Raw Food for Dogs and Cats- Is It Safe?

Recently I have seen an increase in the number of dogs and a few cats on raw food diet.  A number of these animals have become ill from eating this diet.

Any food that is not cooked fully is considered raw food, even if it is frozen.  The problem with feeding raw food is the bacteria in the food that can cause illness in pets and people.  Any diet containing raw chicken or beef carries the risk of Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli, Staphylococcus and Shigella poisoning.  Signs in your pet can include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool and lethargy.

In some cases, severe liver infections and abscesses can occur with possibly fatal results.  Treatment for milder signs includes fluids to correct dehydration, antibiotics, anti-diarrheal and anti-vomiting medication and gastrointestinal diets.  Pets can shed the bacteria in their stools, which can be transmitted to people and cause illness in people as well.  This can be extremely serious if an immunocompromised person is living with that pet.

Secondly, raw food diets are not fully balanced.  Raw food is deficient or imbalanced in essential vitamins and minerals that can cause serious illness in pets.  In particular, the calcium and phosphorus balance is very important in puppies.  If this ratio of calcium to phosphorus is not correct, it can cause problems with the growth and development of the bones and associated joints. Some raw food diets contain excessive protein, which can cause digestive problems.

In summary, raw food diets are not safe or balanced for your pet.  Ask your veterinarian for their diet recommendation for your pet.

By Dr. Lori Skrypnek