Continuing along with the ‘Top 5’ theme from the last blog , a recent review article on ‘Raw diets for dogs and cats’ nicely summarizes the rationale behind (and concerns related to) feeding raw meat-based diets and products.
The publication divvies subject matter into layer-cake categories and tables of scientific evidence. I’ve condensed the topics below for those of you with the attention span of the proverbial gnat (like me) or an interest in specific sections of the paper.
1. Practice, rationale and motivation for feeding raw meat-based diets, i.e. ‘what are the reasons behind feeding these products to one’s dog or cat?’ This is an important section, in part to help prompt veterinarians and clinic support staff to remember to ask about diet history during vet visits. Our own research here at AVC showed a startlingly high percentage of raw meat feeding practices (homemade and commercial diet format), which led to establishment of a raw food policy in order to reduce infection risk between animal patients, human staff and my lovely veterinary students.
2. Evidence behind raw food benefits. Spoiler alert- There is some evidence, but it seems related to the creation of small firm poopies by a group of Boxers and kittens, which may (or may not) be considered a benefit, dependent on how one prefers poop to look…I’m not sure how the Boxers or kittens felt about it. The rest of the evidence (tackled in other reviews and addressed by the AVMA and WSAVA) appears to warrant a 6 or 7 on a Fecal Grading Chart, i.e. the evidence is thin and watery.
3. Controls on raw food diets source materials and processors, i.e. safety regulations in the EU and USA. This isn’t a big section…partly because while there is regulation…there isn’t always all that much occurring in terms of oversight.
4. Health risks of raw feeding related to nutrition and infection
a. Nutritional imbalance and deficiency risks. This underlines the importance of feeding a diet that is complete and balanced, and unfortunately these diets are frequently neither.
b. Infection risks (bacterial) to dogs, cats and humans. This category covers various bugs, such as Salmonella, E. coli, etc…this isn’t a short list of risks and it’s a big section.
c. Infection risks (other germs) to dogs, cats and humans, +/- livestock. This category covers other germs, e.g. Toxoplasma gondii, pseudorabies. These are a concern when these diets and products are not properly freeze-thawed and is due to the varying effect of this manufacturing practise on specific bugs and more practically (and possibly frequently) due to human error, i.e. when proper freeze temperatures and durations aren’t followed.
5. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) concerns related to these diets, e.g. extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) resistance. This may sound like something a cat might do (i.e. hack, gag, ESBL all over the clean floor, bed, etc.), but just goes to show how interconnected the choices we make for our pets are on us, i.e. the members of the human race. The concern of AMR in pets and people is a real one and something we all need to be cognizant of. Here’s a bit more information on the topic: http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/top-health-concerns/top-health-concerns.html
As a veterinarian, I’ve been lucky enough to meet (and be inspired by) many pet-owners over the years- I also freely admit to being all kinds of ridiculous about my own pair of E. Setters. And I am very aware that folks who choose to feed raw meat based diets, (either complete or partial feeding), do so because they genuinely want the very best for their fur babies-and love them just like I love my nutter dogs.
However, the choice to feed these diets comes with accountability to other animals and humans, besides one’s own, and this article does a nice job laying those concerns and considerations out, along with providing information regarding what impact this choice might have on the individual pet.