Which is Better for Your Pet: Raw or Cooked?

I was recently asked about feeding raw vs. gently cooked diets for dogs and cats. While raw is a more natural and healthy diet for many pets, there are some that should not eat raw meats and some foods that should never be eaten raw.

Pets with digestive problems, immune dysfunction or pets used to eating high carbohydrate kibble should not start on raw. The healthy digestive system of a carnivore can easily manage the bacteria found on meats, even old and rotting meat like old road kill. But so many of my patients do not have a healthy digestive tract. For these pets, raw foods could be dangerous.

Pets fed high carbohydrate kibbles will have gut bacteria to digest more plant material. Raw meat may not be properly processed and could undergo anaerobic decomposition, known as putrefaction, which could make your pet sick. Many of these pets can be transitioned to raw food after a  period of time with gently cooked foods.

Don’t feed these foods raw

And finally, there are some foods that should never be fed raw. Salmon and some other fish carry a parasite that can be fatal for dogs, causing salmon poisoning. Cooking prevents this from happening.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes should always be cooked as well. Raw potatoes contain solanine which may be toxic to your dogs. Cooking breaks this down.

If your dog likes mushrooms, these are best cooked to release the nutrients. Never feed wild mushrooms because many are toxic.

Many vegetables are easier to digest when cooked. Since dogs are basically “carnivores with options”, their digestive tract is not as well equipped to break down plant fibers. If your dog has digestive upset with raw vegetables, try gently cooking to see if that helps.

And never feed corn on the cob, raw or cooked. While the corn is fine, the cob ends up as an obstruction in the intestine far too often.

Just as with people, there is no one size fits all diet for your pets. Each is an individual. However, real whole food is always better than highly processed food out of a bag or a can.

If you are just starting to navigate the whole food diet option for your pets, get some guidance from a holistic veterinarian or take my course The Great Debate: Raw vs. Kibble to learn more.