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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Some owners feed raw foods to pets - but is it a good idea ?

The short answer to this question is - it depends upon the food and how it has been stored. For some pets, such as lizards and snakes raw dead food (eg mice) or even living food (eg crickets) is commonly fed. Dogs and cats on the other hand are usually fed commercially cooked foods unless they are being fed a homemade ration.

The most important point about a ration for a pet is that it must meet all the animals nutritional requirements for :

  • Energy
  • Protein
  • Fats
  • Carbohydrates
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins

In addition, the food must be :

  • Palatable to the animal - so it eats it !
  • Safe - eg does not contain any toxins, and is not contaminated with micro-organisms
  • Affordable to the owner

In previous Petfacts broadcasts we have discussed many aspects of nutrition for pets (try searching - CLICK on  the blue Information Search button). 

In addition,  we have covered the difficulty of compiling a suitable home-made ration CLICK HERE for more information. Also the risks associated with feeding an exclusively raw fish ration CLICK HERE.

Some of the key  issues about feeding raw foods are :

  • Cooking helps to destroy undesirable micro-organisms which may be present. So uncooked food carries a higher risk of disease transmission. Well known examples are :
    • Raw chicken - may contain salmonella
    • Raw eggs - may contain salmonella
    • Feeding raw meat to dogs increases the number of clostridia (potentially pathogenic bacteria) in the microflora of their intestine
    • Raw meat increases exposure to potentially pathogenic bacteria such as E.coli and Campylobacter , and deaths have been reported in dogs due to Salmonella contracted by feeding a BARF diet.
  • Cooking helps to breakdown the raw ingredients that make up the food which can be beneficial in increasing availability of nutrients, so raw foods (particularly cereals) may be less digestible and have a lower nutritional value than cooked foods.
  • Raw foods must be stored safely to prevent contamination between the time they are produced and the time they are eaten. If they are frozen to delay decomposition they should be defrosted fully before they are used. There are issues relating to bacterial contamination  of meats and defrosting . Basically such foods (eg frozen chicken) should be well cooked after defrosting.
  • Raw foods should be washed thoroughly before feeding to remove any surface contaminants eg bacteria (meats), crop treatments (cereals)
  • Giving large raw bones to dogs is probably ok from the health point of view  - providing they are fresh and they are not left in the environment too long. All meat products provide an ideal medium for bacteria to grow and the longer they are available the more likely they are to become contaminated and present a health risk. Also flies are often attracted to decaying meat products and these too can help to transmit infections. Raw bones should probably be removed within 12-24 hours. In a recent Petfacts broadcast Provet drew attention to the danger of feeding dried meat products (sold as dog chews) following human deaths in Canada and the issuing of a public health warning in the USA -  CLICK HERE for more information.
  • Feeding an exclusively raw ration (particularly an all meat ration) is likely to be imbalanced (eg deficient in calcium) and can lead to serious disease - this too has been covered in a previous Petfacts broadcast CLICK HERE

In conclusion, Provet would advise owners to only consider feeding raw foods if they are human quality products - because if sold for human consumption they have to have been prepared and stored under hygienic conditions . Owners should not attempt to feed a complete ration consisting exclusively of raw or homemade ingredients without expert advice from a veterinary nutritionist about the adequacy of the ration for the animal.


Updated October 2013