How does a raw diet impact our beloved pets?

There is an increasing number of pet owners considering ‘raw feeding’ for their pets. The intent of this article is not to bias the reader for or against raw feeding, but rather to state the potential hazards that one should be aware of when considering this diet in order to make an informed decision. 

  • The principal concern is that raw diets may expose your pet and your family to pathogenic organisms that are normally killed during the cooking process. This is not only from the handling of the raw food or having the pet licking a family member, but viable pathogens have also been proven to be shed in the pet’s faeces for several days after. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, TB, the list of potential pathogens is extensive. Many of these are able to survive being frozen.
  • Raw diets (and additionally home-cooked diets) may not be adequately balanced for your pet’s needs. Several studies have been done to evaluate variation between diets where a recipe was followed, and extreme variation in nutrient levels was found. Both excesses and deficiencies were present. Even samples assessed from companies providing ‘complete raw diets’ in the UK were shown to have a wide variation between portions.
  • Meat only diets have excesses of protein and concerning mineral imbalances. Diets high in liver put pets at risk of Hypovitaminosis A. Home-cooked diets do not have the extensive research and routine testing that commercial diets undergo.

Home-cooked diets are useful where a pet has skin trouble linked to a commercial diet (although there are very good commercial diets that counter this and still produce a well-balanced diet); or where the pet has several health problems that aren’t catered for with normal commercial diets. In this scenario, it is best to get a nutritionist on board to help develop a diet that will meet all the pet’s needs. A lot of time, preparation and commitment are required; and even with precise measurements there is still found to be a wide variation in nutrient content between portions. The choice remains with the pet owner to decide on a nutritional plan to suit their lifestyle and pets; but please bear in mind that our pets are not humans (a cat is an obligate carnivore..it is never meant to be ‘vegan’!), and our pets have a significantly longer lifespan than their wild ‘cousins’.