You’re out to dinner with friends when the waiter comes by to ask if you’d like some fresh sea bass rare and served on the side. You don’t know much about fish, but you do know it’s expensive and takes forever to cook. The waiter brings you a plate of raw fish fillets, which he says have been marinated in olive oil and wine and then grilled. He tells you they taste delicious and will be perfect for dipping in melted butter.
As you take your first bite, you notice something strange about the texture: It feels more rubbery than usual. You finish eating them anyway because you see no reason not to, and you wash down the meal with a big glass of water. Later, while driving home, you start thinking about what happened at dinner. Wasn’t the fish supposed to be cooked before it was given to you? And why did the waiter serve you raw fish? Did someone slip you poisoned fish instead of the real thing?
The next day at work, you overhear one of your co-workers say she fed her dog some raw hamburger this weekend. A little later, another colleague asks, “Did you ever hear about anyone getting sick from their dog eating raw meat?” When you respond, you explain how lucky you were that the restaurant gave you bad fish and how healthy your dog is despite its occasional consumption of raw hamburger. Then you remember seeing a commercial on TV where a vet explains how his dog ate some raw meat and ended up fine. What should you worry about? Is there any danger to feeding your dog raw meat?
It depends on whether your dog eats only canned or dry kibble, and on what kind of raw meat you give him or her. Most experts agree that giving your dog raw meat isn’t dangerous as long as you follow these guidelines. First, make sure the meat has been properly cooked. Also, avoid undercooked ground beef (a sign of poor handling), organ meats or anything containing blood. If you decide to feed your dog raw meat, always check the expiration date, and keep all leftovers refrigerated.
Read on to find out what happens when your dog gets hold of raw chicken.
Raw Meat and Your Pet
If you’ve never heard the term “steak tartare” until now, chances are good you’ll never use it again. This French culinary specialty consists of thinly sliced raw beef served on a small plate along with onions, capers, lemon juice, herbs and spices. It sounds pretty tasty, but many people aren’t comfortable having their pets consume raw meat. They prefer their pets’ meals to resemble those eaten by humans.
A recent article published in the New York Times Magazine addressed this issue head-on. In an article titled “Why I Feed My Cat Steak Tartare,” author Emily Anthes interviewed several cat owners who agreed with her decision to feed their cats raw meat. They said it’s important to understand that although your cat may enjoy the taste of raw meat, it doesn’t mean it’s good for your animal companion.
There are plenty of reasons not to feed raw meat to your cat. These include bacteria such as Salmonella, which can cause illness ranging from diarrhea to fever; E. coli, which causes severe stomach cramps and bloody stools; and parasites that can lead to serious health problems including liver flukes and tapeworms.
But even if your cat doesn’t get ill after eating raw meat, you still shouldn’t feed it to your pet. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must consume meat to survive. It’s just not wise to offer your cat foods that closely mimic human fare. Many commercially prepared cat foods contain fillers, binders and other ingredients that would make us cringe. Plus, most cat diets consist primarily of grains and vegetables, which are natural plant products.
Cats need protein to build lean muscle mass, regulate body temperature and maintain strong bones and teeth. Cats also benefit from fatty acids found naturally in meat. However, cooking destroys many essential nutrients, so it’s best to eat meat raw or very lightly cooked. Unfortunately, most cat owners don’t realize this simple fact.
To help prevent your cat from consuming raw meat, try offering it a specially formulated diet designed specifically for your feline friend. Better yet, consider adopting a shelter cat whose nutritional needs are already being met through a regular cat food.
Cooking Raw Meat For Dogs
When preparing raw meat for your dog, be aware of the dangers posed by cross contamination. Even though you may think the meat looks clean, you can’t completely eliminate the possibility of pathogens lurking within. Keep in mind that during preparation, meat juices can spill onto surfaces and become contaminated with bacteria. So make sure to wear gloves and thoroughly wash your hands after handling raw meat.
Worried about bacterial contamination? One way to reduce the risk of introducing harmful bacteria into your dog’s system is by using minced rather than whole pieces of meat. Minced meat is easier to control and won’t splatter juices everywhere. Another option is to buy frozen raw meat, thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and slice it yourself.
To ensure that your dog consumes less raw meat, cut off any portions that your pet seems reluctant to eat. Consider serving a few bites to encourage your dog to eat more. Because raw meat contains lots of iron, vitamins B6 and C, calcium and phosphorus, it’s beneficial for dogs recovering from illnesses, convalescing from surgery or nursing puppies. Finally, since raw meat can contain fat, it’s recommended that pets eat smaller amounts than normal. Although your dog may seem happy to chow down on a slab of raw steak, it could cause digestive upset. Fat can clog up your dog’s intestines, causing gas, bloating and pain.
Although it might sound counterintuitive, it’s possible to feed your dog uncooked meat. By heating the meat slightly, you kill germs and destroy potential contaminants. Of course, you’ll want to make sure that your dog’s internal temperature stays below 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). If you suspect your dog has swallowed uncooked meat, call your veterinarian immediately.
Even if you follow all safety precautions, you’ll probably feel uneasy every time your dog touches raw meat. Fortunately, you can minimize the risks associated with letting your pooch slurp down raw meaty dishes by choosing high-quality brands. Look for companies that manufacture their own lines of organic, non-GMO pet food. Some manufacturers, such as Blue Buffalo, go further and require their suppliers to practice humane treatment of animals.
Many veterinarians recommend against giving your dog raw meat because it poses too great a risk of infection. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, raw meat presents the greatest threat of disease transmission between species.