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Experts: Raw food diet a growing, controversial trend in pet care

Posted May 21, 2018 6:39 p.m. EDT

— A raw food diet is a growing and controversial trend in pet care.

Supporters say dogs and cats are biologically designed to consume raw meat, and that the diet makes pets healthier and more energetic, but Consumer Reports says raw food can be dangerous for both animals and their humans.

Gregory Kanter feeds his dog raw meat. He believes it is why the 6-year-old mix breed is healthy and energetic.

"Her coat is shiny, (she has) very healthy looking teeth," he said.

Consumer Reports experts warn that an exclusive diet of raw meat may not contain everything your pet needs. Whether it's from the meat aisle or a commercial formulation found in pet stores, there are safety concerns.

Public health agencies and many veterinarians, including Diana Goldman, agree raw food can contain bacteria such as salmonella, E.coli and listeria.

"The benefit doesn't outweigh the risk," Goldman said.

And since the bad bacteria can be transferred to whatever the raw food touches, the risk extends beyond the pets.

"The harmful bacteria in raw pet food is not only potentially dangerous for your pet, but it could be harmful for anyone in the home, too," said Julia Calderone, Consumer Reports health editor.

If you do go the raw dog food route, just like when you cook for humans, take the usual precautions of cleaning everything related to raw meat prep with hot, soapy water and sanitize your space.

You can formulate a quick spray bottle of sanitizer -- like they often use in restaurants -- by mixing one tablespoon bleach with four cups of water.

Experts say before you make any big change to your pet's diet, talk with your veterinarian to make sure your pet gets the necessary nutrition and that there aren't any safety issues.