Lately, there’s been a lot of buzzes around switching dogs to a completely raw diet for good health and longevity. But with so much contradicting information out there, you’re left more confused than convinced on whether raw meat is good for Fido.
So, can pups eat raw meat? Maybe.
We’ll explore the good, the bad, and everything in between about raw meat dog diets to help you make a well-informed decision for your pup’s health and well-being.
What Are The Benefits Of Raw Meat To Dogs?
As responsible dog owners, we want to ensure our pups eat a healthy, nutritious, and well-balanced diet. More and more pet parents and experts choose raw food diets over the hundreds of processed canned food and kibble options.
Known as BARF-Bones and Raw Food Diet or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, the popular trend is changing the perception of raw food especially raw meat for dogs. Invented by renowned Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst, the BARF diet requires pups to eat offal, uncooked meat, bones (ground or whole), eggs, fruits, vegetables, and some dairy such as dairy unpasteurized milk or yogurt.
Raw Meat Satisfies The Biological Needs Of Canines
Ian argues that the BARF diet aligns with the biological needs of canines. Dogs are distant cousins of wolves, and before they were domesticated, their diet was entirely raw meat.
The advocates of this diet also argue that the digestive system of dogs is designed to quickly and efficiently digest raw meat. Unlike humans, dogs have a shorter GI tract meaning food passes through it faster. Canines also have more potent stomach acids to break down foods that humans could never consume.
Here are the benefits of switching your dog to a raw meat diet.
Healthier AndLustrous Coat
According to a study by researchers at the University of California, raw meat contributes to a shinier, softer, and healthier coat compared to cereal-based dry foods. Raw food contains plenty of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids, which are readily available, plus higher zinc and vitamin E levels, which are essential for coat health.
Improved Oral Health
Various studies point to the fact that dogs’ dental issues result from feeding on “soft” diets with minimal or no dental activity. One experiment replaced canned food with beef oxtail (stiff spinal vertebrae) for 30 dogs with dental calculus and tooth loss. Within 24 hours, more than 30% of the calculus was cleared out. And in two weeks, 95% of the calculus was removed.
Note: This study compared canned food to raw meat with bones on the dental health of pups. Hard bones are excluded from most raw diets; therefore, they won’t clean your dog’s teeth better than hard kibble.
Experts argue that raw food is best for dogs’ digestive systems because the nutrients are fast absorbed. Kibble can stay in your poodle’s tummy for seven to nine hours, while raw food takes only one to two hours to be digested.
Carbohydrates and filler ingredients such as rice, corn, soy, and potato take longer to digest and are not fully metabolized by your pup’s system. They can bulk your pup’s stool resulting in a larger stool volume with a pungent odor. Your canine friend will poop less frequently while on a raw food diet and experience less bloating, plus their poop will smell better.
Maintenance Of Healthy Body Weight
You rarely see obese animals in the wild, unlike what the statistics say about our furry friends. About 1 in every 300 dogs will have diabetes in their lifetime, and the numbers are rising.
So, raw food can help reset your dog’s metabolism and help its system to absorb and process nutrients more efficiently. Compared to kibble, raw food has fewer calories which can help your pup to shed excess weight and maintain a lean mass.
What Are The Risks Associated With Feeding Raw Meat To Dogs
While there are several perceived benefits of feeding your dog raw food diets, most veterinarians caution against it.
Bacteria Thrive In Raw Meat.
Bacteria and pathogens are more likely to contaminate raw meat. Heat destroys most pathogens present in raw meat like salmonella making cooked meat a safer alternative. Although dogs are less susceptible to salmonella, some can be sick and suffer from vomiting and diarrhea for days.
Additionally, even if your dog doesn’t become sick from the pathogens in a raw diet, he’s highly likely to spread infectious pores everywhere, putting your family at high risk of exposure to dangerous bacteria. Apart from salmonella, other pathogens that thrive in raw meat include:
- Campylobacter: infection in dogs is exhibited by persistent watery diarrhea, lethargy, cramping or abdominal pain, and fever.
- Listeria: L. Monocytogenes rarely cause severe illness in dogs. Infected pups only exhibit mild symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. But in some instances, more severe symptoms can manifest, such as breathing difficulty, fever, muscle pain, and death.
- E.Coli: Unless the concentration is too high, E.Coli can remain benign in your furry friend. If left untreated, E.Coli infection can be fatal and cause blood poisoning. It can affect dogs of any age, but puppies are more at risk.
- Clostridium: Clostridium infection causes severe gastrointestinal upset in dogs. There are two common types associated with dogs; Clostridium Perfringens and Clostridium Difficile.
- Trichinosis: A parasitic disease caused by Trichinella Spiralis, a roundworm parasite resulting from eating raw or undercooked pork.
Raw Meat Diets Are Not Well-Regulated
The American Veterinary Medical Association, American Kennel Club, and other groups discourage dog parents from feeding their four-legged best friend raw or unprocessed milk, meat, and eggs. Raw pet foods are handled and packaged with little to no regulatory oversight and rigorous testing by the federal government and the state.
