What is a Raw Diet?
Raw diets for dogs and cats have gained popularity in recent years. These diets include uncooked animal-source proteins such as beef, poultry, pork, fish, wild game, meaty bones, or some combination therein. Many proponents suggest local, organic, free-range, or wild-caught sources, and some supplement with eggs and milk as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Why Choose a Raw Diet?
Advocates of raw diets believe that, because domestic dogs evolved from wolves and other wild canids, we should emulate the diet of their ancestors. They propose that dogs' bodies digest raw foods better than processed products such as the grain-based, dry pellets many modern pet owners provide. Wild dogs do not eat grains, and raw diet advocates argue that they are not equipped to extract nutrition from such sources. High preservative, sodium, and dye contents are also noted as shortcomings of conventional diets. Additionally, many pet owners cite marked improvement in their pets' overall health upon switching to a raw diet. Reduced allergy problems, shinier coats, increased energy, cleaner teeth, better breath, superior pregnancy management, and increased life span are among the benefits reported.
What are the Drawbacks of a Raw Diet?
The risk of pathogens is primary among skeptics' concerns. Uncooked or undercooked meat carries the risk of Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria monocytogenes, along with other potential pathogens. Organizations including the United States Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)1 have suggested that the risks of raw diets outweigh the potential benefits. A two-year study by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine evaluated over 1,000 kinds of cat and dog food, 196 of them commercially available raw varieties. Of these 196, 15 tested positive for Salmonella and 32 positive for L. momocytogenes. Only one of the other approximately 800 food varieties contained these pathogens.2
Salmonella, E.coli, or L. monocytogenes can make your pet very ill, causing gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, dehydration, weight loss, fever, and shock. If your dog displays any these symptoms, consult your veterinarian to develop a health care recovery plan.
Not only does feeding a raw diet risk the health of your pet, it could threaten the health of your family. Improper disinfection of surfaces or utensils after preparing raw food can transfer bacteria, as can touching your mouth with unwashed hands. Even kisses from your pup after mealtime can communicate disease. Healthy adult immune systems usually cope with E.coli, Salmonella, and L. monocytogenes within four to seven days (though those days are extremely unpleasant, usually rife with fever, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting). These pathogens pose much greater risks to children, newborns, immune compromised adults, and the elderly, who can suffer extreme symptoms which may require hospitalization.
Is a Raw Diet Right for My Pet?
Because of the potential risks associated with raw diets, Revival recommends a fully cooked diet supplemented with important vitamins and minerals such as Doc Roy's Daily Care. If your dog has a grain allergy, or if you prefer not to feed grain-derived products, there are many healthy alternatives.
Work with your veterinarian to decide on the right food for your pet. She or he will help you consider your pet's age, breed, and general health, as well as your family circumstances, as you work toward a consensus.
If you decide that a raw diet is right for your pet and family, keep the following disease control procedures in mind:
- Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap after preparing raw food.
- Always thoroughly disinfect any surfaces or utensils that came into contact with raw food. Use Chlorhexidine to keep your kennel secure and equipment sanitized.
- Prepare raw food for your pet away from where you prepare food for your family.
- Keep children away from raw, uncooked diets.
- Do not allow your pet to kiss your face, especially right after mealtime.
- Bacteria like Salmonella and L. monocytogenes can be shed in fecal matter even if your animal does not appear ill, so be sure to take appropriate precautions with clean up and disposal of feces from the yard.
- Freeze raw diet immediately upon acquisition, and thaw in the microwave or refrigerator rather than on the counter or in the sink.
- Refrigerate or throw away any leftover raw food. Do not allow it to sit at room temperature.
Knowing the benefits and risks of raw diets helps you make an informed decision, keeping your pets and family safe and healthy.
If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.
- The Revival Education Team
1. Raw Pet Foods and the AVMA's Policy: FAQ
To Learn MorePreventing Digestive Problems in Dogs
Food Allergies in Dogs and Cats
Toxic Foods for Dogs and Cats