Is a raw diet safe for your dog? Well, yes, and no—it depends. All dogs are different, and all meats are different. Your pet might do great on eating raw meats, but another might not take it so well. It depends on numerous factors, including your dog’s body and the quality and type of meat you feed them.
We’ll cover the good, the bad, and the raw meat that you should avoid feeding your dog: denatured meat.
Feeding Raw Meat: Potential Benefits
As a pet parent, you want to make sure that your pup is getting a healthy and balanced diet. While there are various types of kibble and canned options, many owners are curious about putting their dogs on a raw diet where the majority of their meals consist of raw meats.
First, let’s talk about some of the reasons why people switch their dogs to a raw diet.
Raw Meat & Your Dog’s Biological Needs
Many raw feeding advocates cite that dogs are omnivorous, and a raw diet aligns more closely to their biological needs than a bag of kibble. Before we domesticated canines, their diet consisted almost solely of raw meat. Wolves still follow this diet, but it’s important to note that, at this point, they are quite distant relatives of our pets that live with us today.
Another argument for this point states that, because of a dog’s efficient digestive system and strong stomach acids, they can break down food like raw meat that humans cannot safely consume.
Skin & Coat Health
According to research by the University of California Davis, a raw meat diet is easier for dogs to digest, and it encourages a shinier, softer coat than dry food. Likely, the skin and coat health benefits come from the fact that raw foods contain very little filler and a plethora of fresh fat, protein, vitamin E, and zinc. Many dog kibble brands add those vitamins and nutrients into their formulas to achieve similar results.
Related: Healthy Coats for Dogs
Breath & Oral Health
A study performed by Brown and Park showed that dogs’ dental problems were typically a result of feeding them “soft diets with insufficient dental activity.” During the experiment, they replaced canned dog food with beef oxtail and studied 30 dogs with dental calculus and tooth loss. Within 24 hours, more than 30% of the calculus was gone, and 95% removed at the end of two weeks.
The distinction here is that they compared raw meat with bone fragments against canned food. Because many raw diets don’t contain bones, they aren’t as effective as cleaning a dog’s teeth.
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Possible Improvements in Certain Conditions
Further research is needed, but many people claim that a raw diet can help control conditions in your dog, like diabetes. It’s not confirmed whether or not raw meat is beneficial for dogs with certain health issues, but as more owners take an interest in feeding their pets a raw diet, more research is performed. It’s always important to discuss your pet’s diet with your vet if they have any health conditions.
Many raw feeders claim that their pet’s diet helps their overall digestion and allows them to absorb more nutrients. Kibble can stay in a dog’s stomach for 7-9 hours, but they can digest raw meat in as little as 1-2 hours. A result of this is less frequent (and less stinky!) stools.
A raw diet may also help balance a dog’s overall digestive system, helping with weight management.
Related: Benefits of Raw Feeding
Feeding Raw Meat: Potential Risks
While there are many potential benefits of feeding your dog raw meat, many vets will advise against it. Here’s why:
Raw meat has a much higher risk of contamination than when it’s cooked. We cook our meat because the heat destroys the harmful germs and bacteria that it contains, like Salmonella. Although dogs are much less susceptible to Salmonella than we are, it’s possible for your dog to get quite sick from eating meat contaminated with it, causing them to suffer from diarrhea and discomfort or even severe symptoms in some cases.
There’s another important thing about this to consider: even if your pet doesn’t get sick from the raw meat’s bacteria, they can spread the germs all over your house, putting your family at risk of getting sick. For this reason, it’s not usually advised for families with small children or immunocompromised members to feed their dog’s raw meat, as it can put them at a much higher risk of exposure to dangerous bacteria.
Other than Salmonella, raw meats can also contain pathogens like:
- E. coli
Dogs Have Different Nutritional Needs Than Previously
Even though dogs and wolves came from the same ancestors, it’s important to understand that the domesticated species we raise are much different than their wild counterparts. Today, dogs are perfectly capable of digesting starchy foods, thanks to their increased amylase secretion.
Many dogs today also have food allergies and intolerances. It’s not uncommon for a pet to have a sensitivity to some of the common meat found in kibble, like beef and chicken.
Raw Dog Food Isn’t Well-Regulated
According to the AVMA, raw pet foods are typically produced without regulatory oversight by any state or federal agencies. Many studies have found there to be excessive levels of vitamins like A and D along with low levels of phosphorus and calcium. If you’re not careful when feeding your pet a raw diet, they can easily end up with too much of some nutrients and too little of others, which can negatively impact their health over their lifetime.
Reducing the Risks of Feeding Your Dogs Raw Meat
Yes, dogs can eat raw meat, but we recommend that you ensure that your vet is on board with the diet change as well. There are also quite a few things to keep in mind to keep your pet healthy and happy while reducing their risk of illness from a raw diet.
Meat Quality & Hygiene
The quality of the meat is one of the most important factors when it comes to giving your pup a balanced diet and reducing the risks of feeding them raw food. First, you should always ensure that the meat you buy for them looks and smells fresh. Avoid giving them any meat that has been sitting out. Next, the cleaning and handling procedures are crucial.
