Raw Meat Diets for Dogs Many pet owners are feeding their pets a raw food diet these days. Advocates claim that raw food diets improve the condition of the skin and haircoat, eliminate bad breath, reduce fecal volume, improve energy levels, behavior, immune function and overall health. Zoos, mink farms, dog racing facilities, and other professional establishments have been feeding raw meat diets to their animals for many years.
However, it has always been assumed that these purchasers understood the risks involved regarding food safety and nutritional inadequacy. Now that the trend is moving toward feeding raw diets to companion animals there is genuine concern in the veterinary community that many owners are not as fully aware of the potential for harm, despite the positive benefits that may exist. This report is intended to educate pet owners on the potential negative side-effects of raw food diets.
Raw-meat advocates tend to downplay the potential health risks and many pet owners do know what they are getting into until their pet’s health (or their own) has already been compromised. There are claims that raw food diets can reduce the incidence of many medical conditions such as allergies, arthritis, and pancreatitis. There is also the possibility that feeding raw bones helps to keep teeth clean while providing a natural source of calcium.
However, those who caution against feeding raw diets to pets state that at this point such claims are entirely anecdotal. That is, an interesting concept, but one that is not supported by any scientific research or facts. They are also quick to point out the potential health risks involved with feeding a raw food diet to pets. These risks include microbial contamination (for pets and people), gastrointestinal perforation, choking, intestinal obstruction, and fractured teeth.
It seems that most people either love or hate the idea of feeding a raw meat diet to pets. Either way, it is important to know the facts before making a decision on whether or not to feed a raw food diet to your pet. Before going any further it should be noted that raw meat diets and homemade diets do not necessarily always mean the same thing. Many owners feed their pet a homemade diet but that does not mean the pet is also being fed a “raw” diet. Types of Raw Food Diets There are three types of raw food diets available for pets.
1. Commerically available complete raw food diets. These diets are typically sold in frozen form. Because these diets claim to be complete and balanced they are subject to regulation by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
2. Homemade complete raw food diets. These diets require the owner to prepare recipes which are available in books and on the Internet. The ingredients in these homemade diets can be quite varied, depending on the person who formulated the recipe. Many of these diets are EXPECTED to be balanced overall. However, each individual meal may not be balanced. These diets are not subject to regulation. BARF (bones and raw food) is a popular homemade raw food diet created by Ian Billinghurst from Australia (despite popular belief Ian Billinghurst is NOT a veteinarian).
This diet requires owners to feed their pets raw meat, organs, and bones in addition to many other types of foods including vegetables, grains, and dairy products.
3. Combination Diets These diets consist of commercially available grain and supplement mixes which are fed in combination with raw meat provided by the owner. These diets are also not subject to regulation. There are some important factors to consider before feeding your pet a raw food diet. Most people do not start their pet on a raw food diet before doing a large amount of research first. However, it is important to ask yourself a few questions before embarking on this path.
1. Am I willing to invest the time and money necessary to prepare my pet’s meals? Many people don’t have enough time to cook themselves a healthy dinner–let alone dinner for their pet! Careful consideration must be made when selecting recipes, shopping for ingredients, and choosing supplements. It also costs a lot more money to feed your pet any kind of homemade diet than a commerical one. If you choose to feed a homemade diet to your pet it should be balanced by a certified veterinary nutritionist. EACH PET IS A UNIQUE INDIVIDUAL. You can’t take a recipe you find on the internet and assume it will work for your pet.
It needs to be tailored to fit your pet’s age, breed, current health status, and lifestyle. To find a certified veterinary nutritionist please visit http://www.acvn.org You can also visit http://www.petdiets.com to receive an online consultation from a certified veterinary nutritionist. The owners of this service are an independent consulting group and do not work with or receive any kickbacks from pet food manufacturers or suppliers.
2. If for some reason I am no longer able to prepare my pet’s meals will I be able to transition him back to commercial pet food? Some pet owners underestimate the time and money involved with feeding their pet a homemade diet. Then when they try to switch their pet back to a commercial diet the pet will not eat it! Pet owners also need to instruct a friend or family member on how to properly prepare their pet’s diet in case they ever go on vacation or experience an illness.
3. Can I afford regular visits to the veterinarian to ensure that my pet remains in good health? A pet being fed any type of homemade diet should be examined by a veterinarian two to three times per year to ensure they are not experiencing any nutrient deficiencies or excesses. These visits may involve the cost of routine blood tests and radiographs.
4. Am I willing to accept the risks involved in feeding my pet a raw food diet? There are potential short-term and long-terms risks associated with feeding pets a raw food diet. Potential pathogenic agents found in raw meat include E.coli, Salmonella, Clostridium, Campylobacter, and Yersinia. These organisms have the potential to infect the pet as well as the people living and interacting with them.
Such infestations have been documented. There are also numerous health problems that are associated with both insufficient and excessive nutrient intake. Many of these problems do not develop until many years later. There are also the risks involved with feeding dogs raw bones such as intestinal perforation and blockage. Advocates of raw food diets say that this is the pet’s “natural” diet. After all, wild dogs and cats eat their meat raw. However, it shouldn’t surprise you that the skeptics disagree with this claim. They might ask, “Is the meat you buy from the grocery store the same as the meat from a fresh kill out in the wild?” No. “Do we know for sure that wild animals are healthier and living longer than our domestic pets?” No. “Should humans eat the same foods that cavemen and monkeys eat?” No.
Many pets do well on a raw food diet. However, many pets don’t. It is the same for commerical and other homemade diets. As with people, each pet is different in the way it digests and utilizes certain ingredients. Individuality must be taken into consideration when starting any new diet. Most pet owners who choose to feed their pet a raw food diet only want the best nutrition and care for their pet.
Ultimately, it is the owner who must decide whether the potential benefits outweigh the risks. In addition, anyone who feeds their pet any type of homemade diet should consider the validity and nutritional training of those giving advice.Ideally, any homemade diet you feed your pet should be verified and balanced by a certified veterinary nutritionist.