Dogs are obligate carnivores. You’ve probably heard the phrase before. But what does it mean? This means that dogs eat almost strictly meat in the wild, and do not require grains or carbohydrates for survival. Since dogs would eat uncooked animal meat in the wild, shouldn’t I feed my dog raw meat at home? Can dogs eat raw meat?
Feeding raw meat to pets has been a major subject of debate in the veterinary community. Qualified animal health experts on both sides of the fence have made clear and effective arguments both supporting and opposed to raw diets for household pets.
As of today, there are no scientific studies available that definitively support the advantages of feeding a raw meat diet over commercially prepared diets, so many of the arguments used by raw diet supporters are purely anecdotal. There are, however, numerous studies on the hazards of feeding raw meat due to the potential for
infectious diseases for the dogs, and for their owners.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat? Potential Benefits of Raw Meat
Many proponents of animal health, including some veterinarians, have begun a push towards more natural diets for dogs, including raw food. Commercially prepared diets are convenient to feed and stay fresh for a long time, but this means that preservatives, fillers and other less-than-desirable ingredients are often used to attain the qualities that make these diets the preference of most pet owners. These ingredients are suspected to be the cause for an increase in the instances of disease among our pets.
Eating raw meat encourages the ingestion of more moisture, something that dogs need and do not get from bagged dry diets. Dry cat kibbles are often too high in carbohydrates, which predisposes many dogs to obesity,diabetes, and intestinal problems. Cooking the ingredients used in the dry foods can also destroy some of the vital nutrients.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat? Potential Risks of Raw Meat
The American Veterinary Medical Association, American Animal Hospital Association and other health organizations have all released statements against feeding raw meat to pets, due to the public health risks associated with this practice.
Raw chicken from the supermarket – even the most expensive, USDA-certified, free-range chicken meat – has the potential to contain pathogens that are dangerous for your dog – and your family. Numerous studies have been done on the high instance of potentially lethal bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli in uncooked chicken purchased at your local market. Other raw meats can contain Toxoplasma, Cryptosporidium, Lysteria, Echinococcus, Clostridium, Neospora and Sarcocystis. All of these bacteria can be very harmful, and could be fatal in some individuals – pets and people. Commercially available raw formulas, usually purchased in tube form similar to a sausage, are just as likely to contain harmful bacteria as the meat at the market.
Dogs may not become sick from these bacteria in every instance, but they can shed the bacteria in their feces for up to 11 days after eating contaminated meat. This has the potential to infect anyone who cleans after the dog. Dogs that go outside can contaminate the environment, and the bacteria can survive for up to a month in the fecal material.
Raw Feeding Needs to Be Done Correctly
Simply buying raw chicken breast or other raw meat and placing it in a bowl is not the correct way to go about feeding a raw meat diet. Dogs in the wild would eat the entire body of the animal, including the bones and internal organs. Feeding exclusively raw chicken muscle meat is not nutritionally complete. This needs to be supplemented with nutrients that are only found in organs and bones of the prey, and must be given in the correct amounts for optimal health.
Working with a veterinary nutritionist who is certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition to develop a homemade raw formula would be the best way to ensure that your dog is getting everything he needs in his diet, as nutritional deficiencies can lead to serious health problems. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend a nutritionist, or you can seek the services of these specialists via numerous websites.
The question “Can dogs eat raw meat?” doesn’t have an easy answer. Choosing to feed raw meat is a personal decision, and not one that should be taken lightly. Lots of research and some common sense will help you decide on the healthiest diet for your dog. Commercially prepared or homemade raw food diets can be fed successfully if the proper precautions are taken.The FDA has released guidelines for the safe preparation and handling of raw meats for you and your pets. If you or someone in your household is immunosuppressed, you may want to discuss the implications of routinely handling raw meat with your personal physician.
Most importantly, keep in mind that your dog’s veterinarian should be consulted before switching to a raw diet, as certain health conditions can increase the risk of developing clinical illness from bacteria present in the meat.