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Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat? Vet-Approved Feeding & Health Facts

Written by: Misty Layne

Last Updated on April 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

fresh raw meat on old wooden table

Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat? Vet-Approved Feeding & Health Facts


Dr. Amanda Charles Photo


Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Raw food diets for canines have gained popularity in recent years, but are they truly safe for our pets? You’ve probably heard there are many benefits to giving your pet raw food. But feeding a dog a raw food diet involves feeding them raw meat, which begs the question of whether dogs can eat raw meat. So, can dogs eat raw meat?

While our pups can digest this food, giving raw meat to your dog is inadvisable, as raw meat can be unhealthy and downright dangerous for your pup. While feeding raw meat to your four-legged friend may have a couple of potential benefits, the consequences far outweigh these possible positives.

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Why Shouldn’t Dogs Eat Raw Meat?

Raw meat can be quite dangerous for your dog to consume, which is why they shouldn’t eat it. Feeding your dog raw meat can even be dangerous to you! So, why do people think it is suitable for our pets?

Advocates of raw food diets that include raw meat believe that raw food is closer to what your furry friend’s ancestors would have eaten and, thus, allows for easier digestion and better nutrient absorption. But our dogs have evolved throughout the years, and while they can still process raw meat, they can also now readily digest carbohydrates as well. Raw meat may be more palatable and appealing for some picky eaters due to its high water content and can be more digestible than some dry commercial food. However, the known risks associated with feeding raw meat to our pups outweigh any potential benefits.

The risks of bacterial and protozoal contamination of raw meat and transmission to both pets and people, and the high incidence of nutritional imbalances, mean that most veterinary organizations, including the American Hospital Association (AAHA) and American Veterinary Medical Association, advise against and discourage feeding raw diets.1, 2 Many therapy dog associations do not allow dogs fed raw food diets on their programs either.

variety of raw angus prime meat steak
Image Credit: Natalia Lisovskaya, Shutterstock

The 4 Dangers of Feeding Raw Meat to Dogs

Here’s a closer look at why feeding raw meat to dogs can be dangerous.

1. Can Make Your Dog Sick

Probably the most significant danger of feeding raw meat to your canine pal is the risk of bacterial contamination. Studies have shown that raw pet food was more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, compared with other types of pet food.3 Bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria are commonly found in raw meats but are typically killed off during the cooking process due to high heat. But this doesn’t happen with meat that hasn’t been cooked.

This means your dog may ingest bacteria that can make them incredibly sick. Dogs also don’t always show signs of being ill at first, so you may not even realize anything is wrong with your pup until much later.

2. Can Make You Sick

Surprise! Your dog eating raw meat doesn’t only have the potential to make them ill, but you and your family, too. How so?

If you handle the raw meat you’re giving your pup and don’t wash your hands well enough afterward, you could be infected with bacteria. The same goes for cleaning up your pet’s poop or even touching a surface the raw meat touched and then not washing your hands well. There’s also the fact that your dog could lick you after consuming raw meat, and they may have bacteria lingering in their mouth.

These things are particularly bad if you have someone in your home who is immunocompromised or very young.

golden retriever watching owner cut raw chicken
Image Credit: Sophie Louise Davis, Shutterstock

3. Nutritional Deficiencies

There are also important concerns about nutritional imbalances. Feeding your pet only raw meat would, of course, see them not receiving a wealth of vital nutrients as raw meat isn’t nutritionally balanced. But studies have shown both commercial and homemade raw meat diets may have important nutritional deficiencies and excesses.4

Think about a wild dog or wolf eating raw meat in the wild. They wouldn’t just eat part of an animal; they would consume everything from the muscles and bones to the fur, which means they would get all the nutrients they need. Your dog eating raw meat is an entirely different story because they’re only eating parts of an animal, not a whole carcass.

4. Bones

Raw meat may contain bones, and animal bones are one of those things that can be both risky and beneficial for your pup. Letting your dog chew on bones has the benefits of potentially helping keep their teeth clean and adding more calcium and phosphorus to their diet. However, animal bones can also be small enough to be choked on, or they can splinter and damage the throat, mouth, intestines, and stomach lining. Bones that are too hard can break a pup’s teeth, and some bones can get swallowed, leading to intestinal blockage.

The FDA recommends not giving canines animal bones because of these dangers. If you decide to let your pet have bones, you’ll want to watch them like a hawk while they are chewing on them.

raw steak on wooden background
Image Credit: Norbertas, Shutterstock

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What If I Still Want to Feed My Dog a Raw Food Diet?

Despite all the dangers of feeding raw meat to your dog as part of a raw food diet, there may still be some potential benefits. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of good quality studies looking at any benefits in relation to the risks of feeding a raw meat diet, meaning that many of the reported advantages are anecdotal. If you have carefully weighed up the pros and cons and decide to feed a raw meat diet then there are some ways you can mitigate some of the risks.

Excellent hygiene is of course a must, as with handling any uncooked meat. Clean and disinfect bowls and utensils straight after use and wash hands thoroughly after handling the food.

As dogs who are raw-fed can shed bacteria, be careful about contact with your dog’s mouth and when collecting and disposing of your dog’s poop. It’s advisable to avoid a raw diet completely if you have young, elderly or immunocompromised family members.

Speak to your vet and make sure the raw diet you feed your pup is nutritionally balanced for your pup’s age, lifestyle and any underlying health conditions. A homemade raw diet where ingredients are bought separately and combined at home is very difficult to keep nutritionally balanced and you need to seek advice from a veterinary nutritionist.

shih tzu dog getting wet food from owner at kitchen
Image Credit: chaoss, Shutterstock

What Should I Feed My Dog Instead of Raw Meat?

Instead of feeding your dog raw meat as part of a raw food diet, feed them high-quality commercial dog food. Commercial dog foods contain the nutrients your dog requires, and these foods can grow with them as they move from the nutritional needs of a puppy to the nutritional needs of an adult. This ensures your dog stays healthy and lives their best life. Plus, commercial dog foods can accommodate health conditions and food allergies in the form of specialty diet dog foods.

If you want to feed your pet human food, speak with your vet before you do anything. Human food may not be suitable for all canines, particularly those with health conditions. As we mentioned above, homemade diets are tricky to get balanced so your dog gets all the nutrients they need in the right amounts. And finally, cook any meat you want to serve your dog to avoid bacteria and other health risks!

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While canines can, technically, eat and digest raw meat, it’s highly inadvisable to feed it to them. Raw meat has several health risks that can harm your dog greatly (and harm yourself and your family!). Instead of giving your pup raw meat (or raw food), feed them high-quality dog food that meets their specific nutritional needs.

Featured Image Credit: MaraZe, Shutterstock

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