Why feeding your dog raw is safe

Have you ever heard that raw feeding is unsafe? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. As feeding real food to dogs and cats has grown in popularity, so too has the scary messaging that you could be putting your animal or your family at risk of the dangerous pathogens lurking in raw pet food. Handling any meat has some risks and we always encourage you to practice safe food handling for your whole family, including the four-legged members. But it’s not nearly as unsafe as you may be led to believe and it’s also important to put this in context of our pet’s physiology, and of pet food more broadly.

It goes without saying that our dogs and cats have evolved from animals that always ate their food raw, so really, raw food is how nature intended for them to eat. Whether it’s digging up an old bone or catching mice, dogs and cats are resilient creatures built to handle pathogens that would likely make you or me unwell. Dogs, for example, have antibacterial qualities in their saliva and a stomach that is up to 100 times more acidic than humans, so they’re well equipped to neutralise pathogens.

Is salmonella dangerous for dogs?

Opponents of raw diets LOVE to fear monger about salmonella, and it is true that raw fed dogs can carry and shed salmonella. Bugs like salmonella live naturally in the gut of dogs and cats. Salmonella in their intestines is a very normal phenomenon, so this is actually a very good reason to ensure your pet’s gut health is in good shape, which is best achieved with a fresh diet of living whole foods. Salmonella is actually more dangerous for you than it is for dogs and cats. The place you’re most likely to come into contact with these pathogens is from their waste, which we don’t recommend getting up close and personal with regardless of what they eat! Salmonella are not always pathogenic either – in fact, most aren’t. While there are over 2500 serotypes of salmonella, less than 100 are responsible for causing illness in people.

As many as 44% of clinically healthy dogs are thought to carry salmonella, with up to 15% of household pets shedding it (racing greyhounds and stray dogs tend to have higher levels), and this is for all dogs, not just raw fed ones.

Dry petfood has more product recalls than any other dog food

In fact, salmonella is the leading cause of dry dog food recalls, by a wide margin. When you look at the stats of raw vs dry dog food as a source of salmonella poisoning, in the five years between 2007-2012, the CDC linked 132 cases of salmonella poisoning to dry dog food, and between 2010-2015 there were 19 large recalls of thousands of tonnes of dry dog food due to salmonella contamination in the United States.

To minimise the risk of mycotoxins and salmonella in dry pet food, manufacturers often treat it with chemicals to prevent fungal growth, which can’t be good for them.

Dry petfood has a lot to answer for…

In Dr Conor Brady’s book, Feeding Raw, he states that dry pet food has contributed to the deaths of thousands and thousands of pets in the last decades. And that there have only been ‘a tiny handful of deaths from fresh/raw dog food, with most stemming from people feeding poorly balanced meals to their pets. Further he states that ‘no pre-made raw food to date is documented to have killed a single pet.’ Moreover, Dr Conor has done a huge amount of research on the benefits of feeding raw.

Science backed proof that raw feeding is not only safe, but also better for your dogs health and wellbeing

Dr Conor Brady refers in his book to a groundbreaking study from the University of Helsinki in Finland, where 632 raw fed dog owners were surveyed. It was found that raw feeding resolved 74% of skin issues, 88% of gut issues, 79% of eye issues and 53% of urinary tract issues.

In our own experience at The Butcher’s Dog, we have found that 20% of customers come to us because of ongoing allergy complaints (such as chronic itchy skin, ear and eye infections) due to processed food diets.

Why would raw food be dangerous for a carnivore?

It simply doesn’t make sense for all raw pet food to be considered dangerous. In 2016 the three biggest salmonella outbreaks in Australia were caused by mung beans, bagged salad and bakery products. If you’re not worried about salmonella and dangerous pathogens in the food you eat, then you shouldn’t be losing sleep about them in raw dog food, particularly as healthy dogs have highly effective defences against these bugs. But more importantly, at The Butcher’s Dog we are sourcing the same (human grade) quality of food as you buy from your local butcher or green grocer – because that’s where we get it. As a carnivore, feeding your dog a biologically appropriate raw diet simply emulates the food and nutrition that nature intended. They’re built for it.

We make raw feeding safe

While some raw petfood comes from what is commonly referred to as the “pet grade” supply chain, everything that goes into our food is from the human supply chain. This is a very significant difference, because the rules and food safety requirements between the two are completely different, with far more scope for pathogens in pet grade meat permitted. We make all our food in a fully licenced and NSW Food Authority compliant facility, with strict food safety protocols in place. But most importantly, we’re feeding real food, which nourishes your pet, strengthens their immune system and their natural defences against pathogenic bacteria found in just about any food. This ensures they live a long and healthy life with you, which is really all that matters.

We don’t call it dog food, we call it real food, for dogs

So next time you hear someone mention that ‘raw feeding isn’t safe’, remember, there is a huge difference between ‘normal’ pet food manufacturers and The Butcher’s Dog. You can be confident in saying that raw feeding is not only safe, but it is the best and most nutritional food you can give your dog. Our food is good enough for you to eat, except maybe the crushed bones!

For more information on other raw feeding myths read our blog Common myths around feeding raw food to your dog

REFERENCES

    • https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/get-facts-about-salmonella#characteristics
    • Brady, C. 2020. Feeding Dogs: Dry or Raw? The Science Behind the Debate. Farrow Road Publishing
    • Brady, C. 2020. Feeding Dogs: Dry or Raw? The Science Behind the Debate. Farrow Road Publishing
    • https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2021/11/salmonella-top-cause-of-foodborne-outbreaks-in-australia/