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White dog eating raw meat from bowl

The essentials

  • Dogs can eat some raw meat, but there are better options — Just like with people, raw meat can be harmful to dogs.
  • Never feed your dog raw meat that looks or smells like it might be spoiled — If you’re going to feed your dog raw meat, be sure it’s high-quality and doesn’t smell “off” or rancid.
  • Always consult a vet before changing your dog’s diet — It’s always a good idea to follow the safety guidelines of trusted organizations to minimize the risk of contamination and foodborne illness.

Dogs can eat raw meat. However, it’s not recommended to feed your dog only raw meat. Ancestral diets have grown in popularity in recent years, as dog owners want to feed diets that align with how they would have eaten hundreds of years ago in the wild.

These types of diets can pose health risks, however, that you should be aware of before changing your pet’s diet. Read on to learn more about raw food for dogs, and other diet alternatives.

Is raw meat good for dogs?

Many raw foods are perfectly safe for dogs to eat, such as plant-based foods that are loaded with nutrients and dietary fiber.

However, raw food for dogs might not be the safest option . Animal products like organ meats, muscle meat, whole or ground bones, raw eggs, and yogurt included in some raw-food diets (RFD) for dogs can carry bacteria that can transmit from dogs to humans, making one or both of you extremely sick.

Most board-certified and animal-tested dog food formulas also incorporate essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids for a complete nutrition profile. Unlike many commercial dog foods, a raw food diet for dogs typically lacks nutrients or makes it much harder to achieve a complete nutrition profile.

RFD proponents argue that raw meats are dogs’ natural food of choice and that their bodies are designed to digest them quickly and efficiently. However, while dogs may have digestive systems better suited to the task of breaking down things like raw chicken, they can still get sick from bacteria like Salmonella or E. coli.

Consulting your veterinarian before adding any dietary changes is strongly recommended to prioritize the health and well-being of your pet.

👉 If you feed your dog raw meat, give them high-quality meat that’s been handled and prepared following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hygiene standards to minimize your pet’s risk of illness.

Potential benefits of a raw meat diet

Raw meats are naturally high in several compounds dogs need to stay happy and healthy. Supporters of RFD believe that the higher compound levels translate to total-body benefits, offering a more comprehensive nutritional experience for your furry friend.

Healthier coat and skin

Some anecdotal evidence suggests that dogs on RFDs have softer and shinier coats than those on commercial dog food diets. However, various factors can contribute to the differences in dog coat quality when comparing commercial and raw food diets. This includes the quality of ingredients, the nutrient composition of the foods, exterior supplementation, and pet physical activity levels.

Improved breath and oral health

Bones can act as natural toothbrushes that scrape excess plaque off a dog’s teeth while they’re chewing — which is good because excess plaque is a common cause of bad breath in dogs. Removing excess plaque can reduce the buildup of bacteria in your dog’s mouth, improving their breath.

Plaque can build up over time from bacteria and food particles. If it’s left unchecked, it can cause dental issues like gingivitis, abscesses, and tooth decay, leading to the removal of affected teeth. Chewing can also help stimulate saliva production, which has specific enzymes and antibacterial properties that can help protect against infection.

However, hard bones are dangerous for dogs . They can fracture teeth, are a choking hazard, and can cause gastrointestinal obstruction . Instead of opting for a raw food diet, pawrents can consider a dental-friendly diet approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to slow the build-up of plaque and tartar.

Improved medical conditions

Raw food diet proponents also claim that raw meats can help curb the effects of long-lasting diseases, like cancer and diabetes. Many experts believe that there is not enough evidence to prove this theory, however—suggesting that the contrary might be true instead.

Instead, RFD may not necessarily offer the touted health benefits. If not properly balanced and supplemented, raw food diets could be harmful to your dog’s health. An incomplete, nutrient-deficient, raw diet can lack the essential vitamins and minerals that your pet needs, leading to deficiencies and long-term problems like pancreatitis and diabetes.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Raw diet proponents maintain that raw meat improves a dog’s muscle tone since it’s naturally high in protein. But be cautious when feeding a high-protein diet. Too much protein can overwork the kidneys and cause a nutrient imbalance, leading to potential kidney disease .

High-quality dog foods are a suitable alternative for many, as they’re formulated by boarded nutritionists to contain the recommended amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats for your pet’s specific needs.

Risks associated with raw meat diets for dogs

Despite the potential benefits of raw meat diets, the FDA, CDC, and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advise against feeding dogs raw meat due to the potential risks.


Raw meat contains many harmful pathogens, including salmonella, listeria, and antibiotic-resistant E. coli . While dogs are less susceptible to these bacteria than humans, they can still get very sick and develop diarrhea that lasts for days if they eat contaminated food. They can also spread the bacteria everywhere they go, putting everyone in the household at risk .

Nutritional imbalances

Even though domesticated dogs descend from carnivorous wolves and wild dogs, their dietary needs have changed over time to adapt to their new environment. Today’s dogs are omnivores rather than carnivores — meaning they require nutrients found in foods other than just raw meats.

A recent study found that 60% of the raw meat pet diets it analyzed had severe nutritional imbalances. If left unchanged, these diets could cause metabolic, neurologic, and orthopedic issues in pets, possibly leading to pet injury or death.

Malnutrition can be avoided through proper dietary assessment by a veterinarian — and advice should always be sought any time you plan to change your pet’s diet.

Check with your veterinarian

As a pet owner, it’s important to speak with your veterinarian and discuss the best choice for your dog’s well-being before making a definitive decision. Your veterinarian can provide expert advice and insights tailored to your dog’s specific health needs.

