Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat? Is Raw Meat Safe For Dogs?

can dogs eat raw meat

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But can dogs eat raw meat? Is raw meat beneficial and healthy for dogs? Or should your dogs avoid raw meat? Here’s what you need to know.

Yes, dogs can safely enjoy raw meat as part of a balanced diet. Adding raw meat to your dog’s diet is associated with several health benefits. Proponents of raw meat diets argue that it is more natural and healthier for dogs. However, there has been much debate in recent years about the safety of feeding dogs raw meat due to its potential risks of bacterial contamination and nutrient imbalances. But is this true?

This article will explore the pros and cons of feeding dogs a raw meat diet and provide some research-based evidence and guidelines for making an informed decision about whether feeding your dog is appropriate. Let’s get started!

Note: Raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) are sometimes also called “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food” or “Bones & Raw Food” diets (BARFs). BARF diets include uncooked ingredients from either livestock, wild animals, home‐prepared or commercially prepared formulas, with the latter being supplied as fresh, frozen, or complete freeze‐dried diets or as premixes intended to be complemented by raw meat.[1]

Is Raw Meat Good For Dogs?

Raw meat can be a healthy addition to your dog’s diet and can be eaten by dogs as long as it’s fed as part of a balanced diet and has gone through the proper safety measure before serving. (more on that later)  

Owners who feed raw meat cite many benefits, including cleaner teeth, improved immune health, and reduced amount of feces.[2] Feeding a raw meat-based diet can help your dog avoid chemicals, additives, and by-products in highly processed kibble, which are often linked to illnesses such as cancer and allergies. RMBDs have been shown to be more digestible and increase gut function in animals compared to a commercial extruded-kibble diet.

Another research found numerically higher amounts of dry matter, energy, and protein in RMBDs versus kibble. However, a statistical conclusion was not drawn. [3]

Moreover, a clinical diet intervention study revealed that a raw diet might affect gene expression in dogs with atopic dermatitis. The raw food diet was found to significantly decrease certain biochemical markers such as cholesterol and alkaline phosphatase, both important for liver health and overall health. The raw diet also increased others, such as transforming growth factor β1, a secreted protein that performs many vital cellular functions. The raw food diet was also associated with changes in gene expression in the skin, including upregulation of genes related to immune defense and reactive oxygen species. It’s worth noting that these results are preliminary and more research is needed.[4] Nevertheless, they give interesting and novel information about feeding raw meat to dogs and its effects the skin gene expression.

Additionally, RMBDs have been reported to have better palatability.

What Raw Meat Can Dogs Eat?

Common proteins in a raw meat diet include eggs, bones, milk, and these meats:

  • Raw chicken
  • Raw beef
  • Raw fish
  • Raw lamb
  • Raw minced meat
  • Raw venison
  • Raw poultry

Is Raw Meat Toxic For Dogs? Nutrient Breakdown

It’s important to know that “meat” is defined as the edible portions obtained from domestic animals, including caprine, bovine, ovine, and porcine, poultry meat, farmed and wild animals.

Meat composition varies with reference to its breed, type of feed being ingested, climatic conditions, and meat cut, which imparts a considerable difference in its nutritional and sensory properties.[5]

But, in general, meats are a rich source of the following nutrients:

