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Homemade or commercially prepared RFDs are based on raw meat and bones. In particular, these diets include uncooked muscle meat, organs, and bones from various mammals, fish, and poultry.
Raw diets may also consist of unpasteurized milk, uncooked eggs, and raw fruits and vegetables. Although it’s a raw, meat-based diet, it may also include cooked grains.
A diet consisting of raw meat, fruits, and vegetables may seem to resemble the diet of wild dogs, but it’s important to note that they have a much shorter life expectancy than domesticated dogs.
So, can dogs eat raw meat? Let’s find out.
All The Meats Your Dog Can Eat
Your dog will eat almost anything you give them. However, their stomachs aren’t quite as advanced as their owners. As a pet owner, you still have to be aware of what you’re feeding your dog so it doesn’t turn into a health issue. Most people feed their dog meat, and while most types are meat is good for them, some can be rather toxic. There’s also the issue of how you’re preparing this meat for your pup. Here’s everything you need to know about the meats your dog can eat and how to prepare them.
Types of meat that are safe to feed dogs:
- Chicken: Chicken is one of the most common meats dogs eat and there’s good reason for it. Chicken is lean meat that contains a lot of protein which is great for your dog’s energy and muscle mass. Chicken is also full of nutrients that support healthy skin, shiny coats, and bone health.
- Steak & Beef: Red meat is another nutritious meat for your dog. Containing fatty acids that can help maintain muscle tone and joint support. Just like chicken, red meat contains Omega-6.¹
- Lamb: Lamb is tasty meat for dogs with any food sensitivities. It also contains dietary fats that help sustain energy while maintaining skin, fur, and muscle. Try AvoDerm® Natural Lamb Meal and Brown Rice Formula to ensure your dog is getting all their other nutrients as well.
- Turkey: Turkey is another terrific food for any dogs with food sensitivities. Turkey is lean white meat that is a highly digestible protein. Plus, turkey is perfect for supporting and maintaining muscle.
Common meats to avoid are any processed meats like sausage, bologna, hot dogs, etc. Also, avoid giving your dog any rib bones as they are extremely brittle and can damage your dog’s stomach and throat.
How to prepare meat for your dog:
Preparing these meats for your dog is incredibly important. All of the meats listed above are extremely healthy for your dog, but only if they’re prepared properly.
First, make sure you carefully and thoroughly remove any bones from the meat. These tiny bones found in meat are extremely brittle and can break off in your dog’s throat or stomach if ingested. Then, make sure you rinse the meat properly, just in case of any added chemicals for preservation, and to make sure the meat is clean. Next, make sure all meat is not seasoned. Seasoning is too strong for your dog’s stomach and can result in a very uncomfortable pup. Avoid butter as well for the same reasons.
When cooking meat to serve your dog, make sure you cook it thoroughly. When dealing with beef and steak, the medium is always the best option to avoid any possible salmonella poisoning. Be sure to remove any fat from the meat. This can be done before or after the meat is cooked. Fat can get lodged in your dog’s throat and result in choking.
Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat? And, Should They?
Yes, dogs can eat raw meat. Should dogs eat raw meat, though?
Dr. RuthAnn Lobos, a Purina veterinarian, says feeding a diet consisting primarily of raw meat may not provide the complete and balanced nutrition your dog needs.
“This is especially true in rapidly growing and developing puppies,” she says. “Their dietary needs are quite complex. The same is true for senior dogs who may have a weaker immune system and more sensitive digestive systems.”
Properly cooking meat and carbohydrates (like we do with our dog foods) can make the food more digestible. When foods are easily digested, “dogs can use more of the nutrients more effectively for producing energy, building muscles, and supporting their immune systems,” Dr. Lobos adds.
An RFD can increase your dog’s risk of nutritional deficiencies and illnesses. They need complete and balanced nutrition to help them live long and healthy lives.
If you do choose a commercially prepared RFD, our experts recommend ensuring it’s formulated a veterinary nutritionist. We also recommend choosing a food that has undergone feeding trials and meets World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines to ensure your dog gets all the nutrients he needs.
Is Raw Food Good for Dogs?
Although Purina doesn’t recommend feeding dogs raw meat, other raw foods, like certain fruits and vegetables, are safe and even healthy.
Your dog may enjoy any number of fresh fruits and vegetables, like bananas, carrots, apples, and more. We recommend washing any fresh produce first to remove any dirt or other residues.
Although these foods may be safe and healthy, it’s important to keep the 90/10 rule in mind. This means 90 percent of your dog’s daily calories should come from complete and balanced dog food. The other 10 percent can come from treats, which include fruits and vegetables, in addition to standard dog treats. “This helps minimize the risk for stomach upset and also obesity,” says Dr. Lobos.
Are there Risks to Giving Dogs Raw Meat?
In addition to the risk of nutritional deficiencies, raw meat does pose other health risks—both for you and your dog.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have all spoken out about the dangers of feeding raw meat.
