Written by FOTP Team
Feeding your dog on fresh cuts of meat seems like an appealing natural option – and the raw food diet has taken social media by storm. But what are the pros and cons of giving a raw food diet to your dog? Should dogs eat raw meat, and which supplements should you consider adding?
Processed dog food comes with a long list of ingredients. If you’ve ever studied the side of a bag, you’ll know that it can include unrecognisable and unwanted products. Prompted by the trend for non-processed food, pet-owners started experimenting with alternative diets for their dogs... and the raw food trend was born.
There are now many passionate advocates – including vets all over the world – who believe that raw meat is good for dogs. Owners report that it can provide benefits like a shinier coat, higher energy level, fewer allergic reactions, and healthier skin. People even claim that poos are easier to manage, and their dogs fart less! Some of these reasons have probably brought you here today.
Most dogs have the teeth and the digestive system to cope with raw meat. After all, raw meat is what dogs would have eaten in the wild. Raw chicken, beef and pork are natural food sources, and don’t contain any unwanted “filler” ingredients. Meat is low-carb and good for carnivores’ teeth – that’s why it’s fed to zoo animals, like coyotes, on a daily basis. When we want to give our dogs the very best, raw meat looks like a good choice.
However, there currently isn’t much scientific research supporting a raw food diet for dogs – in fact, several experts have spoken out against the idea. At present, animal groups including the American Veterinary Medical Association warn against feeding your dog raw meat, which is associated with high risks to owners when they prepare it at home.
With expert advice, it is possible to feed your dog a raw meat diet.
But while dogs can eat raw meat, it carries high risk for humans. Raw meat can carry bacteria and pathogens, exposing your household to diseases like Salmonella and E.coli 0157. Even after digesting the raw meat, your dog can still pass these bacteria in its faeces.
Salmonella Typhimurium has been on the rise in recent years, perhaps due to a lack of understanding about preparing food. It’s a particular risk to children, pregnant women, and the elderly. But following hygiene guidelines can help you to avoid both salmonella and E.coli.
Raw meat should be carried and stored separately to the rest of your food. Dedicate a shopping bag and a section of the fridge (at the bottom – make sure it is 8 degrees C or lower) for raw meat. Ideally, you’ll also have separate utensils, bowls, and chopping board for raw food preparation.
If, for example, you prepped raw meat and then salad using the same equipment, you’d transfer bacteria to a food that won’t be cooked before human consumption. If you don’t have a separate knife and chopping board, you must make sure they are thoroughly cleaned before you use them for anything else. Likewise hands and clothes: make sure you clean hands before and after cutting up raw meat, and protect clothes from spills.
Your dog needs protein and fat (meat), plus minerals (bone) and vitamins. Choose proteins which contain 10-20% fat: beef and pork mince and chicken legs are in that range. You can add organ meats (heart, liver and kidneys) to increase the provision of vitamins like B, C, and DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid). A balanced bowl should also contain bone-meal – which contains calcium, zinc, phosphorus and magnesium, vital for strong bones. Finally, you can (and should) introduce vegetables and other ingredients to boost the delivery of different nutrients, such as eggs (for B1, B3, B12 and folic acid), sardine (for B12, D and zinc), and salmon (for iodine, iron and magnesium).
One problem with preparing raw food for your dog at home is that it is really difficult to get the right balance that supplies complete nutrition. Dogs need 37 essential nutrients in their food. To improve your dog’s diet, you could add a supplement like The One to your homemade food – it’s easy to store and sprinkle over their meal.
If you want to try a raw food diet, you can buy ready-made raw meals from several suppliers. This is a simpler way to get a better balance, nutrient-wise, and allows you to experiment. Commercial raw food manufacturers should follow the recommendations of the FDA, including using meat that is suitable for human consumption, and grinding all bone.
However, there are still risks associated with commercial raw pet food. The FDA carried out a study which showed that 7% of processed raw food carried salmonella, and 15% contained listeria bacteria.
You can choose to buy frozen or freeze-dried raw food, reducing the risk of bacteria in your own kitchen (although you should still be careful when you serve meals). You can also choose between “complete” and “complimentary” recipes, giving you the option of introducing some raw foods more gradually.
Are you ready to give raw food a go?
It’s a good idea to talk to your vet first, especially if your pet has existing conditions. Your vet may even be able to recommend a brand.
If you start with ready-made raw dog food, it is advised that your dog skips an evening meal ready to start raw food the next morning. Experts suggest that dogs are better at self-regulating on a raw meat diet (which means that they stop eating when they’re full... usually). When transitioning your dog’s diet, keep a close eye on them. Look for signs of better health such as a shiny coat, better teeth, and firmer poos!
If you want to make the food yourself, start with one of the many recipes available online, and build up to creating a custom recipe for your dog. One benefit of making your dog’s raw food is that you can tailor what goes into their bowl. So if your dog has allergies, you can cut out one thing at a time; and if you’re introducing new ingredients, you can do it little by little to monitor your dog’s response. It is sensible to start with just one type of meat.
There are additional ingredients that you can add, or perhaps already do. Plain probiotic yoghurt has long been recommended for dogs, particularly with or after a course of antibiotics. It is thought to be helpful for animals with digestive problems or stress-related constipation. Tinned sardines or other tinned fish are also recommended as an addition to a dog’s diet, raw or otherwise.
If you switch to a raw meat diet with one of our supplements, we’d love to hear how it’s going for you!
Can dogs eat raw chicken bones?
It’s best to avoid feeding raw bones to dogs. Splinters of bone can cause injuries to the throat and internal blockages. However, bone contains valuable nutrients like calcium, so some people feed bones to their dogs. You’ll see that bonemeal is included in ready-made raw foods and recipes. Grinding bones is the safest way to feed them to your dog.
Can dogs eat raw pork, beef, or chicken?
Raw pork, beef and chicken – carefully handled – are popular choices in a raw meat diet. All these can provide the right ratio of protein to fat. You might want to add supplementary foods to ensure that your dog is getting all 37 key nutrients. The One is our all-round superstar: it can improve your dog’s movement, skin, digestion, and immunity, and it’s a great addition to any diet.
Can dogs eat raw fish?
In general, raw fish is not recommended. It can carry parasites, including tapeworm. Tinned fish is a good way to introduce extra vitamins to your dog’s diet.
Can dogs eat raw turkey?
Turkey is a lean meat and is not typically found in raw dog food. Better options (with the right fat ratio) are beef, game, and duck.
What raw meat can dogs eat?
If you are concerned about the idea of feeding raw meat to your dog, speak to your veterinarian as they will be able to guide you.
Our supplements can be fed with any kind of diet. If your dog is eating raw meat and you’re still worried about their health, try introducing our top-selling supplement. The One is a naturally-based support system and it’s been known to help with all kinds of pet problems. Pugs with itchy paws, St Bernards with allergies, Labs with ear conditions, and Yorkies with poorly stomachs – they’ve all shown improvement after taking The One with their meals. We pack it with clinically-proven ingredients like Curcumin, Glucosamine and L-Theamine to deliver truly life-enhancing results.