The effects of raw-meat diets on the gastrointestinal microbiota of the cat and dog: a review

N Z Vet J. 2022 Jan;70(1):1-9. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2021.1975586. Epub 2021 Sep 19.


The aim of this review is to summarise the available literature on the effects of consuming raw, red meat diets on the gastrointestinal microbiome of the cat and dog. In recent years, feeding raw meat diets to cats and dogs has increased, in part associated with trends in human nutrition for "natural" and "species-appropriate" diets. These diets range from home-prepared unprocessed, nutritionally incomplete diets to complete and balanced diets with sterilisation steps in their manufacturing process. Feeding some formats of raw meat diets has been associated with nutritional inadequacies and zoonotic transfer of pathogens. The feeding of raw meat diets has been shown to alter the gastrointestinal microbiome of the cat and dog, increasing the relative abundances of bacteria associated with protein and fat utilisation, including members of the genera Fusobacterium and Clostridium. While in humans, these genera are more commonly known for members that are associated with disease, they are a diverse group that also contains harmless commensals that are a normal component of the gastrointestinal microbiota. Moreover, members of these genera are known to produce butyrate from protein and amino acid fermentation and contribute to intestinal homeostasis in raw meat-fed dogs and cats. Currently, only a limited number of studies have examined the impacts of raw meat diets on the cat and dog microbiota, with many of these being descriptive. Additional controlled and systems-based studies are required to functionally characterise the roles of key microbial groups in the metabolism of raw meat diets, and determine their impacts on the health and nutrition of the host.

Keywords: Faecal microbiota; bone and raw food diets; faecal diversity; raw meat; zoonotic transfer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed
  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases*
  • Cats
  • Diet / veterinary
  • Dog Diseases*
  • Dogs
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Meat