Nutrition

Should I Feed My Dog Raw Meat?

can dogs eat raw meat

It’s no surprise that our vocal, pack-loving, and very furry friends descended from wolves. Yes, even tiny Pomeranians!

Wolves hunt in packs and are strict carnivores whereas dogs, just like us, are accustomed to an omnivorous diet.

Humans also descended from people who only used to eat raw meat before they discovered fire, but most raw meat today will make you sick.

Even though people still enjoy sushi, tartare, and rare steaks, everyone knows that you have to be extremely careful when selecting where your raw meats come from.

A new trend that’s been making the rounds on the internet is feeding dogs raw meat so that they can live like their wolf relatives as nature intended them to be.

Is this really the smartest and safest option, though? This article will be your one-stop guide to answer all of your questions about whether or not you should feed your pup raw meat.

Should I Feed My Dog Raw Meat? 

As you can imagine, this question is extremely polarizing because there are numerous benefits and risks in feeding your dog raw meat. As we continue to delve deeper into this topic, we’ll learn more about each pro and con.

When Did People Start Feeding Their Dogs Raw Meat? 

WebMD accredits Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst with popularizing this movement in 1993 after making the connection that dogs should be eating what their descendants have eaten for thousands of years.

Billinghurst coined the humorous acronym BARF diet, which means Bones and Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.

He believes that the high amount of processed grains present in most commercial dog foods today is unhealthy and unnatural.

So What Foods Are Typically Eaten In Billinghurst’s Raw Diet? 

Billinghurst states that a diet closely aligned with what dogs’ ancestors ate is optimal for their health.

This diet is composed of meat, organs, bones, raw eggs, fruits, vegetables, and some dairy. As you can see, no grains are present, unlike commercial dog foods.

Although Billinghurst and his followers claim there are many benefits of following this diet, you don’t have to be as extreme.

You can still reap the benefits of giving your dog raw meat in conjunction with dried dog food and other healthy foods.

Can My Dog Get Sick From Raw Meat? 

The short answer is absolute. However, just like people are wise enough to avoid sushi at gas stations, this same principle should be applied to purchasing meat for your dog.

You should never eat meat from anywhere that isn’t clean or reputable. Always consider this: if you don’t want to eat it, you shouldn’t give it to your dog.

The FDA warns against raw meats for both human and dog consumption. Your dog is not immune to the food poisoning that can afflict humans as well. The FDA states that there are two main bacteria to watch out for Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella.

You may think that refrigerating your meat is enough to prevent bacterial growth, but the Listeria bacteria actually thrive in cool environments, which is why the FDA suggests that everyone cook their meat before eating it or feeding it to your dog.

People who say their dogs thrive on the raw meat diet take the precaution to freeze their meat after purchasing it from a reputable butcher or grocery store. Taking this extra step can kill any germs that could potentially be present in the meat.

What Are The Symptoms Of Food Poisoning I Should Look Out For? 

If your dog gets sick, they’ll have the same symptoms as humans, which are vomiting, diarrhea (which may have blood in it), lethargy, loss of appetite, and fever. In very rare cases, a neurological disease could develop.

Any time you feed your dog raw meat, you should keep an eye on them to see if any symptoms develop. If you suspect your dog may be sick, then it’s always best to bring them to their vet.

What Are The Benefits Of Feeding My Dog Raw Meat? 

Although you might be scared off from all of the risks, there are some great benefits your dog could experience eating raw meat.

It’s best to know all of the bad before you read the good and make up your mind. It is crucial to be aware of the risks so you take the time to carefully select where you purchase meat and how you prepare it.

Primal Pooch states that there are tons of benefits to be reaped from the raw meat diet.

Here is an outline of all of the benefits: 

  • Clean, white teeth free of gum disease
  • Odorless breath and coat
  • Luxurious, shiny coat
  • Improved immune system
  • Irritation-free skin
  • Increased energy
  • Fewer vet visits
  • Better bowel movements
  • Cured chronic allergies or infections
  • Nourish sensitive stomachs
  • Stimulation from the effort it takes to break down their food

Further arguments for the raw meat diet explain that wolves don’t need to go to the vet to stay healthy and fit. Modern dogs are plagued with tartar and other dental diseases whereas wolves have healthy, pearly whites just from eating meat.

Firm believers of the raw meat diet claim that their dogs were revitalized after making the transition away from dog food.

If you’re interested in reading about specific cases, then you can look into the tons of blogs where owners document the day-to-day experiences of their dogs who eat raw meat.

Which Meats And Cuts Are Best For My Dog? 

If you’re still interested in feeding your dog raw meat, you must be wondering which meats, and which cuts from those meats, are suitable for your pet.

As it turns out, there are tons of options for your dog. Experts say that the key to success is maintaining a balanced diet with lots of variety.

