Safety First: Guidelines for Handling Raw Dog Food


In recent years, more and more pet owners have become interested in feeding their dogs a raw food diet. The popularity of raw dog food continues to grow as pet parents learn about the potential benefits of providing dogs a more ancestral, species-appropriate fare.

Raw dog food diets aim to mimic the natural food dogs are evolved to eat in the wild. This means providing raw, uncooked meats, bones, organs, eggs, and even some vegetables. Advocates point to enhanced nutrition, dental health, coat quality, and other advantages when dogs are fed a diet of raw whole foods.

However, because raw dog food contains uncooked meats and proteins, extra safety precautions are required when handling, prepping, and storing the ingredients. Potential risks of pathogens and cross-contamination exist if proper food safety guidelines are not followed diligently in the home kitchen.

It’s understandable that some dog owners feel apprehensive about bringing raw meat products into their home on a regular basis. But with sensible practices, raw dog food can be handled safely and the risks can be mitigated. This allows pet owners to explore the potential benefits of species-appropriate raw diets for their canine companions.

This guide covers everything you need to know to handle raw dog food safely. You’ll learn proper techniques for thawing, prepping, serving, and storing raw proteins. Tips are provided on transitioning your dog gradually and troubleshooting any digestive issues. We’ll also explore some common misconceptions about raw feeding and why it continues to gain popularity among dog lovers seeking to maximize their pet’s vitality.

Whether you’re an experienced raw feeder or new to the concept, following safe handling guidelines is crucial. While raw diets offer many advantages, foodborne pathogens are nothing to be casual about. By educating yourself on best practices and being diligent in your kitchen, you can safely feed your dog a nutritious raw diet.

Let’s start with the basics…what exactly is raw dog food?

advantage of raw beef dog food

Understanding Raw Dog Food

At its core, raw dog food aims to replicate the ancestral diet of dogs in the wild. Raw feeders reject processed kibble, which has only existed for the last century. Instead, they look to provide food in its natural form?raw, fresh, and uncooked.

This means raw meaty bones, organ meats, muscle meat, eggs, leafy greens, some dairy, fish oils, and other nutritive supplements. Variety and rotation of proteins is key to a balanced raw diet. Common proteins include chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, venison, bison, duck, rabbit, and quail.

Cooking food destroys vital enzymes and some nutrients through the heating process. Raw food proponents believe feeding foods in their whole, fresh state maximizes bioavailability of nutrients. This is the central theory behind the raw feeding movement.

Some key advantages to feeding dogs a species-appropriate raw diet include:

  • Improved digestion and nutrient absorption
  • Healthier skin and a shinier coat
  • Better dental health through chewing bones
  • Increased energy and vitality
  • Leaner body composition and healthy weight
  • Potentially strengthened immune function

Of course, individual dogs respond differently to any diet or food change. Consulting your vet is always advised, especially for puppies or dogs with health conditions.

Raw diets come with some valid safety concerns, but risks can be mitigated through proper handling techniques. First, let’s explore what hazards exist when handling raw dog food.

Risks Associated with Raw Dog Food

Many dog owners are understandably wary of having uncooked meat in their homes on a daily basis. Handling any raw protein does come with an increased risk of bacterial exposure. Pathogens of note include Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria.

Dogs themselves are more resistant to foodborne pathogens than humans due to their highly acidic stomach acid. Healthy canines are unlikely to actually get sick from eating raw foods. However, dogs can certainly pass pathogens through their stool or saliva if contaminated.

For humans prepping the food, caution must be taken to avoid cross-contamination within the home. Surfaces, hands, and utensils exposed to raw meat must be sanitized promptly and thoroughly.

Immuno-compromised individuals including young children, pregnant women, and the elderly should take extra care around raw pet food. Or avoid exposure completely if possible.

With some basic safety practices, raw feeding can be accomplished without notable risk. The keys are controlling handling and preventing cross-contamination in the home kitchen environment.

beef for raw dog food diet raw diet

Safe Handling Practices

When introducing raw proteins into your dog’s diet, safety has to come first. Here are some best practices to avoid problems:

Use separate supplies – Never use the same utensils, bowls, cutting boards, etc for raw meat and other human foods. Designate supplies solely for raw proteins.

Store properly – Keep raw proteins covered and sealed in the bottom of the refrigerator. Never store raw proteins above cooked foods. Use separate freezer containers.

