Raw diets are highly debated, and there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding raw food diets. As veterinarians, we are traditionally trained about the potential dangers of feeding raw diets, and the benefits are not discussed. Owners should always discuss their pet’s diet with a veterinarian to ensure it is balanced and appropriate for any medical conditions the pet may have. A raw diet is not for every pet, and the following considerations should be discussed before switching an animal to an appropriate raw diet.
The primary dangers surrounding a raw diet are the same as with any raw food: there is the potential risk for bacterial infection. This means that you need to handle raw pet food the same way you would handle your own raw food. Raw food needs to be properly stored to prevent bacterial growth. When handling raw food you should wear gloves, use utensils, and wash your hands when done. Food dishes should also be cleaned frequently. Also, ensure that young children are not getting into raw pet foods.
Another highly discussed topic is the potential for fractured teeth and intestinal trauma from the bones in raw meat. Raw bones are safer for animal consumption versus cooked bones. Cooked bones are more likely to fracture into sharp shards and cause intestinal damage. While any bones can be a risk to chew for dogs, healthy teeth should be strong enough to avoid damage from raw bones. If you are still concerned, there are options to buy raw diets with the bone ground up to avoid whole bones that need to be chewed. The bones provide essential nutrients for a balanced diet and cannot simply be removed from the diet.
Having a balanced diet is essential. There is a belief that a raw diet is just any meat. As much as bone provides nutrients, so do different types of meat. Pets need a balance between muscle meat, organ meat, and bones. Dogs are not carnivores, whereas cats are, and also need vegetables to balance out their diet. Medical conditions should be taken into consideration as well. This is highly important from a holistic medicine stand point. Having a balanced diet plus slow transition between food types will help prevent any gastrointestinal upset.
One of the primary benefits of raw is that the nutrition is more readily absorbed and processed. While this may seem like one small thing, having good nutrient absorption helps all processes in the body. This can lead to increased joint health, improved immune system, and even healthier skin and coat. Allowing pets to chew bones can help keep their teeth clean as well. On top of this, if the diet is formulated in consideration with an animal’s medical condition it can help their health even further.