Since dogs need calcium and other minerals, Dogs Naturally Magazine states that roughly 10% of your dog’s diet should come from meaty bones such as chicken or turkey wings, thighs, legs, or necks. Beef tail bones and lamb or goat necks and ribs are also suitable options for larger dogs.

10-30% of their diet should also be composed of organs to function as their multivitamin. Variety is really important here. If you can only find livers, then you should feed that to your dog 10% of the time.

If your butcher or grocery store offers other organs like kidneys, pancreas, or spleen, then you can feed them organs closer to the 30% mark.

Muscle meat should serve as the bulk of your dog’s diet, and this can be sourced from several different animals and cuts.

Feel free to give your dog any of the following: 

  • Ground beef, cheek meat, and stewing beef
  • Ground bison and stewing bison meat
  • Ground turkey, thighs, breast, and tenderloin
  • Ground lamb, stewing lamb, shoulder, and breast
  • Ground pork, shoulder, butt, cushion meat, rib meat, and loin
  • Chicken breast and thighs

An important note about fat: fat is essential for your dog’s health, but you should limit their fat intake to around 10% of their total calories.

Like humans, dogs’ arteries can clog from fatty meats. Be sure not to avoid fat altogether, but stick mostly to leaner cuts for optimal health.

The Case Against Commercial Dog Food 

In a startling study reported by Rover, as many as 70% of dog owners don’t actually know what they’re feeding their dogs. With this in mind, many corporations can get away with less strict food laws for your pets.

Most brands will advertise that their dog food contains real meat, but their sources can be quite startling.

There are no regulations against throwing in road kill and even spoiled meats that are unfit for human consumption.

It’s no wonder why the raw meat diet is gaining popularity.

Many commercial dog foods also use a lot of grains to act as a cheap filler. This provides no nutritional benefits for your dog and can even irritate their stomachs.

In addition, just like lots of highly processed, unhealthy snacks in the grocery store, dog food can also contain ingredients on the label that are impossible to pronounce.

As a general rule of thumb for both human and dog food, if you can’t pronounce it or have no idea what it is, don’t eat it.

Here Are Some Important Things To Consider Before Feeding Your Dog Raw Meat 

If you do choose to switch your dog over to a raw diet, you really need to take some time to consider all the extra precautions and money you’d have to invest to make this a healthy lifestyle for both you and your dog.

Think deeply about the following: 

– Meat is much more expensive than dried or even wet dog foods. The bigger your dog is, the more meat they will have to consume to ensure they are getting sufficient calories.

– You must be extremely careful with handling the raw meat. This means you have to thoroughly wash their bowl with hot water and soap after each meal to prevent any bacterial growths.

– No more kisses from your pooch! Humans aren’t as equipped to tolerate raw meat like dogs, so you have to be cautious about exposure. Raw meat mixed with the millions of other bacteria already present in your dog’s mouth could mean very bad news for your health.

– Be cautious when feeding your dog bones. Since bones have the potential to perforate your dog’s internal organs, try to inspect their stool when you take them for walks to ensure you don’t see anything out of the ordinary.

– Even your most-trusted grocery stores have meat recalls. The FDA has many regulations in place to prevent the disease from spreading, but nothing can be perfect. Always be sure to stay up to date with any information on product recalls.

How To Ensure Your Dog Is Healthy 

There are long lists of risks and benefits to feeding your dog raw meat, homemade food, and commercial dog food, which means that how you take care of your dog relies largely on your preferences.

If you’re uncomfortable with the risk of food poisoning, that doesn’t mean you can’t feed your dog cooked meats. When choosing your dog’s food, you need to know what ingredients are present.

By preparing cooked meats for them, you can still reap the benefits of eliminating unhealthy grains and chemicals from their diet.

If you can’t say goodbye to the many conveniences of canned or dried dog food, there are good companies out there who are fully transparent in which ingredients they’re using.

All you have to do is take the time to read labels and research which brand suits your dog’s needs best.

No matter what you choose, you deserve to pat yourself on the back for being responsible and caring that your dog is getting the best nutrition available to them.

Changing their diet can be quite the experiment, but the effort is definitely worthwhile.

Watch This Dog Choose Between Raw And Cooked Meat 

If you’re curious to see how a dog actually behaves in real life when presented raw and cooked meat, check out this fun YouTube video of Haru the Shiba Inu.

You can see for yourself whether she scarfs down the raw meat or refuses it. You’ll definitely learn some useful information while simultaneously enjoying how adorable she is!

Hopefully, you are now educated enough to decide on whether or not you want to give your dog raw meat. As you can see from Haru, she clearly didn’t complain about either option!

Each dog is truly unique with their own set of taste buds, so as long as you’re sourcing your meats from reputable markets and your pup enjoys it, then feel free to let them indulge.

Thanks for taking the time to be a responsible and loving dog owner and thoroughly research if raw meat is safe for your pet. Here’s to many years of full bellies and happy hearts with your furry friend!