Raw Pet Food
Pet owners have a variety of food choices to give their pets, even raw food. But some germs have been found in raw pet foods that can make pets and people sick, including Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. Learn how to protect your pets and yourself from disease.
What is raw pet food?
Raw pet food consists primarily of meat, bones, organs, and eggs that have not been cooked or treated to remove harmful germs, like Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. Raw pet food products are generally sold as frozen packages and ask the owner to thaw before serving.
According to a recent study done by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, raw pet food is more likely than other types of pet food to have these harmful germs. These germs can cause serious illness in both pets and people.
Don't feral dogs and cats eat raw food?
Many pet owners who choose a raw diet for their pets point to the fact that when feral (wild) dogs and cats catch their prey, they eat it raw. While true, it is unknown how many of these animals get sick or die from eating their prey because they aren't typically brought to a veterinarian for care.
Raw pet food could make your pet sick. Keep in mind that even if your pet seems healthy after eating raw food, they could become a carrier of germs like Salmonella.
Can raw pet food make my pet sick?
Yes, although not every pet will get sick after eating raw pet food. Keep in mind that even if your pet eats raw food and seems perfectly healthy, they could still become a carrier of germs like Salmonella. As a healthy carrier, your pet could then shed germs from the raw food to the environment when it poops.
For pets that develop a Salmonella or Listeria infection after eating raw pet food, symptoms of infection can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea, which may be bloody
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased activity level
It is important to call your veterinarian if your pet develops any of these symptoms.
Can raw pet food make me sick?
Yes. Handling raw pet food increases the risk you will come into contact with harmful germs. It also increases the risk of contaminating other surfaces like countertops and cutting boards with those germs.
- Salmonella infection in people typically causes fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps for 4-7 days. Most people recover without treatment. Those at a higher risk for a severe Salmonella infection, include young children, older adults, and people with weak immune systems.
- Listeria infection can cause a serious, life-threatening illness. People at highest risk for Listeria infections include pregnant women and their fetuses, newborns, older adults, and people with weak immune systems.
People in these higher risk groups should not handle raw pet food.
If you decide to feed your pet raw food, don’t let your pet lick your face after eating and wash your hands after playing with them.
I want to feed my pet raw food. What can I do to stay healthy?
- Wash your hands and surfaces thoroughly after handling raw pet food.
- Wash your hands with soap and water right after handling any raw pet food.
- Clean and disinfect all surfaces that the raw food touched. These surfaces can include countertops, microwaves, refrigerators and also utensils like knives, forks, and bowls.
- Safely store and handle raw pet food.
- Keep raw pet food away from other food in your refrigerator or freezer.
- Freeze raw pet food until you are ready to use it.
- Let it thaw on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator, away from other foods, and never on a countertop or in a sink.
- Throw away any food your pet does not eat.
- Safely play with your pet after it eats.
- Do not let your pet lick around your mouth and face after eating.
- If you do play with your pet after they have just eaten, wash your hands (and any other parts of your body they licked) with soap and water.
- Clean up after your pet carefully.
- For dogs, pick up poop and discard it into a tightly sealed plastic bag.
- For cats, scoop litter daily and discard poop into a tightly sealed plastic bag.
- Place all pet poop into a closed trash can.
- Wash your hands with soap and water right after cleaning up after your pet.
Before making changes to your pet's diet, it's a good idea to first discuss it with your veterinarian.
- Page last reviewed: June 1, 2015
- Page last updated: June 1, 2015
- Content source:
- National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs