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Anyone who owns a dog has, at one time or another, witnessed them eating carrion (raw meat from the carcass of dead mice, moles, rats, or even dead birds). Dogs are opportune feeders who always seem to catch the table scraps and leftovers from people’s plates.
Dogs are natural carnivores and the rich smell of fresh meat is going to tempt them. Their highly sensitive noses will lead them anywhere there is meat (or leftover food) to be found.
There’s a chance that you, or someone you know, has fed expired meat to a dog. Surprisingly, the dog probably didn’t get sick. Just because the dog got lucky one time, doesn’t mean it will happen again.
Although food poisoning and botulism in dogs are rare, dogs can still become very ill from eating spoiled or rotten meat. Severe diarrhea in a puppy can lead to death. Abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle weakness are not things we want for our dogs.
Keep reading to learn about the differences between a raw meat diet and rancid meat that has passed its expiry date. Learn the best strategy for feeding a safer raw meat diet to dogs. Get ideas on how to keep spoiled meat products away from paws (and fingers).
Can My Dog Get Food Poisoning?
The one thing dogs have going for them that you and I don’t have is a short digestive system. That means a dog can eat something and have it pass in a few hours. That quick turn-around added to a highly acidic stomach doesn’t give bacteria time to thrive.
Food poisoning can occur in dogs, but it’s not as likely to happen as it is in people.
Let’s face it, some dogs can eat just about anything and not get sick. They seem to have a garbage gut made for anything. That said, feeding a dog meat that has obviously gone rancid is a bad idea.
How To Check For Spoiled Meat
You can’t always tell whether left-over food has gone bad just by looking at it. In most cases, meat (particularly beef and chicken) that has gone bad will:
- Smells bad or has a strong odor
- Feels sticky or tacky to the touch
- Has visible mold growing on it
If the meat in question has only expired within a day or two and still looks and smells okay, it’s likely safe to feed to your dog. Ground meat should be cooked to be sure all bacteria has been killed before feeding to pets.
Wild Dogs Thrive on Raw Meat, Why Can’t My Dog?
There’s a prevalent argument among some dog owners that since wild dogs lived on raw meat, it makes sense that our domesticated dogs should do the same.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. Wild dogs didn’t have the option of dry kibble or commercially canned dog food. They ran in packs, preyed on other animals, and ate for survival only.
They may have survived, but they weren’t necessarily healthy and they certainly didn’t have the lifespan of our domesticated furry friends.
Raw meat and spoiled meat are two different things. There are dog parents who swear by a raw meat diet for their dog. Veterinarians have varying opinions on the topic, but a raw diet might be considered safe if:
- The meat comes from government-inspected facilities
- The meat is not ground. Ground meat (including beef, turkey, chicken, and pork) can harbor bacterial pathogens and must be thoroughly cooked all the way through
Real Risks Associated with a Raw Meat Diet
Make no mistake, there are real risks for your dog and your family when feeding your pooch raw meat.
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“Reports of raw meat pet food containing zoonotic foodborne bacteria, including Salmonella, e. Coli, and Listeria are increasing. Contaminated raw pet food and biological waste from pets consuming those diets may pose a public health risk.”Jones JL, Wang L, Ceric O, Nemser SM, Rotstein DS, Jurkovic DA, Rosa Y, Byrum B, Cui J, Zhang Y, Brown CA, Burnum AL, Sanchez S, Reimschuessel R. Whole genome sequencing confirms source of pathogens associated with bacterial foodborne illness in pets fed raw pet food. J Vet Diagn Invest. 2019 Mar;31(2):235-240. doi: 10.1177/1040638718823046. Epub 2019 Jan 19. PMID: 30663530; PMCID: PMC6838835.
Raw feeding has become popular over the years, but veterinarians have varying opinions on the practice. There’s a real disconnect between what pet owners believe and what veterinarians are worried about.
Dog Owners Who Feed a Raw Meat Diet Believe…
- Raw food is minimally processed and therefore good for the animal
- Natural way of feeding a pet
- Is close to what the animal would chose to eat in the wild
- Dry dog food like kibble isn’t optimal for nutrition
Veterinarians Are Concerned About…
- Bacterial pathogens being present on raw meat
- Parasitic exposure
- Nutritionally unbalanced diet in animals
There is no requirement that pet food products have pre-market approval by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the FDA ensures that the ingredients used in pet food are safe.
Symptoms of Foodborne Illnesses in Dogs
Dogs’ stomachs have short digestive systems enabling food to pass quickly (within hours). That, in addition to their highly acidic stomachs, makes it difficult for bacteria to thrive.
If your dog ate spoiled meat, he/she will likely be okay. Years of evolution have, thankfully, provided dogs with powerful digestive systems.
If you suspect that your dog has eaten spoiled meat, watch for signs of food poisoning including:
- reduced appetite
In severe cases, dogs can experience a lack of coordination or seizures. Symptoms will vary depending on the sensitivity of the dog’s stomach, how much rotten food the dog ate, and the size of the dog in relation to the amount eaten.
