An increasing number of pet owners are ditching the packaged dry and wet foods and are putting their furry family members on raw-food diets.
It’s a trend gaining momentum among some pet owners who feel that such raw meat-based diets are healthier for their dog or cat.
The idea is that these foods are considered a more natural dietary option, as opposed to the processed pet foods.
Feeding your pet a raw meat-based diet may be putting their health at risk.
According to researchers, sales of commercially prepared raw pet food have soared, more than tripling in the last 7 years. However, raw meat diets could be contaminated with bacteria and parasites that can harm your pet.
"The main concern would be salmonellosis, which is a serious disease. As a matter of fact, it can even cause death in dogs and in people and has. So cooking really prevents that," said Dr. Wallace Graham at the VCA Oso Creek Animal Hospital.
This trend in feeding pets raw meat, bones, and organs in diets that are considered more "natural" by some owners, is receiving heavy criticism from experts who say these "food" sources could be dangerous for both animals and humans alike.
"If they are going to do that, the main thing would be to make sure to source a reputable source for the food, prepare it properly if you are buying it frozen. When you thaw it, get it fed, and then food bowl sanitation is incredibly important. When you put the food out, and whatever they haven’t eaten in 15-20 minutes, you have to throw away and then thoroughly wash the dishes," said Dr. Graham.
Veterinarians believe there are more cons than pros with a raw food diet.
"There may be some pros. Actually a dog will have a situation where it seems to benefit from a raw diet. We acknowledge that, but if that is the case, then extreme care has to be taken, and certainly if the dog appears to get sick, it needs attention right away," said Dr. Graham.
Nutritional deficiencies can occur and may not show up for days, weeks, or even months. A raw food diet can be time-consuming and hard to balance enough nutrients to stay healthy.
Veterinarians say an exclusive diet of raw meat may not contain everything your pet needs, no matter whether it’s from the meat aisle or is a commercial formulation found in the pet section.
"Cooked diets are the safest diets, and there are excellent cooked diets available to purchase and also there is a website called balanceIT.com that will give you good recipes for feeding your pet," said Dr. Graham.
In addition, there’s no scientific evidence to support claims of better health and immunity in pets that consume raw food. And experts say a raw food diet may not meet an animal’s overall nutritional needs.
If you find yourself interested in a raw food diet, do ample research and contact your veterinarian prior to starting a new food routine for your pet.
Public health agencies and many veterinarians say that raw food can contain bacteria like salmonella, E.coli and listeria.
Even raw pet food that you buy commercially prepared in a pet store is still potentially dangerous because it can still contain harmful bacteria.
If you do choose to feed your pet raw food, Consumer Reports says take these important precautions:
- Use hot soapy water to clean everything the raw food has touched.
- Then disinfect either with a commercial product or a solution of one tablespoon bleach and 4 cups of water.
- Also, wash your hands vigorously for 20 seconds with warm water and soap after handling raw food, playing with your pet or cleaning up after her.
- Kisses from your pet can also transmit bacteria. So avoid that as well.