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Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat? Should They?


Last Updated: May 14, 2024 | 7 min read | Leave a Comment

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Many dog owners are looking to add fresh nutrition and flavors to their pet’s diets. This can be done in a number of ways. One area that gets a lot of interest is raw meat. Can dogs eat raw meat? Is raw meat safe for canines? The answer is a little more complicated than a yes or a no.

While raw meat can be a tasty treat, it should not be done often or without proper precautions. As with many foods, just because canines can eat something does not always mean they should. Raw meat is no exception.

There is a lot for owners to learn about this subject before making any changes to their pet’s food. Additionally, it is wise to seek the advice of a veterinarian before adding anything like raw meats or if you have specific concerns about your pet’s nutrition. We look at the specifics of dogs eating raw meat, including when it is safe, if puppies can eat it, and if it is safe for dogs. We also discuss what meats are safe and more.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat?

Technically yes, and no. Dogs can eat raw meat, but it isn’t safe for them to do so very often. In fact, this is not something that most veterinarians or nutritionists will recommend. Not all kinds of meat are safe, so this is a very delicate process for pets to be safe.

Uncooked animal protein is only safe for canines if it has been handled and prepared properly. Raw fish is never safe. A diet based heavily on raw protein is not going to provide everything a pup needs, so this is not advisable. Additionally, pets with sensitive digestive systems, young puppies, seniors, and animals suffering from an illness should not eat uncooked animal protein.

Feeding Dogs Raw Meat (A Vet’s Expert Opinion)

According to Veterinarian Dr. Rebecca MacMillan, feeding dogs raw diets has become popular in recent years but is also very controversial.

“Despite some owners’ anecdotal evidence about the health benefits for their pets, there are few scientific studies to support this. Instead, the studies show us the potential risks of harmful bacteria. This makes sense, as this is the same reason why people cook their meat before eating it – to avoid food poisoning. Bacteria such as salmonella and anti-microbial resistant E. coli found in many samples of raw meat can survive the freezing process and need to be killed through cooking. In my experience, the majority of vets would, therefore, not recommend feeding raw, particularly to animals with lowered immune systems, like puppies and pregnant, elderly, or unwell dogs.”

Dr. MacMillan also said it is worth noting that all dogs fed on raw food could carry and shed these bacteria, meaning they can spread possible diseases to their owners. Some veterinary hospitals now barrier nurse patients known to be raw fed for this reason, meaning that staff will only handle them while wearing gloves and aprons.

What Meat Is Safe For Dogs To Eat Raw?

Uncooked chicken, turkey, and beef can be safe in moderation when fresh and prepared properly. Pork has low sodium, as does beef. Lower sodium is better for canines with heart concerns, and those who suffer from kidney disease need proteins with low potassium, like chicken. Pork has very high potassium. Ground meat poses a higher risk of bacteria, so it’s best to avoid it.

  • Chicken – Low levels of potassium, healthy source of niacin and vitamin C. Free-range chicken is best. High in protein and low in fat.
  • Beef – Lower in sodium, a good source of iron and zinc. Grass-fed beef is best.
  • Turkey – Good source of iron, dark meat is richer in vitamins like riboflavin, zinc, iron, vitamin B6, and B12.
  • Pork – Low in sodium, high in potassium. A good source of amino acids, thiamine, and fat.
  • Lamb – Strong source of zinc, protein, iron, B vitamins, and amino acids.
  • Bison – Lean, low in cholesterol, and high in protein. Rich in iron, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids.

What Are The Risks Of Dogs Eating Raw Meat?

Raw beef meat in bowl. Natural food for dog in bone shapped bowl on black wooden background top view.
Uncooked proteins can carry significant risks for pets.

Meat that is not cooked properly carries an elevated risk of bacteria like Clostridium, E. coli, listeria, salmonella, and trichinosis. These bacteria can cause food poisoning and extreme digestive discomfort. Meat that is cooked at the proper temperature is safe from these risks. Food poisoning symptoms can include stomach distress, diarrhea, nausea, cramping, dehydration, lethargy, depression, and pain. This can be quite severe and even become life-threatening if not treated properly.

Uncooked meats not only pose a risk to your dog’s health, but they also pose a risk to yours. Simply coming in contact with these harmful bacteria can put owners at risk. Uncooked meat must be handled very carefully so that no one gets sick. Along with the risk of bacterial infection and food poisoning, raw-based diets can cause nutritional deficiencies.

Always avoid denatured meats, also called 3D and 4D meat. These are meat that have been harvested from sick, dying, or injured animals. This meat is deemed unfit for humans but is sometimes used in pet foods. The meat is colored through a denaturing process to show that the product is unfit for humans. It also has exposure to a variety of chemicals, including charcoal, crude carbolic acid, kerosene, cresylic disinfectant, and more. 3D and 4D meat is not safe for animals to eat raw, and though legal for it to be used in pet foods, it’s very low quality and poses a health risk. Any meat from sick or dying animals should be avoided as well.

