Perhaps you've decided to make the switch from a traditional diet (I use that term very loosely...kibble is a recent product) to a Raw or Natural diet. Or maybe you're just curious about what is involved in the preparation and serving of this style of diet. Either way, I'm sure the thought has occurred to you...should you feed raw or cooked meat to your dog?
Dogs are capable of digesting raw meat that has been handled and stored in a way that limits bacteria, parasites and disease. So, to put it simply, human grade meat. In fact...humans can even tolerate small amounts of raw meat. Think of Beef Tartare and Sushi.
If you do a quick search around the internet you can find some pretty scary articles sighting disease and death in dogs as a result of consuming raw meat. But, if you dig a little deeper you can also find controlled studies performed by universities and scientific institutes that show test samples of kibble and canned food containing things like salmonella, bacteria, and mold. Think back to all the dog food recalls we keep seeing. Dogs are well equipped to handle bacteria in small doses. Their saliva is slightly antibacterial and they have a very short (therefore, quick) digestive system which helps them pass bacteria quickly before it can set up shop and really effect them. They are not immune, but better equipped than us humans.
The presence of parasites is another concern when debating feeding raw meat to dogs. Again, human grade meat should be fed. Parasites are typically found in the digestive system of an animal (such as a cow, pig, chicken...) rather than the meat. Careful handling procedures, deep freezing, and sanitary preparation helps keep parasites to a minimum in raw meat. Parasites are, however, very easily contracted through many other sources. Dogs eat things they find. They sniff and dig and pick up just about anything they think smells appealing. They will eat feces from other animals including cats, horses, chickens, etc. They've been know to munch grass that has often been travelled and defecated on by other animals. As I mentioned--parasites are often found in the gut making feces the quickest way to contract them. Your dog is far more likely to encounter parasites by eating the wild bunny poo outside, cruising your livestock pens, or playing at dog parks than they are by eating raw meat.
Raw meat isn't for every owner or every dog. Your dog may have a condition that limits him or her from eating raw meat. You may have a condition or a preference that restricts you from preparing or serving raw meat. Cooked meat is a fantastic alternative and is a great option for people who just can't bring themselves to feed their dogs a raw chicken thigh...or something like that! The two best ways to significantly reduce the risk of viral disease, bacteria, or parasites in meat are to deep freeze for a minimum of 1 month (4 is better) and to cook meat completely through. Remember to never feed cooked bones. Strip all meat from the bones once cooked before feeding. Alternatively, when feeding raw it's a good idea to serve bones with lots of meat on them to encourage chewing!
If you're interested in adding bones, organs, and meat to your dogs' diet but want to serve them cooked you can boil them altogether in a large pot until well cooked and then blend the entire contents up in a good blender including the stock water. You'll get something that resembles a wet dog food pate that will provide all the benefits without any of the worries of risk associated with raw meat or feeding bones! To prevent your dog gulping this down too quickly feed slowly or in smaller meals with other textures.