Dog food bowl with uncooked veggies, meat, poultry, and eggs

Key takeaway

Raw diets for dogs have been around for many years, but that doesn’t mean they're healthy for your dog. In fact, feeding your dog raw meat can be detrimental to their health and yours because it contains bacteria that can affect your dog and be transmitted to humans. Raw diets can also pose other health risks, including nutritional deficiencies and fractured teeth.

Pet parents are always looking for the best ways to keep their dogs happy and healthy. Many pet parents strive to accomplish this through their dog's diet. While it's easy to go to the grocery store and pick up any dog food, some owners are more conscious about what they're feeding their animal companions. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to determine what's suitable for your dog. From fish oil for dogs to grain-free dog food and the raw food dog diet, owners need to understand the benefits and drawbacks of what they feed their pets.

While raw diets for dogs have become a hot trend in the past couple of years, there is ultimately no evidence proving its claims that it’s healthier for your dog than a well-balanced diet of kibble. Still, you may be curious whether it’s safe to feed your dog raw meat. Fortunately, this article will cover this diet in depth and discuss whether it's safe for pets.

What Are Raw Diets for Dogs?

Raw diets for dogs have been around for years, and they're somewhat controversial. On the one hand, you have pet parents who believe feeding their dogs raw food is beneficial for their health. On the other hand, dog owners and vets agree that raw food can be dangerous and even fatal to dogs.

Graphic: What are raw diets for dogs?

But can dogs eat raw meat? Ultimately, many different types of dogs have been fed raw food, including sled dogs. However, that doesn't mean that this diet is suitable for all pets. The idea behind the raw diet is that dogs can benefit from the same diet their ancestors ate in the wild. Foods incorporated in this diet typically include uncooked animal products, including muscles, internal organs, and bones.1

There are also two options for feeding dogs a raw diet, including home-prepared and commercial raw meat for dogs.1 Commercial raw diets for dogs are frozen or freeze-dried to keep the meat fresh, but you may also be able to get refrigerated products at a pet store.2 Meanwhile, the home-prepared raw diet involves the pet parent preparing every meal for the dog from scratch, which means handling raw meat before feeding it to the dog.

Benefits of Raw Dog Diets

Even though many people believe the raw food diet is ideal for dogs, minimal studies demonstrate the benefits of feeding a domesticated dog raw food. Moreover, no studies show an increase in health benefits when on a raw diet.2

Several pet parents have anecdotal evidence of the raw dog diet benefitting their pets. Individuals who feed their dogs raw diets believe that they offer nutritional superiority.1 However, their claims are unproven, and there is no scientific evidence to back them up. Of course, very few pet parents would willingly feed their dogs diets that would hurt them, so those feeding their dogs the raw diet truly believe it's the best thing for the health and wellness of their animals.

Dog eating raw diet

Anecdotal evidence suggests that feeding your dog a raw food diet offers cleaner teeth from chewing bones and a shinier coat due to the nutrients in raw meat.1 Additionally, many people believe the raw dog diet has improved their dog's food allergies. Unfortunately, with a lack of scientific evidence to back these claims up, there's no reason for any dog to start eating a raw diet if they're already getting the necessary nutrients through their current diet.

Risks of Raw Dog Diets

Humans already know the risks of touching and eating raw meat, which is why you always wash your hands while preparing dinner and ensure you cook your meat thoroughly before feeding it to your family. Uncooked meat can affect your dog the same way it affects you because it contains bacteria and other pathogens that can harm their health.

Ultimately pets can develop infections due to the pathogens in raw beef, pork, poultry, and fish. Those infections can then be passed on to humans.3 Raw dog food contains many pathogens that are a risk to the health and safety of your pet and your family.

Unlike the benefits of raw dog diets, the risks have been proven by science. In one study, pathogens in frozen raw dog food lead to bacterial infections in animals, which could be transmitted to humans.4

Graphic: risks of raw diets for dogs

The raw dog diet poses many threats to your dog's overall health and wellness. It can also affect your health if you're preparing the food at home or your dog transmits a pathogen to you. Additional risks include:

  • Nutritional deficiencies: Raw dog diet foods have significant dietary imbalances that can negatively impact your dog's health.1
  • Exposure to pathogens: Raw meat is filled with bacteria and pathogens that can make your dog sick, such as salmonella.1 Additionally, raw diets are more likely to be contaminated with E. coli, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and severe illness in dogs and humans.
  • Gastrointestinal injuries: Bones are often a major component of raw diets. However, bones are not safe for dogs since they can splinter and cause gastrointestinal injuries and blockages. These injuries can be life-threatening and often require surgery.
  • Fractured teeth: Dogs can easily fracture their teeth on raw bones, causing pain and the inability to eat their food. Additionally, fractured teeth can lead to other oral health concerns, such as gum disease.
  • Bacterial transmission to humans: Infections caused by the pathogens and bacteria in raw food can be shed from your dog and passed on to humans and other pets in the same household.2

When changing your dog's diet, always be careful. While the raw dog diet can be dangerous, introducing your dog's system to any new food can cause dog diarrhea until their body adjusts. However, if your dog continues to have diarrhea, it can indicate your dog contracted an illness from raw food.

