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Raw Pet Food Diet

July 16, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about the raw pet food diet. Hello. I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Abbey Schnedler, Mississippi State University Extension Apprentice in Food Science. So, Abbey, the raw pet food diet has been in the news lately due to food safety concerns about potentially making pets and their owners sick. Although I've heard about the raw pet food diet, I don't really know much about it. Could you tell me more?

Abbey Schnedler: Many owners believe that the benefit of feeding raw pet food is that it's similar to what their pets ancestors would eat. However, it is very important for owners to be aware of the raw pet food handling practices and the dangers that could arise from feeding your pet a raw diet. Government authorities like the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend this practice because the raw food can make you and your pet sick.

Amy Myers: What's the difference between a raw pet food diet and a conventional diet?

Abbey Schnedler: A raw pet food diet consists primarily of raw meat, bones, organs, vegetables, or fruits. Because these food products are not prepared or cooked, there is a higher chance of foodborne bacterial contamination. Conventional pet food diets usually consist of dried pellets or canned items that have been heat-treated to prevent bacterial growth. Additionally, following the feeding labels on conventional pet food oftentimes will provide a more consistent, well-rounded, and balanced diet consisting of necessary vitamins and nutrients for your pets. Studies have found that raw pet food diets may not contain enough calcium and phosphorus, which are important for bone health, especially in younger animals.

Amy Myers: Are there any other risks involved with the raw pet food diet?

Abbey Schnedler: Raw ingredients have an increased concern for bacterial cross-contamination such as salmonella and listeria to people in the household, especially children. These bacteria have been found in raw pet foods, even those sold within the stores. Pets can suffer from food poisoning just like humans.

Amy Myers: So I've heard folks say the raw pet food diet really isn't that different from the way feral or wild animals catch and eat their prey all the time.

Abbey Schnedler: This is true. However, this is no way to determine foodborne illness impacts of stray or feral animals. Food poisoning in animals can happen, and it can be very harmful for your pet because it can cause fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration and even cause death.

Amy Myers: If we know the risks but still choose to feed this raw pet food diet, what are the important precautions we should always take?

Abbey Schnedler: Whether you're preparing a family meal or pet food, bacteria can be present. When choosing to feed your pet a raw diet, safe kitchen food handling practices for raw products are important. Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw pet food, and clean and disinfect all surfaces that the raw food has touched.

Amy Myers: And what are some tips for preparing and storing raw pet food? Can I keep my pets food with my food?

Abbey Schnedler: Keep human food and pet food separate. You should freeze raw meat and poultry products until they are ready to use them, and thaw them using safe handling, safe thawing methods like in your refrigerator, microwave, or cold water thawing. Do not thaw on your countertop or in a sink. Always carefully handle raw and frozen meat and poultry products. You should not rinse raw meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. Bacteria in the raw juices can splash and spread to other food and surfaces.

Amy Myers: Is it possible to keep any leftovers or leave the food out all day in case my pet gets hungry again?

Abbey Schnedler: After your pet is finished eating, any remaining food should be thrown out. Additionally, interact safely with your pets after they eat. You shouldn't let them lick your mouth or face or any open wounds. More importantly, wash your hands with soap and water after playing with your pet. You should be mindful of access to your pets' bowls on the floor and children. Children are very susceptible to foodborne illness.

Amy Myers: That's great advice. Is there anything else you'd like to add that will benefit our listeners?

Abbey Schnedler: Government authorities like the CDC discourage feeding raw diets due to safety. There are many choices of conventional pet foods in the market that can be healthier and a safer choice. Remember, pets can also suffer from foodborne illness or carry bacteria without any symptoms. These bacteria can be easily spread to their humans.

Amy Myers: Are additional resources available?

Abbey Schnedler: Contact Mississippi State University Extension at, as well as various governmental websites. The Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and The Association of American Feed Control Officials have helpful resources on their website. Simply enter any of those government entities into your internet search engine.

Amy Myers: Today we've been speaking with Abbey Schnedler, Extension Apprentice in Food Science. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion

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