Over the past ten years or so, the idea of feeding your cat or dog a raw diet is becoming increasingly popular. What to feed your pet can be a confusing decision, and more pet owners are straying away from what they call “unnatural foods.” With all the food fads that are circulating what does it mean to eat healthily? No wonder pet owners are finding the raw diet to be so appealing. It is a controversial topic that comes up online, as well in the exam room. A lot of pet owners rely on information advice from the internet and less on with their veterinarian says. A big argument that comes up with the raw food diet is that dogs should eat like their wolf ancestors. Same goes to our friendly felines, whose relatives are wild cats like lions and leopards. Domestic dogs came a long way from their distant relatives over time, and so has their diet. A five pound Chihuahua certainly wouldn’t hunt large prey for their next meal, which is a far cry from a wild wolf. Dogs are omnivores and need a balanced diet of protein, fat as well as fibre, and carbohydrates. Cats on the other hand primarily need protein in their diet with little carbohydrates and fibre. Feeding a raw diet can leave out valuable nutrients and minerals that are necessary for a healthy diet. Too much vitamin A is a concern on a raw diet, which can affect the bone formation in growing puppies. The ABVMA (Alberta Veterinary Medical Association) states there is currently no scientifically validated data to prove that raw foods are effective in providing the multiple benefits they are said to produce. There is reoccurring evidence that these foods are potentially not nutritionally complete, and may pose a threat to the health of pets, and the people around them.
A big concern in feeding your pet a raw diet are: safety and hygiene. It seems alarming for humans to eat a piece of raw chicken; our food needs to be cooked to kill salmonella bacteria. Even our pet’s digestive system can’t kill the harmful bacterial pathogens. Feeding pets’ raw diets can be risky, they can become sick from salmonella, toxoplasma and e-Coli bacteria. These pathogens can even be shed through their stool, where it can infect humans or other dogs. The elderly and young children pose a risk to the bacteria in the environment due to their weakened immune system. Infants are known for touching things they shouldn’t and putting their hands in their mouth. People can even contract salmonella or e-Coli from pet food dishes (especially plastic), and toys. It’s hard to resist puppy kisses, but when a dog is on a raw diet, it may not be as appealing.
The ABVMA states there have been reports from dogs on the raw food diet have enhanced patterns of antimicrobial resistance. The Salmonella and other bacteria could potentially become resistant to antibiotics that would typically kill the bacteria. The raw meat that is not designated for human consumption may not be regulated through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Therefore, not required to go through specific meat inspection requirements or microbial testing, unless the meat is imported into Canada. These commercially prepared raw-meat pet food can pose a risk to the animal, and public health.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend feeding raw diets for pets, but if you do, take precautions while doing so. Wash your hands with soap and water right after handling any raw pet food and clean, disinfect all surfaces that the raw food could have contacted. Safely store and handle raw pet food; freeze raw pet food until you are ready to use it and keep it from other food in your refrigerator/freezer. Throw away any food your pet doesn’t eat. Safely play with your pet after they eat raw meat. Don’t let your pet lick around your mouth and face after eating. Avoid your pet licking your open wounds or areas with broken skin.
The best option for your dog or cat is to feed a well-balanced, regulated commercial kibble or canned food. The risk of feeding a raw-diet to the pet outweighs the perceived benefits.
Written by: Meagan Gladu, CCR