Meat cutProtein (g)Sat. fat (g)Fat (g)Energy (kcal)Vit. B12 (mcg)Na (mg)Zn (mg)P (mg)Fe (mg)
Chicken breast, raw24.20.28.51780.39710.91991.2
Beef, steak cuts, raw211.94.51231.9591.71671.3
Chicken, raw22.80.61.91130.70781.42020.7
Beef, calf, loin, raw203.47.31461.12231930.10
Beef, loin, raw20.91.53.21152593.71421.6
Pork, chop, raw18.110.831.73531601.81901.4
Pork, loin, raw21.91.74.91341.1551.92200.7
Pork, leg, raw20.82.87.81551.2842.61640.8
Turkey, skinless, raw19.91.87.11361.9421.52092.1
Duck meat, skinless, raw19.41.86.61302.8901.82012.5
Turkey, breast, skinless, raw23.60.51.61061620.52080.6
Chicken breast, skinless, raw23.80.41.281090.40590.72180.4
Mutton, chop or meat, raw202.44.81222633.62211.9
  • Protein. Meat is a high-quality protein source, providing all 9 essential amino acids your dog needs for growth, function and maintenance. The consumption of meat may be especially beneficial for highly active dogs.
  • Saturated fat. While small amounts of saturated fats may be necessary for dogs, limiting the amount of saturated fats in a dog’s diet is generally recommended. This is because high levels of saturated fats can contribute to obesity, pancreatitis, and other health problems in dogs. To avoid this, it’s best to feed low-fat meat cuts or reduce the dietary fat content of raw meat by removing the fat from the meat.
  • Iron. Necessary to prevent anemia, iron is essential for the health of your dog. Meats that are high in iron are turkey, liver, and duck.
  • Zinc. A zinc deficiency in a dog’s diet can lead to a compromised immune system, evidenced by slower wound healing and greater susceptibility to infections like pneumonia.[6] Great raw meat sources of zinc include lamb, turkey, chicken, and others.
  • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. They are found in foods like fish or fish oil. They also assist in the development of puppies’ vision and brains. Omega 6 fatty acids, most notably linoleic acid, are required for skin and coat health, normal reproduction, immune function, and growth.
  • Selenium. It’s necessary for the proper functioning of dog metabolism, including thyroid metabolism, reproduction, and DNA synthesis. Raw meat is a good source of bioavailable selenium. A study found that inorganic selenium added to kibble has a lower absorption rate than the organic form found in raw meat, meaning your dog will have more available in their body if they get it from an unprocessed source. [7]
  • Potassium. An important electrolyte, potassium helps conduct electrical impulses in the heart, muscles, and nerves. Too little and too much potassium in the bloodstream can have detrimental effects.
  • Magnesium. Second, only to potassium in a dog’s body, magnesium is essential for several key functions, such as metabolizing fats and carbohydrates and the structural composition of bones. Good sources of magnesium are raw bones and bone meal.[8]
  • Sodium. Combined with chloride to form a salt, sodium helps maintain the body’s hydration and aids in absorbing water-soluble vitamins and calcium. According to Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM, lower-sodium meats like beef are good for dogs with heart or kidney problems.[5]
  • Vitamin A. Also known as retinol, vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin necessary for many functions in your dog’s body. It ensures healthy skin, good immune function, normal reproduction, appropriate growth, and normal vision.
  • Vitamin B. There are many vitamins in the B family, including thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9), and cobalamin (B12). Vitamin Bs are involved in everything from regulating metabolism, DNA synthesis, energy production, creation of neurotransmitters, and healthy nervous system function. Meat and other animal products are great sources of all B-complex vitamins, most notably poultry (including chicken, turkey, and duck) and eggs.

Which Raw Meat Should You Not Feed to Your Dog?

Avoid feeding these raw meats:

  • Denatured meat (aka 3D or 4D meat)
  • Raw pork

The American Kennel Club states that dogs eating raw or undercooked pork can get trichinosis, a parasite infection caused by the trichinella spiralis larvae. This infection can occur when a dog eats infected animal muscles. Wild boars and pigs in Europe can carry swine herpes virus type 1. This disease is not infectious to humans but is highly contagious and deadly for dogs. It is safest to cook, steam, or fry raw pork before feeding it to your dog.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat?

Dogs can eat raw meat and benefit from it. According to our ingredient analysis and research, dogs can safely digest raw meat, providing the essential nutrients dogs need to thrive. 

In fact, dogs can eat raw meat and other raw ingredients.

