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So you want to feed your pet a raw diet…

We all want what is best for our 4 legged counterparts. We strive to get them the best medical care, grooming services, proper exercise, and feed them the best diet. A recent trend many pet owners have been adopting is called the BARF diet. BARF stands for Bone And Raw Food diet. You may have heard of people feeding their dogs and cats raw food, maybe you are even contemplating starting one of your pets on this new diet. It is important to understand some of the risks associated with feeding raw food before you start feeding it to your dog or cat. We are here to dispel some of the myths behind the raw food movement and to emphasize the degree of risk to not only your pet’s health but potentially to the health of you and your family.

Raw meat is often contaminated with microorganisms associated with food poisoning such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and Campylobacter. Of twenty-one commercial raw-meat diets cultured over a 4 month period, ALL of the diets tested positive for E.coli and 10 tested positive for Salmonella. How can these microorganisms affect your dog or cat? Well, the most common clinical signs include fever, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood), malaise, anorexia, and signs of abdominal pain. These organisms can affect you too. Feeding infected raw diets will increase the risk of you, as the pet owner becoming infected with these food-borne pathogens. Transmission of these organisms from pets to their owners has been reported. Even if they do not show clinical signs of illness, dogs that ingest this infected food can shed these organisms in their feces. Owners are at risk when handling the pets waste, preparing the pet food, or even cleaning the food bowl. Dogs, cats, and humans are all equally susceptible to these food-borne pathogens. Some argue that dogs and cats have a more acidic stomach than humans that will help kill these organisms, but this is simply not true.

Another major concern in regard to feeding a raw diet is the potential for an imbalanced formulation. Many people advocate feeding a raw diet to their pets because it is what dogs and cats used to eat when they were in the wild. When animals hunt their food, they consume the entire animal. Most people feeding raw meat are feeding JUST the meat, not the bones, organs and other parts of the body. These other parts of the body are important because they contain essential vitamins and minerals that are not found in the meat portion of the animal. Feeding an unbalanced diet over a period of time can have devastating medical effects on our pets. These medical problems include skeletal disease, blindness, and heart disease, just to name a few. All of these problems are completely preventable by feeding a complete and balance diet.

It is our opinion, and that of the veterinary community as a whole, that the risks of feeding a raw diet far outweigh the benefits. However, if you still feel strongly about feeding you pet a raw diet, please check out the links below. They contain useful information regarding raw diets and how to go about feeding them as safely as possible.

http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/zoo/WholePreyFinal02May29.pdf
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC339295/
http://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/nutrition-center/whats-in-a-balanced-dog-food

As always if you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s diet, don’t hesitate to contact us! Till next time…

Dr Luckow

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