How to safely feed your dog a raw meat diet

If you have consulted your veterinarian, understand the risks, and still want to give your dog raw meat, take a few extra precautions to minimize their chances of becoming sick or malnourished. Ensure that you:

Only feed your dog quality meat — Only buy meats for your dog that look and smell fresh. If a piece of raw meat has been left unrefrigerated for a while or is old, avoid feeding it to your dog.

Avoid feeding meat with bones — This will minimize the possibility of an obstruction .

Freeze raw meat — Keep raw meat in the freezer until it’s ready for use, and thaw it in the refrigerator or microwave (not in the sink or on the counter).

Practice good hygiene — Wash your hands frequently when handling raw meat to avoid spreading harmful bacteria, and don’t let your dog lick your face. Once they eat, clean any surfaces and food bowls with dish soap and hot water.

Stay on top of your dog’s nutrition — If you’re going to feed your dog raw meat, ensure their complete nutritional needs are being met. You can do this using raw fruits and veggies, though experts tend to recommend commercially prepared products like supplements to limit the guesswork.

Add organ meats to your rotation — Organ meats have essential nutrients like vitamins A and B, selenium, and coenzyme Q10.

How much raw food to feed your dog

Make sure your dog is getting a complete nutritional profile when feeding a raw food diet to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Avoid certain raw foods like grapes, raisins, avocados, and other harmful foods. You’ll also want to feed your dog based on their age, weight, health, and activity level.

Aim for around 2-3% of their body weight each day. Some younger dogs who get more exercise or need to gain weight may need more than 3% of their weight. Other dogs that are less active, more senior, or overweight may need around 1.5% of their weight.

👉 Make sure to consult your vet and ask them about feeding your dog other things like fruits and veggies for a complete nutritional diet.

Weight pounds (lbs) Total amount per day Amount of meals per day Amount each meal in pounds and ounces (lbs/oz) Examples of breeds
150 pounds 3-4.5 lbs 2 1.5-2.25 lbs/meal Great Danes, mastiffs, Newfoundlands, Great Pyrenees, Saint Bernards
125 lbs 2-5-3.75 lbs 2 1.25 -1.9 lbs/meal Bull mastiffs, greater Swiss mountain dogs, Irish wolfhounds, bloodhounds
100 lbs 2-3 lbs 2 1-1.5 lbs/meal Akitas, Dobermans, Rottweilers
75 lbs 1.5-2 lbs 2 12-18 ounces/meal German shepherds, Labradors, golden retrievers, boxers
50 lbs 1-1.5 lbs 2 8-12 ounces/meal Bulldogs, collies, standard poodles, Samoyeds
25 lbs 8-12 ounces 2 4-6 ounces/meal Whippets, Boston terriers, cocker spaniels, beagles
15 lbs 4.8-7.2 ounces 2 2.4-3.6 ounces/meal Fox terriers, West Highland white terriers
10 lbs 3.2-4.8 ounces 2 1.6-2.4 ounces/meal Miniature pinschers, papillons, Chihuahuas, Havanese, Maltese
5 lbs 1.6-2.4 ounces 2 0.8-1.2 ounces/meal Yorkshire terriers, toy poodles, Pomeranians

👉 Keep in mind that raw food diets may not be suitable for every type of dog. If your dog has a compromised immune system, this is probably not the best option. Healthy dogs may be able to tolerate certain harmful bacteria, but they may still get sick. 

🚨 Abruptly changing your dog’s food can lead to issues like vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. Gradually transitioning your dog’s food can help avoid these gastrointestinal issues. 

Alternatives to a raw food diet for dogs

At the end of the day, every dog’s nutritional needs are going to differ based on things like their age, breed, and overall health. A vet will assess these factors and steer you toward the best type of food for your dog, whether it’s a combination of cooked and raw whole foods or commercially prepared dog formula.

If you feed your dog a home-cooked food diet, get it formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist . They can help formulate a tailored diet for your dog. You can find a specialized board-certified veterinarian nutritionist by visiting the Vet Specialists website.

Companies like JustFoodForDogs and Nom Nom sell pre-packaged home-cooked diets that have undergone feed trials, ensuring the nutritional balance and quality of your pet’s health.

Although the trend towards ancestral raw dog food diets has gained traction on social media, we don’t recommend feeding your dog raw meat. The long-term effects on a pet’s health and the actual benefits of RFD are yet to be determined.

As with any change in diet, speak with your veterinarian for tailored advice for your pet. They can work with you to build the perfect diet and feeding schedule to boost your furry friend’s quality of life.

Frequently asked questions

Can I feed my dog raw steak?

Avoid feeding your dog raw steak, as it can contain harmful bacteria like listeria, E. coli, and salmonella.

Do dogs prefer cooked or raw meat?

Dogs love eating all kinds of foods — and they usually find both raw and cooked meat to be pretty appetizing! However, you should consult with your veterinarian before feeding your dog raw meat. The raw stuff can be full of bacteria and might put your pet at risk for other health problems — like stomach upset or malnutrition.

Can puppies eat raw meat?

It’s best to feed puppies a high-quality commercial puppy formula, as it contains the proper nutrients they need to stay healthy and grow to their full potential. It’s not recommended to feed raw meat to a puppy. Following RFD recommendations for a pup can cause an upset stomach due to their underdeveloped gut flora, and can pass on harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli.

What raw foods can dogs eat?

Dogs can eat some raw food safely, such as some fruits and vegetables. However, it’s safest to buy commercial pet food or to make a cooked, custom diet for your pal with oversight by a certified veterinary nutritionist.

What 3 meats should dogs avoid?

Dogs should not eat bacon, ham meat trimmings, or deli meats. These meats are high in fat, which can lead to pancreatitis from excess fat intake . They also usually contain high salt content, which can lead to kidney issues.

What is the healthiest meat to give a dog?

Well-cooked ground beef, chicken, and chuck roast are a few healthy options to give to dogs.