Some dog owners are choosing to feed their pets a raw dog food diet for a variety of reasons including the perception of shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, higher energy levels, and smaller stools. Many of these observations are not backed up by science. There is very little evidence that raw food has benefits for pets and lots of evidence that it can be dangerous.
Here are four things to know about raw dog food before you consider a switch:
1. The benefits of raw dog food are not supported by scientific data
“You’re not going to find clinical trials that support feeding of raw food,” Sudbury veterinarian Darren Stinson told the CBC.
Despite dog owners telling Stinson that their pet was less susceptible to disease and that genetic problems were reduced, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that this is attributed to a raw food diet.
What is supported by science, is the risk of foodborne illness both for the pet and the owner when raw diets are fed. Many raw food diets may be contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella, E. Coli and Listeria.
2. Preparation is a MUST!
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) discourages owners from feeding their dogs any animal-sourced protein that hasn’t been through a process to eliminate pathogens.
Salmonella, E-coli, and Listeria, among other foodborne illnesses, have been known to affect both cats and dogs who are improperly fed a raw food diet.
The AVMA suggests restricting your pets’ access to wild or inadequately treated animal carcasses (e.g. while hunting) and to only feed your pet animal-sourced protein that has been subjected to a pathogen-elimination process.
3. Practice personal hygiene
“Bacteria may not necessarily make your pet ill, but can make you sick,” said Stinson.
It’s important during both preparation and post-feeding that you wash all the utensils and surfaces you used to prepare the food before thoroughly washing your hands.
“We see that more and more people are feeding [cats and dogs] this kind of product and we know that meat is infected with bacteria and parasites,” said Paul Overgaauw, co-author and researcher from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
“The most concerning from our public health point of view is that they are finding multi-drug resistant bacteria in the food source,” added professor Daniel Chan.
These types of bacteria disproportionately affects children and the elderly, so be extra cautious about personal hygiene for those demographics.
4. Ease your dog into any new diet
Commercial raw dog food producers and raw dog food blogs have many tips and tricks to get your dog started on a raw food diet. Your veterinarian is the best resource for information on nutrition and diet changes for your pet.
However, there is one rule of thumb to follow regardless of the brand of food you choose to purchase: Introduce any new food into their diet slowly (build up to 100% of the new food over the course of a week or two).
In Conclusion: Be patient and exercise caution
Overall, a switch to a raw food diet for your dog is going to require careful consideration.
Your pet’s health and your health are at risk if you don’t follow proper preparation recommendations and aren’t sanitary in your feeding practices.
If you do opt to feed raw, pick a commercial product that has an AAFCO statement. This will ensure it has been properly balanced for your pet.
If you are interested in learning more about a raw food diet for your dog, contact the professionals at Woodbine Animal Clinic.