There are many people who have concerns that raw feeding with raw dog food products is an unhygienic practise that will introduce harmful bacteria to both them and their dogs. While it is no secret that there are potentially harmful bacteria in any meat used for a raw food diet, the risks are negligible as long as you buy from a reputable DEFRA approved supplier and effective storage and hygiene procedures are followed. Good and bad bacteria are found in not only raw meat but pretty much all raw dog food ingredients that we use in food preparation.
The meaning of the word “bacteria”
Let’s consider the word bacteria for a moment. Just the mere mention of the word has some people reaching for the antibacterial wipes but let’s not forget that not all bacteria are all harmful. In fact, without these micro-organisms we wouldn’t stay healthy. The good bacteria in our bodies fights against the bad, offering a first line of defence against infection and disease. The trouble is that often we eliminate the good bacteria while trying to get rid of the bad. The sheer volume of products that exist to kill them could actually be doing us more harm than good.
Bacteria and raw feeding
With all types of dog food, there is a risk that it carries harmful bacteria. It has been proven on numerous occasions that dry and canned food contain bacteria including Salmonella and E-Coli. What people tend to assume is that if it comes out of a packet or a tin then it is safe. There are over 800 cases of dry dog food being linked to Salmonella contamination in humans. Presenting it as a safe alternative to raw is misleading.
At ProDog Raw, we often come across these common misconceptions about bacteria and raw feeding:
1. The food can be harmful when being prepared and served
All raw food including meat, vegetables, salad and fruit can carry harmful bacteria whether being prepared and served for yourself or your dog. You may recall the recent incident of frozen vegetable products that were found to contain dangerous levels of bacteria. All food can present a risk if not stored or handled properly. When you prepare chicken, or other raw meat for yourself you follow a set of hygiene steps. This involves washing your hands after handling it, washing all utensils thoroughly and cleaning any surfaces properly before and after. These are exactly the same steps that should be taken when preparing ProDog food for your dog. It is no more of a risk to prepare our raw food for canines than it is to prepare it for humans.
2. The dog is at risk of consuming harmful bacteria
Dogs are facultative carnivores. This means they are anatomically designed to thrive on a diet of animal protein, but they will eat other types of foods made available to them. Their digestive systems are designed to consume raw food. A dog in the wild cannot cook their food before consumption and they can’t refrigerate it. They catch, kill and eat their prey. They eat the contents of their prey’s stomach and they forage for foods where other animals carrying bacteria have been. They are naturally scavengers and will eat what they find without a thought to where it came from. It is important to recognise that a dog’s system is designed to cope with raw meat and any bacteria that it may contain. Take their tongue for example; it has often been said that a dog’s lick is anti-bacterial. They have several defence mechanisms including their saliva which contains lysozyme (extremely hostile to bacteria). Their gut also contains the same level of acid as a battery! This physiological makeup has been inherited from their ancestors and domestication has done nothing to alter this.
3. Stroking a dog or picking up their faeces can transfer bacteria to humans.
Being licked by a dog does not pose a risk. As we have already stated, their lick itself is anti-bacterial and was used to treat wounds of historical armies in the past. In addition to this Salmonella cannot be passed from a dog’s saliva – it would only be transmitted through their faeces. Stroking a raw fed dog or picking up their poo is no riskier than doing the same with one that is fed kibble or other dry foods. You should always exercise caution when you pick up poo and wash your hands thoroughly, this is the same for all dogs, regardless of what they are fed. If you have been stroking a dog then wash your hands before you prepare your food. The everyday things that we touch contain far more harmful bacteria. A public door handle, a supermarket trolley, the toilet seat and taps in a washroom and even the coins in our pockets all carry bacteria.
Don’t let these concerns stop you introducing your dog to a raw food diet
If you are uneasy about introducing a raw diet to your dog because of the risk of bacteria then following these simple steps can help you to minimize the already very low risks:
- Directly after handling the food you should wash your hands thoroughly. Use hot soapy water and make sure you dry them properly afterwards.
- Clean all surfaces with disinfectant before and after food preparation
- Thoroughly clean all utensils that have been used in the food preparation
- After every meal, wash your dogs’ food bowls with soap and hot water. Make sure you rinse them thoroughly to get rid of all of the soap and then dry them before putting them away. If you are using a dishwasher then use a higher setting
- Keep all raw meat or raw complete meals stored in closed containers towards the bottom of the fridge.
- If you defrost food in the fridge rather than on the kitchen surface, this will limit the growth of any bacteria. Again, to prevent run off from the defrosting food, be sure to store it at the bottom of the fridge
- Use a separate surface for raw preparation for your dog than you do for preparing your own meals. It is a good idea to have a dedicated area.
- Get rid of food waste regularly.
In addition to the low risks of bacteria being transmitted through raw feeding, at ProDog Raw we are experts in raw food hygiene and completely committed to the quality of food that we provide. To ensure that our food is ultra-safe all of the meat used in our meals is human grade and we work to very exacting guidelines set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which is a UK government controlled department. These standards mean that every single batch of food that we prepare is lab tested for pathogens such as Salmonella and E-Coli. If any of these pathogens were found to be present, the whole batch would be appropriately disposed of.
While our packaging states that our food is not suitable for consumption by humans, this is actually a DEFRA requirement and means that the ratios of meat, bone and vegetables are not suitable for a human diet but every ingredient is of human grade standard and ethically sourced from only DEFRA approved British farms. It does not mean that the food is in any way dangerous or risky to humans. You can rest assured that we take immense pride in ensuring the food that reaches you is absolutely fit for consumption. If you have any questions or concerns then the team are more than happy to address them or to offer advice if you are considering taking the leap and introducing raw to your dog.