Prairie View Animal Hospital

24 Rich Road
Dekalb, IL 60115


Raw Foods:

To feed or not to feed


The recommendation of Prairie View Animal Hospital is not to feed a raw food diet.


Types of raw food diets generally used for small animals:

1.   BARF (bones and raw food):  These diets are prepared at home. Meat is generally purchased at the grocery store. The bones are usually purchased from butchers where quality and freshness are unknown.  Essential vitamins and minerals may or may not be added by owners.

2.   Partial consumer prepared meals:  A commercial blend of dry fruit, vegetables, and grains is mixed with super market purchased fresh meat.  Bones are given as a treat only.

3.   Commercially prepared raw meals:  A mix of raw meat, organs, vegetables, fruit, grains, and/or ground bones that may or may not include added vitamins and minerals. These foods are pre-packaged and sold frozen. 


The Myths about raw food diets:


Myth #1: Raw food diets are nutritionally superior to processed diets:

There is no scientific evidence to show this. All processed foods are required to go through AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) standards.  Some raw food diets do not meet AAFCO standards because most are not complete and balanced.  Processed premium quality foods are superior to raw food diets due to the increased quality of the ingredients used. 


Nutritional osteodystrophy and rickets have also been reported on occasion in animals being fed raw food diets.  These reports have nutritionists saying that after decades of not seeing rickets, it is on the upswing. (Lauten, Kirk abstract in ACVIM per Susan G. Wynn DVM, RH (AHG))          


Myth #2: Domesticated species tolerate bacterial contamination:

There have been no studies done to support this claim, and in fact there have been studies done to show the opposite.  Colorado State University in conjunction with the USDA did a study on 21 commercially available raw meat diets from different retail stores. All diets were kept frozen until evaluated by researchers.  This study showed 53% of the diets contained   e. coli, which is correlated with severe intestinal problems in dogs and humans.  5.9% of the samples contained Salmonella which is another bacterium that causes intestinal disease.  Bacterial contamination was found in 99% of the diets studied.  (Ref. 2)


Another study that was done by JAAHA (Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association), involved two cats who died from septic salmonellosis.  One of the cases was directly linked to being fed a raw food diet.


Poultry carcasses intended for human consumption test positive for salmonella 20-25% of the time.  Raw meat used for pet foods is more frequently contaminated.


Furthermore, animals that are not sick themselves can pass bacteria, protozoan, parasites, etc. into the environment.  This is a public health concern, for anyone who may come in contact with the pet?s stool.   



 Least Wanted Foodborne Pathogens:


The U.S. Public Health Service has identified the following microorganisms as being the biggest culprits of foodborne illness, either because of the severity of the sickness or the number of cases of illness they cause. Beware of these pathogens:

(only 6 of the 10 listed)



Campylobacter- Second most common bacterial cause of diarrhea in the United States; Sources: raw and undercooked poultry and other meat, raw milk and untreated water.


E. coli O157:H7- A bacterium that can produce a deadly toxin and causes approximately 73,000 cases of foodborne illness each year in the U.S. Sources: beef, especially undercooked or raw hamburger; produce; raw milk; and unpasteurized juices and ciders.


Listeria monocytogenes- Causes listeriosis, a serious disease for pregnant women, newborns and adults with a weakened immune system. Sources: unpasteurized dairy products, including soft cheeses; sliced deli meats; smoked fish; hot dogs; pate'; and deli-prepared salads (i.e. egg, ham, seafood, and chicken salads).


Salmonella- Most common bacterial cause of diarrhea in the United States, and the most common cause of foodborne deaths. Responsible for 1.4 million cases of foodborne illness a year. Sources: raw and undercooked eggs, undercooked poultry and meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized dairy products.


Toxoplasma gondii- A parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, a very severe disease that can produce central nervous system disorders particularly mental retardation and visual impairment in children. Pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk; Sources: raw or undercooked pork.


Vibrio vulnificus- Causes gastroenteritis, wound infection, and severe bloodstream infections. People with liver diseases are especially at high risk. Sources: raw or undercooked seafood, particularly shellfish.


"Ten Least Wanted Pathogens" information provided by the Centers for Disease Control. For more information visit


Myth #3: Wolves eat raw food and therefore we should feed dogs raw food:

Wolves and dogs are genetically distinct from each other.  On Average, wolves in the wild only live to be about 8 years old, while wolves in captivity live to be about 16 years of age.  Most deaths are attributed to predation, disease, and starvation.  Wolves in captivity are fed a well balanced diet, just like most domesticated animals. 


Myth #4: Real bones are ok for dogs to eat:

Real bones can cause perforation of the GI tract.  This is a serious concern and would require surgery to repair.  Impaction of the GI tract can also occur as a result of feeding real bones.  Not as common, but still a concern, is pets aspirating the bone and dying from asphyxiation. 


Real bones are also a concern, because they can fracture the teeth.  The tooth that usually gets injured is the upper fourth pre-molar teeth.  This tooth is a 3 rooted tooth and if fractured, requires root canal therapy or oral surgery to extract the tooth and root.  


Myth #5: Pet food ?by products? are used as filler and have no nutritional value:

A by-product is defined as any item that is produced in the making of something else.  A great example of this is that vitamin E is a by-product of soybean production.  High-quality meat and meal by-products are highly digestible and do not contain excessive minerals. 


Myth #6: Corn is just a filler:

Corn is a natural and wholesome ingredient that contains highly digestible carbohydrates for ready energy, essential fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, quality proteins for muscle and tissue growth, and beta-carotene, vitamin E, and lutein which are antioxidants.


The following quote is from the CDC website:


?Raw foods of animal origin are the most likely to be contaminated; that is, raw meat and poultry, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, and raw shellfish.  Because filter feeding shellfish strain microbes from the sea over many months, they are particularly likely to be contaminated if there are any pathogens in the seawater.  Foods that mingle the products of individual animals, such as bulk raw milk, pooled raw eggs, or ground beef, are particularly hazardous because a pathogen present in any one of the animals may contaminate the whole bunch.?