Before we begin our journey on investigating the lastest trend, raw pet diets, please watch this video. Trust me, it is important that you watch it.
Great, now that you have given me about 20 minutes of your life (hopefully you do not hate me already), we can now discuss raw pet diets.
This past year I was constantly asked about them and after tons of harassment from my friends, family, and colleagues I am finally breaking my silence. Raw diets terrify me. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that more pet owners are concerned about what their pets are consuming. However, the advice I have been seeing online is absolutely cringeworthy. Even in the forums geared towards us animal scientists, veterinary professionals and other types of animal professionals, individuals are handing out some really lackluster and dangerous advice. It is dangerous because it simply is not based on any scientific evidence. There are no clinical trials showing safety and efficacy. Period.
Since you listened to Dr. Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University, you should know how important it is to trust science and the scientists that bring it to the general public. No matter how often I put this disclaimer out there I still get eye rolls…scientists are not purposely trying to be elitist. I get things wrong, I do. However, I correct my findings when presented with new data. I could go on and on about the scientific process but I will save that for another post. The takeaway message is please, trust science and trust the experts in the field. I learned about animal nutrition for numerous different species during my undergraduate studies. When I sat down with my advisor before graduating to calculate my degrees into “real life” hours, we came up with about 9,120 hours and that was just undergrad. I estimate somewhere around 600 hours of that being nutrition which is amazing sure but it is not enough to make me an expert in nutrition. Those 600 “real life” hours come to about half a year of nutrition only formal education. Veterinary nutritionists obtain WAY MORE than that. I got to chat with some veterinary nutritionists and animal food scientists at the Midwest Veterinary Conference in February and seriously I thought of Wayne’s World while listening to them…
Back on track…veterinary nutritionists, KNOW about nutrition guys. We need to trust them when it comes to their field of expertise. The current scientific consensus is simply this: Do not attempt raw feeding without consulting with a veterinary nutritionist. The internet, no matter how appealing the advice may be, is not a substitute for working with a veterinary nutritionist. You need to plan a diet guided by a real-life expert. Be very skeptical of self-proclaimed “nutrition specialists.” If they are not certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, walk away. Close your laptop. Throw your phone on the ground. I don’t care what you need to do but do not take non-expert advice when it comes to your pets’ health. Period.
Still, insist on feeding raw? Okay, I have a compromise for you made by veterinary nutritionists! It is called BalanceIt. I personally ran it by nutrition experts at the Midwest Veterinary Conference who all said it was great.
Hopefully, you don’t hate me and have stuck around long enough for some additional readings. Enjoy!
- BalanceIT: The ONLY way from your pajamas to design a raw feeding plan
- What the American College of Veterinary Nutrition Says About Raw
- Beware of the “nutrition specialist”
- What the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says about raw pet diets
- FDA Stance on raw feeding (keep in mind they are speaking on uncooked meats mostly which isn’t the only meaning for the current “raw” trend)
- Food Safety Guidelines for Raw Pet Food
- Food surveys from pet owners do not count as scientific data (sorry, not sorry).
- Even Canada isn’t happy about raw pet diets (you hoser!)
- This one is behind a paywall (as are most peer-reviewed journals) so you will have to take my word or go to a library: “Although there are numerous claims to the health benefits of raw food diets, all are anecdotal…The raw bones included in many of these diets carry risks, and although the actual incidence of complications resulting from ingestion of raw bones is unknown, there are reports of intestinal obstruction, gastrointestinal perforation, gastroenteritis, and fractured teeth…” Freeman, L.M. and K.E. Michel. Evaluation of raw food diets for dogs. JAVMA. 218(5): 705-709
- SkeptVet (a favorite of mine) on raw diets
- VetGirl on homemade diets
- Even this independent group isn’t sold on raw diets
- More Evidence of the Risk of Infectious Diseases Associated with Raw Pet Foods
- The Pet Food Study was a two-year survey of pet foods that evaluated over 1000 samples. Raw foods were only included in the second year of the study, in which 196 samples of commercial raw diets were tested. The presence of Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes are alarmingly high in raw pet foods. Listeria is particularly noteworthy due to the human mortality rate being in the 20-30 percentiles.
