A raw pet food diet is "designed to mimic what an animal would eat if left to their own devices," says Julie Paez, co-owner of the Big Bad Woof pet store in Washington and Hyattsville, Md.
"Our cats and dogs — they need to eat whole prey," says Terri Grow, founder and president of PetSage, the holistic pet store in Alexandria, Va., that recommended a raw diet to Droddy. "There are bones for calcium, there are organ meats for the vitamins and minerals, there are the areas for the fats — it's moisture. So you have to look at that whole prey and try to make a model of it. Just throwing out a piece of chicken or steak is not a balanced diet."
Commercially made raw pet food, including such local brands as Furry Foodie and Aunt Jeni's, comes frozen in tubs, tubes or shapes such as patties. A portion is thawed out in the refrigerator overnight and then served the next day.
PetSage offers cooking classes with recipes shared by veterinarians from around the world. In a class this spring, "we even walked people through a salad that you can make for yourself, and your dog can eat it as well," Grow says. "It was a good salad dressing, too."
The ASPCA warns that pets on a raw diet, either homemade or store bought, might pick up a food-borne illness such as salmonella or E. coli, become malnourished or injure themselves while eating a piece of bone.
"We are aware that pet parents are often very passionate about what they feed their pets, and with good reason," says Mindy Bough, who oversees the ASPCA's pet nutrition and science advisory service. "If somebody feels passionately about [the diet], I'm okay with that, but what I encourage them to do is use very safe procedures when handling raw meat and when cleaning up feces, and then have their animal evaluated by the veterinarian very regularly — at least every six months."