First, let’s start by saying this is not an article discussing the pros and cons of feeding dogs a RAW diet. Instead, the question is whether you should give your dog raw meat or scraps of raw meat such as hamburgers, steak, roasts, or poultry that are left over when you’re cooking your own meals. Feeding dogs raw meat can be a complicated question so let’s start by considering your dog’s gastrointestinal system.
Your dog’s GI system
Most dogs love to eat meat, whether it’s cooked or raw. In the wild, wolves and dogs eat raw meat without much problem. Dogs have a digestive system that is designed to help them digest their prey quickly and efficiently. Their gastrointestinal system is shorter than ours which means that food passes through it faster. They also have stronger stomach acids so they can break down foods that we could never safely eat. Since dogs are also omnivorous – eating many things besides meat – the fact that they have a strong stomach and they digest their food fast helps them with scavenging. A lost dog, for example, can often get by with eating whatever he can find even though it’s nothing like his kibble at home.
However, that’s when a dog is in survival mode. Many pet dogs today have food issues. They can have food allergies and food intolerances (which are not the same as an allergy). In some cases a dog can be sensitive to some of the more common meats that are found in dog foods such as beef or chicken. If you feed your dog one of these meats, even if you give him some raw meat in your kitchen, he could have a reaction.
Will Raw Meats Harm Your Dog?
What about dogs that don’t have meat allergies or intolerances? Is raw meat bad for them occasionally? No, a little raw meat now and then won’t hurt your dog. However, some dogs like raw meat more than others. Some dogs go crazy for a little raw hamburger meat and other dogs walk away from it. It often depends on how picky your dog is in general, how old your dog is, and what they have been fed in their lives. If you have a puppy then he will probably love eating a little raw meat and it shouldn’t hurt him. Frozen chicken wings are great for puppies to chew on when they are cutting teeth. On the other hand, if you have a dog who has always been picky about food, he may not like the raw food you offer him as a treat. Some dogs might try a bite and spit it out. Dogs really have individual reactions to raw food when they are older. But offering your dog a little raw hamburger or small pieces of raw steak won’t hurt them occasionally if you have followed good food handling practices with the food.
Obviously, you should avoid giving your dog any food that is suspicious – food that might be spoiled or starting to go bad. Don’t give your dog meat that you wouldn’t eat yourself or you could wind up taking your dog to the vet. Your dog is able to eat food that people can’t eat, but pet dogs often have more sensitive stomachs than dogs in the wild.
Dogs are not at risk for Salmonella as much as humans are but do not give your dog food that has been lying around on the counter or out in the sun while you barbecue. Be careful with poultry, especially. Follow the same good food handling procedures for any meat you intend to give your dog that you would for food intended for yourself and your family.
Dogs love bones so if there are bones in the meat you want to give your dog, the rule is as follows: big raw bones are fine, but do not give your dog cooked bones, especially cooked poultry bones. Those are the bones that can splinter and harm your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. They can lodge in your dog’s throat or puncture his intestines. They’re dangerous. But uncooked bones are softer and more pliable. Your dog can handle them.
Do be careful giving raw meat to older dogs. Many older dogs love raw meat and you can feed it to them safely, but you need to be extra careful that you give them meat that has not been left out too long or which could carry Salmonella. You don’t want your older dog to have any stomach upsets.
Really, any time you’re cooking for yourself and you have some meat, you can offer a taste to your dog. A bite now and then won’t harm him as long as he has no allergies to the meat and he’ll probably love it. The younger your dog is, the more likely he will enjoy the taste of raw meat. Just make sure that you follow good food handling practices with the food you give your dog, the same as you do for yourself and your family.