Bones and Raw Food Diet - Part Two

It’s natural, but is it safe?

Take very special hygienic care when handling and preparing raw foods for your cat or dog.

Studies have looked at bacterial defects of raw foods. Studies also look at the shedding of bacteria in the feces of dogs fed raw foods. These data show that:

  • 20-35% of raw poultry tested positive for Salmonella
  • 80% of raw food diets for dogs tested positive for Salmonella
  • 30% of stool samples from these dogs were positive for Salmonella.

Raw food diets often test positive for E. coli and Yersinia enterocolitica (other bad bacteria).

Healthy dogs can cope with eating these bacteria. But very young, old, or immunocompromised dogs may not be able to do so. Further, the feces contaminate the environment with these bacteria.

Parasites that may be in raw meat include round worms and tape worms. Other parasites include Toxoplasma gondii, and Sarcocystis, Neospora caninum.

The cook must very hygienic when preparing raw foods for the cat or dog’s dinner. the cook must wash all surfaces and hands before touching anything or anyone else. Small children, the elderly, and those with poor immune systems should not be touch raw meat.

Advocates of feeding raw meat and bones claim that it is good for oral and dental health. Studies in wild dogs, found that 41% had gum disease, but only 2% had dental tartar. So, while the teeth may appear cleaner, the gums are not healthier.

Are raw bones safe?

Raw bones are usually added to the diet as a calcium source and for dental health. Chewing on a large meaty bone is a great source of joy for many dogs. To make it safer ensure it is large enough that it cannot be chewed up.

Analysis of the BARF diet has not confirmed that feeding bones is an adequate source of calcium.

One risk is that of the bone, or part of a bone getting stuck in the esophagus, stomach or intestines, which can be fatal. The only way to remove a bone stuck in the belly is by surgery. A bone may damage part of the gut which may lead to part of the gut being removed too. A bone stuck in the gut is an emergency and requires an urgent appointment with a specialist to remove it. This can be a fatal condition and the longer it is stuck the worse the prognosis.

The idea that feeding raw bones is safer than feeding cooked bones is not proven. There are no studies on this.

Any other considerations?

If you choose to feed the BARF diet that includes raw foods, pay attention to hygiene. We recommend you use very special hygienic care in handling the food and the dog’s feces.

Also, deworm your dog regularly as raw food may contain parasites. Tell your veterinarian what diet you are feeding your pet. If your dog or cat develops gastrointestinal disorders, the vet can look for the common bacteria and parasites.


Show the diet plan to a veterinary nutritionist and supplement it as necessary.

Raw or cooked bones that your dog or cat chews on may lead to belly or gut obstructions. It may be possible to chop or grind the bone up small enough (E.g., less than 0.5 cm) that they are less likely to get stuck.

Consider consulting a veterinary nutritionist. Ask for the amount of calcium (and other nutrients) to add to your dog’s diet and skip the bones.

Add a probiotic to the diet to strengthen your dog or cat’s immune system.

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