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Raw Food Diets May Be Dangerous for Pets

Thursday, October 18, 2012 - 11:45am

Just like fad diets for humans, popular diets for your pets come and go. However, there’s one particular pet diet trend that gives us pause: ASPCA experts say raw food diets for pets that include raw meat, eggs and milk may be dangerous for your furry friends. We typically recommend that pet parents opt for well-balanced, high-quality commercial and cooked foods instead.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) agrees. In studies published in AVMA’s journal, homemade and commercial raw food diets for dogs and cats were found to contain dangerous bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, just to name a few. Other tests showed that unprocessed food diets can lead to nutrient deficiencies or excess that can cause serious illnesses in pets. Also, pets chewing on raw bones can lead to obstruction or perforation of their gastrointestinal tracts, and fractured teeth.

If you don’t want to feed your dog or cat a commercial diet, consider a homemade diet that will diminish the risks of foodborne illnesses. These meals should be thoroughly cooked and need to be formulated by a veterinary nutritionist or by your veterinarian to make sure they’re nutritionally sound.

If you are passionate about feeding your pet raw foods, please consider the following tips.

  • Work with your veterinarian to ensure that your pet’s diet is nutritionally balanced.
  • Avoid feeding raw foods in homes with babies and toddlers (who put lots of things in their mouths), the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
  • Practice regular hand washing before and after feeding pets.
  • Practice appropriate disposal methods when cleaning up pet feces.

For more information about pet-safe diets, consult your veterinarian and check out our complete list of people foods that are dangerous to pets.

Tell us in the comments below: Do you feed your pet raw foods or a homemade diet?

Comments

Comments

Sarah

Published in 2006 and titled Human Health Implications of Salmonella-Contaminated Natural Pet Treats and Raw Pet Food1, the study makes the following points (bolded phrases and notes in parentheses are mine):

“The increasing popularity of raw food diets for companion animals is another potential pet-associated source of Salmonella organisms; however, no confirmed cases of human salmonellosis have been associated with these diets.”

“To date, there have been no published reports of salmonellosis occurring in dogs as a result of exposure to natural pet treats.” (This immediately brings to mind the tragic, ongoing problem with non-natural, processed chicken jerky pet treats from China.)

“To date, there has been only one published report of salmonellosis occurring in cats as a result of exposure to raw food diets. Septicemic salmonellosis was diagnosed in 2 cats that underwent necropsy at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia (Athens, GA).”

“To date, raw pet foods have not been associated with salmonellosis in humans; however, identification of Salmonella contaminated food and Salmonella shedding by pets that have been fed raw food diets should raise concern.”

gespacho

Raw food is the way to go. My cat has kidney disease and was near death, could not keep anything down, and raw food completely turned her around. Almost two years later, her BP, BUN and creatinine levels are much better than they were when I brought her in, thinking she was going to die.

The western scientific world view is merely that. A world view, and all the research is based what we think we already know, PLUS the research is often funded by questionable sources (i.e., huge corporations) in order to prove a point. How many studies did the tobacco industry fund to "prove" that tobacco was not dangerous? How many medications have been "proven" by science to be safe before it was discovered to be killing people? Hrrrmmm....? When considering research, look at the source. They are usually funded by a company who wants to make a point.

Diana

My dog just died from e-coli associated with feeding her raw chicken. She probably would have survived it however, if I had a vet with a brain.
Here's the story. I switched my two pit bulls to raw from kibble in December 2013 after doing a little research (not enough) and at the advice of friends who have fed raw with no issues for years. my nine year old and four year old dogs seemed to have more energy at first, then on Jan. 27th my older dog quit eating and was lethargic. took her to the vet and told him of the diet change. he said he did not recommend it and then never mentioned it again, never asked me exactly what I was feeding her. I requested a senior blood panel since she had never had one and I figured it would show any abnormalities in her blood. I did not know it would not show e-coli. It came back normal. I did not ask him to specifically check for e-coli, and looking back I definitely should have. Hindsight is 20/20.

Two days later she is lethargic again, stomach spasms and cold to the touch. Back to the vet (same stupid one)Vet tech makes the comment "you are cold today girl" while he listens to her heart. NO mention of this very crucial symptom is ever made again, and I did not know it was crucial at the time. I also was not told her temp was below 100 which is also crucial. Vet takes an x-ray. comes back in and says "I can't find anything wrong with your dog other than she has a lot of stool in her intestines. She is constipated, just take her home and leave her in the yard for a while.You have a healthy dog that should live several more years". I got one more week.

I did not know that constipation is very bad for dogs on a raw diet because the bacteria etc can sit in there and cause e-coli. Nothing was given to me for that, no further blood tests, no urine test, nothing. I was somewhat uneasy about his diagnosis, but figured, he's the vet, he should know.
9 days go by, she is pooping and acting normal so we don't think about it again. Then on Feb. 8th she wakes up with the same symptoms. I am stupidly thinking constipation again. I call the vet he says "just watch her and bring her in on Monday if she isn't better." Several hours later she is no better. I call a different vet finally, but it is Saturday and they are gone. I call my dumb vet again, same thing, he is gone and the person says to take her to ER if she worsens. I'm spending all this time trying to google her symptoms to figure out what it is. I know it is not constipation because she pooped. She is also vomiting clear fluid. I am starting to panic. About 2 I am checking her gums which are pale, tell my husband I think she is going into shock and we need to rush her to ER. She tries to get up to follow me and can't walk. I am crying my eyes out because I know it's bad but am hoping that they can fix her.

