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Pros & Cons To The Raw Pet Food Diet: Is It Worth It?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Like all our loved ones, we want what’s best for our pets. That includes what they eat. It’s estimated that we spent $20 billion on pet food last year.

According to market research, more owners are making the switch to raw foods.

Big retailers, like Target and Petco are even stocking it on store shelves.

Many owners report better eating habits, fewer allergies, shinier coats, healthier teeth and fewer trips to the vet.

Woody’s Pet Food Deli in south Minneapolis is seeing a surge in the diet’s popularity.

“We get new customers every day,” said Liz Cummiskey with Woody’s Pet Food Deli.

The idea is dogs and cats eat a more natural diet. Just like wild animals hunt prey and eat it.

“The bones are ground up really fine and we use the whole animal,” Cummiskey said. “It truly is a natural balance of bone to muscle meat.”

The food must meet standards for being balanced and complete for the animal, but veterinarians worry consumers might expose themselves to germs.

“It has the potential health risks to the pets and to the people in the household,” said Dr. Julie Churchill with the University of Minnesota.

She says bacteria like e. coli and salmonella can be found in the food, but most packages don’t warn owners.

In a recent University of Minnesota study, the department looked at 60 raw meat diets available at stores in the Twin Cities. Seven percent of them tested positive for salmonella.

“They look fine and healthy on the outside, they look like they’re doing well, but they could be putting others at risk or they themselves could get sick,” Churchill said.

The diet is also more expensive than regular dog food.

Most bags of kibble run about a dollar per pound.

Places like Woody’s charge anywhere from $7 to almost $30 for five pounds of food.

Target charges around $13 for six pounds. At Petco, it’ll cost you $63 for a five and a half pound bag.

As a believer, Annie Wiegers, says she guards against the risks.

“We put it on a separate plate for him and then put that plate in the dishwasher,” Wiegers said.

She thinks it’s worth every penny.

“We try to eat as organic and raw and healthy as we can and he’s just part of the family, so we want to do that for him, too,” Wiegers said.

Not everyone is sold.

“I am unwilling to take the risk when I know there’s no nutritional advantage,” Churchill said.

Churchill wants you to think about this before making the switch — Wild animals, like wolves, who eat raw only live about six years.

She also says most diet switches with dry food can give you the same results of a raw diet, so check with your vet before shopping for any new food.

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