With all the concern for cooking meat meant for humans it’s natural to wonder “is raw meat good for dogs?!”

We have always been told to cook our meat. Today, in the U.K, there is a 15% chance of handling some chicken with Salmonella and, in Ireland, more than 3/10 fillets could be exposed to Campylobacter spp.. Thus if feeding chicken to human children it should definitely be cooked! It should come as no surprise so that a common concern with the move to raw dog food is “is raw meat good for dogs?” or simple “is raw dog food safe?”. The answer is yes, absolutely, in fact it’s vital.

Dogs are not susceptible to the effects of potential meat baddies in the same way that we are. They are carnivores that have evolved to eat raw meat and all that comes with it (ever seen a dog turn on a cooker?). Feral dogs out compete vultures to rotting carcass there the two co-exist. That’s why they have big noses.

While dogs minds have been domesticated and we have fiddled with external traits (such as body size, snout size etc.), their insides are still very much the same.

They still have extremely acidic guts (gastric juices of pH 1, the same pH as battery acid), enabling fresh bone to be reduced to goo in 20 minutes (cooked bones can take longer and they can block up the intestines) and preventing bacterias like Salmonella and Campylobacter having a negative effect. Even before the gut, these bacterias have to contend with the dog’s antibacterial saliva, which, unlike your mouth, is laced with lysozyme making it extremely hostile to micro-organisms.

dogs want raw dog food

Nobody Ever got Sick From a raw fed dog, Ironically The Same Can’t be Said for dry Food…

This is why the average healthy dog is able to dig up a manky old bone out of the garden and eat it 3 months later, with no ill effect. There are loads of things on these bones that could cause them damage, especially when compared to a nice piece of butcher grade meat!

Both dry and raw dog food can contain Salmonella…

First off dogs, regardless of dry or raw fed, house Salmonella in their intestines. Thus they can and do pass Salmonella in their faeces. This is a biological fact.

Regarding the food substrates themselves Strohmeyer et al. (2006) highlighted how both raw and commercial dry pet food diets contain E. coli and Salmonella. Strohmeyer actually sampled 20 different raw food products but only two dry and two canned foods to reach this conclusion. Thus despite their heavy use of chemical antimicrobials, dry foods are shown to contain Salmonella for the simple reason that they contain meat, albeit a tiny amount. The same goes for those pigs ears in pet shops. Still no Salmonella in dogs. So don’t worry.

Apparently Dry Food is More Dangerous Than Fresh…

In line with this the Federal Food and Drug Authority (FDA) cites numerous recalls of dry food in the past two decades due to Salmonella contamination, affecting thousands of products and millions of bags of food. Check it out!

It stands today that there has not been one single incidence of Salmonella or Campylobacter poisoning has ever been documented to occur from a raw-fed dog to a human (Finley et al. 2006), perhaps because fresh feeders are necessarily better educated on the matter. The same cannot be said for dry food (Wright et al., 2000Schottea et al., 2007Behravesh et al. (2010)

In fact with all the E.coli, Salmonella, poisonous fungi such as alfatoxin and vomitoxin and many species of mite Reinberg (2008, www.health.usnews.com/health-news, Thurs Nov. 6), noted. In fact the move by consumers back to raw food products has been helped by the fact that many pet owners have been scared off using dry food due to the numerous mass recalls and scandals associated with the safety of dry food from an infection point of view.

So both fresh and dry fed dogs are a likely environmental contaminant. Raw meat by its nature contains more Salmonella than cooked, but vitally to date not one single incidence of Salmonella or Campylobacter poisoning has ever been recorded due to contact between a raw fed dog and a human. By observing the basics of hygiene around a dogs feeding and toilet area, so far appears to deal adequately with any threat from a raw fed dog.

a picture of a poison sign over a bowl of dry food

What If I Get It Wrong?

People are terrified to feed their dog themselves and this fear cost millions to instil in them. As science is plastered all over the front of packets people are bamboozled with words like “complete nutrition”. Having been rendered helpless they reach for that bag of dry food “specially formulated for golden retrievers of 2 years of age with one front leg longer than the other”.

It seems that, should they even attempt it themselves all hell will break loose. But it’s an absolute dupe. How many people know how much protein their child had yesterday? How much calcium did you have last week?! Are dogs more technical than children? No, of ‘course they’re not, like us they need fresh food, only they need a lot more meat!!!

What not to feed a dog

There are a few key foods not to feed dogs (wheat, milk, cooked bones, chocolate, onions, grapes), but that’s about it. It’s not about a “complete meal”, as this does not even exist and the notion has no place in normal feeding, just vary the ingredients now and again to get balance over time. Trust us your worst effort is going to be infinitely better than the best bag of dry food out there. Nothing compares to fresh. Absolutely nothing. Just remember 5:1:1 and you’ll be more than fine.

References

Behravesh, B., Ferraro, A., Deasy, M., Dato, V., Moll, M., Sandt, C., Rea, N.K., Rickert, R., Marriott, C., Warren, K., Urdaneta, V., Salehi, E., Villamil, E., Ayers, T., Hoekstra, R.M., Austin, J.L., Ostroff, S., Williams, I.T. and the Salmonella schwarzengrund Outbreak Investigation Team (2010). Human Salmonella Infections Linked to Contaminated Dry Dog and Cat Food, 2006–2008. Pediatrics, 126(3): 477 -483

Butler, J.R.A., , du Toit, J. T. and Bingham, J. (2004). Free-ranging domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) as predators and prey in rural Zimbabwe: threats of competition and disease to large wild carnivores. Biological Conservation, 115(3): 369-378

Finley, R.L. (2004). Salmonella in commercially available pig ear treats and raw food diets: prevalence survey and canine feeding trial