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Bad to the Bone

MU Professor Advises Against Raw Meat Diet for Pets

Feb. 15, 2007

Story Contact:  Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Feeding Fido that raw ground beef might not be the best idea. A University of Missouri-Columbia veterinary professor is warning owners about the dangers of raw meat diets for pets.

"We are experiencing a recent national trend where pet owners are feeding their pets raw meat because they think it is healthier, but that couldn't be further from the truth," said Robert Backus, assistant professor and director of the Nestle Purina Endowed Small Animal Nutrition Program. "Feeding your pet raw meat puts the safety of not only the pet in danger, but also the household."

Harmful bacteria, and other microbes and parasites may live on raw meat, which is why Backus urges pet owners to be careful about how they handle it. Salmonella contamination from uncooked, meat-based pet treats has caused outbreaks in both Canada and the United States, the most recent case occurring in Washington, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Additionally, raw meat can affect the pet's health. Pet owners subscribing to the school of thought that raw meat is what their pet would have eaten in the wild, may be putting their pets' health in danger.

"Sooner or later an animal could hurt their jaw or break their teeth while chewing on a bone. Animals found in the wild have fractured teeth and tend to not live as long as pets," Backus said.

Animals that consume cooked or uncooked bones can experience tears anywhere along their digestive tracts from their mouths to their intestines. Cooked bones can actually splinter more when they are consumed. Pet foods offer a safe alternative to raw meat diets.

"The ingredients found in pet foods are generally more consistent and thereby better provide for nutritional balance. Owners should pay attention to labeling to ensure they are purchasing the correct food for their animal that meets nutritional profiles or passed feeding tests recommended by the Association of American Feed Control Officials," Backus said.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials' recommendations are used by nutritionists to evaluate pet foods and by federal and state officials to regulate pet foods.