Raw food diets have always been controversial, especially for pet owners that choose to feed their animals raw meats and organs. The idea of feeding dogs a raw food is appealing to many pet owners. They feel as if they are doing their dogs a favor by feeding them the same foods they would eat in the wild. However, the FDA is now warning dog owners about the dangers and risks of raw food diets.
The Problem with Raw Food Diets
The most obvious issue with feeding a dog a raw food diet is the potential to spread foodborne illnesses. The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine tested 196 commercially available raw dog food samples from a variety of online manufacturers. These products were typically frozen inside packages that resembled a tube and included ground beef or sausage. What may come as a shock is that 15 of these samples tested positive for salmonella and 32 tested positive for listeria. This presents a health risk not only for dogs, but for their owners as well.
Another study showed that a raw food diet can actually result in nutritional deficiencies. Bones found within the meat may also cause dogs to choke or damage their gastrointestinal tracts. The FDA suggests that dog owners refrain from feeding their dogs a raw food diet.
Minimizing the Risk
If you are true proponent of the raw food diet, the FDA offers the following suggestions to minimize the risk of listeria and salmonella.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after handling raw pet food. Hands should also be washed after touching or handling objects that have come in contact with the raw food.
- Cleanse and disinfect all objects and surfaces that come in contact with raw pet foods. If possible, run items through the dishwasher after each use to disinfect them.
- Handle all raw meat and poultry products with caution. It is best not to run raw meats, fish and poultry under water as raw juices may splash around and spread bacteria to nearby foods and surfaces.
- Keep raw meat and poultry products frozen until you are ready to use them. Defrost these products in your refrigerator or your microwave rather than on your kitchen countertop.
- Separate raw foods from other foods.
- Cover and refrigerate any leftover food from your pet, or dispose of the food safely.
- Don’t let your dog lick your face or your mouth – especially if they have just eaten raw food.
Always wash your face after your dog “kisses” you.
An alternative to the raw food diet would be to cook your own dog food. When food is properly cooked, it will kill harmful bacteria while still providing your dog with necessary nutrients. This can create its own set of problems as most home cooked diets have been shown to be nutritionally unbalanced. If you prefer to avoid commercial kibble, ask a veterinary nutritionist to formulate a diet specifically for your canine companion.