Some people mistakenly believe the myth that a raw food diet is the most natural, and therefore, the best diet for their dog. Proponents of raw food diets suggest that feeding dogs in a way that mimics the raw diet of wild animals, such as wolves, is the right thing to do.
The fact is raw diets may pose dangers for both your dog and your family.
Canine athletes require proper nutrition in order to have the energy they need to support their work, but raw diets may not be nutritionally balanced or complete. Diets made of mostly meat or poultry and bones may lack important nutrients. Calcium deficiency is also a common problem with raw diets and leads to impaired growth, spontaneous fractures and loose teeth. Vitamin A toxicity can also occur if dogs are fed large amounts of raw liver.
Raw diets can expose both pets and people to harmful bacteria. Raw meat and poultry may be contaminated with harmful microorganisms, such as Salmonella. Parasites and protozoa can also be present in raw meats.
In a study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal assessing the risk of Salmonella infection in dogs fed raw chicken diets, Salmonella was found in 80 percent of the food samples and 30 percent of the fecal samples of dogs consuming this diet.
Members of your family may also be exposed to the same bacteria, protozoa and parasites when you feed a diet containing raw meat to a cat or dog. These microorganisms pose the greatest risk to the young, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
Bones, often part of a raw diet, can be hazardous to dogs’ health. Raw and cooked bones can fracture teeth. A bone’s jagged or sharp points can tear the esophagus, stomach or intestines. Bone fragments may also become lodged in the digestive system.
Don’t be misled by myths associated with raw diets. Feeding a complete and balanced dog food with appropriate levels of fat and protein can improve your dog’s athleticism and help him keep up with the rigors of training, conditioning and competition.