The ER takes a bunch of blood and x-rays and comes in to tell us that there is fluid in her stomach which they suspect is septic. Prognosis is poor. I ask to see her. When they take me back there her eyes are dilated and I know I am losing her. I had just enough time for them to put her on a gurney in a private room before she died. Diagnosis: septic peritonitis with possible GI perforation. I have now lost my baby because I fed her raw. No second chance to make it right.

Needless to say I have filed a complaint with the AZ veterinary board. If he had cared to do what he should have she may have been saved at that second visit. There are so many variables to feeding raw that I did not know. Older dogs and puppies are susceptible to e-coli. Peritonitis is caused by e-coli and one of the symptoms is cold body temp among several of the other ones she had. Chicken bought from the store has all kinds of nasty things on it and should not be given to your dog. Some say to freeze it first, I did not know this until to late. Some say don't mix kibble with it, again I did not know this until too late.
Some people love raw. my other dog was fine, but she is also 4 years old and not in that more susceptible range.
So if you feed raw, be very careful and for goodness sakes have a GOOD vet! There probably are many stories out there of the bad things that have happened with raw, just no one posts them.

Bess

Since to date to the best of my knowledge, no one has experienced any issues with diseases picked up from this raw food, and at least 119 people have been hospitalized from salmonella from kibble. How do you and the vets answer this question. Most of the information vets receive today on nutrition in vet schools comes from the big dog food companies. Do you think those companies are going to say that raw food is better?

Ronna Kabler, DVM

Is millions of years of wolves eating prey(ie) raw meat and bones
a FAD??

Or thousands of years of dogs eating prey (raw meat and bones) a FAD?
How about we look at all the contamination of Kibble that has led to countless illnesses and yes, even deaths of pets and people.

TokenSkeptic

The kibble contamination is a strawman to the real issue of raw food contamination. A shifting of the subject. We are discussing the dangers of raw food. Please try and keep on topic.

What is the average lifespan of a wolf vs. the lifespan of a kibble fed house pet? This is the same fallacy that the paleo diet is somehow better because it is what cavemen ate. It is a naturalistic fallacy. Is all of the time humans spent as hunter gatherers healthier than current processed food diets? Well if lifespan is a determinate factor then no.

Martha

I am getting awfully tired of the fact that blogs and articles like the above one do seem to recognize the fact that many pet parents are well read and well educated about this topic and well aware of, for example, the danger of salmonella. I feed dumbed down! It is not discussed here why people (and some vets) still feed their animals raw. Apparently with good results. I really wish someone would cite some objective studies that examined this topic from a scientific standpoint instead of giving "advice" as to why it is or is not to feed raw. Then I will really learn something I didn't already know. I don't feed raw only because I am confused about the data, the facts. Again, it is the objective data that we need here, not someone's advice or opinion.

Deborah

I have a 15-year-old husky that is in prime shape. The reason is because of diet. He was born with epilepsy and his seizures are triggered by carb consumption. We figured this out when he was still quite young. As soon as we stopped feeding grain-based kibble, the seizures stopped. Rice is also off the menu. He has eaten a combination raw/cooked home diet all his life now and is the healthiest 15-year-old husky my vet has ever seen. I credit this solely to his diet. He is the same weight he was at 5 years of age. His teeth are in beautiful condition due to the raw bones he eats. He loves his cooked and raw beef, chicken, and pork, including organ meat. He also eats a small amount of vegetables, cooked or raw. I will never again feed my pets anything that contains corn, wheat or rice. I supplement with kibble now and then but it's always Blue Buffalo Wilderness Diet -- grain-/rice-free.

Venice05

My rescued senior are on prescription diets appropriate for the health conditions they arrived with, and they have made remarkable turnarounds. My younger dachshund eats a top-quality commercial food, and is in excellent physical condition. I have always worked closely with my veterinarian regarding appropriate foods, treats, and exercise for my dogs. I would never feed them raw food - yes, it's true that their wild canine ancestors ate raw meat, but our dogs are domesticated and no longer need to hunt for their meals. They rely on their owners for food, shelter, medical care, and love. High-quality commercial diets, developed over years of careful reseach and testing, are the best choice for keeping them healthy.

Jennifer Baker

I am not one to buy into dietary fads,whether it be for myself or my pets.In fact, I used to poke fun at the raw food movement. Then I adopted a dog with severe GI problems. I tried feeding him just about every healthy commercial food on the market--and I tried cooking his food at home.Still, he had frequent episodes of digestive discomfort--he even had to be hospitalized once. Then I bought some commercial raw food. Since then, his GI health has improved significantly. I don't want to give too much information--but commercial raw food are the only thing he can eat and not have bloody stools. I'm not a raw food fanatic, and don't think it's for everyone--but if it keeps my beloved dog healthy, then that's what I will give him!

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