What is Considered A “Safe” Raw Meat Diet For My Dog?
If you’re interested in starting your dog on a raw meat diet, look for companies that follow strict food safety protocols to reduce the risk from pathogens.
Specifically, look for meat that has been government-inspected from certified facilities. Those facilities are required to pass safety standards designed for human consumption.
Look for Nutritionally Balanced Raw Food
When choosing a raw meat diet for your dog, look for humanely-raised, antibiotic free meat products. Foods that contain an abundance of vegetables, and antioxidant rich ingredients include:
This product offers the following benefits for your dog:
- 85% raw turkey, organs, and bones
- 15% produce and supplements for complete nutrition
- Organic, leafy greens
- Vitamins A, C, & K for improved liver & heart health
- Organic superfoods like blueberries and coconut oil
- No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
- Just add water to rehydrate
- Made in the USA
This option is perfect for dogs with sensitive stomachs or food sensitivities. You may not even know it yet, but your small dog breed could have a sensitive stomach. If your dog is frequently gassy or is prone to bouts of diarrhea and vomiting, the food source could be the culprit.
Common Small Breeds with Food Sensitivities Include:
- Scottish Terriers
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Yorkshire Terriers
- Shih Tzu
- Lhasa Apso
5 Reasons Not to Feed Your Dog Rotten Meat
As good global citizens, we try not to waste food. Inevitably, however, we will find something has gone past its expiration date or might be considered spoiled.
Dogs seem to be able to eat just about anything, but there are some good reasons to avoid feeding him/her meat that has obviously gone bad.
#1. Clostridium Botulinum
Foodborne illnesses are often caused by toxins. Clostridium botulinum is the toxin known to cause botulism in people and animals. Unfortunately, this deadly condition causes paralysis in dogs.
Sources of botulism in dogs tend to come from eating dead animals or raw meat.
There are 8 types of this toxin that are characterised by letters. Types A, B, E, F, and H cause disease in humans. Types A, B, and E are associated with foodborne illnesses. Type C affects birds and Type D causes botulism in other mammals including dogs.
Botulism is deadly and can be carried on any food with low-acidity. This includes meat, fish, and eggs.
Signs of botulism in dogs:
- Rear leg weakness
- Gradual front leg weakness
- Inability to swallow
- Increased salivation
- Eye inflammation
Botulism can cause death in a dog through paralysis of the diaphragm.
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#2. Listeria Monocytogenes
Listeria monocytogenes is the species of pathogenic bacteria that causes listeriosis. Dogs can contract this disease although it is considered rare.
Your dog can contract the disease through contaminated hotdogs, other processed meats, and raw food from the table. Listeriosis is a serious infection known to infect people all over the world.
Raw meats are not pasteurized (sterilized). The American Veterinary Medical Association worries that pets fed a raw meat diet are being exposed to Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, e coli, and many other diseases.
Signs of Listeria in Dogs:
- Lack of Coordinator
- Stiff Neck
#3. Risk of Parasitic Infection
A study published in 2018, “Zoonotic bacteria and parasites found in raw meat-based diets for cats and dogs” analyzed 35 commercial frozen raw meat diets for dogs. Of the 35 products:
- E coli was found in 28 products
- Listeria was present in 19 products
- Salmonella was found in 7 products
- Parasites including Sarcocystis, S. tenella, and Toxoplasma gondii were found.
While freezing the raw meat may kill the parasites, the risk of bacterial ingestion remains.
Signs of Parasitic Infection in Dogs:
- Weight Loss
- Hair Loss
- Excessive itching of the anus and genital area
- Visible worms in feces
- Change in Appetite
#4. Household Contamination
Raw meat, raw fish, raw chicken, sausage, and bacon can cause cross contamination of bacterial infection in the home.
The same bacterial infections that can cause severe illness in dogs can also infect your family, including children.
Direct cross contamination happens by simply touching the meat and then touching something else. Food poisoning can occur simply by touching cooking equipment, utensils, work surfaces, plates, etc.
#5. E. Coli (Escherichia coli)
E. Coli normally live in the intestines of healthy people and animals. It is commonly found in newborn puppies (of unhealthy mothers) but it can occur in dogs of any age.
Dogs can contract E. Coli from undercooked or raw meat sources and from raw vegetables that haven’t been washed properly.
Signs of E. Coli in dogs include:
- Abdominal Pain and cramping
- Stomach is painful to the touch
- Nausea and vomiting
The best defense in keeping dogs and other pets away from spoiled food is to either move it to a secure bin outside, or put it in the freezer until you can safely dispose of it in the compost.
The Last Word
At the end of the day, it’s important to understand the difference between feeding a dog fresh raw meat compared to meat that has gone rancid. You can tell the difference based on appearance (discoloration), smell (has a strong odor), and touch (feels a little sticky to the touch).
Some dogs, including terriers, have sensitive stomachs that may not tolerate certain types of food. Dogs who eat spoiled meat may simply throw it up and be fine. If your dog continues to throw up and shows other signs of poisoning including diarrhea, weakness, or pain, get your dog to a veterinarian ASAP.
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