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Why Most Pet Professionals Say "No" To Raw Diets For Dogs and Cats

Updated on November 17, 2016
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Public Health Issues, More Than Nutrition, Are Cited

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) held their 2012 Annual Convention in San Diego August 3-7 and adopted a policy position against feeding raw diets to pets.

News of the policy, adopted by the AVMA’s House of Delegates (HOD), brought a barrage of negative comments to their website and press releases from manufacturers of raw diets for pets.

Quoting from the AVMA web site: “the AVMA recommends the following:

● Avoid feeding inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs

● Restrict cats’ and dogs’ access to carrion and animal carcasses (eg, while hunting)

● Provide fresh, clean, nutritionally balanced and complete commercially prepared or home-cooked food to cats and dogs, and dispose of uneaten food at least daily

● Practice personal hygiene (eg, handwashing) before and after feeding cats and dogs, providing treats, cleaning pet dishes, and disposing of uneaten food

In the first bullet point, the word “Never” was originally used but the delegates voted to replace that with the word “Avoid.”

Again quoting from the AVMA web site:

“Animal-source proteins of concern include beef, pork, poultry, fish, and other meat from domesticated or wild animals as well as milk* and eggs.

*The recommendation not to feed unpasteurized milk to animals does not preclude the feeding of unpasteurized same-species milk to unweaned juvenile animals.”

In the House of Delegates Wrap Up on the web site Dr. Kimberly May writes:

“Please keep in mind that this policy is NOT a ban on raw foods for pets and it is not a regulation that requires veterinarians (regardless of whether they’re AVMA members or not) to comply, or even agree with it.

It’s not a debate on the healthiness of or risks associated with raw foods versus other commercial pet foods. Nor is it an attempt to force a ban or restrict pet owners’ rights to feed their pets how and what they want.”

Another veterinary trade group, The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has also chimed in on the subject. I've cherry-picked a few sections of their statement, but you can read their entire statement, and that of the AVMA, by logging on to their respective web sites.

From the AAHA statement: "Past proponents of raw food diets believed that this was the healthiest food choice for pets. It was also assumed that feeding such a diet would cause no harm to other animals or to humans. There have subsequently been multiple studies showing both these premises to be false. Based on overwhelming scientific evidence, AAHA does not advocate or endorse feeding pets any raw or dehydrated nonsterilized foods, including treats that are of animal origin."

Further down they say, "Feeding a raw protein diet no longer concerns only each individual pet, but has become a larger community health issue; for this reason, AAHA can no longer support or advocate the feeding of raw protein diets to pets."

Is it just me, or is this all much ado about nothing? Certainly it’s controversial and the debate (yes, it is a debate) will rage on. It seems that the organization’s objections are based on sanitation issues rather than nutrition issues.

The sanitation point is well taken, and echoed by the USDA, FDA, and just about every other health agency and organization. But…

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m on the fence over a controversy I like to look through the “broad-view glasses” and do a reality check.

Hamburger thawing on the couinter
Hamburger thawing on the couinter | Source

How many of us aren’t religious about following those sanitation guidelines, yet don’t get sick? How many of us thaw meat on the kitchen counter, contrary to the advice of health officials, yet don’t get sick?

How many of us could be considered careless about the way we handle and prepare raw meat, yet don’t get sick? And at backyard barbeques, how many of us eat the potato salad at dinnertime that’s been sitting unrefrigerated on the picnic table since lunchtime, yet don’t get sick?

Please don’t think I’m marginalizing the benefits of good hygiene or advocating reckless disregard for prudent sanitation practices. To the contrary, I’m married to a nurse who threatens to call OSHA on me if I don’t clean the sink and utensils with ammonia every time I handle meat. She has me so paranoid that I do it even when she’s not home!

But the fact remains that we, and our pets, are not dropping like flies. Most people have a few gastric or intestinal episodes each year, where the feeling is, “Jeez, I must have eaten something that didn’t agree with me.”

Maybe; or maybe you were the victim of your own poor sanitation practices when preparing last night's burgers or fried chicken. You take some OTC meds or just tough it out, and you’re back to normal pretty quickly. Sure, some of us get seriously ill I suppose, but you have to admit, the odds are pretty much in our favor.

The veterinarians I know have been opposed to feeding raw diets, not only for the reasons cited by the AVMA, but also out of concern that pets get a complete and balanced diet. But I haven’t polled them in a while.

Personally, I lean towards commercially prepared foods, or home-cooked meals as formulated by board certified veterinary nutritionists. But I have to admit, I know a lot of people who feed or supplement with raw and haven’t had any problems. Yet, anyway.

Where Do You Stand On The Raw Debate?

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi BlissfulWriter, I agree that raw probably isn't good for humans (although I like my steaks and burgers on the rarer side of medium-rare) but I see no problem with raw for animals, especially obligate carnivores such as cats. Their digestive tracts are naturally adapted to process raw and their other organs and systems are likewise naturally adapted.

      I'm not too good (yet) with the techie stuff, which is why I didn't do a link to the AVMA site, but if you simply Google AVMA you'll be all set. Thanks for stopping by. Regards, Bob

      Hi Lucky Cats, I, for one, am not paranoid. I just know for a fact that everyone is out to get me :) You're right, though. Overkill is an understatement in some ways these days.

      Cats, and ferrets also, are obligate carnivores that can suffer blindness, cardiomyopathy and other problems if their diets are taurine deficient, and that essential amino acid is only available from animal flesh. Even manufacturers of meat-based cat foods add taurine to be on the safe side. Thanks for stopping by, and for the votes. Regards, Bob

      Hi DrMark, You are so right on both counts, dude. When you read about their convention they'll say things like, " the speaker at The XYZ Company sponsored session..." And their logos are prominently displayed

      I remember in the late 90's going on their web site and clicking on the highlights of their convention. One picture showed an official from Hill's presenting a ceremonial check to the AVMA president for a ton of money, to be paid out over three years to help underwrite meetings and conferences. No wonder vets push that food like crazy.

      To be fair and balanced, those companies are generous to animal welfare groups, too, but I suspect it's a much more luxurious bed they share with the vet profession.

      Nice to see you, thanks for stopping by. Regards, Bob

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      A couple of points:

      1. The AVMA is supported by a foundation that is funded by Purina. By coming out against raw foods, the AVMA is supporting their benefactors. (I believe the same thing goes for Hills/Science Diet also, but I am not sure about the pecuniary relatonship.)

      2. Now that the AVMA has come out against raw food, expect hubs (and other web sites) to tell you how bad it is to choose raw food, and the proof is that the AVMA has come out against it.

      Thanks for the update! Interesting article, as always.

    • Lucky Cats profile image

      Kathy 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Hi there, Bob. I'm right there with you. We've become an overly paranoid society when it comes to so many things, including feeding our companion animals. I understand the concerns if our animals were given only ONE source of food (raw or wild) but, once in a while isn't going to be that detrimental. I just know that cats require taurine which is absolutely necessary for survival and is provided in prepared, commercial foods.

      Just like our over use of antibiotics and all the warnings, such as you've listed here, we have become too worried about everyday life. It will work against us as we will / or bacteria will, build up resistance and our 'precautions' won't help us.

      You have become an excellent source of wisdom as well as information for and about the care of our animals. Thank you so much!!!

      UP Useful Interesting

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      I agree, raw meat is not good for anyone -- pets or humans. Very interesting. Would be great to provide link to the AVMA web site in the article as well.