call us 941-355-7707

Raw Pet Foods: What You Need to Know

A close up of vegetables & a bowl of raw meat

One of the new trends in pet foods is feeding a raw diet. For some, this diet is based on that of wild species related to dogs. However, the differences in biology and lifestyle of these animals impose limitations on making such comparisons. Below, we’ll discuss common foods associated with raw pet food diets as well as the serious risks that come with feeding your pet raw food.

What is a Raw Pet Food Diet?

Raw diets contain any or all of these ingredients: 

  • Muscle meat from pork, beef, turkey or chicken
  • Whole or ground bones
  • Organ meat such as kidney or liver
  • Raw fruit and vegetables
  • Raw eggs and milk
  • Unpasteurized yogurt

None of the ingredients are cooked before feeding the pet.

Is Raw Pet Food Good for Pets?

While the wild living relatives of our pets — like wolves and other close ancestors — may be accustomed to eating raw food diets, most of the dogs and cats we keep at home do better on commercially prepared formulas. Puppies, kittens and older dogs with digestive issues should never be given raw foods. 

Young pets can’t effectively digest the high phosphorus in raw diets, while the high protein in raw meat isn’t usually healthy for older dogs that have digestive organ dysfunctions. In fact, several medical studies show that there are no known health benefits to feeding pets raw diets.

Raw Pet Food and Risks to Humans

Raw pet food can pose severe risks to humans who come into contact with the pet being fed these raw diets. According to a study published in Vet Record, researchers found that raw meat diets had multiple types of bacteria that can be dangerous to both pets and humans. The bacteria found in the study have the potential to make both animals and their owners sick, especially if you regularly welcome wet kisses from your pet or routinely clean up after them.

At University Animal Clinic, our technicians and veterinarians wear exam gloves during any visit that involves a pet that has consumed raw pet food. Protection is needed to minimize exposure to potentially harmful bacterial diseases, parasites and other infections.

What are the Risks Involved in Feeding Your Pet Raw Food?

Various risks are associated with giving a cat or dog a diet made from raw food, including:

  • Bacterial contamination: Salmonella is a common type of bacteria found in raw meat, and it has caused illness in dogs fed with raw diets. Found in 7-21% of raw pet food diets, Salmonella can also spread through feces and lead to an outbreak in the environment. Other harmful bacteria found in raw pet food diets include Listeria — which appears in 16% of raw diets — and Toxogenic E. coli.
  • Parasitic contamination: Toxoplasmosis, a harmful infection related to some raw dog food diets, is caused by a single-celled protozoan parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Other parasitic forms of contamination found in raw pet food include Sarcocystis, Cryptosporidia, Giardia and Echinococcus, or tapeworms. 
  • Nutritional imbalance: Some raw diets, especially homemade ones, may not contain all the nutrients pets need. This can cause harmful vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can lead to growth and bone deformities in kittens and puppies.
  • Injury from bone fragments: Bones or bone fragments found in some raw diet formulations can cause teeth fractures or intestinal perforation or obstruction.

Call Us Today

For more information about healthy nutrition for your pet, call University Animal Clinic at 941-355-7707 or schedule an appointment today. We offer professional guidance to pet owners who want to feed their furry friends the best diet. Visit our AAHA-accredited vet facility to get the highest quality of care for your pet.