What to Know About Raw Diets

Different diets seem to be all the rage today. All you have to do is google “different diets” and BAM! You are overwhelmed with different articles about the Atkins diet, vegan diets, paleo diets, weight watchers and so on. Our pets are no exception when it comes to this craze. Walk into a pet store and the choices of pet food is overwhelming! Not to mention things like homemade diets! Today I want to discuss one diet in particular that has gained traction in the dog community. The raw diet.

For those who don’t know what a raw diet is, it involves feeding raw meat (often still on the bone), bones and organs. Often owners will rave about the perceived benefits of this diet but are not aware (or choose to ignore) the serious health risks for both them and their animal. There is a lot of misinformation to be found on the internet which I will try to clear up (no big deal, just taking on the entire internet here).

The most serious concern with raw diets is the human health risk. Anywhere from 20-80% of raw diets are contaminated with Salmonella, E. coli or Listeria, all of which are a serious health concern not only for pets but owners as well. In dogs, Salmonella can lead to diarrhea, vomiting and a fever, progressing to the point of severe dehydration if not treated appropriately. Of equal concern is the human health risk. In particular young children, seniors or immunocompromised people are at greater risk. Listeria can lead to miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women as well.

Bacterial contamination isn’t the only threat to your pets’ health when feeding raw diets. Raw diets are nutritionally unbalanced and don’t provide essential nutrients. As dogs age, these deficiencies will make your dog more prone to various diseases. For example, many raw diets are deficient in calcium which weakens bones and makes your pet more prone to fractures. Growing pets, in particular, need a properly balanced diet, something which raw diets cannot supply. Studies have look at various commercial and homemade raw diets and nearly all of them had major nutritional imbalances.

There are other health risks that a raw diet poses to your pet as well. Often these diets will contain bones in an effort to increase calcium levels. These bones can splinter and potentially perforate the esophagus, stomach or intestines of a dog causing serious life-threatening consequences. Even ground up bones can cause an impaction leading to potential surgery.

To sum everything up, there have been no scientific studies showing the benefit of feeding a raw diet. The risks to both human and animal health far outweigh any potential benefit that may be there. Instead of feeding raw, a high-quality diet made by a reputable pet food company is a much healthier and safer choice for both you and your loved one.

Written by Dr. David Baker