Once again the FDA has issued a warning to not feed a raw food diet to your cat or dog. The foundation for their argument is the risk of pathogen contamination to you and your pet.

Yes, there can be risks on several levels—exposure through handling, your pet’s elimination and contamination in production. But with a respectful understanding of these challenges and some common sense precautions, your pet could thrive on a raw food diet.

Why feed a raw food diet? While we are advised bagged kibble or canned foods are the premier nutritional offerings for our pets, are you willing to accept that these highly refined, starch heavy foods are what you want to give your companion for life? Would you accept a meal replacement bar—every meal, everyday? Although commercial pet foods must meet nutritional standards, do the standards promote optimal health? Opposing evidence is emerging and commercially processed foods are now being researched as promoters of disease. Canine skin and digestive disorders, feline digestive distress, behavior issues, cancer, diabetes, and kidney disease can all be linked to diet induced inflammation.

With over fifteen years of selling and personally using raw food diets, I have seen first-hand the healing powers of these fresh, unprocessed foods.

  • Do I recommend raw food diets for every pet? No—each animal requires individual evaluation. Some animals thrive on raw diets, others need digestion support for the transition and still others may do better with dehydrated raw foods.
  • Do I use and recommend commercial brands? Yes. The commercial lines now available are required to meet stringent safety measures and most exceed the requirements.
  • Do I make and offer or recommend home-prepared raw meals? Yes—this allows better control over ingredients.
  • Do I feed or recommend a raw food diet at every meal? At times, no—from experience, I find pets enjoy better long term nutritional health with a variety of foods. This may, incidentally, include recommending a breakfast of dry food (not so much for cats) and an evening meal of raw food (yes, I know this breaks the rules), but I do not advocate mixing raw and dry in the same meal.

While a diet of only raw foods may be considered the ultimate, you need to decide what is the most appropriate for your pet, your lifestyle and your budget. However, make sure your decision is based on nourishing the body, not just feeding the animal.

Today’s pet food industry offers an abundance of pet foods, with a variety of ingredients and a range of prices. The best investment you can make in your pet’s health is healthful food and raw food should be a top contender when weighing what’s best for your pet. Raw food diets offer minimally processed or unprocessed whole foods that offer a greater complexity of food sourced antioxidants and nutrients, with longer digestion times to reduce glycemic spikes. Why reduce glycemic responses? For the most part it’s all about reducing inflammation, because by reducing inflammation, we reduce disease.

Yes, pathogen contamination may be a risk of raw food diets, but manufacturing standards and common sense handling reduces your exposure. By the way, are you aware there have been more recalls of dry foods than raw foods for pathogen contamination? For me, the far greater risk is feeding your companion a food that is undermining health, feeding inflammation and setting the stage for chronic disease and long time suffering.

More on the FDA position >>> HERE

Previously published in PetSage blog, 7/9/2014.
© Terri Grow, 2020
Terri Grow writes and speaks on pet health and welfare, working with veterinarians, trainers, shelters and manufacturers to empower canine and feline health through diets, herbal therapies, supplements and environmental adjustments.