A question that we are often asked in the clinic is “Can I Feed My Dog Raw Meat?”. Most people feed their dog on branded pet food, but some folks like to make their own diets for their pet. This trend stems from a desire to feed the dog the “best quality” ingredients, or sometimes to make the diet as “natural” as possible. There is even a school of thought that the dog’s diet should be as similar as possible to a wolf in the wild. Raw food diets are often perceived as fresh and natural. But is it safe to feed a raw food diet? This is a question that has been looked into in a number of research papers.
Raw food diets often consist of offal or meat from cows, sheep or chickens. As it is raw, it is not cooked, and sometimes receives no further treatment after leaving the abattoir. It is fed straight to the dog from a packet. Recent research investigated raw food from certain sources and found that it contained gut bacteria, salmonella and campylobacter above levels deemed satisfactory by EU hygiene rules. These bugs can be harmful to both animals and humans – causing disease. If the food is not cooked or treated prior to feeding, the bugs can pass from the food into the pet – and perhaps on to family members. Infants, the elderly and the immunosuppressed are at particular risk from these germs.
This situation is in contrast to the major branded pet foods. The ingredients going into these foods are treated to make them safe before packaging into the final product. The foods are also balanced in the correct proportions to meet the needs of your pet. Therefore it is likely that petfoods are safer than raw diets for your dog.
There may be valid reasons why you would choose to feed a raw diet to your dog. However, on researching the topic, I would have to advise against it. There does seem to be an increased risk of inviting pathogens into your home. I advise feeding a proprietary branded pet food. Pet food manufacturers adhere to high food safety standards and their food is made of high quality ingredients. In addition they are often convenient and cheaper than raw food diets. If you find that one type does not agree with your dog, simply try another. As ever, for further advice, please consult your veterinary surgeon.