Many pet owners like to feed raw meat based diets to their pet dogs. But not many of them are aware of the risks associated with feeding of raw meat based treats to their pets. Contrary to the popular belief, there are no scientific studies supporting the health benefits of feeding such diet. Instead, feeding of such diets is associated with numerous potential health risks like nutritional imbalances (Dillitzer et al., 2011), diet-induced hyperthyroidism (Köhler et al., 2012), bacterial and parasitic infections (KuKanich, 2011). The health risks associated with feeding of raw meat based diet/ treats is not only limited to pet animals only and it may be prudent to consider the potential for public health risk as well due to frequent contamination of raw meat with zoonotic bacteria and parasites, that can transmit between animals and humans.
It is a common misbelief that raw meat diet is an ideal nutritionally balanced diet for a pet dog. But, in fact most raw meat diets may not provide adequate recommended allowances of vitamins, minerals and trace elements (Dillitzer et al., 2011). Feeding raw meat diet solely to pets without any additional supplements can lead to:
Nutrient imbalances such as calcium: phosphorus imbalance
Health risks of raw meat diets include gastroenteritis (inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea) which could be due to bacterial contamination or high dietary fat levels of raw meat. Raw meat has inherent risk of bacterial contamination and contamination with pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella, Clostridium, Escherichia coli, Campylobacter spp, and Listeria have been reported. Ingestion of such raw meat can result in gastrointestinal disease, septicemia and even death if severe infection. Raw meat can also be contaminated with various parasitic eggs which can infect dogs also. Trichinosis is a parasitic disease of dogs and humans which is transmitted by eating raw pork.
Zoonotic bacteria in raw meat
Pet dogs offered raw meat diets can become infected and may shed these pathogens via stools, posing a significant risk of zoonotic transmission of such infection to people and other in contact animals. The risk is substantially greater in case of young, pregnant and immunocompromised persons living in close contact within same household with pet dogs.
Common zoonotic bacteria associated with raw meat
E coli serotype O157:H7
Extended spectrum β-lactamase-producing E coli
Parasitic zoonosis from raw meat
Apart from bacterial contamination, raw meat may be contaminated with various parasitic eggs. There may be dangerous consequences for pets, livestock and public health if parasitic life cycles are enabled by feeding raw meat to pet dogs. Numerous life cycles of various parasite species depend on the uptake of raw meat by carnivores including pet dogs. Some of the parasites voided in stools of dog fed with contaminated raw meat that can pose zoonotic threat are listed below:
Certain studies have suggested that dogs that eat raw-meat diets are also more likely to become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than those on conventional diets (Finley et al., 2008), which can have further implications for pet health and for public health in general. Hence, pet dogs that are sick and those pets living with people of weakened immune system should not be fed with raw or undercooked meat. Dogs which are fed with raw meat diets should be avoided to roam free on pastures as their stools may contain parasites harmful to livestock.
Raw meat diet poses a substantial risk of infectious disease to the pet, the pet’s environment, and the humans in the close vicinity of the household as raw meat-based diets may contain parasites, and bacteria, some of which are zoonotic. It is recommended to cook meat properly before feeding it to pet dogs to avoid health risks to them and to people in contact.
1 Ph.D. Scholar, Department of Veterinary Medicine, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, GBPUAT, Uttarakhand
2 Ph.D. Scholar, Department of Veterinary Parasitology, ICAR- IVRI, Izatnagar, Bareilly
3 Veterinary Officer, V.H. Tepra, Distt. Bilaspur, Himachal Pradesh
Dillitzer, N., Becker, N. and Kienzle, E., 2011. Intake of minerals, trace elements and vitamins in bone and raw food rations in adult dogs. British Journal of Nutrition, 106(S1), pp.S53-S56.
Finley, R., Reid‐Smith, R., Ribble, C., Popa, M., Vandermeer, M. and Aramini, J., 2008. The occurrence and antimicrobial susceptibility of Salmonellae isolated from commercially available canine raw food diets in three Canadian cities. Zoonoses and public health, 55(8‐10), pp.462-469.
Köhler, B., Stengel, C. and Neiger, R., 2012. Dietary hyperthyroidism in dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 53(3), pp.182-184.
KuKanich, K.S., 2011. Update on Salmonella spp contamination of pet food, treats, and nutritional products and safe feeding recommendations. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 238(11), pp.1430-1434.