Safety issues regarding raw feeding of dogs

The decision to safely feed a dog raw food presents challenges to the owner that are over and above the feeding of a commercial, cooked diet. Bacteria commonly associated with raw meat are Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium difficile, E-coli, Listeria, among others. Signs and symptoms of infection with any of these can be found online. Arguably, there are two strands to infection control when feeding raw food: 1)Hygiene of the preparation area e.g. kitchen surfaces/utensils etc and 2) the shedding of bacteria by the dog who is fed infected raw food.


  • Commercial, frozen raw complete: These can be dispensed with the minimum of contamination and fed in a similar way to any canned food. Guidelines for safe handling of their products can be found on the company website and these should be read carefully before ordering. Contact the company helpline if you have any queries or need further advice.
  • DIY, fresh meat that us prepared by the owner will have additional risks re contamination of surfaces and utensils so extra care will need to be taken. In these cases, disinfection should be considered as ordinary soap and water may not remove bacterial contamination. In either case, most authorities recommend thorough hand washing for at least 20 seconds after handling raw meat. Reducing the Risk section (page 2) of this website contains useful safety advice.

Shedding of bacteria by dogs:
Dogs have very acidic conditions in their digestive tracts and are usually able to cope with bacteria in their food. However, various studies have shown that dogs can shed bacteria for some time after exposure. Usually this is in their faeces but can also be around the mouth. The risk to humans can be minimized by:

  • Faeces (correct disposal) - use a strong plastic bag, seal and dispose of carefully. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly after picking up.
  • Oral - do not allow the dog to lick or ‘kiss’ people, particularly around the mouth. If this does occur, wash the area thoroughly.
  • Wash hands before eating and drinking.
  • If there are vulnerable persons (e.g. babies/children/pregnant women/elderly/chronic illness/immunosuppressed/those with medical implants) living alongside the dog, consider whether raw feeding is appropriate. If in doubt, consult your general practitioner for advice.

Evidence Based Nutrition Raw Diets
Session Two: Alternative and Raw Diets – What is the Evidence - pages 3 and 4 refer to bacterial contamination of raw meat.
Whole Dog Journal - Are Raw Fed dogs a risk?
Investigating the prevalence of Salmonella in dogs within the Midlands region of the United Kingdom
Worms and Germs Blog - contains useful advice on safety when feeding dogs raw food.
The risk of salmonellae shedding by dogs fed Salmonella-contaminated commercial raw food diets - a Canadian study comparing dogs that were fed salmonella infected food to some who were fed commercial dog food.


Excellent post Dottie and thank you for the many relevant and important points you have highlighted.

May I add it is also important to decide where dogs are going to eat their raw meats.

I notice from the photo in the link that a most beautiful dog is chomping on a chunk of raw meat in his/her beautiful bed in a beautiful kitchen, next to a spotlessly clean oven range… Yes this is of course a possibility, and would require reduced cleaning up after this pooch has finished eating.
Yet in my experience unless you directly pass raw food to a dog’s mouth whilst in bed (the dog not you!) dogs commonly take raw meat and cart it around to wherever they want to feed. It may not be the same area as you have set aside for feeding unless you contain the dog in some way, to a scullery for example (if you have one :o).

In days gone by hunks of meat would have been tossed out into a yard area or a mews (for horses) and these days unless we are fortunate enough to own an area exclusively used by our dogs, then given our knowledge of, (and being acutely aware of), the transference of pathogens… we simply would be unwise to toss raw meat about in areas used by other people and other pets unless there is scrupulous cleaning ensuing immediately afterwards.


A well thought post including links & referencing…

Thanks for starting this new thread…

On faeces…

Picking up dog faeces isn’t a favourite pastime (or discussion topic), but I prefer pick up small well formed stools from raw feeding compared to the more messy, smelly & softer deposits created kibble. I suspect owners carelessly opening public dog waste bins (incidentally containing dog faeces as by-product from various food types), probably poses higher risk to owners than carefully bagging up waste from their own dogs.

On clean hands & handling of dogs…

Washing hands after every time I touch a dog is not practicable for me. I am typing this having just walked my dog…he sniffed on his walk, just had a drink of water & I have stroked his head. I have a drink in one hand & am typing on my tablet. i will wash my hands later but rightly or wrongly i am not presently in fear of being infected this evening.

Most of the advice is realistic & sensible - even if in literal form some might conclude that the safest approach might be to avoid contact with dogs altogether…Clearly common sense & sound judgement are needed.


Before I handle any raw meat, I always run a bowl full of hot soapy water. I then put utensils used straight in and also rinse my hands before touching the taps or anything else. I then wash my hands thoroughly and wipe the taps for good measure. We don’t allow face licking but I confess I don’t wash my hands every time I stroke her. I do refrain from stroking after any roiling event until a thorough bathing!! The dogs raw food is transferred straight from carton to her bowl. It is stored on the bottom shelf of the fridge where only other raw meat is kept. This reduces the risk of cross contamination in the fridge. I use the same spoon each time and use it only for that purpose.

I pretty much rely on hot soapy water for surface cleaning but there is no contact with the food. I usually spray with antibacterial spray about once a week. If anyone in the house had a compromised immune system, I would probably have a rethink but am mindful of being overly sterile . If the food was taken from the bowl on to the floor, I would clean that area with hot soapy water and spray with antibacterial. If I drop meat on the work top, I wash and spray that area.
Raw meat should be stored at no more than 8 degrees c (4 to 5 is best) in the fridge and minus 18 degrees c or less in the freezer. This should keep the growth of bacteria to a minimum.
Any food accidentally left out for more than a short space of time, I would throw away as that is when the bacteria could reach harmful levels.


Going out and about with our dogs are one of life’s great pleasures and in order to maintain a cleaner environment there is an expected responsibility nowadays to clean up after our dogs have toiletted.
Rightly so. Soil has potential to harbour pathogens, and for this reason it’s good practice to clear up quickly and limit exposure.

I’ve found it’s been useful to carry a small bottle of bacterial gel to cleanse hands if needed after pick ups; and to thoroughly cleanse if confronted with an overflowing (and a more than due for emptying) public dog bin… :o


I’ve just read a post that has reminded me to mention that if anyone has a dog that is raw fed and develops gastrointestinal illness, they should mention the feeding method to the vet. It could help with the speed of effective treatment and also prevent other animals from being infected, especially if hospitalization is needed. Anyone who has an elderly, sick or immunocompromised pet may want to speak to their vet before feeding raw dog food.


Also perhaps it’s worthy of note that regular raw meat feeding tends to lower the Ph value of a dogs gastric (stomach) acid to a value of less than 2.0.

It’s as well to be aware that there are other changes (of specific levels) shown in a dog’s blood, which are different to those dogs fed a cereal diet for example.

Therefore, if your dog is fed raw meat and undergoes health testing it would be wise to mention to the vet the diet being fed.