- Raw Meat and Bone Diets for Dogs: Science-Based Medicine
- Raw, Cooked, Dry Cat Diets Examined
- Raw, Meat-based Diets for dogs and cats are inherently risky: “If a commercial RMBD is formulated to meet AAFCO nutrient guidelines for a particular life stage (ie, growth, reproduction or adult maintenance) of a dog or cat, there should be minimal risk of nutritional inadequacy. However, few manufacturers of raw diets conduct AAFCO feeding trials or digestibility studies on finished products, and manufacturers differ with regard to their attention to quality-control procedures. Thus, the assumption that these diets are truly complete and balanced for longterm feeding relies heavily on the expertise of the individual formulating the original recipe and expectations about the stability and degradation of dietary nutrients.” Freeman LM, Chandler ML, Hamper BA, Weeth LP. Current knowledge about the risks and benefits of raw meat-based diets for dogs and cats. JAVMA. 243(11):1549-58
- Another Study Shows the Real Dangers of Raw Diets for Dogs
- Raw food diets in companion animals: A critical review: Schlesinger, DP. Joffe, DJ. Raw diets in companion animals: A critical review. Canadian Veterinary Journal 2011;52-54.
- 95% of homemade diets studied here were nutritional inadequate
- FDA Webinar Discussing Dietary Risk Factors for Dilated Cardiomyopathy
Real Pet Nutrition Resources:
- OSU Animal Nutrition
- University of Florida
- Tufts Vet Nutrition
- Virginia-Maryland Vet Nutrition
- UC Davis Nutrition Support
- Tennessee Nutrition
- University of Pennslyvania Clinical Nutrition
P.S.– I applaud you, a human being who by biological design, has significant diet plasticity enabling you to survive off of a vegan lifestyle but guess what? It is NOT appropriate for your pet that needs meat. Sorry, not sorry. If your pet does not have a biological need for meat, then you’re cool! Like lagomorphs, ahem, I mean rabbits.
- The Center for Food Security and Public Health.
- The Institute for International Cooperation for Animal Biologics.
- The Association of American Feed Control Officials.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Estimates of Foodborne Illnesses in the United States.
- Fascetti AJ. Raw food diets: A research review. Proceedings, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Forum, Denver, CO, June 15-18, 2011.
- Freeman LM, Chandler ML, Hamper BA, Weeth LP. Current knowledge about the risks and benefits of raw meat-based diets for dogs and cats. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2013 Dec 1;243(11):1549-58
- Freeman L., Michel, K., Nutritional analysis of 5 types of “Raw Food Diets.” JAVMA March, 2001;218(5): 705.
- Schlesinger, DP. Joffe, DJ. Raw diets in companion animals: A critical review. Canadian Veterinary Journal 2011;52-54.
- Dillitzer, N, Becker, N, Kienzle, E. Frequency and extent of nutritional imbalances in “bone and Raw food” (barf) rations. Proceedings Waltham International Nutritional Sciences Symposium, Cambridge, UK, September 16-18, 2010. p. 44.
- Glasgow AG, et. al. Role of Diet in the Health of the Feline Intestinal Tract And in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Center for Companion Animal Health, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California at Davis.
- Beloshapka, AN. et al. Effects of inulin or yeast cell-wall extract on nutrient digestibility, fecal fermentative end-product concentrations, and blood metabolite concentrations in adult dogs fed raw meat-based diets. American Journal of Veterinary Research 2012;73(12):1016-1023
- Nemser SM, Doran T, Grabenstein M, et al. Investigation of Listeria, Salmonella, and Toxigenic Escherichia coli in Various Pet Foods. Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2014 Sep;11(9):706-9.
