Are Raw Diets Safe for Dogs and Cats (for owners as well as pets)?

Raw feeding can be a controversial, highly emotive subject. This means it can be really hard to know what to believe when trying to research the subject. Diet safety is a huge concern when choosing any kind of diet. This is what you should consider when it comes to feeding your dog or cat a raw diet.

are raw diets safe for dogs and cats?

And so my final question was sent in by Bridgette, and she asks a lot about the feeding of dogs and cats. In particular, what’s better? Is raw food okay? Is chicken? Is beef better? Should we be feeding kibble? Is that the best thing that we should be giving our dogs and cats? How do we know what is the best thing to feed them? There's so much going on. There's so many different forms of advice out there, often conflicting advice and it's really confusing to pet owners to know what to do.

So there's lots to this question and I've actually written a thorough guide to the pros and cons of raw and kibble feeding and I'll encourage you to check that out if you're interested in this topic.

Are raw diets safe?

Today I want to address the question: “is raw feeding safe?”.

Now, there are a couple of different risks to consider. The first is the risks to people and the second is the risks to a dog and cat.

Infection risk to people

The health risk in people is really the big one. There’s going to be a higher risk in young children, there's a higher risk in elderly people and there’s a higher risk in people who are immuno-suppressed. So that's something to consider, but there is a risk to everybody and really that risk is of E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter or Listeria in particular. These can cause really nasty infections and potentially fatal infections. They can cause outbreaks as well and there have been outbreaks that have been linked to the raw feeding of pets.

We can mitigate some of those risks through good hand hygiene, through proper preparation of the food in a normal kitchen preparation situation. So taking the normal precautions you would when you're preparing your own meal. But we also need to consider that the dog or the cat can be messy eaters, they lick a lot of other things, so after they've eaten, they're going to have those bacteria in their mouth. If they're licking you, if they're picking up toys, then those bacteria, that infection risk is going to transmit to those items which you may then touch and come into contact with.

So it's not just their feeding areas, it's not just their food bowls, it's not just that preparation that you need to be thinking about. It's the whole environment that your dogs around. So again, if you've got young children in the house, you definitely want to be careful if you're even considering raw food. It's not something that I would recommend, but check out that full article for that discussion in more detail.

So that's in brief the risk to people and then there are the risks to dogs or cats.

Health risk for dogs and cats

So there's a couple here with raw feeding. So the first one is a lack of balance in the diet and deficiencies resulting from that. That's been shown to be the case even if diets are changed regularly, even if we're rotating through a number of different raw diets and different recipes, then it’s been shown that there are still deficiencies. This is likely more of an issue with home prepared rather than commercial raw diets. Whether that's causing problems or not, it's been reported. We're seeing in puppies that rickets are becoming a problem which is ridiculous. We're seeing a lack of certain vitamins that again are causing problems. So that's one thing, a lack of balance and deficiencies. Infections are another risk, just like the human health risks that I spoke about. So there's that risk as well in dogs and cats.

And then finally there's the risk of bones themselves if we're feeding a raw diet that’s containing bones and that risk is a number of things. So broken teeth is a big one and we'll often get nasty fractures of the big upper chewing tooth. Intestinal obstruction and perforation is the other big one and that can definitely be life threatening if we're not performing emergency surgery, which obviously carries its own risks and its own expense.

So those are the risks of raw feeding.

Is it safe? Well, I'd argue no, it's not safe.

Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

The question we then want to ask though is do these risks outweigh the benefits of raw feeding when compared to feeding a cooked or commercial diet? Indeed, are there any benefits of raw feeding and that discussion is too in depth and too long to go into today. Check out my thorough review on raw vs commercial diets for dogs and cats to get all the details on this often controversial topic.

I hope though that answers the question or gives you some thoughts when it comes to thinking is raw food and raw feeding safe for your dog and cat.

The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.

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