Raw Food Diet for Dogs: Is It Safe?
What is in your dog's bowl?
In the never ending quest to provide the best for our pets, pet owners have turned to different methods of feeding their dogs, including: raw diets, grain-free diets, and home-cooked diets. Whether any of the previous methods are better than the other is debatable, and many different opinions exist.
When I first heard of the raw food diet, I imagined feeding my dogs strictly raw food and was concerned. I wondered how these pet owners managed to maintain all the essential nutrients for their loved ones efficiently, avoid bacteria/parasites, and afford the price of raw meat. A raw food diet sounded like an awful lot of work and dangerous.
I wanted to know if feeding my dog raw food would be safe and economical. I sought some answers and here are some things I found.
What's healthy for your dog?
Is Raw Right for You?
- Raw Meat Debate Should You Feed it to Your Dog?
- Is Raw Meat Safe For Your Dog?
An ongoing debate has been waging among dog owners, dog breeders, dog trainers and veterinarians for some time with regard to the safety of feeding raw meat and raw food to your dog.
- BARF Diet - Healthy & Natural Raw Food For Dogs & Cats, Pet Health Care Food & Nutrition
- Raw Meat Diet - not recommended
If the raw food diet is well balanced and does not contain excessive protein, excessive calcium and/or phosphorous, there should be no differences in the blood chemistry values. Many people feeding raw food diets are feeding a higher protein concentr
- Raw Food Diet for Dogs
The benefits and drawbacks of feeding your dog a raw diet.
How did the raw diet become popular?
It all began with Dr. Ian Billinghurst and his BARF diet for dogs; BARF being an acronym for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. This diet promotes feeding canines pieces of raw meat, ground bones, fat, organs, fruits and vegetables. The BARF website offers many claims to why the diet is beneficial for pets, including better skin conditions for dogs, better immunity, more energy, and less bodily odor.
BARF's website warns against commercial kibble, and I'm inclined to agree; however, some dry dog food companies offer the same ingredients and claim the same benefits and are just as healthy.
Bacteria and Parasites
The handling of raw meat is a serious matter, and proper techniques are required. Following information was found in the book, Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets by Patricia Schenck, 2010.
A healthy dog's digestive system can typically handle this bacteria. Dogs, however, shed salmonella in their feces. Humans, especially children and the elderly, in contact with a dog's contaminated feces can be infected with this bacteria. Imagine a child playing in a yard where a dog has ate raw meat and pooped.
- loss of appetite
- chronic fever
- and pneumonia
Found in soil, it can contaminate raw meat, dead animal tissue, and vegetables. This nasty bacteria can produce a toxin that blocks the neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine. The toxin is sensitive to heat and is destroyed when reaching temperatures above 212° F for ten minutes.
Born from a parasitic fluke, Nanophyetus Salmincola , commonly found in raw salmon, this nasty critter can make it's way into a dog's digestive system and release a Rickettsia, Neorickettsia Helminthoeca , into the bloodstream. Fatal if treatment is not sought in the early stages.
- bloody diarrhea
- enlarged lymph nods
Mostly found in cats, this parasite can also affect dogs and humans. Toxoplasmosis, regardless of symptoms, can be hard to detect in dogs. Dogs are usually infected by eating contaminated cat feces, raw meat, and milk from infected goats. Source: Toxoplasmosis from peteducation.com
- loss of appetite
- central nervous system: paralysis, loss of nerve function, and seizures
- Muscles: a stiff gait, and loss of muscle
- inflammation in the eyes
In Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Diets by Patricia Schenck, several other issues with feeding dogs from home, not just raw meat, are outlined in this informative book.
Due to an unbalanced diet, dogs can achieve toxicity from Lead, Zinc, Cadmium, and Arsenic. Careful preparation is key.
Onions & Garlics
Feeding a dog abundant amounts of onions or garlic can cause a condition known as Heinz Body Anemia, which destroys red blood cells.
Grapes & Raisins
Not much is known about the reaction dogs have after eating grapes or raisins, but it is severe. Ochratoxin, is thought to be the cause of renal failure in some dogs after eating grapes or raisins. Any amount consumed by a dog should have immediate action: Seek proper veterinarian care as soon as possible.
Vitamins are a good thing, and just like in humans, too much vitamins can cause damage to a dog.
- Liver is rich in vitamin A, feeding a dog too much liver can cause toxicity.
- Vitamin B-6 can reach toxic levels when dogs consume too much
- Vitamin C can also be toxic at high levels
- Vitamin D can be toxic when dogs consume too much fish oils or certain house plants.
Want to know more?
- Toxins that Affect Dogs - Veterinary Information
Lead poisoning and chocolate toxicity are discussed among other substances that are know to be poisonous to dogs; including Alcoholic beverages, Avocado, Chocolate, Coffee, Fatty foods, Macadamia nuts, Moldy or spoiled foods, Onions, Onion powder, Ra
- Vitamin Toxicity in Dogs
- Preliminary assessment of the risk of Salmonella infection in dogs fed raw chicken diets
- Toxoplasmosis in Dogs
Toxoplasmosis in dogs is a parasitic disease passed through cat feces and then carried by intermediaries such as fleas and cockroaches. Treatment involves antibiotics and symptom specific treatments.
- Nanophyetus salmincola - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A notion that feeding a dog a diet similar to it's ancestors has been supported by many pet owners, including myself. Many owners site ancestral dogs and what they ate, and the argument seems sound. Dogs, logically, should thrive on a raw diet, and the diet is the answer to many pet owner's questions. Deciding if it is the right choice should be based on solid research and discussion with professionals.
Some raw food advocates bring up zoo animals and how they are fed. Of course, these animals are taken care of by professionals and have veterinarian care 24/7. Most pet owners are not trained animal dietitians, nor veterinarians, and neither am I, which is why I think a raw food diet for dogs is risky. A simple answer doesn't exist, and not enough scientific accurate research has been conducted regarding this issue. Dog owners must weigh the risks with the benefits themselves.
As a "mom" to two beautiful dogs, a college student, and wife, I simply don't have the time or money to buy enough food to feed both my family and pets. I'd love to be able to control exactly what goes into my pet's food, but I'm afraid I wouldn't be very good at keeping them safe. Adding another opinion to the countless opinions on the internet and elsewhere--I don't think feeding a dog a diet of raw meat is economical or safe for my lifestyle. Dry dog food producers are competing to provide concerned pet owners the best, safest, and healthiest food that is economical, and mimics a diet ate by our pet's ancestors. My family has gone the route of buying the most natural, healthiest dry dog food we could find at an affordable price. To encourage variety in our pet's diet we feed them various natural treats and canned wet food of different flavors. Many people are distrustful of industry but not all companies are bad, and there is healthy dry dog food on the market.
Many dogs need to be on specialized diets for certain individual health reasons. Following a home-diet for any pet should be consulted with a family veterinarian to ensure the pet is receiving all the nutrients needed to remain healthy.
Ultimately, the health and choice of pet food lies in the owner's hands. I'd love to hear what thoughts and experiences dog owner's have using a home-diet. Please share thoughts about the raw diet debate. Successes? Failures?
Thank you and stay informed!