Should I Cook My Pet’s Raw Food?

 In Raw Blog

I am sure the thought of cooking your furry friend’s food has crossed your mind. For some of you, raw feeding may be an entirely new concept and you might be thinking, is this really safe or am I putting my pet at risk? There is a lot of conflicting information out there and I hope this blog will offer a fresh outlook on Raw feeding.

Cooking raw meat eliminates all good and bad bacteria that could potentially be living on your pet’s food. And 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 is essential for your pet’s gut microbiome. Before dogs and cats were domesticated, they consumed their prey in the wild without the use of a microwave or a stove and their populations thrived! Truth is, our dogs and cats are exposed to pathogens every day. As they are introduced, their bodies build up a stronger immune system. Your pet’s digestive and immune system are designed to handle high levels of bacteria – good and bad.

The Benefits of Feeding Truly Raw
Feeding a purely 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 TQDF diet his whole life!

Photo by Vic Nuemann [IG: @jd_leos FB: westminstermass]

A balanced raw diet includes muscle meat, organs, bone, fruits, and vegetables. Other raw foods that can be incorporated are green tripe, a natural source of digestive enzymes and probiotics, and whole fish or raw eggs for essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Dana Scott, Founder and Editor in Chief of Dogs Naturally Magazine wrote an article on Omega-3’s for Dogs: The Ultimate Guide and she recommends to “Feed 1 oz fish for every lb of ruminant and 4 oz for every lb of poultry.” This is a great example of how whole fish can be incorporated into your pet’s weekly feeding routine. TQDF’s wild caught sardines are a great source of natural omega-3’s and are a customer favorite!

When is it Appropriate to Cook My Pet’s Food?
Some studies find that cooked food is more “digestible” for pets than raw food, however if you investigate their methods, they compare foods high in starches such as cooked sweet potato, peas, corn, etc. These high starch foods are commonly found in kibble-based diets but should never be included in true raw diets. Dogs and Cats were not physically built to digest foods high in starches. You can read more on why in our blog 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 illness such as cancer, raw food is not always palatable or desirable. If this is the case for your dog, you can cook food lightly over the stove. Raw food should NEVER be cooked in the microwave as this will nuke all the nutrients. If your pet is not able to digest a species appropriate diet, aka raw diet, chances are there is an underlying health issue that needs to be prioritized or attended to.

Safe Practices for Lightly Cooking
Course ground meat should be cooked to a raw temperature between 92ºF – 118ºF. This allows for some of the 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 causes splintering and presents 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. If you are interested in soft whole meaty bones for your dog, we recommend trying the Beef Knuckle Bones, Duck Necks, or Chicken Necks. All three are great choices for small puppies and adult dogs.

No matter what method you use, you should always practice safe handling of raw meat, poultry, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. This will prevent the growth of unwanted pathogens. View below for some helpful tips on how to safely handle raw food. More information on safe handling practices can be found on our website.

  1. Wash hands, surfaces, and utensils with hot soapy water thoroughly before handling raw food
  2. Keep food in frozen temperatures below 15°F until ready to use
  3. Safely Defrost in the refrigerator between 33°F and 40°F and serve within 48 hours
  4. If the food has thawed slightly, it can be refrozen and used later
  5. Food should be stored in TQDF packaging or airtight bags



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