Raw Diets For Pets Are Risky

2018-02-28

If you keep up with the news, you may have seen that there have been multiple recalls for raw pet food diets recently. These recalls raise awareness around the risk of feeding pets raw diets, so we thought this would be a good time to talk about those risks. It’s no surprise that pet owners are offered seemingly endless choices when selecting a pet food type and brand. While many diets may be excellent choices, when it comes to raw diets, owners should be fully aware of the safety risks of feeding raw diets.

Recall Information:
Did you know that the AVMA maintains an up-to-date list of animal food recalls and alerts? You can check here to see what foods have been recalled. Relevant to this blog, pet owners should be aware of the recent recalls for Northwest Naturals Raw Diet for Dogs, (Chicken & Salmon Recipe); ZooLogics Duck with vegetable and ZooLogics Chicken with vegetable meals for dogs; Raws for Paws Ground Turkey Dog and Cat foods, and Darwin’s Natural Pet Products Natural Selections Meals for dogs and Natural Selections Meals for cats, all for possible Salmonella risk.

Usatoday.com reported recently about four pet food companies recalling products due to concerns for Salmonella contamination. Six animal deaths or illnesses from Salmonella were reportedly connected to consumption of Darwin’s Natural and ZooLogics pet foods. Two human illnesses apparently resulted from contact with Raws for Paws Ground Turkey Pet Food in Minnesota.

So what is a raw diet?

Raw diets are composed of foods that have not been cooked prior to feeding. This can mean muscle meat, bone, organs, some types of fruits and vegetables, eggs, or even unpasteurized dairy products.

What are the pet health risks of feeding pets raw food diets?

It should be no surprise that raw meat has the potential to be contaminated with harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella sp., Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter species. The bacteria have the potential to make pets sick with gastrointestinal signs, fever, or even more severe systemic consequences from the bacterial infection.

Pets who ingest bones are at risk for gastrointestinal obstruction from those bones, or even gastrointestinal perforation from the splintering that can occur when the pet chews the bone into pieces.

A recent study by Martinez-Anton et.al. also reported a link between dogs who consumed raw chicken and the development of a neurological condition called acute polyradioculoneuritis (APN). APN is a paralyzing condition that shares similarities with the Guillain-Barre syndrome in humans. The study examined the role that the bacteria Campylobacter could play in triggering APN. The study concluded that “raw chicken consumption is a risk factor in dogs for the development of APN, which potentially is mediated by infection with Campylobacter spp.”

What are the public health risks of feeding pets raw food diets?

When pets become sickened with bacteria from raw meat, it is easy to see how they can contaminate the environment through vomiting and diarrhea. But it’s also possible for pets to be carriers of the harmful bacteria, without actually developing signs of illness. Since the bacteria in the raw meat can also make humans sick, this means there is the potential for the animal to spread the infection to humans.

What are the purported benefits of raw diets?

It should be noted that although there is a list of anecdotal benefits, it is difficult to find any scientific studies to back these claims. These anecdotal reports include things like improved weight management, improved oral health, improved immune function, healthier coat and skin, and improved allergies. Advocates of raw food diets also contend that the raw diet more closely resembles what the feline and canine ancestors’ ate. However, it is important to realize that with domestication, dogs and cats have also gone through evolutionary and dietary changes over the last 10,000 to 15,000 years making them different from their ancestors.

In conclusion, raw diets come with risks – for pets, as well as humans. Furthermore, without solid scientific data backing up the reported benefits of feeding pets raw food diets, it’s unclear whether these diets even hold true benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states on their website “You may be considering a raw food diet for your pets because you have heard that it is healthier. But raw food diets can make you and your pet sick, and for that reason CDC does not recommend feeding raw diets to pets.

Do you have questions about your pet’s diet? Are you looking for dietary suggestions for your pet? Then talk to our team – we are ready to help you pick the best diet for your pet’s individual needs!

Author: Dr. Clarissa Noureddine, DVM, MS, MS

References:
1 AVMA Animal Food Recalls and Alerts
2 CDC Pet Food Safety Information
3 Larsen, L. 2018. Two Pet Food Products Recalled for Possible Salmonella Contamination. https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2018/two-pet-food-products-recalled-possible-salmonella-contamination/
4 Martinez-Anton, L., Marena, M., Firestone, S.M., Bushell, R.N., Child, G., Hamilton, A.I., Long, S.N. and M.A.R. Le Chevoir. 2018. Investigation of the role of Campylobacter infection in suspected acute polyradiculoneuritis in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 32 (1): 352-360.
5 Meyer, Z. 2018. 4 dog food companies issue recall over salmonella fears. usatoday.com https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/02/14/pet-deaths-prompt-recalls-due-possible-salmonella-tainted-food/336405002/
News Desk. 2018. Two MN Children Sickened with Salmonella infections after Raws for Paws Pet food fed to their pets. https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2018/two-mn-children-salmonella-reading-infections-raws-for-paws-pet-food/

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