Even though the FDA has guidance on the manufacture and labeling of raw meat meals, it’s not legally enforceable.
Dogs Have Evolved In Their Nutritional Needs
The recent “romanticizing of nature” by the supporters of a raw food diet claim dogs and wolves are alike, so their diets should be similar. Although they share a common ancestor, we cannot ignore the fact that dogs are evolved, domesticated, omnivorous species.
Wolves are carnivores, and their GI system is different from that of dogs. They also absorb nutrients differently, and their immune system can fight off potential pathogens better than dogs. Pups have increased amylase secretion to better absorb carbohydrates than wolves due to a rapid increase in the AMY2B gene.
In addition, most pups have food intolerances and allergies, with some showing signs of distress after consuming common meats such as beef and chicken. Plus, their regular kibble is perfectly safe and nutritionally balanced.
The healthiest diet for your pup should be vet recommended based on your puppy’s age, size, breed, and health.
How To Reduce The Risks Of Raw Meat Diet On Dogs?
You don’t have to banish raw meat from your dog’s diet as long as your vet is on board. But, there are things you need to consider to reduce the risk of infection and illness.
Provide Balanced Nutrition
If you intend to feed your dog a raw meat diet, ensure you provide healthy and nutritious meals for optimal health and wellness. Vets recommend using commercially prepared formulations since all the nutrients are well balanced. In most cases, homemade foods are rarely complete and can have an excess of one or more nutrients at the expense of other vital ones.
Meat Quality And Good Hygiene Are Essential.
Quality is vital to reducing the risk of a raw meat diet. First, buy meat that looks and smells fresh. Do not feed your dog meat that is stale or has been lying on the counter for a while. Also, ensure you adhere to proper hygiene practices.
According to the Federal Drug Administration, you should follow these safe handling tips when preparing raw meat food for Fido:
- Freeze the raw meat until ready to use.
- Keep the raw meat away from cooked food.
- Clean surfaces and utensils used with hot water and soap.
- Wash your hands before and after preparing the meat since it’s not sterile.
Be Cautious About Feeding Bones To Dogs
Bones are safe for dogs as long as they are large, preferably more extensive than the size of their jaw, and uncooked. Small bones are a choking hazard, while cooked bones can choke your dog or splinter and puncture their internal organs.
Puppies And Older Dogs Are More Vulnerable To Subclinical Infections
Dog parents should be extra careful about introducing raw meat diets to puppies and older dogs. Puppies develop very fast and have complex dietary requirements, while older dogs have more delicate digestive systems and weaker immune systems.
The Most Unhealthy Meat To Feed Your Dog
If you decide to take the raw meat path, there’s one meat you don’t want to feed your furry companion: denatured meat, also known as 3D or 4D meat. Manufacturers artificially color denatured meat to indicate it’s not for human consumption.
Typically, these meats are sourced from dead, dying, or diseased animals, so they are unfit for people. What’s more unfortunate is manufacturers use various chemicals to process the meats, including:
- Activated charcoal
- Kerosene fuel
- Crude carbolic acid
- Charcoal liquid
- Cresylic disinfectant
But what about Chewy? Although 3D meats are cheaper and are legal for pet food manufacturers, feeding your dog raw denatured meat can come with severe health risks. Chemically treated meat from dying or diseased animals can still carry harmful bacteria. Plus, the chemicals are not safe for your pup.
The Charcoal Dilemma
Charcoal is often used in human medicine to offer relief for gastric issues by absorbing toxins in the body. However, when used in denatured meat, charcoal absorbs even the necessary nutrients meaning your pup isn’t likely to get the balanced nutrition he needs.
How To Start Your Dog On Raw Meat?
According to Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs by Dr. Lew Olson, your pup should eat about 15 percent of their body weight every week. When you’re starting your dog on raw meat, you may want to begin by topping it on high-commercial, nutritious food.
Ensure you cut the meat into bite sizes or mince it to avoid choking. You can also opt for pre-made frozen raw meat or freeze-dried meat; it’s convenient, tasty, and retains most of the essential nutrients.
Also, ensure your vet is in the loop before introducing a raw food diet to your Fido since there’s no one raw dog food diet that fits all. Plus, to balance your pup’s nutritional needs, include other ingredients like dog-safe fruits, vegetables and supplements.
Are All Raw Foods Safe For Dogs?
Not all raw foods are harmful or controversial for Fido. Dog-friendly vegetables and fruits such as apples, carrots, cucumbers, and bananas are entirely safe but keep to the 90/10 rule. 90% of Chewy’s daily caloric intake should come from healthy, complete dog food and the 10% from snacks and treats.
Recap: Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat?
Whether to feed or not to feed raw meat to dogs has become a controversial topic for debate among animal experts. But, a little raw meat on occasion won’t hurt your Fido. Meat that looks and smells suspicious is a no-no for Chewy.
Before introducing raw meat into your dog’s diet, it’s best to consult your vet and refer to the safe handling guidelines published by the FDA, to minimize the risk of food-borne contamination and illness.