Dog owners have been debating whether or not their dogs should be fed raw meat for quite some time. A lot of myths and misconceptions have only served to make the topic more confusing. We know that dogs can eat raw meat, but why can dogs eat raw meat? Should they?
Dogs can eat raw meat because they have not lost the ability to digest it raw, which was and still is a necessity for their ancestors, wolves. Raw meats also contain a lot of protein, and many dog foods lack these beneficial nutrients. However, not all dogs should eat raw meat, as it poses some risks.
Keep reading to learn more about why dogs can eat raw meat, as well as what experts claim about the benefits and potential risks of feeding them raw meat.
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The Reason Why Dogs Can Eat Raw Meat
Before dogs were domesticated, dogs had to live off of live prey that they managed to kill or scavenged carcasses, neither of which were ever cooked. These dogs, still wolves, had evolved to get a majority of their nutrients from these sources of raw meat.
Dogs and humans alike have since adjusted to eating cooked meat and processed foods as our abilities to cook and preserve food have become more advanced.
Although dogs have not completely evolved to stop digesting raw meat, they do tend to have an easier time digesting cooked meat. Many dog food brands still incorporate raw meat into their kibbles, and some owners like to make their own raw meat kibble so their dogs can eat like their ancestors.
The Benefits to Feeding Dogs Raw Meat
The following benefits are cited as reasons to feed a dog a diet of raw meat:
Raw Meat as Biologically Appropriate
This one does not have a scientific backing, as modern dogs, again, have an easier time digesting meat that has been cooked. However, some owners believe that feeding their dog meat is biologically appropriate because they can still eat it, and that is what their ancestors ate.
More Access to Nutrients
Raw meat does contain more proteins and other nutrients than many cooked meats or processed foods. Much of this protein is removed during the cooking process. By eating the meat raw, your dog gains the physical benefits of more enriching nutrients.
Healthier Looking and Feeling Coats
The most obvious physical benefit of a dog having access to more protein is a coat that looks and feels much healthier. Many owners that feed their dogs raw meat claim that their coats are glossier and less likely to shed. There is some evidence that these dog’s skin is also less likely to break out or experience allergic reactions.
The Risks to Feeding Dogs Raw Meat
Feeding a dog raw meat is not without risks. In spite of the above benefits, a raw meat diet may lead to the following issues:
Any raw meat may be contaminated with bacteria like salmonella, and dogs are not immune. Handling raw meat also makes owners susceptible to bacterial contamination, and they must handle the raw meat with much care, especially if they share a household with an immunocompromised person.
Not Enough Nutritional Balance
Too much of a specific type of raw meat can create a nutritional imbalance for dogs despite the extra protein. It is easy to feed them too much of one type of meat when they need meat from the muscles, skin, organs, etc., as well. Wolves typically eat a whole carcass, so they get all of these from such a diet.
Bones as a Hazard
If all of the bones are not removed from raw meat, a dog might choke on the small pieces, or they may block up the dog’s colon, resulting in constipation.
Some people feel that dogs should eat raw meat because they can, and raw meat was once their primary food source. While raw meat does have some benefits for dogs, including a surplus of protein, raw meat also has many risks for both dogs and owners.
In particular, the possibility of bacterial contamination or the danger presented by bones in the meat makes raw meat something that many dog owners do not want to deal with. However, the fact that dogs can eat raw meat is an interesting reminder of their past as wolves.
For more information on what foods your dogs can and can’t eat please see our guide here.