Adherents to the raw petfood diet trend claim that pets eating raw diets have shinier coats, healthier skin, cleaner teeth, improved immunity and easier weight management, but Colorado State University veterinarians say there is no evidence to support such claims. There are, however, real risks.
"We advise that pet owners analyze nutritional claims and look for the research to support those claims, especially if they seem too good to be true," say the vets. "Look for references to research that has been both published and peer-reviewed; this approach is built on scientific rigor and helps ensure valid data." Some of the risks associated with feeding raw petfood include:
- Raw food has an increased risk of being contaminated with harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli. These pathogens can cause dangerous illnesses in pets—and the people who handle raw petfood. For these reasons, federal agencies including the US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend against raw food diets for pets.
- Raw food diets have been shown to have nutritional imbalances.
- The bones in raw diets can cause fractured teeth and intestinal trauma.
Veterinarians at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital recommend the following when considering nutritional options for pets:
- Feed a diet that is balanced and appropriate for the age of your pet.
- Puppies and kittens should be fed a diet that is formulated to meet the specific needs of a young animal. Avoid diets stating they are for “all life stages.”
- Feed a diet from a company active in nutritional research and continuous improvement to formulations, with strict quality control, and that employs a boarded nutritionist.
- Home-cooked pet diets should be made with the help of a boarded nutritionist. Meat in homemade pet diets should be cooked until the internal temperature of 165 degrees F is reached.
- Any dietary change should be made slowly, over five to seven days, to avoid stomach upset.
- Consult your veterinarian with any questions or concerns regarding nutrition and your pet.