Wash up – After touching raw food, immediately wash your hands and sanitize any surfaces or objects exposed. Use soap and hot water for 20+ seconds.

Mind the juice – Be extremely careful that raw meat juices do not drip on or touch other surfaces, utensils, foods, etc. This avoids cross-contamination.

Clean bowls promptly – Never let your dog continue licking their bowl after a raw meal. Remove and wash with soap right away.

Monitor recalls – Check the FDA and AVMA sites periodically for any supplier recalls. These are rare but can occur.

Following these safety guidelines reliably makes feeding dogs a raw diet possible for most homes. Just take reasonable care as you would with any raw meat product prep.

Transitioning to Raw Dog Food

When introducing raw food, go slowly with food changes. Remember, dogs do not handle abrupt diet changes well. Their digestive systems need time to adjust.

Try these tips for an easy raw diet transition:

  • Start by mixing a small amount of raw food into their regular kibble. Gradually increase the ratio of raw over 2-4 weeks.
  • Begin with blander proteins like chicken. Introduce richer meats like beef or fish after digestion adjusts.
  • Keep portion sizes modest until stools normalize, then increase to meet energy needs.
  • Expect a detox period for 1-2 weeks as their body adapts. This can mean loose stool, gas, or acting under the weather.
  • Monitor stool health closely. Constipation or diarrhea means you increased raw ratios too quickly.
  • Be patient and committed. The transition process may take 2-3 months for some dogs.

Work closely with your vet for puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with medical conditions. Certain dogs may not be suitable for a raw diet. A veterinarian can help troubleshoot any digestive issues.

raw dog food raw diet

Benefits of Raw Dog Food

Veterinary nutritionists acknowledge that raw food is highly nutritious and digestible for most dogs. When fed appropriately, raw diets have proven benefits:

  • Improved skin and coat – The natural oils in raw foods impart noticeably shinier, silkier fur and resolve dry skin issues.
  • Better digestion – Raw foods contain natural enzymes that improve digestion and nutrient absorption from food. Constipation and soft stools are reduced.
  • Increased energy – Dogs regain youthful vitality and energy when fed species-appropriate raw food.
  • Healthy weight – Lean proteins and unprocessed fats in raw food help dogs reach and sustain healthy body composition.
  • Dental health – Chewing raw meaty bones naturally scrapes away plaque and tartar on tooth surfaces.
  • Possible immune boost – Some veterinarians believe raw foods may help strengthen immune function due to certain antimicrobial and antioxidant compounds. More research is needed.

While individual results will vary, most dogs benefit significantly from a properly handled raw diet. Be sure to monitor your dog’s health and consult your vet with any concerns.

Common Misconceptions

Despite the rise of raw diets, some misconceptions still persist about their risks and benefits:

Myth: Cooking food is safer for dogs – In fact, cooking destroys nutrients and enzymes dogs need from raw foods. Freezing for 2 weeks kills pathogens for safety.

Myth: Raw bones will choke my dog – Cooked bones splinter and cause choking. Raw bones chew soft and are safe if appropriately sized for dog. Supervise chewing.

Myth: Raw food is full of bacteria – While raw food does carry some bacteria risk, dogs’ stomach acid kills pathogens like salmonella. Take safety precautions when handling.

Myth: My dog will get sick on raw food – Healthy dogs are unlikely to get sick from pathogens due to their strong digestive systems. Still take safety precautions.

Myth: Raw diets are too expensive – Homemade raw diets can be affordable by buying proteins in bulk when on sale. But commercial raw is pricier for the convenience.

If you have any other concerns, discuss them with your veterinarian. They can provide helpful clarity and advice about your dog’s specific needs.

dog food diet success stories


Raw dog food can provide immense benefits by optimizing your dog’s nutrition in alignment with their ancestral biology. Safer handling practices allow pet owners to feed raw safely at home.

Follow the handling and storage guidelines outlined here diligently. Always transition slowly to allow your dog’s digestive system time to adjust. Work closely with your veterinarian for any concerns.

While raw diets take more planning and precautions, many dog lovers find the extra effort worthwhile. The benefits to skin, coat, energy, dental health, and wellbeing are often remarkable. Feeding species-appropriate raw food allows dogs to thrive on natural nutrients in their freshest form.

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