Huge pet food myth people don’t notice

A popular pet food trend has boomed into a $214 billion industry, but one Sydney vet is warning of the risks owners should know about.

In 2024, welcoming a new pet into your home comes with almost the same amount of pressure and additional equipment as welcoming a baby – and can be just as expensive.

From puppy brain trainers to personalised food bowls and anti-anxiety weighted pet blankets, our appetite for pet accessories is matched only by our appetite for cute online content: that is, both ravenous and bottomless.

One industry that has boomed in response to our desire to meet our furry family members’ every developmental and emotional need, is the raw pet food industry.

Worth an estimated $214 billion dollars as at 2022, the global raw pet food industry is expected to grow to over $300 billion by 2029.

Proponents of a raw pet food diet point to benefits ranging from an increased immune system to healthier hair and skin. The #rawdogfood hashtag has nearly 400 million hits on TikTok, with a number of pet content creators taking followers through the specifics of everything their companions consume in a day with the zeal of a fitspo influencer.

But many vets warn that despite the popularity of the raw pet food movement, there is a downside pet owners should be aware of.

“It’s not normally something that a vet recommends,” explains Dr Jamie Geddes, Hospital Superintendent at Sydney Animal Hospitals.

“It’s very popular within the media, but we’re not so aware of the science behind that.”

Dr Geddes says that while it may not harm your pet, there can be risks for human family members associated with a raw food diet.

“Whilst pets may be more tolerant of something like salmonella, as a father of three I don’t want to be feeding my dog raw chicken and then having the dog lick the faces of my children,” he says.

Instead, advises Dr Geddes, ensuring a quality store-bought pet food, or even home-cooked meals for your animal, is a safer way to ensure their nutritional needs are being met.

“Making sure whatever you feed your pet has the right nutritional density, vitamin and mineral balance in the right quantities to ensure a healthy skeleton, and of course making sure you’re not over or underfeeding your pet are the main things to be aware of.”

For pet owners who want to take nutrition into their own hands and prepare meals from scratch for their animals, Dr Geddes acknowledges this can also be an excellent source of what they need.

“There are many ways to ensure you have a happy, healthy pet, and to an extent, feeding a variety of home cooked foods can provide excellent nutrition. It’s definitely not a case of premium pet food being the only way,” he said.

“The difficult thing can be making sure you get that balance right, and one of the problems I see, particularly sometimes coming from breeders, is that there is a rich cocktail of different supplements some dogs are on, which can lead to overfeeding because we try and cover off all the different groups in a home-prepared meal.”