- Freeze the meat if you’re not going to feed it to your dog immediately
- Keep raw meats separated from other food
- Clean your prep surfaces and food bowls with hot water and soap
- Wash your hands before & after handling raw meat
Your dog can have raw bones—as long as it’s large enough for them. You should avoid feeding them cooked bones, as they can splinter and get stuck in your pup’s throat or wreak havoc on their intestines. Uncooked bones are much softer, and most dogs don’t have an issue with them. Any bone that isn’t larger than your dog’s mouth is dangerous, though; they can easily choke on it. Ensure that you watch your pets closely when giving them any bones or large treats.
Seniors & Puppies
Senior dogs might have a weaker immune system or a more sensitive digestive system than younger dogs, so their dietary needs may be different. The same is true for puppies—they develop quickly and have complex dietary needs. Whenever changing up your dog’s diet, especially if they’re older or a puppy, you should speak with your vet first.
The key to feeding your dog any diet is to provide them with the right amount of nutrients they need, which can be challenging for homemade and raw diets. Many experts recommend high-quality, commercially prepared formulas to ensure that they get the balanced nutrition they need to be healthy and happy.
Meats to Avoid Feeding Your Dogs: Denatured, 3D, and 4D
Denatured meat, also called 3D or 4D meat, has become an extremely controversial topic in the raw feeding community. We wanted to talk about these meats and our stance on feeding them to your dog.
What Is Denatured Meat?
Denatured refers to the process that manufacturers use to prepare meat for dog food. During this process, the meat gets colored to indicate it’s not for human consumption. Typically, these meats come from animals that are dying, dead, or diseased. So, it’s not safe for us to eat, but what about for your dog? Once the meat is deemed to be unfit for people to eat, it ends up getting used in pet food (either raw or kibble). When it’s colored, manufacturers use various chemicals to process the meat, including:
- Activated charcoal
- Charcoal liquid
- Crude carbolic acid
- Cresylic disinfectant
- Kerosene fuel
Is It Safe For Your Pets?
While it’s completely legal for pet food manufacturers to use denatured meat in their products, any responsible raw feeder will advise against feeding it to your pets, including us at Rogue Pet Science. 3D and 4D meats are significantly cheaper than other meat, but they come with serious health risks for your dog. Meat that comes from dead, dying, or diseased animals, while it has been treated, may still carry small amounts of harmful bacteria that we don’t want our pets to eat.
The chemicals used in the denaturing process can be harmful to their health. Especially if you feed them denatured meat regularly, there is a chance for your pets to develop long-term health issues that may go unnoticed at first. Because it’s impossible to know how much of the chemical residue the 3D and 4D meats absorb, we strongly recommend against feeding your dog denatured meats as part of their raw meat diet.
Related: Is Your Dog’s Chew Safe?
The Charcoal Risk
Charcoal gets used frequently in human medicine, especially to help with gastric issues, and activated charcoal is used to help absorb unwanted toxins in the body. However, because of this absorption, the charcoal can negate many of the nutrients in denatured meat, meaning that your pet won’t get the proper nutrition they need. Denatured meat with high levels of charcoal can quickly lead to nutrient deficiency in your pet. It’s one of the most used chemicals when denaturing meat, and it’s one of the reasons why we advise against feeding it to your dogs or other pets.
So, Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat?
You can buy raw dog food commercially or create a homemade raw diet for them. If you and your vet decide a raw meat diet might be the right choice for your pet, it’s important to keep a few points in mind:
Ensure Quality Ingredients
When preparing your dog’s raw diet at home, you can follow recipes and choose quality, fresh ingredients from your source of choice, giving you more control over the meats you use. Frozen raw preparations vary greatly in quality and ingredients; you’ll likely have to talk to the manufacturer to get all of the information you’ll want.
Balance the Nutrients
One of the biggest risks with raw feeding is that many people end up feeding their dog a diet that’s not well-balanced for their nutrition requirements. For example, in the wild, wolves will eat an entire animal, making for a nutritionally complete meal. However, when we feed raw meat to our pets, we leave out some of the parts that provide much-needed fiber, fat, minerals, and vitamins. That’s why it’s important to work with a vet or veterinary nutritionist to come up with a raw diet that is safe and beneficial for your dog.
Considering Making the Switch?
Making the decision to feed your dog a raw diet or not should only happen after carefully considering the potential benefits and risks and discussing it with your vet or a veterinary nutritionist. They can help you understand the risks to make a more informed decision about your dog specifically.
Many raw feeders work with a veterinary nutritionist to ensure that their pet’s diet provides them with balanced nutrition. They’ll consider things like your dog’s specific fat, mineral, vitamin, and protein requirements. Because dogs need different minerals and vitamins than we do, you’ll likely need to add some supplements to their diet if you’re feeding them mostly raw meat.
Looking for the best supplements to help your dog get their nutritional needs and be happy and healthy? Check out our nutritious, delicious dog food toppers!