- Martinez-Anton, L., Marenda, M., Firestone, S.M., Bushell, R.N., Child, G., Hamilton, A.I., Long, S.N. and Le Chevoir, M.A.R. (2018), Investigation of the Role of Campylobacter Infection in Suspected Acute Polyradiculoneuritis in Dogs. J Vet Intern Med, 32: 352–360
- Crane SW, Griffin RW, Messent PR. Introduction to commercial pet foods. In: Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, Roudebush P, editors. Small animal clinical nutrition. 4th ed. Topeka, KS, US: Mark Morris Institute; 2000. p. 111-126.
- K.R. Kerr, B.M. Vester Boler, C.L. Morris, K.J. Liu, and K.S. Swanson. 2012. Apparent total tract energy and macronutrient digestibility and fecal fermentative end-product concentrations of domestic cats fed extruded, raw beef-based, and cooked beef-based diets. Journal of Animal Science: 90: 515-522.
- Steenkamp G, Gorrel C. Oral and dental conditions in adult African wild dog skulls: a preliminary report. Journal of Veterinary Dentistry. 1999 Jun;16(2):65-8.
- Verstraete FJ, van Aarde RJ, Nieuwoudt BA, Mauer E, Kass PH. The dental pathology of feral cats on Marion Island, part II: periodontitis, external odontoclastic resorption lesions and mandibular thickening. Journal of Comparative Pathology. 1996 Oct;115(3):283-97.
- Clarke DE, Cameron A. Relationship between diet, dental calculus and periodontal disease in domestic and feral cats in Australia. Australian Veterinary Journal. 1998 Oct;76(10):690-3.
- Chengappa MM, Staats J, Oberst RD, Gabbert NH, McVey S. Prevalence of Salmonella in raw meat used in diets of racing greyhounds. Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigations. 1993 Jul;5(3):372-7.
- Joffe DJ, Schlesinger DP. Preliminary assessment of the risk of Salmonella infection in dogs fed raw chicken diets. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2002 Jun;43(6):441-2.
- Weese JS, Rousseau J, Arroyo L. Bacteriological evaluation of commercial canine and feline raw diets. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2005 Jun;46(6):513-6.
- Morley PS, Strohmeyer RA, Tankson JD, Hyatt DR, Dargatz DA, Fedorka-Cray PJ. Evaluation of the association between feeding raw meat and Salmonella enterica infections at a Greyhound breeding facility. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2006 May 15;228(10):1524-32.
- Leonard EK, Pearl DL, Finley RL, Janecko N, Peregrine AS, Reid-Smith RJ, Weese JS. Evaluation of pet-related management factors and the risk of Salmonella spp. carriage in pet dogs from volunteer households in Ontario (2005-2006). Zoonoses Public Health. 2011 Mar;58(2):140-9.
- Finley, R. et al. The risk of Salmonella shedding by dogs fed Salmonella-contaminated commercial raw food diets. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2007;8:69-75.
- Gutman LT, Ottesen EA, Quan TJ, Noce PS, Katz SL. An inter-familial outbreak of Yersinia enterocolitica enteritis. New England Journal of Medicine. 1973 Jun 28;288(26):1372-7.
- Morse EV, Duncan MA, Estep DA, Riggs WA, Blackburn BO. Canine salmonellosis: A review and report of dog to child transmission of Salmonella enteritidis. American Journal of Public Health. 1976 Jan;66(1):82-4.
- CDC. Outbreaks of multidrug-resistant Salmonella Typhimurium associated with veterinary facilities—Idaho, Minnesota, and Washington, 1999. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2001;50:701–704.
- Canadian Communicable Disease Report. Human health risk from exposure to natural dog treats. 200(26).41.
- Finley R, Reid-Smith R, Weese JS. Human health implications of Salmonella-contaminated natural pet treats and raw pet food. Clin Infect Dis. 2006 Mar 1;42(5):686-91. Epub 2006 Jan 20.
- KuKanich KS. Update on Salmonella spp contamination of pet food, treats, and nutritional products and safe feeding recommendations. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2011 Jun;238(11):1430-1434.