What’s the Beef with the Raw Meat Diet?
We all know health trends for humans change every 30 seconds – one minute you’re eating cabbage soup, the next you’re on a gluten-free, protein-rich paleo diet. But what about our four-legged friends? As people have been trying to stray away from packaged and processed foods, the trend of feeding our best animal friends in the same manner is growing. The doggy raw meat diet has been on the rise, and though our pups might relish in this ‘old school’ feeding plan, we have to wonder… is it really the best way to feed and care for our dogs?
Domestic Dogs Have Evolved Alongside Humans
In many ways a raw meat diet makes sense as the choice food for our four-legged friends: wild dogs, their ancestors, scavenged and hunted for fresh meat. But the fact is, domestic dogs have been living and evolving alongside people for thousands of years. And as the relationship dynamic between humans and dogs developed, so did their eating habits, diets, and even their gut bacteria. Domesticated dogs are used to eating starches that wild dogs don’t, as they’ve survived on mixed diets for many, many years. Traditionally (and still, in some places of the world) dogs were given table scraps: raw meat, leftover veggies, old bread, etc. Whatever couldn’t be used by people was eventually given to the dogs, and the dogs learned to survive and thrive off of it – raw meat and starches included.
Health Risks from an Unhealthy Industry
So where do the fears of using raw meat come into play? Dogs can eat raw meat safely, the risk factor is actually from the meat industry itself. A study in Veterinary Record found that 28 out of 35 frozen raw meat products contained E Coli, 19 of the 35 samples contained Listeria monocytogenes (causes food poisoning but can be extremely dangerous to pregnant women) and a further seven contained a form of Salmonella. There have been other studies on raw pet food with similar findings in the US, Canada and even New Zealand.
The thought of giving our beloved pets a bacterial infection is, no doubt, horrifying. But the issue goes beyond that. Dogs have stronger guts than we do and can often go unaffected by these parasites, but their close proximity to their owners have the ability to pass them on to their human owners and nobody wants that.
Balance is Everything
While the nutritional aspect of feeding dogs a raw meat diet seem straightforward and obvious, it’s important to get the balance right to ensure your dog doesn’t have any nutritional deficiencies. In fact, it was the science and research on animal nutrition and veterinary medicine in the mid-1800s that spurred the creation of dog food: a means to provide dogs with the most optimally nutritional diet. So before switching your dog to a raw meat diet, make sure you do the research to ensure they’re getting the best of everything.
Keep the Sanitation Standards High and Your Pets Safe
Lastly, regardless of what diet your dog is on – one of the most important thing you can do for your pet (and your home and health) is to keep their feeding area and items, clean and sanitized. Make sure dog food is kept separate from human food, both in handling and in storage. Clean your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling your dog’s food and be aware of the risks that come into play when feeding them a raw meat diet. Once you’ve taken all these things into consideration, you can have a happy, healthy pup without worry.