Feeding Raw Meat

I recommend a diet incorporating some raw meat for many of my patients, on a case-by-case basis. This is because the health benefits I have seen from gradually restoring most dogs and cats to an unprocessed or minimally processed raw meat-based diet can be significant. When preparing raw meat food for your pet, it is important to take sensible precautions and practice good hygiene so that you and your family are not at risk for food-borne illness. Unlike your pet, you are not designed to eat raw meat. Also, pets in compromised health may be at higher risk for food-borne illness; some people are at higher risk too (see below).

1. Whole cuts of meat tend to be less contaminated than ground meats. This is because contamination with bacteria and foreign matter lies mostly on the surface. If you are very concerned about contam­ination, you can braise a whole cut of meat, essentially sterilizing the outside, then chop it up for your pet. Organic meat is generally excellent if aff­ordable. Never feed raw pork or raw fish to your pet.

2. It is possible that healthy companion animals may shed food-borne bacteria or parasites in their feces, whether fed a raw, cooked, processed or unprocessed diet. So if you have an un-housebroken puppy, or need to pick up feces in the yard, make sure to wash your hands and disinfect the area if possible. In the kitchen, use the same kitchen precautions that are recommended for preparing meat for human consumption. I use a spray bottle with dilute bleach (1:16 with water) for a final countertop cleanup.

3. Children, the aged, and the immunosuppressed (i.e. if anybody in the house is on any form of cortisone) may be more vulnerable to any bacterial or parasitic contaminant. Children especially need to be monitored and shown good hygiene. I would not recommend feeding a raw meal to your pet if the children will be licked within a few hours, and don’t leave the empty bowl out where kids will play with it. Wash your own hands after feeding your pet.

4. There are many resources for recipes as well as balanced, commercially available frozen and freeze-dried raw foods available. As with any diet change, incorporate new foods gradually, in small amounts, and after discussing with your veterinarian.

For additional reading on this topic:

Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Pitcairn and Pitcairn. Extensive discussions of diets, recipes.

All You Ever Wanted to Know about Herbs for Pets, Wulff-Tilford and Tilford. In paperback by 12/01. Good chapter on diet with specific tips.

Food Pets Die For; Shocking Facts about Pet Food, by Ann N. Martin