Raw Meat Debate – Should You Feed it to Your Dog?

Along with politics and religion, meat is fast becoming one of those topics no one can seem to agree on. The latest argument concerns the quality of commercial pet food fed to dogs and cats.

Some people, including a few veterinarians, believe that raw meat is much healthier for a dog or cat. According to the argument, commercial pet food is over processed and tainted with toxins, which are used to preserve the food and to give it an attractive smell and taste.

They advocate feeding fresh, raw meat (and other raw foods, such as vegetables, if appropriate) to pets. The debate is becoming passionate, with claims and counterclaims hurled through cyberspace and in between the pages of magazines. This article explains the arguments pro and con.

Incidentally, a third argument opposes feeding any meat to dogs, cats or people. Vegetarians and vegans (people who refuse to consume any animal product, even milk) believe they can formulate the proper plant-based diet for dogs and cats. This is a fallacy; while a dog can eat a carefully formulated vegetarian diet, cats are strict carnivores and cannot digest plant matter.

There are three major types of raw meat diets:

On the One Hand …

On the Other Hand …

In the case of cats, proponents of raw meat claim that a cat’s digestive system is more acidic and can process food faster, so bacteria does not have time to duplicate and cause illness.

That’s nonsense, according to animal nutrition expert Rebecca Remillard, DVM, DACVN, Ph.D. “Everyone’s stomach is acidic,” she says. “That’s how we digest food.” Remillard, of Angell Memorial Animal Hospital, said the dietary theories proposed by raw-meat advocates are too vague and are causing a lot of problems in pets. “They’re basically, ‘open the fridge and feed what you want, whenever you want.'”

An article in the March 2001 issue of JAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) compared raw meat diets with high-quality commercial diets. The raw meat diets used in the comparison were well researched and carefully balanced – a big assumption because many people do not have the nutritional experience to formulate such diets.

Even so, the comparison showed that raw meat had significant risks: “The results of the small number of diets analyzed here indicated that there are clearly nutritional and health risks associated with feeding raw food diets. All the diets tested had nutrient deficiencies or excesses that could cause serious health problems when used in a long-term feeding program.”

Remillard hopes the raw meat issue is just a passing fad. “There’s a general distrust of big business, and the pet food industry is big business,” she said. “Add to that, food labels are not understandable and scary. But the risks of raw meat are there. Is the risk worthwhile? No, it isn’t.”