, containers, and all objects that it came in contact with.
- Separate raw meat from other food, and keep it frozen until you are ready to feed it to your dog.
- Do not let your dog kiss or lick you on the face and mouth, especially after he has just had his raw meat.
- Use thawed meat within 48 hours, or safely discard the leftovers.
Final Thoughts on Should Dogs Eat Raw Meat
New studies and information are frequently released about whether or not dogs should eat raw meat. Still, people appear to be deeply rooted in their respective views, which may or may not always be based on facts and theoretical concerns, anecdotes, and personal opinions.
When contemplating should dogs eat raw meat, it is ultimately up to the pet owner to decide what they think is best for their fur baby. Just remember to exercise caution either way.
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