Won’t my cat and dog get salmonella from eating raw food?

If you are feeding a species-appropriate diet, your animals body will perform at its best. Thriving, not just surviving. A complete and balanced raw meat diet is what cats and dogs are designed to eat. With proper nutrition, your animals immune system and digestive system are working at their best. Cats and dogs have naturally very low stomach pH (~1), which makes it inhospitable to pathogens like salmonella which need 4-8+ pH to survive. Additionally, being carnivores, they have very short digestive tracts that inherently do not allow any bacteria that escaped from the stomach to culture into an amount large enough to make your animal sick. Salmonella needs at least 12 hours to culture to create sickness. Before these pathogens have a chance to hurt your animal, they’re in the litter box. Dogs and cats are much more likely to get sick when they are fed an inapproriate diet filled with starches, grains, and sugars. These ingredients alkalize the stomach, exposing them to these pathogens, and lowering their immune system in the process.

But won’t I get sick from it?

Do you get sick from making hamburgers every night? The chances I bet are very low. Handling raw pet food is the same as handling raw meat for humans. Especially because raw food brands have incredibly stricter safety guidelines they must follow in order to be produced. Honestly, you have a higher chance of getting sick from touching kibble. To ensure your own safety, use the same practices you would use when preparing your own meal: wash your hands, utensils, and surfaces after use. Of course, if you or your loved ones are immunocompromised and would like to be extra careful, I would recommend High Pressure Pasteurized foods (HPP) just to be safe.

Kibble cleans my cats teeth!

If kibble cleans teeth, then why do 2/3 of cats get periodontal disease by the age of 3? Because its not biologically appropriate. Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in the mouth form plaque (a bacterial film) that sticks to the surface of teeth which is directly fed by the sugars found in commercial kibble. Kibble was invented around World War 1. If kibble and sedated vet cleanings are the solution to naturally clean teeth, then pre-World War kitties must have been toothless! The best way to prevent periodontal disease is to feed raw meaty bones that are hard enough to scrape the plaque away from the teeth and not feed the plaque-forming bacteria.

Bones can crack teeth. That is true. And that is why it is important to know what you are doing to create a balanced diet containing bones that will not harm your animal. Cats and dogs have the jaws of carnivores. Put a Chihuahua up to a mountain lion, the similarities are breathtaking. Your animal has the ability to chew, swallow, and digest appropriate bones. Bones to feed include non-weight bearing bones such as necks, feet, wings, and backs. Bones to use as recreational chews (for dogs) would be marrow bones, knuckles, rib bones, etc. Bones become brittle and hard when they are cooked and smoked so it is imperative that these bones are not fed to your animal. This could result in teeth breaking, choking, and internal bleeding. Raw meaty bones clean teeth and provide essential micronutrients, fat, and minerals not found in muscle meat.

Raw meaty bones break my cats teeth

Yes! This is completely normal. Cats in particular get their moisture from their food and raw food is 60-70% moisture like their prey would be naturally. Kibble has all moisture removed (10%) which causes the animal to over-compensate with excessive drinking.

My animal is drinking less water now that she’s on raw. Is this normal?

Yes! One of the best outcomes from a raw food diet is that your animal is actually using the nutrients from their food. Kibble is 50-60% plant material, which is minimally used in dogs, and even more so in cats. This creates stress on the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes, and because of their short digestive tracts, not all of the plant material is used - hence large, stinky, half-fermented poops. As omnivores, we have longer digestive tracts that are equipped to breakdown plant sugars over long periods of time. Your animal doesn’t and therefore feeding plant material in excess is not only stressful on your animal, but money in the trash. Raw fed poops should be dark, firm, not stinky, and easily disintegrated. As a pet parent, this is selfishly my favorite benefit ;)

My animals poops have halved in size. Is this normal?

The federal government spends more than $20 billion a year on subsidies for farm businesses, with a majority of that going to the largest producers of corn, soy, and wheat. What is in most commercial kibbles? You guessed it, corn, wheat, and soy. Subsidies protect farmers against fluctuations in prices, reveneues, and yields, which is great in times of trouble, but for most of these crops that have been at a high yield for a long time, the price drops dramatically. This is a cause for celebration if you are willing to make a profit off of household pets; especially those who “need” a “prescription diet”. Kibble was invented during World War 1 when rations were low and grains were the only thing available to feed household pets. The idea of selling cheap food for a profit was more than appealing to certain corporate moguls and low and behold, it has stuck ever since. Profits are not worth more than your best friend.

If cats can’t digest plant material, why is it in their food?

So many things! Adding moisture is the most important for cats so try intriducing goat’s milk or bone broth with your cats meals. Trying wet food a couple of times a week will also increase overall moisture intake. Even sprinkling little bits of raw over kibble will help. Adding supplements like probiotics, digestive enzymes, and Omega-3 sources are all great options to increase your overall wellness without making the jump!

I can’t afford raw right now, what can I do that will still help?

This is very common. Not all vets are completely open to raw feeding, with good reason! Think about it, all day long vets get sick animals. They get the animals that are suffering from an unbalanced diet - NOT the ones like your animal that are thriving on a complete and balanced species-appropriate diet. They have reason to be skeptical. They’ve seen raw feeding at its worst. Keeping that in mind when you talk with your vet is crucial. If necessary, bring your research, come prepared, and have a calm and logical conversation with them. The more evidence they see, the more comfortable they will feel. If your vet is very unreasonable, you have the option to find another one! I prefer holistic or integrative vetrinarians as they have training in both traditional medicine and western medicine. They are more centered around prevention through diet and lifestyle, than playing Mr. Fix-it.

My vet is against raw feeding, but I have done my research and I believe it is the best option for my animal. What should I do?

Disclaimer: This post is meant to educate on the topic of cat nutritional requirements. This is not intended to offend or belittle pet owners that feed a dry or lower quality food. Whatever is within your means is good enough! There are many ways to make small improvements in your cats nutrition! If your limits are extreme but you would still like to make a difference, feel free to contact me or your local integrative veterinarian.