Bacteria in Raw Dog Food

Dr Nick Thompson talks us through he ‘Funny’ subject of bacteria. 

When you say there are bacteria in ALL raw food, the raw feeding world parts down the middle into those who are scared and those who say, ‘Of course there are!’. 

Actually, I think it should be more surprising that pets can survive on mostly sterile kibble and tins for years on end! 

Let’s look into this to see which has more bacterial and other contamination, raw or kibble and tins. 

Most people new to raw food are concerned about bacterial contamination of their pet or themselves. 

On Apr 5th 2021, safe pet food campaigner Susan Thixton wrote an article called ‘Is Kibble #1’ on her fantastic blog ‘Truth About Pet Food‘. She compares pet food recalls (for bacterial or other contamination) relative to market share between 2012 and 2020 in the USA.

Thixton says that kibble makes up 67% of pet food sales in this eight year period, but a whopping 68.4% of recalls in this time. 

Wet/canned food is 30% of all pet food sales and a consistent 30.7% of recalls for the same period. 

So that would suggest that the more market share you have, the more recalls you’re going to get – it makes sense as no food production process is perfect. But are some more perfect than others? 

Raw Food Recalls

During these eight years, raw food (refrigerated and frozen foods) says Susan Thixton was two per cent of total sales. 

But remarkably, raw only represented 0.6% of recalls. Unlike kibble and cans recalls, this represents only a quarter of raw’s market share. 

Susan Thixton’s work suggests raw food is four times safer than kibble and tinned food feeding. And that’s using the figures from US Food and Drug Administration Enforcement Report records, not just talking to one side of the industry or the other, but talking to the people who referee food quality over the whole country. 

What About Real Dogs in the Real World? 

Anna Hielm-Bjorkmann is the lead researcher for DogRisk, a group of PhD academics studying the health and safety aspects of raw food. Based at the University of Helsinki, they have loads of data and are working their way through it all to interpret it to reveal its secrets. 

In 2019, they published data from a survey of 16,475 households. Thirty-nine households (0.2 per cent) reported having had a transmission of a pathogen from the raw pet food to a human family member during the time that raw feeding had been used. 

On investigation of those 39 cases, in only three of those households, the same pathogen found in the human sample was analysed and confirmed to be in the raw pet food. These three cases represent just 0.02% of all the dogs in the survey. The humans could have contaminated the dogs, of course. 

Interestingly, the survey showed you were more than twice as likely to catch pathogenic bacteria from children at nursery school than from feeding your dog raw food! 

And finally, they found that feeding turkey and salmon, using more than 50% raw in of the diet and feeding dogs with shared human kitchen space and utensils actually reduced the chance of infection from food/dog to people. 


So, there you have it; two completely different ways of analysing the contamination risks from raw food by two completely different official bodies; one the FDA, the other a university department in Europe. Both concluded that feeding raw is safer than many other common practices (like having young children in the house!).

I hope this short blog goes a long way to reassure you not to believe the nay-sayers who try to scare you with stories of doom if you so much as talk about feeding raw to your dog. 

Feed your dog raw! Talk to your local raw stockist and be guided by them or your local raw-minded vet. It’s as safe as many things we take for granted in our lives and safer than feeding kibble and tins in the USA! 

About the author

Nick Thompson is a vet. He has been fighting for responsible, species-appropriate raw food feeding for pets for 25 years. His tireless drive for healthy pets from birth to graceful old age brought him to raw feeding in the mid-1990s.
Nick is Founding President of the international Raw Feeding Veterinary Society ( and has co-authored a pioneering worldwide survey of 79 vets and their experiences feeding raw food. He has co-organised international raw food conferences for the RFVS since 2012.
In 1999, Nick established his specialist practice, Holisticvet ( Now based in Corsham, near Bath, he offers homeopathy, natural nutrition and herbal medicine and a lot of good old-fashioned common sense for dogs and horses.
His pet topics are gastroenterology and the microbiome and the misuse of pharmaceuticals in medicine. He loves researching all aspects of human and animal nutrition.
Nick also shares his passion for raw feeding with a nutritional consultancy service to the premier raw pet food companies in the UK and Europe. He has lectured and consulted in Raw Food, Nutrition and Medicine throughout the UK, Eire, Northern Ireland, Finland, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Nick is embracing Social Media to spread his message: Facebook: Holisticvet Ltd; FB Public Figure: Dr Nick Thompson; Instagram: holisticvetuk.
Nick is married to Elly and has two children, Arthur and Ophelia, and lives in Wiltshire, UK with chickens a Snowshoe cat called Ziggy and a Whippet-Italian Greyhound cross (mongrel), Bluebell.
When not trying to convert the world to a species-appropriate diet, Nick runs barefoot, swims and eating real food. Not all at the same time.

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