Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat?
Raw Food Diets (RFDs) have grown in popularity in recent years. The popularity may stem from pet owners hoping to feed their dogs foods that more closely resemble how they would have eaten in the wild.
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.
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.
A 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 by 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.
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 (FDA), (CDC) and the (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, . 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 other 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 a RFD, we recommend referring to the safety guidelines published by 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.
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 , , and . 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 a complete and balanced dog food. The other 10 percent can come from treats, which includes fruits and vegetables, in addition to standard dog treats. “This helps minimize the risk for stomach upset and also obesity,” says Dr. Lobos.
Purina’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 a RFD for your dog.
If you want your dog to have a food that meets his instinctual cravings, try a like .
We also offer and if you have concerns about specific ingredients in your dog’s food. Every ingredient serves a purpose in our pet food products. You can learn more about our ingredients and their purpose in our food .