Feeding Dogs Raw Meat

Piece of raw steak on brown paper
Piece of raw steak on brown paper (Image: Smitt/iStock/Getty Images)

All domestic dogs are descendants of the wolf family Canidae, so for some dog owners a raw meat diet seems natural. Dog food diets relying solely on raw meats are controversial, but well-rounded diets including raw meats are growing in popularity. Every dog is different and his dietary needs should be individualized and approved by his veterinarian.

Ancestor's Appetite

Long before manufactured dog food, canines existed on captured prey, scavenged flesh and fecal matter, and supplemented their diets with vegetables, fruits and seeds found in the wild. The only time wild dogs acquired a meal resembling cooked food is when they stumbled across rancid flesh ripe with opportunistic bacteria. The process in which bacteria breaks down fleshy material resembles a cooking procedure. Occasionally, a wild dog would encounter meat scorched by days in the sun, offering up cooked fare. Except for these rare occurrences, your dog's ancestors existed on a raw meat diet supplemented by vegetation.

A Look at Raw Meat Diets

Canine nutritionists who promote raw meat diets cite the detriments of cooked dog food. Cooked dog food, whether homemade or purchased from the store, can lose some of its nutritional value including beneficial biologically active enzymes, and essential fatty acids. Minerals, amino acids and vitamins also are transformed through the cooking process. Store bought dog foods can contain ingredients sensitive to some dogs. A raw meat diet may be introduced to control allergies. The trade-off is that home-prepared raw meat diets are time-consuming and considerably more costly than store-bought foods.

Detriments to Feeding Raw Meats

Adversaries of a raw meat diet for dogs, including Michael Richards, D.V.M., graduate of Iowa State University, rural Virginian veterinarian and co-owner of the Vet Info Digest and the website Vetinfo, cite the detriments of uncooked meat. Quality store-bought dog foods are specifically formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of your dog. Supplying your dog with a sufficiently balanced diet replete with the necessary vitamins, minerals and fats can be erratic and risky with a homemade raw meat diet. One objection to raw meat fare is the potential for bacterial infection. Dogs have inherent immunities to some bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella, but Richards claims, research on the long-term effects of ingesting these bacteria does not exist. Raw meats also carry toxoplasmosis, a cyst-producing parasite found in the muscle meat of cows and pigs. Since the mortality rate of dogs in the wild is higher than those cared for by humans, the question remains concerning a dog's potential for deadly food poisoning.

Doing a Raw Meat Diet Right

Meeting your dog's long-term nutritional requirements is paramount when feeding a raw meat diet. Russell Swift, D.V.M., of The Natural Dog website, recommends a consistent ratio of 80 percent meat, sinew, fat and ligaments. Incorporate 10 percent never cooked edible bone, 5 percent liver and 5 percent other organ meat, daily. Raw animal bones are composed of living cells and are a complex source of biological minerals such as calcium, copper, iodine, manganese, iron, magnesium and zinc. Fish, eggs and tripe added intermittently also deliver necessary nutrients to your dog. Swift recommends feeding chicken feet, heart, beef trachea, lung, kidney and knuckles when available. These meat sources can be cost effective, high in nutrition and a good source of natural glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints. Canine nutritionists advocate the healthy handling of raw meats and stress the importance of acquiring your dog's raw fare from a reputable source.

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