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Raw-meat dog food may turn your home into a bacterial hellscape

Illustration for article titled Raw-meat dog food may turn your home into a bacterial hellscapeem/em
Photo: Westend61 (Getty Images)

My dog never eats her food calmly. The moment she sees me heading for the silver bowl and bag of kibble, she begins drooling (paging Pavlov); turns around in circles excitedly; and lightning-fast inhales her food with slobber flying everywhere. Then she wants to lick me. Dogs are adorable but gross, is what I’m saying.

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I feed my dog some too-expensive kibble, but apparently the real trend in dog food is to feed Fido raw meat in an effort to move away from processed food. It’s thought that this raw food more closely echoes dogs’ wolf-like ancestral diets, but there are questions as to its true nutritional benefits. Still, some dog owners just buy hunks of meat from the butcher; others order pre-packaged, raw meal packages. While the BARF diet for dogs— “bones and raw food” or “biologically appropriate raw food”—has been gaining traction since the 1990s, new veterinary research indicates that bringing raw meat into your home could carry more risks than benefits.

A study recently published in Veterinary Record, a publication of the British Veterinary Association, analyzed raw-meat dog food from 35 commercial brands and found that 80 percent contained E. coli, while listeria monocytogenes was present in another 54 percent. This isn’t necessarily surprising—bacteria is a reason why humans don’t go around gnawing on raw steaks—but the researchers raise the problem of contamination of one’s home from these bacteria.

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Recall my dog’s surely not uncommon sloppiness with her food—now imagine that she’s spreading bits of raw meat all over my kitchen. The researchers caution that “since these [raw] diets may be contaminated with bacteria and parasites, they may pose a risk to both animal and human health.” Dogs drag their food around; they lick random household surfaces; they even lick humans’ faces. When they’re eating a raw meat diet, that could potentially pose risks. This isn’t to say that raw meat dog food is always dangerous, but if I’m feeding it to my dog, I might consider moving her bowl to the garage.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

butcherbakertoiletrymaker
butcherbakertoiletrymaker

Next dog, start doing this when still a puppy: make the dog sit and stay. Then go get the food. Every time the dog gets up, stop and return them to sit and stay (it also helps to have a 2nd person with you to engage with this). They have to sit and stay (roughly 10 ft from the bowl) while you pour the food into the bowl and/or put the bowl down. Then they have to keep sitting and staying until you give them the signal that it’s okay to go eat it. If, at any point, they break ranks before you give the say-so, you pull the food back and wait until they’ve returned to sit and stay. It’s a hassle for about the first few days (as with any training), but they pick up on it pretty quickly. After that, fighting to keep the dog out of your way while trying to feed her is no problem.