Genetic DNA research shows that dogs descended from timber wolves approximately 15,000 years ago and have inherited their carnivorous traits. Dogs have narrow, pointy back teeth and chop-chop jaws like other carnivores. Dogs don’t produce amylase (an enzyme produced in most herbivores’ and omnivores’ saliva) in their saliva but in their pancreas and small intestine. Their higher stomach acid levels allow them to digest protein quickly and kill potential bacteria in decaying meat. While dogs have an omnivorous capacity, they are optimized for eating meat.

Dr. RuthAnn Lobos, a Purina veterinarian, says feeding a diet primarily raw meat may not provide the complete and balanced nutrition your dog needs. It is recommended that if you want your dog to eat a diet consisting entirely of raw food, you should feed a commercially available raw food diet or prepare one at home under a veterinary nutritionist’s guidance.

Benefits of Raw Meat For Dogs

Many anecdotal benefits are reported by dog owners and proponents of feeding raw meat. These include:

  • Shinier coat
  • Improved skin health
  • More energy
  • Lean, strong muscles
  • Smaller, firmer stools
  • Improved dental health
  • Stronger immune system
  • Lower risk for allergies
  • Improved digestion

Raw Meat For Dogs Research-Backed Benefits

  • Healthier skin, coat, teeth, and ears. A study published in the Journal of Animal Science found a slight improvement in dental, ear, and skin and coat health between dogs fed a raw meat diet versus kibble.[9]
  • Lowers blood triglycerides. Raw meat diets can help lower blood triglycerides, are highly palatable and digestible. They also maintained fecal quality and serum chemistry (proteins, enzymes, lipids, hormones).[10]
  • Increased metabolism. Research by the University of Helsinki in Finland found that a raw meat-based diet may benefit dogs’ metabolic health. In contrast, a kibble diet may be detrimental to metabolic health. The raw-fed dogs had higher carnitine and creatine concentrations and higher ribose-5-phosphate concentrations, indicating that their metabolism may have shifted towards a heavier reliance on fats and proteins for energy. The kibble-fed dogs had higher concentrations of sulfur-containing amino acids, citrulline, proline, and bile acids, which have been associated with various chronic pathologies.[11]
  • Increased gut function. Feeding a raw meat-based diet promoted a more balanced growth of bacterial communities and better gut functions in dogs than in a commercial extruded diet, kibble.[12]
  • Higher digestibility. Raw meat is highly digestible for dogs, particularly when digesting fat and protein. Dogs fed a beef- or chicken-based diet for 21 days showed very high digestibility in fecal tests at the end: greater than 88% protein and greater than 97% fat. This study also found that dogs fed an RMBD produced low fecal volume.[13]
  • Decreased cholesterol and blood glucose. Another study from the University of Helsinki in Finland found a correlation between dogs fed an RMBD and lowered blood cholesterol and glucose.[14]

Is Raw Meat Bad For Dogs?

Raw meat is not bad for dogs as long as it is prepared as part of a homemade or commercially prepared rood food diet that meets the AFFCO standards of dog nutrition and BARF nutritional guidelines.

However, veterinarians often warn that a diet made up entirely of raw meat is likely not nutritionally balanced and complete for most adult dogs. It is generally not recommended for pet owners to try to create their own dog’s diet without the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist, as this could result in missing essential nutrients and potentially causing harm to the animal’s health.

There are three main bad aspects of feeding raw meat

Unbalanced Nutrition

Researchers tested three home-prepared and two commercial. They found that the five diets had nutritional imbalances such as a calcium-to-phosphorous ratio of 0.20, a vitamin D concentration almost double the AAFCO recommended amount, and vitamin A and E concentrations so low they were undetectable.[15]

Furthermore, another study tested the homemade raw meat-based diets of 95 dogs based on owner-reported food intake. Unfortunately, 60% of the diets had one or more nutritional imbalances, such as low zinc, copper, and vitamin A and an excess of calcium from bone consumption.[16]