How To Feed Dogs Raw Meat

  1. Stick to fresh chicken, turkey, or beef, preferably whole cuts, not ground uncooked meats.
  2. Feeding canines uncooked animal protein should only be done in moderation. If you want to feed your dog a raw food diet, always discuss it with your veterinarian for guidance to ensure your pup gets all the proper nutrients.
  3. Always pick fresh, safe meats. They may be kept frozen and thawed out prior to being eaten.
  4. Only ever serve your dog unseasoned meat.
  5. Clean all surfaces before and after handling uncooked proteins. Hot water and soap are best.
  6. Wash hands thoroughly before and after.
  7. Do not let your pup lick your face after eating raw meats, it exposes you to harmful bacteria.

Raw Dog Food Potential Health Benefits

Raw or Cooked Sweet Potato
Always consult your veterinarian before trying one to ensure your pup gets proper nutrients.

The raw diet for canines is based on the premise that domestic canines, much like their wolf ancestors, are carnivores by nature. Some advocates of raw food diets believe that canines should eat a diet based on what their wild ancestors ate, full of fresh, raw foods, especially animal proteins. These are called BARF, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diets.

There are some potential benefits to an occasional meaty treat. It can be easier to digest and can improve coat appearance and softness. Raw food has no extra fats, fillers, carbs, or additives but high levels of good nutrients.

Feeding fresh meats to canines can have several potential benefits. It’s a rich protein source, essential for maintaining healthy muscles, skin, hair, and other tissues. It also contains a variety of other nutrients, including B vitamins, iron, zinc, and essential fatty acids, which are important for overall health.

Raw meats can also improve canine breath and oral health. Chewing it can help remove plaque and tartar from canine teeth, promoting better oral hygiene.

Can Dogs Eat Bones?

Feeding bones to canines is another component of the raw diet that has sparked debate. Advocates of the diet argue that raw bones are a natural source of calcium and other minerals and that they can help clean teeth and stimulate their jaws.

However, feeding raw bones to canines also carries risks. Uncooked bones can cause choking or intestinal blockage if they are not chewed properly. They can also splinter, causing injury to the mouth, throat, or digestive tract.

Therefore, if you choose to feed uncooked bones to your pup, it is important to supervise them closely and to choose bones that are appropriate for their size and chewing style.

Raw Diet Myths Debunked

There are many myths surrounding the raw diet for canines. One common myth is that canines cannot get sick from eating uncooked animal protein because their digestive systems are different from humans. While it is true that they have a shorter digestive tract than humans, they can still get sick from eating contaminated meat.

Another common myth is that dogs need to eat uncooked meats to be healthy. While raw food can be a part of a healthy diet for canines, it is not the only option. Pups can thrive on a variety of diets as long as they are well-balanced and provide all the necessary nutrients. It is best to discuss specific concerns with your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist.

Try Fresh Or Freeze-Dried

Uncooked protein must be handled very carefully and is not the best option for all pups. While the natural taste and nutrition have benefits, uncooked meats should not be a regular part of your pup’s diet. There are some wonderful fresh meal options made with human-grade ingredients. Many of these, like The Farmer’s Dog, Ollie, and Nom Nom, ship fresh meals right to your door. The Farmer’s Dog is our top pick when it comes to fresh dog food.

Spot & Tango also offers fresh meals and freeze-dried UnKibble. Freeze-dried meats can be a wonderful way to give your pup that meaty treat without the risk of bacteria or sickness. Freeze-dried can also be rehydrated, so pets can get that meaty mouth feel. And they have a longer shelf-life outside of your freezer than fresh foods.

Frequently Asked Questions

What dogs should not eat raw meats?

Senior pups, those who are sick, have weakened immune systems, and puppies should not consume uncooked meats. Also, take caution with feeding this to pregnant or nursing mothers.

Can I feed my dog raw hamburger?

No. Feeding canines ground hamburger meat or any other ground meat isn’t a good idea. This carries too high a risk for unsafe bacteria.

What other raw foods can dogs safely eat?

Canines can eat some raw fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, bell peppers, blackberries, blueberries, carrots, broccoli, butternut squash, cranberries, green beans, and more. Learn more in our guide on safe fruits and vegetables for dogs.

Final Thoughts

While dogs are often depicted eating raw meat, and it seems like a natural match, uncooked animal protein is not the best pick for our pets in modern times. It can be used as an occasional treat when prepared and handled properly.

Uncooked meat should not be fed to dogs every day, and owners should always discuss their pet’s specific dietary needs with a veterinarian. This is especially important when trying out raw foods, as it can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Always stick with fresh foods prepared only for your dog, without any seasonings or added ingredients.

Raw beef meat in bowl. Natural food for dog in bone shapped bowl on black wooden background top view.

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