Not only does it pose a risk to your dog, but it poses a risk to you and your family, according to an FDA study. Raw meat is likely to contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, and more.
Cooking meat to a safe temperature kills off those harmful bacteria. By feeding uncooked meat, there’s a higher risk your dog will develop a foodborne illness or another type of bacterial infection.
Additionally, there’s an increased risk you or a member of your family will come into contact with the bacteria and develop a foodborne illness. Handling the raw meat, letting your dog lick your face, cleaning up his feces, or touching any contaminated surfaces increase the risk of infection.
If you do choose to feed your dog an RFD, we recommend referring to the safety guidelines published the FDA, CDC, or AVMA. Doing so will help minimize the risks of contamination and foodborne illnesses.
It’s worth noting many therapy dog associations, such as Pet Partners, prohibit dogs on RFDs from being part of their program. This is because the raw food poses too much risk for the humans they are trained to help.
Skyenet’s Take on Raw Diets for Dogs
While Purina’s experts do not recommend feeding a raw meat-based diet, the choice is ultimately yours. We do urge you to speak with your veterinarian prior to choosing an RFD for your dog.
If you want your dog to have food that meets his instinctual cravings, try a protein-rich formula like Purina ONE True Instinct.
We also offer natural and grain-free dog food if you have concerns about specific ingredients in your dog’s food. Every ingredient serves a purpose in our pet food products.
6 Reasons Not to Feed Your Dog Raw Meat
Considering feeding your dog a raw diet? Here are 6 important factors to consider. But first…
What is a raw diet?
“Raw diets usually contain some or all of the following: muscle meat from animals (often still on the bone); bones (whole or ground); organ meats (e.g., liver, kidney); raw eggs; raw vegetables and/or fruit; and possibly some dairy products, such as unpasteurized yogurt or milk. As the name implies, the food is not cooked prior to feeding.” (AVMA.org)
Since nearly half of supermarket chicken is tainted feces, feeding your dog even “human grade” raw meat raises concern for transmitting potentially harmful bacteria to you and your dog: “Some of the commonly-known pathogens that can be present in meat include Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. Other pathogens that may contaminate raw meat include Toxoplasma gondii (the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis), Cryptosporidium, Echinococcus, Clostridium, Neospora, and Sarcocystis. The same applies to raw meat fed to pets. If raw food isn’t adequately treated to eliminate contaminants, you could be feeding your pet potentially harmful pathogens that could cause illness in your pets and/or your family.” (AVMA.org)
“Listeria bacteria are commonly found in uncooked meats, vegetables, and unpasteurized milk, and soft cheeses. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria like cold temperatures and can grow and spread in the refrigerator.” (fda.gov, 2014)
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration states, “FDA does not believe feeding raw pet foods to animals is consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks.”
2. Dogs are not wolves
Although dogs and wolves came from a common ancestor, feeding your dog the “diet of a wolf” disregards their evolution as a domestic species alongside humans, which has taken place over thousands of years.
Dogs are able to digest and utilize starchy foods through increased amylase secretion with the help of the AMY2B gene — a genetic component that has multiplied many times over throughout their evolutionary history.
Dogs are physiologically omnivores, not obligate carnivores like their wolf cousins, which means they do not have a requirement for meat in their diets.
3. Health risks
According to Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM, “The food sources that contain, far, the highest amount of toxic chemicals are meat, bones and other animal products like cheese, milk, etc. Those that get the highest amounts of these chemicals are the ones eating at the top of the food chain — eating the animals that eat the plants. In our country, these are human beings, dogs and cats.”
Red meats have been declared carcinogenic the World Health Organization, and carcinogens are found in other meats like chicken. Aside from the increased risk of cancer, dogs can have trouble processing diets that are very high in animal protein and may develop sensitivities to these ingredients.
4. Environmental sustainability
Raising animals for food is the number one cause of environmental degradation, and the “high quality” cuts of meat often used in raw diets are about as resource-intensive as you can get. (Think: land use, habitat destruction, water use, and carbon emissions.) Before you convince yourself that your dog’s “grass-fed” meat is a sustainable option, check out this infographic, and watch the film Cowspiracy on Netflix to take a deeper (non-graphic) look into the environmental dark side of the animal agriculture industry.
5. Raw diets aren’t well regulated
Raw food diets are often not considered to be nutritionally balanced. Studies have found low calcium, low phosphorus, excessive vitamin A, and excessive vitamin D in raw diets, amongst other imbalances (AVMA). If left unmonitored, nutritional imbalances can cause health complications in dogs over time.
6. Ethics as an ‘animal lover’
At Skyenet, we love all animals. Dogs, cows, pigs, chickens…you name it! Because dogs can obtain all of their nutrition through a complete and balanced plant-based dog food (as we’ve seen since 2005 here at skyenet), there is no need to kill one animal to feed another. As animal lovers, it’s important for us to consider the ethical inconsistency of labeling some species as “food” and others as loved ones.
“In their capacity to feel pain and fear, a pig is a dog is a bear is a boy.” – Phillip Wollen
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