Is a Raw Meat Diet Safe For Pets?
Wed, April 21, 2021

Is a Raw Meat Diet Safe For Pets?

Raw-food diet for pets could be a risky proposition because there are commercially produced raw foods that contain harmful bacteria. / Photo by: foodandmore via 123rf


Pet owners must think twice and really consider if they want to feed their pet cat or dog with raw meat. According to Science Magazine, a website that offers scientific-based articles, more and more pet owners are starting to favor this kind of diet because they are convinced that it is better for their pets to have a natural food rather than give them processed foods with all the additives that they think could pose some risks to the health of their furry friends later on.

Some people have come to know this kind of diet by the acronym BARF, which means “biologically appropriate raw food” or “bones and raw food.”

It might sound very appealing due to the fact that most people believe that natural foods are free from toxins that may come with artificial additives that are normally found in processed foods.

However, there are also several claims from health experts that say raw food might not be as safe as it is touted to be. These experts believe that a raw-meat diet for pets could also be a risky proposition because there are commercially produced raw foods that have been found to contain harmful bacteria that can affect not only the pets but also their owners.

The Raw Deal on the Raw Meat Diet

Medical News Today, a website that publishes articles about health and sciences, shared in a report that the raw meat diet was promoted by a veterinary surgeon named Ian Billinghurst. He believed that dogs and other animals were meant to be fed exclusively with a raw selection of food.

Billinghurst explained that older dogs will be healthier if they have an evolutionary diet that is based on what canines originally ate before they became domesticated. Web MD, a website that provides scientific content, explained that this so-called evolutionary diet includes raw, meaty bones and vegetable scraps. It was also stated that the commercial pet foods that most owners prefer nowadays could be harmful to a dog’s health. 

This controversial raw food diet sparked debate within the veterinary care community. A lot of modern veterinarians disagreed with this kind of diet, as did the Food and Drug Administration. They argued that the risk that is associated with the raw diet has been documented in many studies and published in several veterinary journals. 


The raw-food diet includes raw, meaty bones and vegetable scraps. / Photo by: Monika Wisniewska via 123rf


Potential Health Risks

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) expressed their disagreement on the idea of a raw diet for domesticated animals. In an article published by Canine Journal, a go-to resource on all things dog, they said that the AVMA discourages feeding raw or undercooked animal proteins because these foods contain deadly pathogens that can make the pet sick. 

Additionally, a study published in the BMJ Journal Vet Records looked into commercially available raw meat-based food. The authors of the study who were from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the National Veterinary Institute mentioned that these raw meat products did not undergo any heat treatment prior to freezing and storage. The researchers feared that this kind of handling might be a cause for different types of harmful bacteria to proliferate in the meat. 

The commercial raw meat products usually contain uncooked meat, edible bones, and organs from cattle, chicken, lamb, and salmon. The authors also analyzed some samples and found that they also contained Enterobacteriaceae, which indicated fecal contamination. Additionally, 52 percent of the food products they analyzed contained an average of 5,000 bacteria per gram.


AVMA discourages feeding raw or undercooked animal proteins because these foods contain deadly pathogens that can make the pet sick. / Photo by: microgen via 123rf


Health Risks for Humans

The investigators also found out that the food samples contained a significant amount of Salmonella bacteria. Thus, they called on food manufacturers to ensure that the storage and handling process of their raw meat-based products are safe before they place it on the market. This can be very helpful in preventing Salmonella from infecting the pet and the pet owners alike. 

Magdalena Nuesch-Inderbinen, a microbiologist at the University of Zurich’s Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene in Switzerland, also conducted a separate study where she and her colleagues found out that there is 4 percent Salmonella content on the food samples they analyzed. They revealed that this is a highly transmissible pathogen, which is also one of the most common sources of food poisoning in both humans and pets. 

She advised pet owners to be extra careful and thorough in washing their hands after they handle their pet food and to be aware of the increased risk of bacterial disease in their pets. Scott Weese, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College in Canada, stated, “With resistant bacteria that can live in the GI tract for months or more, a pet or person could…potentially get a disease much later.”

This is why pet owners should consult a health expert first before transitioning your pet from their typical food to a raw meat diet just to be on the safe side, not only for the animal but for the whole household.