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

can dogs eat raw meat

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This content was reviewed and fact-checked by veterinarian Dr. Aukse Caraite, DVM.

Can dogs eat raw meat? This question doesn’t have a simple answer. Proponents of raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) argue that feeding raw meat is more natural and provides numerous benefits than processed dog food. The idea is that raw meat resembles what dogs ate in the wild thousands of years ago and, therefore, provides a biologically appropriate diet that delivers better digestion and nutrition while avoiding chemicals found in processed kibble. However, some experts raise concerns about the safety of feeding dogs raw meat due to the potential risks of bacterial contamination and nutrient imbalances. So, which side is correct? This article will explore the pros and cons of feeding dogs a raw meat diet and provide science-based evidence and guidelines to help you decide whether raw feeding is appropriate for your dog.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Meat?

Raw meat aligns with dogs’ biological needs. Genetic DNA research shows that modern dogs descended from timber wolves approximately 15,000 to 100,000 years ago and have inherited their carnivorous traits, which enable them to eat and digest raw meat.[1]

Below are the top physiological and biological characteristics that allow dogs to eat raw meat:

Remember that feeding a diet primarily raw meat may not provide the complete and balanced nutrition your dog needs. Feeding raw meat as part of a balanced raw diet for dogs is recommended. You can feed dogs commercially available raw food formulas or prepare a homemade raw meat-based diet under a veterinary nutritionist’s guidance.

Is Raw Meat Good For Dogs?

Raw meat can be a healthy addition to your dog’s diet if it’s been sourced from reputable purveyors and properly handled and served. Owners who feed raw meat cite many benefits, including cleaner teeth, improved immune health, and reduced amount of feces.[2] 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 are more digestible and improve gut function in animals than commercial extruded-kibble diets. Raw meats also contain higher amounts of dry matter, energy, and protein in RMBDs than kibble.[3]

Additionally, a clinical diet intervention study revealed that a raw diet might affect gene expression in dogs with atopic dermatitis.[4] The raw food diet significantly decreased certain biochemical markers, such as cholesterol and alkaline phosphatase, which are both important for liver health and overall health. It also increased other markers, such as transforming growth factor β1, a protein vital for many cellular functions. The raw diet was associated with changes in skin gene expression, including the upregulation of genes related to immune defense and reactive oxygen species. While more research is needed, the effects of feeding raw meat to dogs seem to be positive.

Raw Meat Dogs Can Safely Eat

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

Raw Meats Dogs Shouldn’t Eat

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

Dogs eating raw or undercooked pork can get trichinosis, a parasitic infection caused by Trichinella spiralis larvae. This infection occurs when a dog eats infected animal muscle. Additionally, wild boars and pigs in Europe can carry swine herpes virus type 1, which is not infectious to humans but is highly contagious and deadly for dogs. Therefore, cooking, steaming, or frying pork before feeding it to your dog is safest.

Benefits

“Meat” is defined as the edible portions obtained from domestic animals, including caprine (goats), bovine (cattle), ovine (sheep), and porcine (pigs), as well as poultry, farmed, and wild animals. The nutritional benefits of meats vary based on the breed, type of feed, climatic conditions, and meat cut.[5]

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

Raw Meat Benefits According to Science

Excellent source of seleniumSelenium is necessary for dog metabolism function, thyroid metabolism, reproduction, and DNA synthesis. 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.[6]
Healthier skin, coat, teeth, and earsA study published in the Journal of Animal Science found a slight improvement in dental, ear, skin, and coat health between dogs fed a raw meat diet versus kibble.[9]
Increased metabolismResearch 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]
Decreased cholesterol and blood glucoseAnother study from the University of Helsinki in Finland found a correlation between dogs fed an RMBD and lowered blood cholesterol and glucose.[14]
More nutrients than cooked meatsSome research indicates that cooking meat can decrease the levels of certain vitamins (C & B) and minerals, such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.[7],[8]
Lowers blood triglyceridesRaw meat diets can help lower blood triglycerides and are highly palatable and digestible. They also maintained fecal quality and serum chemistry (proteins, enzymes, lipids, hormones).[10]
Increased gut functionFeeding 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 digestibilityRaw 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]
Natural enzymesRaw meat contains natural enzymes that aid in digestion and nutrient absorption, which are often destroyed during cooking.

Is Raw Meat Bad For Dogs?

Raw meat is not inherently bad. However, feeding raw meat poses some risks and requires careful consideration. Most veterinarians will advise against it due to the following reasons.

Unbalanced Nutrition

A raw meat diet might lack essential nutrients, leading to deficiencies in vitamins and minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and certain essential fatty acids. Researchers tested three home-prepared and two commercial RMBD diets and found that all five 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]

Bacterial Contamination

Raw meat is more likely to harbor harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which can cause severe gastrointestinal infections in dogs. 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% 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]

A study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice found that dogs fed raw meat diets had a significantly higher prevalence of both Salmonella and Antimicrobial-resistant E. coli in their feces than dogs fed non-raw diets. The presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in dog feces poses a significant health risk to humans, particularly those who are elderly, immunocompromised, or young children, since handling raw meat and interacting with dogs carrying these pathogens can lead to the spread of these bacteria within households.[20] Bacteria from contained raw meat can spread to kitchen surfaces, utensils, and hands during the preparation of raw meat, increasing the likelihood of cross-contamination.

If you are new to raw feeding, read our Raw Dog Food For Beginners Guide to learn everything you need to get started. This comprehensive guide covers the basics of raw feeding, how to safely prepare and balance raw meals, and tips for transitioning your dog to a raw diet. 

Where to Buy Raw Meat For Safe Dogs

Raw Food Delivery

Who It’s For: Dog owners who want the perfect raw meat recipes delivered to their door that are balanced and safe to eat.

To eliminate the risks associated with feeding raw meat to dogs, only buy raw meat from reputable brands, specifically pet stores, local farmers, or butchers who follow stringent safety protocols to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.

Our favorite place to get raw meat for our dogs is through one of the best raw dog food delivery services. Commercial raw meat-based diets (RMBD) do not pose any risks. Raw dog food companies address the risks and concerns about raw meat diets by formulating their recipes to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). To avoid bacterial contamination, they use high-quality ingredients, including USDA-certified human-grade meats and fresh produce. Furthermore, they finely ground the bones to reduce any risk of chowing. These raw pet food manufacturers adhere to the FDA’s recommendations for processing and packing all pet food products.

We Feed Raw is one of our favorite choices and offers the best dog raw meat-based diets available on the market. They deliver Biologically Appropriate Raw Food straight to your door. Their formula is a balanced blend of raw meat, organs, and bones, supplemented with other key ingredients. All of their ingredients are USDA-sourced. Their formulas are developed with the input of a veterinary nutritionist for a balanced diet.

Get 25% off their first order with the code CB25. Use Canine Bible’s link to get started.

Side Effects & Risks

The following symptoms may indicate a bad reaction to raw meat.

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

When Raw Meat Is Not Suitable For Certain Dogs

Raw meat may not be suitable for certain dogs, particularly those with specific health conditions, life stages, or individual sensitivities. Here are some scenarios in which a raw meat diet might not be appropriate:

Dietary hyperthyroidism. Although rare, raw meat consumption could cause hyperthyroidism if dogs are fed too much thyroid tissue. A study involving twelve dogs on raw meat diets or fed fresh or dried gullets showed elevated levels of thyroid hormone, and their symptoms improved after changing their diet to exclude these items.[21] 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. If your dog is prone to hyperthyroidism, avoiding neck meat altogether or limiting its consumption to avoid ingesting excess thyroid hormone may be a good idea.

Pancreatitis. Raw meat diets are often high in fat, which can trigger or exacerbate pancreatitis, a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed. Dogs with a history of pancreatitis should avoid high-fat diets, including many raw meat diets. To mitigate this risk, feed lean cuts of raw meat and formulate a raw diet that’s low in fat, especially for breeds like the English Cocker Spaniel and Miniature Schnauzer, which are predisposed to developing pancreatitis.

Health conditions. Dogs with compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, those with autoimmune diseases, or those on immunosuppressive medications, are at a higher risk of bacterial infections from raw meat. Dogs with heart disease, kidney disease, or dogs prone to bladder stones should also be mindful of this.

Are Dogs Allergic to Raw Meat?

While not common, some dogs may have an allergic reaction to raw meat. Symptoms can include itching, swelling, hives, and, in severe cases, anaphylaxis, a medical emergency.

If you suspect your dog is allergic to any food, including raw meat, it is crucial to consult a veterinarian. Your vet can provide appropriate advice and help you formulate a safe diet plan for your dog. We also recommend conducting an at-home dog allergy test to determine if your dog is sensitive or intolerant to certain foods.

What Should I Do If My Dog Reacted Badly to Raw Meat?

If your dog reacts badly to raw meat, immediately stop feeding it and remove all access to it. Ensure your dog has access to fresh water to maintain hydration. Call your veterinarian if your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above or if you’re concerned about its condition.

Can’t reach your vet? Contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661 or chat live with a veterinary professional via our online vet chat or video chat support (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). You can also schedule an at-home veterinary appointment with The Vets, a mobile veterinary service that provides at-home vet care nationwide for just about everything.

Dogs showing worsening symptoms, such as blood in their vomit or stool, difficulty breathing, weakness, or collapse, should be taken to the veterinarian immediately.

Can Puppies Eat Raw Meat?

Puppies generally have more sensitive digestive systems than adult dogs, making them more prone to upset stomachs after consuming rich or high-fat foods, including raw meat. Due to their developing digestive systems, puppies may be more susceptible to bacterial infections from pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli, commonly found in raw meat. Additionally, while puppies require a diet higher in protein to support their growth and development, their diet must be well-balanced to prevent nutritional deficiencies. Raw meat alone may not provide the necessary nutrients puppies need, and the risk of imbalanced nutrition is significant without careful planning and supplementation. Therefore, it is generally recommended that puppies avoid raw meat until their digestive systems are more mature and capable of handling such diets safely.

Raw Meat Reddit Conversations

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Supermarket meat is OK for dogs to consume as a supplement to a complete and balanced diet, not as a whole diet.

Yes, provided you follow a few simple rules. Always supervise your dog when you give him a bone, and make sure it’s too large for him to try to swallow. Avoid pork, poultry, and cooked bones of any kind. Don’t give your dog a bone when another dog visits; some can get protective! Raw meat bones are a great choice as long as they aren’t harder than your dog’s teeth, which could cause them to break. Refrigerate the bones after 10-15 minutes of chewing and throw them away after three or four days.

Dogs can eat raw meat every day. As a complete diet, it is recommended to feed your pet a commercially prepared raw food diet to ensure balanced nutrition.

Dogs can eat hard-boiled or scrambled eggs (with no milk or seasoning added) but not raw eggs because they risk ingesting salmonella bacteria. They can even eat the shell.

Raw meat contains many bacteria that, if left to warm to room temperature, can multiply and make your dog sick. It’s best to always feed raw meat straight from the refrigerator.

While dogs can eat frozen raw meat, it’s generally recommended to thaw it first. Small dogs may have a hard time chewing hard frozen pieces, and if your dog tends to swallow before thoroughly chewing their food, they could choke.

Only adult dogs, 12 months or older, are generally recommended to consume 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 accidental nutrient imbalances.

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.

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

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, raw meat can be a part of a dog’s diet, but it is important to ensure 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.

To get started, use our raw dog food calculator to determine the appropriate portion sizes for your dog. Additionally, consider a dog gut health test to ensure your dog’s digestive system can handle the raw diet. For those concerned about cost, check out our guide on raw feeding on a budget to provide your dog with a healthy, raw diet without breaking the bank. And if you want to buy raw meat in bulk, check out this article.


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Sources

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

  1. Nature. Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog. 
  2. Timely Topics in Nutrition
  3. BMC – Raw Meat Based Diet 
  4. Raw Diet Gene Expression
  5. Nutritional Composition of Meat
  6. NCBI – Selenium & Dogs
  7. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. Aspects of meat quality: trace elements and B vitamins in raw and cooked meats.
  8. PubMed. The influence of cooking and fat trimming on the actual nutrient intake from meat
  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. PubMed. Dietary hyperthyroidism in dogs
Editorial Team at Canine Bible

Canine Bible authorship represents the unified voice of our entire editorial team and our in-house veterinarians rather than a single author. Each article, blog post, and review published under the Canine Bible name undergoes a rigorous review process, involving all team members to guarantee accuracy and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research. This collaborative effort is an integral part of our editorial process and aligns with our four pillars of content creation. This approach ensures our content is backed by expert knowledge and factual information, offering our readers reliable, actionable, and trustworthy content.

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