For various reasons some people wish to feed their pets raw animal products and bones. These are either commercially available products (frozen or fresh) or home-made and include raw meat and offal, and treats such as bones, rawhide, hooves, ears etc. There are many scientifically proven reasons why one should not feed raw animal food, and despite many studies, there is little or no documented benefits. The many risks associated to this practise is not only for the animals themselves, but also to the people around them and the environment.
Raw meat-based diets are often nutritionally unbalanced. The lack, excess or imbalance of nutrients puts your animal at risk for various diseases such as vitamin deficiencies or heart problems. Any home-cooked diet, even if all meat is properly cooked is often nutritionally inadequate, but at least using cooked meat is safer in many ways. The biggest risk of using raw meat ingredients is the contamination of the food with harmful germs, such as bacteria, and parasites. Many of these bacteria and other pathogens can make your pet seriously ill and can additionally cause dangerous diseases in humans. Bacteria such as Salmonella, Clostridium and Listeria can cause serious symptoms and even death and the parasite Echinococcus causes tumour-like cysts in the liver, lungs and other organs which, if untreated, can be fatal.
Dogs and cats that eat contaminated food can become carriers and spread the pathogens in their waste products into the environment. Anyone handling the contaminated food can become infected directly from the food or from food preparation surfaces. Especially elderly, very young or immunocompromised people are at risk of becoming seriously ill.
Many people enjoy giving their dogs bones to chew on, usually with the misconception that chewing on bones will be good for their teeth. The opposite is true – chewing on bones can break teeth and cause painful sores and abrasions in the mouth. The bones can also become lodged either in the mouth or somewhere in the intestines and may need surgical removal. If the bones fracture into sharp pieces, as often happens with chicken or pork bones, these sharp pieces can then, when swallowed, pierce the intestines.
In order to reduce health risks to yourselves and your pets, all animal products should be cooked, especially if you have at-risk people living in the house. Keep all pet food and potentially contaminated meat in a separate place from other food items. If you still insist on using raw animal ingredients, wash your hands and all utensils and feeding bowls with soap and water after food preparation or feeding, and promptly clean out and dispose of any left-over food as contaminated food that is left to sit will become increasingly dangerous. Feeding bowls that have contained raw animal products should be soaked in 10% bleach solution frequently (followed by a thorough rinsing with water) as soap alone will not kill foodborne pathogens.
For additional information, please consult Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Article by: Dr. Laura Wessman