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​Raw Food - Is it safe for my pet?

You don’t see wild dogs and cats eating tins of food, so why don’t we give our own pets raw meat all the time? Wouldn’t they rather be chewing on a steak bone than munching bowlfuls of dried breakfast

Feeding cats and dogs raw meat instead of shop bought food is something that many owners think is the best thing to do to keep their pets healthy. But vets, breeders and owners find it difficult to agree on this.  On the one hand some people see it as more healthy and natural, on the other many vets think the risks are too great.  
It’s hard to know what to think, so here are the arguments for and against giving your pet a raw food diet:

  • Eating a lot of bones is good for your pet’s teeth.  Chewing on these will help get rid of plaque and reduce the risk of more serious dental problems.  
  • Raw food will make a pet’s coat shinier and their skin healthier. The high fat content of a raw diet will help boost their body’s natural skin defences and encourage hair growth. A lot of pet food is missing essential fatty acids and if they don’t have enough in their diet dogs and cats will get flaky skin and dull fur.
  • Raw food is healthier.  Many of our pet’s problems can be caused by feeding them the wrong food.  Pet foods, especially cheaper ones, are often stuffed with unhealthy carbohydrates which can be bad for your cat or dog.  Skin disease, teeth and stomach problems as well as obesity and diabetes are all made worse by not being given the right things to eat.  Raw based diets have very little carbohydrates so are much healthier.
  • Feeding a raw diet can be dangerous. Chunks of bone can get stuck in your pet’s intestines, especially if you have a large dog who takes big bites and swallows without chewing. Stuck bones can be life threatening and are one of the most common things that pets need operations to remove.  Animals who have loose or sore teeth will not be able to chew bones properly.
  • Eating raw chicken can make your pet ill.  This may contain bacteria including E-coli or salmonella.  As well as giving your pet diarrhoea, the bug can spread to humans and may be very dangerous to elderly people or children.
  • A diet of raw meat is not enough.  Pets need to have the correct balance of vitamins and minerals.  Raw meat alone will not provide this and if animals don’t get enough extra nutrients then they can become ill. 
  • If you are worried about your pet’s skin or coat condition a raw diet isn’t the only answer.  There are food supplements such as Yumega that can be added to your pet’s food to boost the fatty acids they are getting and help improve their health.

Is a Raw Diet OK for all Pets?

You shouldn’t feed a raw diet to puppies or kittens as it won’t contain the right amounts of calcium or phosphorous that they need to grow.  

Owners often presume that bones will have enough of these essential minerals, but they don’t.  Baby animals who are only fed raw meat will quickly develop growth problems. 

Feeding pets liver can also cause problems.  Although it’s a very good source of vitamins, too much liver can lead to vitamin A poisoning as the body can’t process it fast enough.  You should make sure you only give your pet liver once or twice a week.

If your pet has problems with their kidneys then you shouldn’t feed them a raw diet as the high protein content will make their disease worse and they could become seriously ill.

How do I give my Pet a Raw Diet?

Only giving raw meat and not adding essential vitamins and 
minerals to your pet’s food can be as bad as giving them carbohydrate loaded pet food.  People who feed raw diets properly generally feed a mixture of yogurt, meat, offal, bones, vegetables and eggs.  

Bear in mind that it will take much longer to prepare a raw diet for your pet, it’s not as simple as opening a tin, so make sure you have the time to do this.

You can now buy frozen pre-packaged raw diets which have a good mix of meat and vegetables, but your pet won’t get the benefits of chewing bones. Some owners prefer these as they help persuade fussy pets to eat vegetables as well as the meat.  Even these mixes need to be supplemented with vitamins and minerals though, if not your pet could become deficient in essential nutrients and get ill. 


So Should I feed my Pet Raw Food?

The most important thing when deciding whether or not to feed your pet a raw diet is to do your research properly.

Generally there is no reason why you shouldn’t feed your pet a raw diet as long as they are an adult and have no other health problems that will be made worse by changing their diet.  Just make sure you add a vitamin and mineral supplement to their food every day.

Good quality dog food that has meat as its first ingredient is probably more nutritious and will contain the right amount of nutrients too.  You could compromise and use a mixture of a really good dog food and occasionally give meat, vegetables and eggs.  

Whatever you decide to do if your pet starts to become tired or gets ill after you have changed their food you should ask your vet for advice.  It could be that they aren’t suited to the new food or are lacking some important vitamins or minerals.

Just like us, your pets are what they eat, so take time to make sure you are giving them food that is right for them.