We encourage owners to feed diets other than Raw diets or BARF (bones and raw food) diets. We are not opposed to them but we think it is important to be aware of the serious risks posed to your pets eating the diet as well as all the humans and the animals in your household, especially small children, pregnant women, elderly people or immunocompromised people.
The center for disease control in the USA has a precaution about feeding Raw diets to pets. Impactions, risk of infectious disease to both the pet and the pet owner and imbalances are all potential risks with these diets. Here is a list of concerns associated with feeding Raw meat and BARF diets:
- Bones can cause an intestinal obstruction, gastrointestinal perforations and fractured teeth
- Food contamination from organisms such as Salmonella, Shigella, E. Coli, Campylobacter and staphylococcus are concerns especially in diets containing raw chicken. In one study, E. coli 0157 was found in 1 of 3 raw diets examined
- Biochemical and mathematical analysis of the BARF diet and other raw diets have shown there are significant imbalances of some minerals, including calcium, phosphorous, zinc, magnesium and iron (either low or high)
- Fat contributes to a significant number of calories in these diets and could be a concern in pets with a tendency to weight gain or animals predisposed to fat intolerant conditions such as hyperlipidemia or pancreatitis
When a pet eats a food that is contaminated with the bacteria listed above, they can shed that bacteria in their stool. Tiny bits get caught on their fur and can contaminate your entire house, not just where they eat or eliminate. Even if you handle the foods safely, clean their dishes and clean up their feces immediately there is still a risk of becoming infected. This is more likely in young children that don’t wash their hands frequently, babies, the elderly and immunocompromised people can become infected with much smaller numbers of these bacteria than the average young and healthy adult.
Food poisoning from a bacterial infection is a more common problem with raw diets, but there is some risk for parasitic infection as well. Parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii can be found in various raw meats. These parasites can cause a number of gastrointestinal problems and flu like symptoms in cats and dogs. Similarly, tapeworms and flukes can sometimes be found in raw fish and liver.
There can be some nutritional deficiencies associated with raw diets as well. The greatest myth about these diets is the belief that raw meat is more nutritious than cooked meat. In reality there is very little difference in the nutritional composition (quality or quantity) of cooked meat versus raw meat. Raw meat does not have any enzymes which would enhance the digestibility, as otherwise noted by some authors. The nutrient composition of raw meat is very high in protein and lipids and very low in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The feeding of a complete raw meat diet would eventually produce a number of nutritional deficiencies, which would reduce the lifespan of a cat or a dog.
It is a common idea that dogs are ancestors of wolves, and wolves are raw food eaters; therefore dogs should eat raw meat. We would counter that the domestic dog has developed alongside humans for more than 10,000 years and likely have been eating cooked scraps about as long as us. Further wolves never only ate meat and bones and often eat the intestinal contents of herbivores first.
Domesticated animals are not scavengers and don’t need to hunt for their food as they would in the wild, so we believe that feeding a high quality, balanced pet food is one of the best thing you can do for your pet’s health. The foods we recommend to feed are highly researched, use the highest quality of ingredients, have antioxidants to help with absorption and gut motility, and are constantly improving their foods. If your pet has a condition that you think would be improved by a raw food diet, we strongly suggest to speak with your veterinarian prior to doing so, and there may be another alternative such as a prescription diet, supplements or medication designed for their health issue.
ALL NATURAL AND GRAIN-FREE DIETS
Pet food is a multibillion dollar industry with very little accountability and regulation. Some companies are cashing in on that fact, with wild promises and/or cheap foods in a very expensive bag!! We wish that wasn’t the case, but it is. Food is also a very emotional and philosophical topic for many humans, and we don’t always remain objective or look at both sides of a story. There are lots of fabulous, high quality foods out there but there are also many foods that vary widely from batch to batch, are not backed up with research, food trials or independent testing.
A number of pet food companies, or the people selling their products, use keywords to make you believe their food is more natural or of higher quality than other pet foods. This may or may not be the case, just like with “all natural” human products! We have included some information about what these key words mean, or don’t mean, so that you can make your selections in a more informed manner!
If the diet is grain free, what is the carbohydrate source? Are you comfortable with it? For example one popular grain free diet has a very high amount of potato flour, and another has lots of tapioca. This certainly does not line up with the argument not to feed grain because it is not naturally part of your pet’s diet! In these two cases, we’d argue that your dog or cat is more likely to have found grain by scavenging or through intestinal contents than they would have found tapioca or potato flour!! And many grains have a lot more healthy oils, vitamins and nutrients than potato flour or tapioca.
How on earth did corn become the anti-food!!?? This is a great carbohydrate that also has amino acids and b vitamins and when ground is very well digested and absorbed.
WHOLE CHICKEN/MEAT FIRST
Meat first doesn’t always mean more meat!! This uses a labeling loophole. Yes it is frustrating, but the rules on labeling require foods to be listed from first to last based on initial weight. An ingredient like whole chicken gets to be weighed as is but if it had to be weighed dry (as it will be fed) it may have been at the very end of the list!! Chicken meal or ground chicken weigh less to start but may contain more meat (no bones) and make up more of the diet than the one with whole chicken listed first! Another point is that some pet foods will use two high quality, expensive protein ingredients to make a very high quality protein profile– like eggs and chicken meal. In this case, there is less of each and they will be lower on the list than the whole chicken, yet give your pet a higher quality protein profile.