Many people support feeding raw to their pet. They feel that it's a more "natural" diet for dogs and cats and results in better health. However, these diets can have the opposite effect and make both pets and pet parents ill.
Whether you prepare your own raw food for your pets or purchase a commercial raw diet, there is a risk of bacterial contamination. Raw meats can harbor Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli bacteria. These can affect pets that eat the food with symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. People are also at risk of these infections if they don't handle the food carefully and clean up thoroughly afterwards. Those particularly at risk are frail or elderly people or the very young. Those people with a suppressed immune system, such as those with immune-mediated disease or undergoing chemotherapy treatment, are also very much at risk of illness from contaminated raw meat.
There are other reasons why raw diets aren't a great choice for your much-loved pet.
If you include bones in your pet's menu, then they can result in painful broken teeth. Bone pieces can block the intestine or cause constipation. On a more positive note, one study showed that raw bones did indeed clean tartar from dogs' teeth. Raw diets may not be nutritionally ideal for your pet. Homemade diets are difficult to balance when it comes to all the nutrients dogs and cats need to stay healthy. Even if you choose a commercial raw diet, there is the chance that there may be nutrient imbalances.
Some pets shouldn't be fed raw food, whether it is because of the risk of bacterial contamination or because of the risk of eating an unbalanced diet. Pregnant animals and young pups and kittens fall into this category. Salmonellosis can result in loss of a litter, either while in utero or after birth. Youngsters need the right nutrients in the right proportions for optimal growth and development. For example, calcium and phosphorus are essential for proper bone growth, but too much can be as harmful as too little.
If you'd still like to feed your pet from a raw or predominantly raw menu, then here's what you must do to keep both you and them healthy:
- Engage the services of a veterinary nutritionist to help to formulate your pet's meals. That way, there's no risk of nutrient deficiencies or excesses.
- Keep your pet's food and eating utensils well away from those of your human family members.
- Wash your hands and benches thoroughly after preparing your pet's meals.
It's also worth keeping an eye out for announcements of pet food recalls. By following these guidelines, you can feed your pet raw food and minimize the health risks associated with poor nutrition and bacterial contamination.