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Raw Dog Food: Dietary Concerns, Benefits, and Risks

Are raw food diets for dogs an ideal meal plan or a dangerous fad? Experts weigh in.
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Raw Dog Food Diet: Concerns Overblown?

Supporters of raw dog food diets are quick to point out that commercially processed pet foods can contain harmful bacteria, as can raw meat offered for human consumption.

“The whole concern about bad bacteria is overblown,” Knueven says. “When people are feeding a raw diet they know it’s not sterile, and they’re more careful about washing their hands. Feeding a raw meat diet is no different than cooking chicken for the family ... you have to clean up the counter and your knife.”

The FDA guidance document also suggested that manufacturers address typical nutrition problems in a raw-meat diet, including making sure it contained enough calcium and phosphorous, important for bone health. Raw-meat diets high in liver also may supply too much vitamin A, which can lead to vitamin A toxicity if fed for an extended period.

Even veterinarians like Knueven who support raw dog food diets say that they’re not appropriate for all dogs. Because the diets are typically high in protein, they aren’t appropriate for dogs with late-stage kidney or severe liver failure.

He recommends that dogs with pancreatitis or other digestive issues start with a cooked, homemade diet and clear up problems before switching to raw. Dogs with cancer, on chemotherapy, or dogs with other immunosuppressive diseases also should not eat raw food. And puppies aren’t good candidates, either.

“The only place I’ve seen a problem with this diet is puppies,” Knueven says. “If you don’t get the calcium and phosphorous ratio right, you can have bone deformities and growth issues.”

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Reviewed on April 21, 2012
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