How Safe is Raw Meat for Your Dog?

An ongoing debate has been waging among dog owners, dog breeders, dog trainers and veterinarians for some time with regard to the safety of feeding raw meat and raw food to dogs.

Advocates of the Bones and Raw Food ( BARF) regimen argue that feeding dog’s raw meat is essential in order to deliver the nutrients in a state most closely resembling those that dogs ingested in the wild 10,000 years ago.

BARF aficionados argue that by cooking, even partially, the food that we feed our dogs, we are removing critical nutrients and therefore not delivering a healthy and balanced diet to our best friend.

The result according to BARF advocates is that a dog which is not on a properly balanced dog diet will be less resistant to disease and will likely live a shorter life.

This is the essence of BARF as I understand it. I am sure that there is more to it but our discussion here is with regards to the safety as opposed to the nutrient value of the raw food.

I would acknowledge that raw meat, raw vegetables, and raw fruits will contain higher nutrient levels than those that are cooked. Nutritionists have been telling us this for years.

But what if we eat raw meat? And what if Fido does?The FDA has issued Safety Guidance with regard to the use of raw meat for pet diets.

This FDA guidance is published in the Federal Register and gives safety and nutrition information. The reason for the FDA action was due to the upswing in raw dog food diets and the fact that dog owners may not be aware of the nutritional and safety issues.

It is the finding of the FDA that raw dog food diets are not new and in fact have been used by dog racing facilities for many years. Now the trend toward raw dog food for companion dogs presents new challenges as these dog owners may be unaware of the possible danger of using raw meat dog food.

One of the problems is that raw meat diets are classified as "foods" and as such does not need pre-marketing approval or certification.

The FDA goes on to state that data "... from commercial raw meat pet foods are sparse, the potential for risk to public health from such products is significant given the microbiological results from studies of ingredients that could compose such products....".

There is the danger of contamination from bacteria as well as the potential harm that can be caused to the dog’s teeth and gastrointestinal system if the bone is ingested with the raw meat.

Further risks exist with regard to the possibility of raw meat dog food contamination and associated disease. These risks exist as a result of transportation, distributors, and retailers. The FDA advocates minimizing these risks by the use of irradiation and proper transport and storage.

So the FDA has chimed in and the question remains. Is a raw meat diet safe food for your dog? Maybe and maybe not, it depends on a variety of factors such as the as the source and health of the slaughtered food animal, the conditions of transport, and storage both pre and post-sale.

Absent Federal legislation which has to date failed to materialize and protect dogs from the potentially unsafe and toxic additives and ingredients in commercial dog food, I would be hesitant to risk it.

It is imperative that every dog owner know exactly what his or her dog is eating, what the ingredients are and whether it is safe. Ultimately the choice is yours. If you are feeding your dog commercial dog food you must become familiar with what is in the commercial dog food you buy.

You can't wait for a law to protect you. You must become educated in this area. Your dog's life may depend on it!

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