Pet owners want the best for their animals, which includes feeding them the best possible diet. In recent years, many pet parents have started switching to a fresh diet consisting of home-cooked foods — or sometimes completely raw food. Some claim that a raw diet leads to shinier coats, healthier teeth, and better overall health for dogs.
Raw food is uncooked food, mostly meat, that can be made at home by pet owners or frozen from the store. However, a recent study from Portugal found that while tradeOf all kinds that can harbor some bad bacteria, raw dog food poses a significant risk of transmitting antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can harm pets and immunocompromised people, while also increasing the public health problem of antibiotic resistance. Of the 14 commercial frozen raw dog foods tested in the study, 14 tested positive for enterococci strains that showed drug resistance.
While dogs probably enjoy eating raw meat (we wish we could ask), many experts advise against eating it due to the bacteria in raw food. The American Veterinary Medical Association “discourages” pet owners from feeding meat from animals that have not “passed through a pathogen elimination process” such as cooking or pasteurization, citing the risk of foodborne illness that can spread and affect livestock and humans, especially children and the elderly. and people with immunodeficiency.
“This is a real public health concern,” says Dr. Camille Torres, veterinarian and chief of the Small Animal Nutrition Service at Colorado State University. “It comes on every now and then like it’s a new topic, but we’ve known about it for years.”
To learn more about the potential risks and benefits of a raw diet, we spoke to Torres about feeding your pets raw food.
Why raw dog food?
The idea of a raw dog diet took off after Australian veterinarian Dr. Ian Billinghurst published a book on how dogs thrived on an evolutionary diet that persisted on them before they were domesticated, which consists primarily of raw meat, organs, bones and vegetables.
Torres sympathizes with pet owners who are considering a raw food diet, because she sees their view as a desire to do their best for their pet.
“It’s a rather sensitive topic, because I think there’s a lot of passion for nutrition in general from a pet owner’s perspective, and a really strong desire to want to feed the best,” Torres says.
What are the risks and benefits?
Supporters of raw food claim that it offers many benefits to dogs, including more energy as well as healthy teeth, skin and coats. Torres says there isn’t much evidence to prove the benefits of feeding pets raw food, but there is evidence of health risks, such as exposure to disease-causing bacteria.
“It’s not that it can’t have benefits, it’s just that those benefits haven’t been proven yet,” Torres says. “Basically, we don’t have a lot of evidence to support professionals, and there is evidence to support the risks not only to our pets, but also to people and their environment.”
Does all raw meat have bacteria, and is it all bad?
All uncooked meats contain bacteria — “it’s just a matter of what kind,” Torres says.
“When we eliminate one of the big ways we reduce bacterial contamination is through cooking, whether that’s chicken or beef, it’s in the food,” Torres says. “So whether it’s from the cleanest grocery store, or if it’s organic and natural or labeled … bacterial contamination is there.”
Torres also says we may not see many sick dogs because their immune systems (usually) work well against harmful bacteria, but it’s a big problem when they don’t.
“Here’s the flip side—yes, most dogs and cats might be just fine,” Torres says. “But if they’re not well, they are really sick.” Torres says salmonella is an example that can get into the intestinal lining and cause an inflammatory reaction. She says immunocompromised dogs, puppies and older dogs are especially at risk.
How can bacteria from raw food spread to humans?
Faecal contamination can transfer harmful bacteria from dogs to humans or other pets in the home, Torres says, even if you can’t see feces.
“It could be on their paws, and they’re walking indoors,” Torres says. “They sit on our sofa, they stand on our bed, those kinds of things. That’s the challenge – you can only clean up what you know there.”
As dangerous as bacterial contamination can be, “it’s just a matter of what we’re exposed to and what our bodies can fight against,” Torres says. Similar to pets, most people will be fine, she says, but pollution can lead to serious effects such as dehydration and hospitalization.
What about prevention?
If you’re dead set on feeding your pet raw food, “be very careful about cleaning up the environment, and what the food comes into contact with,” Torres says. Wash the dishes and, ideally, never eat raw food in your kitchen (or where you prepare your food), she says.
It is also important to practice good hygiene in general, such as washing your hands after playing with your pet, and making children the habit of washing their hands and faces if they are licked. “These kinds of things, just to try and stay as healthy as possible,” Torres says.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.