Are Raw Foods Really Bad for Your Pet?

A leading authority on animal welfare today announced plans to review policy on raw foods fed to pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) stated that they had serious concerns regarding the safety of raw foods and could adopt a policy which discourages veterinarians and pet owners from feeding dogs and cats a diet of raw foods. The reasoning for this is that processed food, made especially for pets, are heat treated and are deemed to be without bacteria such as salmonella. The problem with feeding cats and dogs raw foods are that many pet owners will buy their food from butchers or supermarkets, where the meat is designed to be cooked to eliminate any bacteria first, and as it is being fed directly to the animal, it is not known whether is it bacteria free.

One point that the AVMA has possibly failed to recognize that dogs have thrived on raw foods for centuries, a long time before the introduction of commercially prepared pet foods came along in the mid-1800s. Before we began to feed our pets dry kibble and wet food, cats and dogs would go out, catch, and kill their prey or feed on scavenged foods they found naturally in the wild. They were able to eat such raw foods because of the high acid environment of their digestive system and the presence of live, active enzymes found in the raw foods that they ate, which helped to expedite the digestive process and minimize risk of illness from bacteria. So we know that dogs can handle the normal amounts of bacteria that may be present in raw foods. Cooked foods – on the other hand – are a different story. Although dry and canned pet foods are heat-treated to eliminate any bacteria, they also lack the enzyme levels necessary for optimal digestion. That is why dry and canned dog food diets stay in your dog’s digestive tract an average of 4-6 hours longer than raw foods do. So when you hear that salmonella-tainted dry dog food has sickened pets, it’s because the food has stayed in their system much longer than intended so the risk for illness is monumentally higher.

The AVMA has cited the risk of illness in both animal and humans as their reasoning behind adopting this policy on diets of raw foods. There is a problem to address here as perhaps owners are not realising that they should be as cautious in handling raw foods for their pets, as they would be if they were cooking it for themselves. Perhaps a little education is the key? And there is a problem with leaving dry and wet commercial foods out for hours in hot weather, as I have personally seen blow flies lay eggs on wet food and then my cat has attempted to eat the food. But as most pet owners believe that kibble and canned food diets are free of bacteria, these foods are supposedly “safe” to leave out all day for our dogs and cats to graze on. They’re “safe” enough to be kept in the pantry unrefrigerated for months on end without spoiling.

The AVMA has until August to make their decision on raw foods. They do say that whatever their decision is it wil not be made into federal law and they will not have the power to tell pet owners what to feed their animals, whether it be raw foods or not.

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