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