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Raw food? You wanna feed me what?!

This gets us started on our newest blog in our nutrition series: raw food.

This very ‘special’ ‘fad’ that has been marketed highly by pet stores across North America, is not a new ‘ideology’. There always have been and always be people who feel our pets should be fed as their wild ‘counterparts’ with ‘natural’ diets. This often brings these diets into our consultation rooms because of the illness the veterinary profession sees associated with them. People who believe in these diets are often very strong in their beliefs no matter what the evidence may be against feeding them, so these diets will most likely continue to be an ‘offering’ in the pet store culture.

To start, why do vets not like these diets?

  1. Risk of bacterial ‘translocation’ to the body. What this means is that bacteria that is much greater numbers in and on raw food will leak and be absorbed by the intestinal tract. Bacterial infections, anywhere from bladder, skin, teeth and bowel are often presenting conditions in animals fed these diets over time. These bacterial ‘pathogens’ will also stimulate the immune system, telling the body, little alarms over time, that the body needs to mount an immune response. In time, this immune response can be so dramatic as to cause inflammatory bowel disease and other auto-immune conditions.

  2. Zoonotic diseases- contagious bacteria and parasites that humans can get, which may not show up as clinical signs in their animal hosts. These are salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli, along with tapeworm and roundworm cysts. All these organisms can get and they can be deadly to pets- fevers, diarrhea and often intense veterinary treatments, if not hospitalization on iv fluid is required.

  3. Nutritional balance- these diets are often much too high in protein, which transfers into high phosphorus levels. High phosphorus level are very damaging to kidney tubules and lead to alcium fluxes between bone and blood, resulting in brittle bones. They are also deficient in carbohydrates and energy, resulting in thin hungry animals. Is your pet too reactive? What are they eating?

Freezing or blanching does not kill bacteria. Leaving these diets out can cause severe illness and bacterial overgrowth. There are many reports of people ending up in hospitals that were feeding their pets raw diets.

Domestic dogs are far removed from their wild counterparts. If you ever thought a chihuahua resembled a wolf in any way, please compare a little closer. We cook food so that it is more digestible and we can process the nutrients better for ourselves. Manufactured diets do the same. Wild canids are often quite thin, full of parasites and do not live long lives. Is this what we want for our mini child replacements that share our beds, couches, homes and often share our ice cream?

If you still insist this is the diet for you, please deworm your dog or cat monthly, add a balanced dry food and at least consider cooking them to some degree to help your pet’s digestive system.

Still not convinced? Have you ever considered chewing on a raw chicken leg before? Why not?

Please stay safe and consider all the risks with these diets before ‘jumping on the bandwagon’. Buyer beware…..

Dr. Eva Dudzic

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