Updated: Sep 23, 2021
There are lots of misconceptions surrounding raw feeding and one that we continue to hear about a lot (particularly from vets) is that raw pet food increases the risk of worm infestations in dogs and cats. Vets may even recommend giving your pets deworming treatments more often if you are feeding raw food. In theory, this could happen if the raw food is not handled or prepared properly; however, when consulting with our pet nutrition specialist, Sarah G., she explained that she had never seen a case where worms were directly related to a pet eating raw food.
Let’s explore worms in pets a little more to fully understand why a raw diet isn’t a leading cause of worm infestations in pets. We will also explore deworming medication as we get a lot of questions about it in general and in relation to raw pet food.
Want to know what other raw feeding myths aren’t true? Check out our blog!
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Origins of This Belief
We’re not quite sure how or why this became a favourite statement to rebut the benefits and safety of raw pet food. One possibility is that it stems from a time when pet food brands primarily used lower-grade meat and ingredients in their food. Therefore, people automatically associated all pet foods to be made of similar ingredients.
Although the entire Canadian food industry has continued to improve their standards over the years, there are still very few guidelines or regulations for the Canadian pet food industry. Lower quality and cheaper pet foods can legally get away with using what is commonly referred to as 4-D meats (dead, dying, diseased or disabled animals) in their products Learn more at The Truth About Pet Food: The Romance Is Over. That’s why many companies have taken it upon themselves to voluntarily provide higher standards for their customers.
At Red Dog Blue Kat, we’ve gone above and beyond to make it even more official by continuing to uphold standards to categorize us as a HACCP certified facility.
Learn more about our HACCP Program
Ingredient sourcing, quality, and handling all play a big role in regards to safety issues with your pet’s food, whether it’s about worms or other bacteria and pathogens. Here are some important considerations for you when choosing pet food brands:
Make sure they have information on their ingredient sourcing standards (and ask how those standards are upheld)
Buy from companies who use human-grade ingredients (ensure the ingredients are human-grade vs. just the facility – even human grade facilities have other grades of food)
Make sure the manufacturers are implementing proper handling, freezing, and storing standards
Search for companies with certifications, such as food safety programs like HACCP
Why Your Pet Has A Worm Infestation
Yes, ingredients are important; however, Sarah still says it’s highly unlikely for dogs or cats to get worms from eating any pet food, even raw. If your pet has a worm infestation, it is more likely from their environment and things like fleas, licking paws, contact with soil, or eating poop. It is also important to understand that if your dog or cat has worms at a level that would be considered level an infestation, it is most likely a larger problem with your pet’s gut health and microbiome.
If you’re able to see worms in your pet’s poop, then they have an infestation. That means they have eaten something with a high load of parasites, and their body has become overwhelmed by them. The only way that animals will then get infected is if their immune and digestive systems are too weak to clear the worms on their own. . However, if their gut health is really optimal and they’re on a healthy, balanced diet - then even if they did eat something with a high level of parasites, they are less likely to experience an infestation.
There are some animals who are at a higher risk for infestation. These include puppies and kittens, dogs or cats who are ill, older, or immunocompromised.
How Raw Food Can Actually Help
Since we know that worms target animals who have gut or immune issues, it is important we try and strengthen their health in those areas to prevent the possibility of worm infestation in general. Why feeding your dog raw is a good idea in this situation is because raw changes the entire terrain of the gut, including the pH and microbiome. This means that your dog or cat’s body will make it harder for pathogenic bacteria, viruses, worms etc. to impact their health negatively. If your pet has a more sensitive stomach, you can also consider building up their gut strength by adding supplements into their diet!
View our beginner’s guide to supplementing a raw pet diet:
Prevention vs. Treatment
If your pet has no sign of worms, then Sarah recommends avoiding deworming medications. That may seem counter-intuitive; however, think about when you take cough medicine. Humans take cough medicine once we feel signs of a sickness coming on, not all the time. If we took cough medicine all the time, as a preventative measure, then the medication would not only become less effective for us (antibiotic resistance), but our overall health would also decrease since it would be killing good bacteria as well. Now let’s apply this to our pet’s de-worming medication.
Deworming medication for pets is supposed to be used when you see worms (or microscopic worm eggs are detected on fecal testing at your vet); therefore, it’s used as a treatment. Just like using antibiotics for humans too much, if you give deworming medication to dogs too frequently, it can destroy their gut.
So how can we prevent our pet from getting worms? As we said, it’s all about building a strong gut. That includes feeding your pet a high-quality, healthy diet and adding in supplements as required.
Identifying a Worm Infestation
Instead of defaulting to a schedule of deworming medication without cause, we recommend first completing a visual inspection of your pets poop for worms, and a fecal analysis with your vet, as some signs of worms are microscopic . Using the graph below as a reference, check your pets poop once every couple of months for infestations. Once an infestation is identified, we recommend getting in touch with your vet to review your deworming options.
Holistic and Natural Deworming Treatments:
There are no studies that definitively prove the effectiveness of any natural de-wormers on the market. Before undertaking any natural preventative measures on your own, it is a good idea to work with your vet to be sure it is safe, and to find a plan that will work for your unique pet and situation!
The following have been anecdotally said to have natural deworming properties:
Food grade diatomaceous earth
Apple Cider Vinegar
Dried coconut/coconut oil/coconut meat