Is Uncooked Unhealthy? Myths about Raw Pet Food Diets

You’ve likely heard about the raw food movement for humans, but many people are now raving about the benefits of uncooked, homemade meals for their pets. If you’re curious about the craze, read our guide to cut through the hype before jumping on the bandwagon and tossing out the kibble. (Spoiler: raw pet food diets aren't as great as they're claimed to be!)

Fact or fiction? All raw food diets are completely homemade.


There are three main types of raw pet food:

  • Commercially available diets: These are usually frozen and intended to be complete and balanced.
  • Homemade diet recipes: These rely on the owner to supplement the diet for long-term use.
  • Commercial mixes: These are a mix of grains and supplements that the owner mixes with raw meat.


Fact or fiction? Raw food is nutritionally superior to commercial diets.


  • Your pets have very specific dietary requirements that can be difficult to meet in your home kitchen. Anyone who wants to feed a raw food diet should consult a pet nutritionist.
  • Studies have tested a variety of these raw diets. From the studies, none were found to be completely balanced and all had nutrient deficiencies.
  • AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) sets standards for all commercially prepared diets. Diets can meet these standards by formulation or food trials.
  • Raw food diets are not marketed as “complete and balanced” so they do not need to conform to AAFCO standards. This means no trials!
  • Feeding trials are necessary to see if these diets are suitable for long-term use.

dog food raw diet

Fact or fiction? Animals can tolerate the bacteria in raw food better than humans.


  • The AVMA's official position discourages feeding pets any protein that is not free of pathogenic organisms because of the risk of illness for cats, dogs and humans.
  • A highly pathogenic strain of E. coli has been found in one out of five commercial raw food diets tested. A significant proportion of raw food diets tested were positive for Salmonella and/or Listeria.
  • Two cats’ deaths from Salmonellosis directly related to raw food were reported in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in 2003.
  • About 20-25% of human food grade poultry tests positive for Salmonella, which is normally killed when cooked.
  • Up to 89% of pork is infected with bacteria known as Yersinia enterocolitica which is known to cause septicemia in dogs.
  • Many other foodborne parasites can affect pets eating raw food, such as fish tapeworms, trematodes and kidney worms. All these parasites are killed by cooking, and cooking meat is the only way to rid it of pathogens.


Fact or fiction? Raw food improves the health of pets.


  • No evidence is available to support this claim - and significant evidence exists showing it can harm pets' health (see section above about bacteria!).
  • Wolves only live to be eight years old in wild, but can live up to 16 in captivity on a commercial (cooked or kibble) diet.
  • Dogs were domesticated between 10,000 and 35,000 years ago and have evolved to eat our cooked scraps.

raw diet for dogs

Fact or fiction? Cooking food makes it harder to digest and destroys the nutrients.


  • Cooking food will change its protein chemical composition, but no evidence suggests that the raw form of nutrients is more beneficial.
  • Example: Albumin in egg whites becomes denatured when cooked, but becomes easier to digest.
  • Cooking increases the digestibility of vegetables because the cellulose layer is broken down by heat. Starches contained in carbohydrate sources will gelatinize with cooking and also become more digestible.


If you feel like your pet isn't benefitting from his/her current diet, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the most appropriate choice to give your dog or cat the best nutrition possible.


This information was taken, in part, from the AAHA Long Beach Seminar: Raw Food Diet Myths in 2006. 


This blog post originally appeared on The Drake Center and has been edited for re-posting.


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