Raw Diets: The Facts
There has been a recent trend in the pet food industry for dogs and cats to be fed raw diets. A raw diet is composed of raw meat, bones and organs that are not cooked prior to being fed to the pet. Creators of raw food diets claim that raw diets are superior because they mimic the evolutionary diets of those species. This statement is misleading because wolves and wild cats do eat raw foods but they also do not have the life expectancy that we strive for in our domesticated pets. Many wild animals die due to illness and we want to avoid giving our pets anything that could compromise their health.
WebsterLakeVeterinaryHospitaland its doctors do not recommend or endorse the feeding of a raw diet to their patients in any situation for the below reasons.
Reasons to not feed raw diets:
1. Raw meat products can be contaminated with salmonella, e. coli, and other parasites. These microorganisms can be shed in the feces of seemingly normal animals and infect other animals or people in the home. Animals and people that are young, old, pregnant or immuno-compromised due to cancer, AIDS or other medical conditions are at increased risk for contracting these microorganisms and can have serious health problems because of it. A 2002 study in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Medicine found that 80% of raw diets contained salmonella and 30% of dogs fed a raw diet shed salmonella in their feces.
2. Raw diets containing bones can fracture teeth, tear the esophagus, stomach or intestines and even become lodged in the GI tract requiring surgery.
3. Raw diets tend to be very high in fat which can lead to pancreatitis in dogs. Pancreatitis is a serious and sometimes deadly inflammation of the pancreas that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, dehydration, transient diabetes, and clotting abnormalities.
4. Raw diets tend to be made of mostly muscle meats and chicken bones and this makes the diet deficient in many nutrients including calcium. Many are actually labeled for supplemental feeding only which means that the pet must be fed something in addition to the raw diet to ensure it is complete and balanced. This can be a big problem especially in young, growing animals.
These above recommendations do not apply to the cooked fresh food diets that are commercially available for your pets. As long as the fresh food is labeled as complete and balanced for its target pet and as long it is handled appropriately by the owner and used within the recommended time frame, commercial fresh food diets are ok for some dogs and cats.
Home cooked diets are very difficult to get balanced without the aid of a licensed veterinary nutritionist. Beware of the internet, as many people who are not qualified are putting their “recipes” for diets for other people to feed to their pets.