Insider

Feeding your dog a raw food diet could be harmful and even life-threatening, according to vets

Summary List PlacementA raw food diet is just what it sounds like — you feed your dog only raw products like uncooked meat, bones, and certain vegetables.  Proponents of the raw food diet say it has important health benefits for dogs, but the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) discourages giving...

raw food diet dogs

Summary List Placement

A raw food diet is just what it sounds like — you feed your dog only raw products like uncooked meat, bones, and certain vegetables. 

Proponents of the raw food diet say it has important health benefits for dogs, but the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) discourages giving dogs raw animal products

Here’s what you need to know about the raw food diet for dogs and why it may not be your best option.

What is a raw food diet?

A raw food diet for dogs usually contains various animal parts along with other raw foods. This can include:

  • Muscle meat
  • Whole or ground bones
  • Organ meats
  • Raw eggs
  • A dairy product like yogurt
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables

By comparison, most store-bought dog food contains some combination of cooked meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Proponents of raw food diets say that commercial diets are “unnatural” and that raw diets more closely mirror what dogs would eat in the wild.

Advocates for raw dog food claim it has numerous health benefits, like a reduced risk of cancer, dental disease, and allergies. But “there is absolutely no reliable scientific evidence for these claims,” says Brennan McKenzie, VMD, a veterinarian at Adobe Animal Hospital.

Is a raw food diet safe?

Though the raw food diet may have some advantages, the risks far outweigh the benefits. 

A small 2017 study found that dogs who ate a raw food diet had a more balanced gut microbiome and showed signs of healthier gut functions. But “there have been no studies that demonstrate any long-term health benefits of raw diets compared to other types of pet food,” says Jennifer A. Larsen, DVM, the chief of nutrition service at UC Davis’ Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital.

Putting your dog on a raw food diet comes with risks to both the dog and the people living in your household, says Alison Meindl, DVM, a veterinarian and professor at Colorado State University.

Some of the risks of a raw diet include:

Bacterial infection. Compared to cooked diets, raw diets are more likely to be contaminated with bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli, which can make your dog seriously ill. But even if your dog doesn’t get sick, your pup could shed bacteria into your household, which could then get picked up by another pet or human.

“These infectious organisms can be very dangerous to immunocompromised people living in the household with the dog,” Meindl says. This can include elderly people, young children, and people on immunosuppressive medication such as chemotherapy.

Nutritional deficiency. “Many raw diets are also not nutritionally balanced and complete. Unless formulated by an expert in veterinary nutrition, these diets can lead to malnutrition and health problems,” McKenzie says.

Injury from bones. Bones are often a part of raw diets, but they may not be safe for dogs. Dogs can break their teeth while chewing on bones and shards of bone can pierce their intestines or cause blockages, Larsen says. In some cases, these injuries can be life-threatening.

What should I feed my dog?

The best diet for your dog is a nutritionally balanced cooked diet that meets the standards set by veterinary nutritionists. “This may be a canned or dry commercial diet, a fresh-cooked commercial diet, or even one dog owners cook at home,” McKenzie says.

One way to tell if store-bought dog food meets these standards is to look for an “AAFCO” label on the bag, which stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials, Meindl says.

If you want to prepare your own dog food, make sure to consult a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, Meindl says.

Dog owners should avoid feeding pets homemade meals based on recipes that are not created specifically for their dog by veterinary nutritionists. “There are dozens of books and web pages providing recipes and feeding advice, some even by veterinarians, that are not based on sound science,” McKenzie says.

Insider’s takeaway

There may be possible benefits to a raw food diet, but so far we don’t have any reliable studies to show that it’s good for your dog’s health. There are, however, many studies showing possible health issues.

“If people want to feed a raw diet, they need to be aware of the risks to their pets, themselves, and other family members,” Meindl says. If you do choose to feed your dog a raw diet, look for recipes that are AAFCO-approved or work with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist, Meindl advises.

Overall, always make sure to check in with your vet before making any major diet changes. “Your veterinarian is always the best resource when it comes to questions about the best diet for your pet,” Meindl says.

Harnesses vs collars: Which is best for your dog, according to veterinarians6 surprising benefits of dog muzzles and which type to pick for your poochHow to tell if your dog has worms and the most effective way to treat itHow having a dog can make you healthier

Join the conversation about this story »

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: