Feeding Raw, Part 2: Raw Pet Food Safety
Is feeding raw pet food dangerous?Yes and no. If stored or thawed improperly, raw food will fester with bacteria and become unsafe for both you and your pet. That being said, the risk is much lower with our four-legged companions. Our pets are less susceptible to infections by salmonella and E.coli, because their shorter, more acidic digestive systems are better at killing bad bacteria and moving them out of the digestive tract more quickly. That said, it is still important and very easy to safely feed a raw diet, as we'll see below.
How do I safely feed a raw diet?
- Use sustainably sourced meat.
The benefits of getting the best quality meat extend beyond simply feeling ‘green:’ these meats are raised without hormones and other harmful chemicals, which would otherwise be passed on to your pup.
In addition, low quality meat comes from livestock fed a diet of mishmash that can include waste and even carcasses of animals diseased with cancer, E. coli, Salmonella and deemed unfit for human consumption. When cows or other farm animals eat this, it becomes part of their system and can be passed on to your pets in their meat.
You can read about some of Tomlinson’s favorite sustainably sourced pet food companies here.
- Only thaw what your pet will eat for one meal, and NEVER thaw using the microwave. Stainless steel feeding bowls are easier to clean and help prevent the spread of bacteria when feeding a raw diet.
Many Tomlinson’s employees have their pets on raw diets. Those who use frozen formulas find it easiest to thaw pup’s breakfast in the refrigerator the night before, and then thaw dinner in the fridge during the day. This provides plenty of time for the meal to thaw without bringing it fully to room temperature- which would encourage bacteria to grow.
It's important to never use a microwave to defrost or thaw your pet's raw food. Microwave radiation can alter the healthy fats like fish oil in your pet's food, and destroy some of their nutritional value.
If you do need a quick way to defrost frozen raw food, seal a patty in a Ziploc bag and submerge it in a bowl of warm (not hot) water. Each raw food maker will have their own guidelines regarding quick thaw methods, which can be found either online or directly on the packaging.
- Use stainless steel feeding bowls.
Glass, plastic, and other surfaces can be porous and cling to bacteria and toxins, especially when heated under warm water. Stainless steel is not porous, and thus easier to get completely clean.
- Wash with soap and warm water.
This includes any bowls and utensils needed when prepping your pet’s food, as well as your hands! Otherwise any tiny bit of bacteria from the last meal could multiply and reach dangerous levels before the next mealtime.
How should I transition my pet to a raw diet?Primal suggests monitoring your pets’ stool to determine how her body is adjusting to the transition:
“To determine how your pet's system is accepting the new diet, monitor your pet's stool. On a raw diet, your pet's stool size will be greatly reduced. Stools will become small, firm and void of any offensive odor. If your pet's stool is soft or loose as a result of the transition, introduce the raw food more slowly.”Looking for more information on transitioning pet foods? Read our top five tips here. Neville can't get enough of his freeze-dried raw from Stella & Chewy's.
How much do I feed my pet?Most raw pet food companies suggest feeding your pet 2-3% of their body weight per day. Please keep in mind that this number is approximate. If you notice your pet is gaining or losing unnecessary weight, adjust feeding portions accordingly. Some factors that may affect portion size include: activity level, age, metabolism, breed and overall health.
I switched my dog to raw food, and they seem to be less healthy. What went wrong?Bones & Co. calls this ‘detoxification.’ If you’ve switched your pet to an exclusively raw diet, you may notice excessive shedding, loose stools or runny eyes. No need to panic- your pet is simply getting rid of all the toxins their body collected from eating lower-quality food. You should notice your pretty kitty looking and feeling better than ever in a matter of weeks. What other questions do you have about feeding your pet a raw diet? Comment over on our Facebook page- we’d be happy to answer! Sources: The Bones & Co., Primal Pet Foods, Dog Food Advisor
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