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Some Safety Guidelines

Cat Eating Raw Food

Feeding raw meaty bones is generally safe providing you follow some basic guidelines. They are best fed fresh, raw, and from younger animals, as these bones are soft and digestible. Again, never feed bones cooked. Meat needs to be chewed off the bone in order to exercise teeth and jaws. Give bones in pieces appropriate to the size of your dog or cat. Don’t give small bones to a dog large enough to swallow them whole without chewing, or to a dog with a tendency to bolt its food, as this could cause choking or gut obstruction. As a general rule small bones including chicken necks and wings are safe for small dogs and for cats, but not for larger dogs. It is best not to feed too much bone with very little meat at one time as this ratio can lead to constipation. Turkey necks can be a potential choking hazard in dogs and are best avoided or fed ground. Fish are safe to feed whole, but remove bones from larger fish such as tuna. Use common sense when selecting what to feed, or ask your vet (if they support raw feeding).

An alternative to feeding whole raw meaty bones is to feed them ground. Ground bone works well nutritionally, and is safe even for young puppies and kittens (however it will not clean teeth). You can either grind your own, or buy fresh or frozen ready ground meat and bone. This is also a good option for dogs and cats with poor jaw conformation or no teeth. Remember that feeding ground meat alone, without the bone content, will not provide essential calcium.

A common fear about raw diets is the risk of disease in the animal or family members from bacterial contaminants such as Salmonella, E. Coli and Campylobacter. It is important to remember that bacterial contaminants are everywhere in our environment, and that all animals (and humans) develop healthy immune systems by responding to normal amounts of them. Dogs especially, being natural scavengers, are much more resistant to these organisms in their food than human beings. If your animal has been fed a completely commercial diet, then a 3-4 week transition to a raw diet will allow this naturally acquired immunity to build up. Nothing in life is without risk, but it is my opinion that feeding a good quality raw diet will improve your animal’s health and immune status to an extent that far outweighs this type of risk. Use common sense and care in sourcing, storing and preparing raw food. Do contact your vet for advice about this if you have animals or family members with compromised immune systems, who may be less resistant to environmental or food-borne bacteria.

Another concern with raw feeding is Echinococcus tapeworms that cause hydatid disease. Meat that is passed for human consumption will have been inspected for these parasites and should be safe, but be wary of any meat from other sources. Follow the guidelines of your vet in terms of regular worming of your dog or cat both for their own health and to minimise risk to your family.

It is important to consider the quality of meat you feed. It is safe to feed it raw as long as it is fresh and of good quality. Organic meat is likely to be of higher quality, and should contain no unwanted drug residues. Animal welfare in farming practices is another good reason to feed organic if possible. Remember that raw meaty bones will often not be sold with the intention of raw feeding, so consider their freshness when purchased and ensure careful refrigeration at home. If your dog takes several days to eat a large meaty bone, you can always refrigerate it between meal times to keep it fresh.

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