The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine analyzed 1000 pet food samples in a two-year study. It concluded that raw pet food was more likely to be contaminated with bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses in pets and humans. They tested 196 samples of raw pet food from various manufacturers. Of those tested, 15 were positive for Salmonella, and 32 were positive for Listeria monocytogenes.[17]

Another study, published in The Canadian Veterinary Journal, tested the raw diets of 10 dogs (10 dogs eating commercially available kibble were the control group.) None of the control group’s food or stool had Salmonella in it, while 80% of the test group’s raw-meat-based meals tested positive for Salmonella, and 30% of them had Salmonella in their feces.[18]

Other than Salmonella, raw meats can also contain pathogens like:

  • Listeria
  • Campylobacter
  • Clostridium
  • E. coli
  • Trichinosis

Human Contamination

The American Veterinary Medical Association says it “discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs, as well as humans.” [19] This is because bacteria can harm humans in the feces of animals fed raw meat.

There has been evidence of bacteria harmful to people in the feces of dogs that eat RMBDs.[20] A sample of dogs in the UK who ate a raw meat diet was found to be much more likely to carry antimicrobial-resistant and drug-resistant Salmonella and E.coli bacteria in their feces. This could present a danger to the elderly, immune compromised, or young children are living with or near dogs eating a diet with raw meat.

Feeding your dog raw meat comes with some risks. Although rare, following safe handling practices, sourcing raw meats from reputable sources, and working with your veterinarian to prepare a raw diet should lower any risks.

Possible Side Effects & Risks of Raw Meat In Dogs

The following symptoms may indicate a bad reaction to raw meat. Keep an eye out for them and contact your vet if necessary.

  • Discomfort and bloating
  • Gas
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Can A Dog Get Sick From Eating Raw Meat?

Dogs can get sick from eating raw meat if the meat is contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella.

Although not common, some diseases and illnesses are associated with raw meat consumption.

For example, raw or undercooked pork should be avoided because it tends to carry the larvae trichinella spiralis, which may cause the parasite infection trichinosis.[21]. Symptoms in dogs are generally mild and include upset stomach, diarrhea, and other problems.

Hyperthyroidism is another issue that can be caused by raw meat consumption. While rare, it can be severe. It is caused by excessive thyroid hormone secretion, causing a hyperactive metabolism. Symptoms can include a fast heart rate, ravenous appetite, weight loss, increased water consumption, vomiting, and possible liver and kidney failure if left untreated. The thyroid gland is in the necks of most animals, so if your dog ingests raw chicken or beef necks, he is eating that animal’s thyroid hormone.[22] If your dog is prone to hyperthyroidism, it may be a good idea to avoid neck meat altogether. Neck meat should also not be the sole meat in your dog’s diet to avoid ingesting excess thyroid hormone.

Another risk of eating raw meat is developing pancreatitis from increased saturated fat in some raw meat.[23] A high-fat meal can cause inflammation in the pancreas due to a digestive enzyme being released too early, which causes the pancreas to digest itself. Breeds like the English Cocker Spaniel and Miniature Schnauzer are predisposed to developing pancreatitis, so try to feed these breeds lean cuts of raw meat.

Are Dogs Allergic To Raw Meat?

There’s always a chance your dog could be allergic or sensitive to raw meat. We suggest you do an at-home dog allergy test before giving your dog raw meat to help determine if your pup is sensitive or intolerant to this or any other foods. If not, you should be fine to give dogs raw meat in moderation.

Some dogs have a sensitivity or allergy to some meats, such as chicken or beef. Food allergies are rare in comparison to pollen or other environmental allergies. Still, suppose your dog is displaying symptoms of an allergic reaction (itching, excessive licking, biting, and sometimes recurring ear/skin infections). In that case, it’s always wise to seek a veterinarian’s opinion.

best at home dog allergy test

Can Puppies Eat Raw Meat?

