Ah yes the very touchy subject of the RAW diet. I would prefer to skip this topic as people become very defensive and passionate about this topic, but no expose on nutrition would be complete without broaching this subject. My opinion is simple, I follow the science when it comes to picking my pet’s diets and I am sorry, but the science does not support raw food. At the end of this article I will site a number of scientific articles that actually shows that in fact raw diets can be harmful to your pet’s health. I do not believe it is my place to criticize what people choose to feed their pets. It is my job to offer up advice, to show the evidence, and people can then make their own educated decisions – I will never nag or soapbox but willing to advise if asked.
So what evidence is there to support raw diet?
- Bob’s dog does great on it…anecdotal evidence.
- My breeder’s dog lived to be 16 and ate only raw…some people smoke well into their 90’s doesn’t make it good for them.
- I read on the Internet so it must be true! As they say a picture tells a thousand words…
- Wild dogs eat raw and we are just bringing our dogs back to their natural diet. 1. Well I can say my Winston is the furthest thing from a wolf and wouldn’t last an hour in the wild let alone a day! Our pet’s are NOT wild dogs. 2. Our dogs typically live longer and healthier lives than wild dogs BECAUSE we give them balanced diets, take care of their teeth, deworm and vaccinate them! And 3. Wild dogs fracture their teeth, pick up parasites and bacterial infection and can get intestinal obstructions from their food – what happens to them? – they die!
So lets actually look at the two most important issues with raw diets
- Making a BALANCED diet is not easy! In 2013 a study of 200 home prepared diets were analyzed and 95% were found to be deficient in at least on ESSENTIAL nutrient (1) and some actually exceeded the safe upper limit. “Ahhh but I buy my raw diet, I don’t make it at home so I am okay.” Sorry most raw food companies are small companies and do not have the scientific lab to measure every ingredient’s digestibility and nutrient levels. They are not typically a well balanced diet!
- Safe! When dealing with raw food the chance of bacterial contamination is significant (2). Studies have shown that salmonella can be cultured from pet food bowls even AFTER going through the dishwasher, thus putting both you and your pet are at risk. Your pet will also shed these pathogens in their feces and put other people, besides your family, at risk (3). Raw diets are the number one recalled food. I read a veterinary news journal and at least once a week there is a raw food recall happening. Raw diets are considered a community health issue and not supported by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association or the Public Health Agency of Canada (4).
So that is the science, but let me tell you my anecdotal evidence of why I will never feed raw food to my pets…Because I have seen pets die! I have seen them die from bone causing intestinal obstructions. I have seen them die from bloody diarrhea secondary to bacterial infections. I have spent my life to doing my very best at keeping pets safe, health, and pain free. My heart breaks every time I loose a patient. But when a pet dies needlessly it haunts me. You read the science and then the choice is yours.
- Lauren S, et al. Computer analysis of nutrient sufficiency of published home-cooked diets for dogs and cats. In:Proc ACVIM Forum 2005
2. Finley R, Reid-Smith R, Boerlin P, Weese SJ. The occurrence and antimicrobial susceptibility of salmonellae isolated from commercially available canine raw food diets in three Canadian cities. Zoonoses Public Health. 2008; 55(8-10);462-469
- Weese S.J. Survival of Salmonella Copenhagen in food bowls following contamination with experimentally inoculated raw meat: Effects of time, cleaning, and disinfection. Can Vet J. 2006; 47(9): 887 – 889
4. Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, http://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/raw-food-diets-for-pets