Wondering Whether or Not Your Dog Can Eat Raw Meat? Here's What to Know

As pet owners, we want to ensure our dogs are getting a balanced, healthy diet. While there are thousands of affordable canned food options for pups at the supermarket, more dog parents are exploring trendy diets offered by pet food companies that consist of mostly raw meat.

Although dogs are omnivores, putting them on a diet of mainly raw meat is somewhat controversial in the pet community. While there are some perceived benefits to giving your dog a raw diet, most vets will advise against it. Invented by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst in 1993, the BARF diet — or Bones and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet — requires dogs to eat a mix of uncooked meat, usually on the bone, organ meat — like liver — and fruits, vegetables, and sometimes eggs.

While Billinghurst believes that reverting dogs back to what they ate before they were domesticated is good for their health, most veterinarians and the Centers For Disease Control question how beneficial raw diets are for pets — especially as even touching raw meat can spread bacteria. Keep reading for answers to some of the common questions pet owners have when considering a raw diet for their pooch.

What Are the Benefits of Feeding Dogs a Raw Meat Diet?

According to a 2018 raw diets study from the University of Illinois College of Agricultura, diets composed of fresh meat were easier to digest than those that included kibble. Additionally, dog owners who feed their pups a raw diet have reported improved muscle and stability, smaller stools, healthier teeth, cleaner skin, and better eye health.

What Are the Negatives of Feeding Dogs a Raw Meat Diet?

The drawbacks of putting your pooch on a BARF eating plan seem to outweigh the physical benefits.

Some risks include:

  • Threats to human and dog health from the bacterias in raw meat
  • An unbalanced diet that may damage the health of the dog if they're on it for an extended period of time
  • Potential for whole bones in the meat to choke the dog, break their teeth, or cause an internal puncture if swallowed

While there are a handful of experts who downplay the harm raw meat can have on a human, the FDA warns that handling raw meat can endanger both humans and pets. In a two-year study that sampled 196 types of raw pet foods, 15 were positive for salmonella and 32 were positive for listeria. From these results, the study's author, Dr. Renate Reimschuessel, explained that raw meat diets "identified a potential health risk for the pets eating the raw food, and for the owners handling the product."

Additionally, a negative for some when considering a raw diet for their pet is that it can be far more costly compared to sticking with regular dog food.

Should You Put Your Dog on a Raw Meat Diet Plan?

If you're considering feeding your dog raw meat, make sure you consult your veterinarian before completely altering your pet's diet. If you go through with it, it's recommended to stick with meats like turkey, lamb, chicken, and steak; and because canines have more sensitive stomachs than humans, ensure that all bones are removed and that there's no seasoning on the meat before they ingest it.