Puppies generally have more sensitive digestive systems than adult dogs and may be more prone to an upset stomach after eating rich or high-fat foods. It’s generally recommended that puppies avoid raw meat because of their sensitive and still-developing digestive system.

It’s worth remembering that puppies need fewer calories than larger dogs and higher protein content to aid growth and development. They must have a well-balanced diet, so treats should only be fed in small quantities.

Where To Buy Raw Meat For Dogs?

Best Raw Dog Food Delivery

Our favorite place to buy raw meat is We Feed Raw. They sell ready-to-eat raw meat. You can even buy in bulk and save money. All their raw meats are super high quality and safe for dogs.

Other places you can try include:

Regardless of where you purchase the raw meat, following proper handling and storage guidelines is important to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. The raw meat should be frozen until it is ready to be used and handled with the same precautions as raw meat for human consumption.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat From Butchers?

Butchers’ offcuts and organs are just as healthy for your dog as meat bought at a supermarket. You may even be able to get raw meat bones there.

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Raw Meat?

If your dog got into some unplanned raw meat, it should be just fine, provided there were no pieces of bone in it that could get lodged in its throat. However, carefully monitor them afterward for any signs of illness, like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or gas.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Hamburger?

Yes, dogs can enjoy raw hamburgers. However, look for lean hamburgers (90% & above) and avoid fatty meats to prevent the risk of pancreatitis.

How Often Should Dogs Eat Raw Meat?

You can feed your raw dog meat as an occasional treat or as part of a balanced BARF (biologically-appropriate raw food) diet to avoid any accidental nutrient imbalances.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat Reddit

Here are Reddit’s top comments and threads about raw meat for dogs.

Raw Meat For Dogs Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to other frequently asked questions about raw meat and dogs.

Conclusion – Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat?

In conclusion, raw meat can be a part of a dog’s diet, but it is important to ensure that it is nutritionally balanced and complete. Raw meat can pose some risks, including bacterial contamination and the risk of choking on bones, but it may also offer some benefits, such as improved dental health. Pet owners must consult with a veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist before deciding to feed their dogs a raw meat diet and follow proper handling and storage guidelines to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination. Overall, the decision to feed a dog a raw meat diet is personal and should be based on carefully considering the potential risks and benefits.

The key is that it must be veterinarian approved to contain all the necessary nutrients for your pup to thrive.

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Canine Bible uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

[1] NCBI – Raw Diets for Dogs & Cats [2] Timely Topics in Nutrition [3] BMC – Raw Meat Based Diet  [4] Raw Diet Gene Expression [5] Nutritional Composition of Meat [6] PetMD – Best Proteins for Raw Food Diets for Dogs [7] NCBI – Selenium & Dogs [8] PetMD- Dog Nutrition [9] NCBI – Clinical Health Markers in Dogs Fed Raw Meat-Based or Commercial Extruded Kibble Diets [10] NCBI – Pet Diet Research on Lightly Cooked and Raw Formats [11] Helsinki: Raw Food vs Kibble [12] BMC – Raw Meat-Based Diet Influences Faecal Microbiome and End Products of Fermentation in Healthy Dogs [13] American Journal of Veterinary Research [14] The Relationships Between Environment, Diet, Transcriptome and Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs [15] Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association [16] Intake of Minerals, Trace Elements and Vitamins in Bone and Raw Food Rations in Adult Dogs [17] FDA – Get the Facts! Raw Pet Food Diets can be Dangerous to You and Your Pet [18] NCBI – Preliminary Assessment of the Risk of Salmonella Infection in Dogs Fed Raw Chicken Diets [19] Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets [20] NCBI – UK Dogs Eating Raw Meat Diets Have Higher Risk of Salmonella [21] AKC – Can Dogs Eat Pork? [22] PetMD – Raw Diets and Hyperthyroidism in Dogs [23] PetMD- What Causes Pancreatitis in Dogs and How to Treat It [24] The Dog Digestive System

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