Everything You Need to Know: Cooked vs. Raw Pet Food
Pet owners, dog trainers, breeders, and veterinarians are witnessing the benefits of raw feeding firsthand. Whether you are brand new or a seasoned raw feeder, this blog will consider cooked vs. raw pet food for all pets. We hope this blog will offer some fresh insight on both and help you choose what’s best for your pet!
Cooking raw meat eliminates all bacteria that could potentially be living on your pet’s food. Unfortunately, the cooking process cannot decide which bacteria to keep or get rid of. So while you kill all unwanted pathogens, you skip out on beneficial bacteria that are essential for your pet’s gut microbiome. Before dogs and cats were domesticated, they consumed their prey in the wild without using a microwave or a stove, and their populations thrived. The truth is, our dogs and cats are exposed to pathogens every day whether you believe it or not. As they are introduced, their bodies build up a stronger immune system. Your pet’s digestive and immune system are designed to handle high bacteria levels – good and bad.
The Benefits of True Raw Feeding
Feeding a true raw diet has a range of benefits, but some include healthier skin, improved dental hygiene, smaller stools, and higher energy levels. Below is a photo of Yulee, a 150-pound Leonberger who has eaten a raw diet his whole life.
Photo by Vic Nuemann [IG: @jd_leos FB: westminstermass]
A balanced raw diet incorporates muscle meat, organs, bone and can include fruits and vegetables. Other raw foods that can be added are green tripe, a natural source of digestive enzymes and probiotics. Whole fish or raw eggs can be added for essential Omega-3 fatty acids. We recommend serving sardines no more than 2-3 times a week. TQDF’s wild-caught sardines are a great source of natural omega-3’s and are a customer favorite!
Cooking your Pet’s Raw Food
Some studies conclude that cooked food is more “digestible” for pets than raw food. However, if you investigate the methods, foods high in starches are compared to one another, such as sweet potato, peas, and corn. These high starch foods are commonly found in kibble but are not an accurate representation of true raw feeding. The truth is, dogs and cats have difficulty digesting high starch foods. You can read more on this topic in our blog post on pet digestion.
Raw meat is digestible for healthy dogs and cats. But of course, there are exceptions. If your pet has a compromised immune system or chronic illness such as cancer, raw food is not always palatable or desirable. If this is the case for your dog, you can cook grinds lightly over the stove. Raw food should never be cooked in the microwave as this will nuke all nutrients.
Safe Practices for Lightly Cooking
Course ground meat should be cooked to a raw temperature between 92ºF – 118ºF. This allows some undesirable bacteria to cook off while maintaining as much of the beneficial bacteria and nutrients as possible. Whole raw meaty bones should never be cooked unless you are making a bone broth or stock. Cooking whole meaty bones cause splintering and present a serious choking hazard for your pet. Whole meaty bones should only be served raw as they are softer and easier to crunch down on. The Beef Knuckle Bones, Duck Necks, and Chicken Necks are soft whole meaty bones that will work for puppies and adult dogs.
Always practice safe handling of raw meat, poultry, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. This will prevent the growth of unwanted pathogens. View a list of helpful tips below on handling raw food safely. More information on safe handling practices can be found on our website.
- Keep food in frozen temperatures below 15°F until ready to use.
- Safely Defrost in the refrigerator between 33°F and 40°F and serve within 48 hours.
- Wash hands, surfaces, and utensils with hot soapy water thoroughly before handling raw food.
- Food should be stored in TQDF packaging or airtight bags.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended for educational purposes only. You are responsible for your pet(s) health and safety. We encourage you to research topics further and consult with your Veterinarian or Pet Nutritionist before modifying your pet(s) diet.
Lee, Elizabeth. “Raw Dog Food Diet: Benefits and Risks.” WebMD, WebMD, 21 Apr. 2012, pets.webmd.com/dogs/guide/raw-dog-food-dietary-concerns-benefits-and-risks#1.
“How Bacteria Boost the Immune System.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 15 June 2010, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100614171907.htm.
Scott, Dana. “Omega-3 For Dogs: The Ultimate Guide.” Dogs Naturally, 15 Apr. 2021, www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/omega-3-for-dogs-the-ultimate-guide/.