WAUWATOSA, Wis. — We know dog and cat food as kibble, but more and more pet owners are feeding their animals raw diets: uncooked meats, eggs, and even fruits and vegetables.
One of the big theories behind feeding your pet a raw food diet is that you're bringing your animals back to their roots of what they would eat in the wild.
Kimberly Gauthier feeds her four dogs a raw food diet. She looked into raw feeding after one of her dogs became chronically sick with ear infections, inflammation, and allergies.
"He was just a miserable, itchy, anxious dog. Within two weeks you couldn't even find a sign that he had ever had a rash on his body. He never had an ear infection again," said Gauthier, author of pet blog, Keep the Tail Wagging. "It was something I had never seen at the pet store or anything like that."
Gauthier said when she first started, she had a lot of questions and cost was a concern.
"I just went online and I'm looking online for raw food diets and man, it was expensive, and I was like I don't know if I could afford this," she said. "Basically, I started with raw in the morning and kibble in the evening. Then I went to full raw."
What's on the menu? Things like ground quail, organ meat, and green tripe, which is the unprocessed stomach lining of an animal.
Gauthier says traffic on her pet blog spiked in 2014 when she made her posts all about raw feeding. She covers topics like managing monthly costs and safety.
"When I started writing about raw feeding, I was a big fish in a small pond. Now, I'm a minnow in a sea of people writing about their experiences with raw feeding and I couldn't be happier," said Gauthier.
Doctor Jamie Oakes, a veterinarian at the Wauwatosa Veterinary Clinic, doesn't recommend a raw food diet for pets and also doesn't recommend giving bones to dogs.
"There's definitely a choking hazard and also something we see really commonly, especially in dogs, is foreign body obstructions," Dr. Oakes said.
Still, she says a handful of her human clients feed their animals exclusively uncooked foods, while others add it to kibble.
Dr. Oakes said some of them are trying raw feeding because their pets are suffering from allergies.
"I will say that most of the time, dogs and cats are allergic to the protein source and not necessarily the grains."
She urges pet owners looking to do raw feeding to first connect with a veterinary nutritionist and visit websites like Balance It to help ensure your pet is getting healthy meals.
She also encourages anyone prepping raw meals to make sanitation a priority.
"That's something where you can get Salmonella. Campylobacter is something you can also get from uncooked meat. So not only can your dog get that, but you can get that from handling the food yourself too," said Dr. Oakes. "Pet owners are awesome and they just want what's best for their pet. It's just we need to make sure we're doing that in a safe way. So one thing that works for one dog is definitely not going to work for every single dog."
Gauthier says she monitors her animals and just like with her own food prep, she keeps her pet food prep area clean.
"When it comes to the bacteria, it's important to clean," Gauthier explained.
"Yes, our dogs are eating raw meat. If a dog has a severely compromised immune system, that could potentially be a problem. But, I have a dog that has cancer. He is 17 months post-diagnosis, which is huge. He was given three months without chemo and a year with chemo. And he's blown all of that. He's going into a year and a half now and he's doing absolutely great and he eats a raw food diet."