In a recent post, I discussed a study about the health effects of feeding raw meat diets to pets. Because of the significantly higher rates of shedding of certain potentially harmful bacteria by dogs that are fed raw meat, I think raw meat diets are a bad choice - especially in households with young children, elderly individuals or people with compromised immune systems. However, if you are going to feed raw meat to your pet, you should take some basic precautions.
- Only use meat that is suitable for human consumption. Don't buy 'adulterated' meat or meat labeled unfit for human consumption.
- Keep raw meat frozen until you need it. Only thaw out the portion that is need for the next feeding, and thaw the meat in a sealed container on the bottom shelf of a refrigerator.
- Handle raw meat with care. Do not allow it to contaminate kitchen surfaces or items that may come in contact with other food. Clean and disinfect any items that come into contact with raw meat.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after handing raw meat or anything that has touched raw meat (e.g. your dog's food bowl).
- If your pet does not finish all the meat fed right away, discard any uneaten raw meat promptly. Do not allow raw meat to sit in a bowl at room temperature. Some dangerous bacteria can multiply rapidly under these conditions.
- Regularly clean and disinfect your pet's food bowl, but bear in mind that a recent study showed that it is very hard to eliminate Salmonella from raw meat in food bowls.
- Make sure your veterinarian knows that you feed raw meat. This is particularly important if your dog develops vomiting or diarrhea.
- It is very important to make sure that your pet's diet is well balanced, which can sometimes be difficult to do when feeding non-commercial or raw diets. Read about raw meat feeding, and try to find good sources of information (which is not always easy) to reduce the risk of problems caused by feeding an unbalanced diet.
- Never feed raw meat to sick dogs, puppies or pregnant dogs.