Common Myths About Raw Dog Food Diets

Pet parents are always looking for ways to improve their pets' health, but there's a lot of misinformation that can be dangerous to pets. It's always best to talk to your veterinarian before changing your dog's diet to ensure you're feeding them a safe and healthy diet.

That said, here are a few common myths about raw meat-based diets for dogs.

Myth: Wild dogs eat raw food, so it's okay for domesticated dogs

Fact: Wild dogs, including wolves, eat raw food, but that doesn't mean they're healthy. Your dog's body is also different from that of a wolf. Domestic dogs are accustomed to living in a distinct environment where they're not forced to hunt for their food. Moreover, wild dogs often live shorter lives than domestic animals because they don't have access to high-quality food or medical care.1

Myth: Dogs can't get an infection from bacteria found in raw meat

Fact: Bacteria in raw meat can be incredibly dangerous to your dog, other pets, and humans in the same household. Dogs can become infected with salmonella and other pathogens that can easily be transmitted to humans through their feces. If you're not handling the meat properly, you can also pass salmonella on to other humans.

The AVMA discourages feeding dogs raw meat-based diets

Infections from raw meat can be fatal in dogs, whether fresh or frozen. Additionally, raw meat that's been sitting out will continue to grow bacteria, so if the dog doesn't eat their food right away, the meat will become more contaminated over time, making it increasingly dangerous.

Myth: Raw bones are safe for dogs

Fact: Raw bones are not safe, and you should never give your dog a raw bone. Raw bones can break, and sharp edges can harm your dog's digestive tract, mouth, and throat. Additionally, raw bones can get stuck in your dog's digestive system and require surgery or lead to life-threatening injuries.

Raw bones can also fracture teeth, making it difficult for your dog to eat. There are many types of bones on the market that are safer for your pets, so there’s no reason to give your dog any bone that could splinter or break off and hurt them. Even though real, raw bones may be delicious to your pet, there are better alternatives to ensure they can satisfy their urge to chew without putting them in harm’s way.

Myth: Freezing raw meats will kill bacteria

Fact: Freezing raw food does not kill bacteria; it freezes the bacteria. As soon as the raw dog food thaws, the bacteria will still be just as dangerous to your pet. Just like you wouldn’t feed a raw steak to your family, it’s always best to avoid feeding your pets raw food as the bacteria can be harmful to their health. Additionally, the bacteria present in the raw food diet can be transmitted to humans and other pets in the same household.

Final Notes

So, is a raw diet good for dogs? While many proponents of raw diets believe it improves their pet's health and wellness, it can be incredibly dangerous to your pet's health. Many experts believe there's no reason to feed a domesticated animal a raw diet. This is because many commercial foods are nutritionally balanced and provide dogs with the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy.

Ultimately, feeding your dog a raw food diet can be unnecessarily dangerous for your pet, other animals, and humans in the same household. If you want to ensure your pet is getting the best diet for their needs, consult a trusted veterinarian. A Dutch affiliated veterinarian can provide you with tips for feeding your pet to ensure they're getting a balanced diet. Whether you need weight management support or are trying to figure out which food is best for your young pup, our telemedicine for pets can help you figure out how to feed your dog correctly for a happy, healthy life.

References

  1. Freeman, Lisa M., et al. “Current Knowledge about the Risks and Benefits of Raw Meat–Based Diets for Dogs and Cats.” AVMA, American Veterinary Medical Association, 1 Dec. 2013, https://avmajournals.avma.org/view/journals/javma/243/11/javma.243.11.1549.xml.

  2. Cummings Raw Meat Diets - Cavalierhealth.org. https://cavalierhealth.org/images/cummings_raw_meat_diets_memo.pdf.

  3. “Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets.” American Veterinary Medical Association, https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/avma-policies/raw-or-undercooked-animal-source-protein-cat-and-dog-diets.

  4. Zoonotic Bacteria and Parasites Found in Raw ... - Wiley Online Library. https://bvajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1136/vr.104535